Analysis of Days of tears by Julius Lester
Inspired by the American historical events in the southern states, Julius Lester’s “Days of Tears” unveils the dark history of slavery. America is a country formed by different cultures and nationalities. This is credited to the numerous immigration activities that the country experienced during formation. The case of the African American varies immensely due to the fact that they were forcefully brought into the country against their will. A large majority of the modern world does not recognize the extent of the turmoil that the slaves have been through. Lester does not shy away from this gruesome tale making it a must read. The book talks on several issues that affect the country to date. One of the main themes of the book is betrayal. It is not uncommon for slaves to be sold to other owners for a number of reasons. The main character is Emma; a sentimental slave is owed by Pierce Butler. Emma is different from the other slaves due to her relationship with the daughters of her master and their mother. She develops a close relationship with two of the daughters who are in turn against slavery. This bond is brought about by the relationship between her parents and their master. On the time of their death, Pierce promises Emma’s parents his loyalty in regard to not selling her. This promise does not last due to the rising debt resulting from Pierce’s gambling problem. The book thus places emphasis on the amount of betrayal the African American community experiences at the hands of their oppressors. The author uses his book to explain the level of injustice in the modern America. Injustice is not strange in the present America. The problems that the communities experience are a direct result of the inequality they experienced. Slavery is one of the most inhumane features the world has come to know. The enslavement of an individual deprives them the right of free will. This is reflective of the current situation in the country due to the lack of opportunities availed to the general public (Lester, p, 134).
The focus of this paper is to provide an analysis of the book, “Days of the tears” by Julius Lester. The paper looks at significant aspects of the book that bring out the argument of the writer. The paper also provides an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the book. The paper finally gives my take on the persuasiveness of the book. This is summarized by a concluding paragraph stating the recommendations in regard to the book.
“The rain is coming down as hard as regret. Will said the rain started up just when the selling began pg.10).
Days of tears tackles issues that the country is known to sweep under the carpet. The history of slavery in the country is a topic that has been overlooked for various reasons. The author does not withhold from any of the details in this situation. Slavery is one of the events that shaped the economy of the United States. During the arrival of the colonial immigrants, the world was experiencing an agrarian revolution. This involves the adaptation of agriculture for commercial purposes. The southern states of the United States embraced the agricultural system as a way of life. Some of the exports of the country were sugar, cotton and other agricultural products. This business was extremely lucrative to the point that it improved the economic situation of the communities in these states. For the settlers to maximize on their profit, they needed cheap labor so as to save on their production costs. One of the ways of achieving this was through the importation of slaves from the African continent. The author takes advantage of the people who are directly related to the characters in the book. This however, is supplemented by the fictional characters that complete the cause of the book.
The author ensures that he makes his argument through his stance on oppression of the African American community. The current African communities are descendants of the slaves during this period. Most of the hardships that the slaves experienced have been passed down to the descendants. Oppression is a significant issue in the society present American society. Lester acknowledges that the situation of the African American has improved immensely. This does not take away the fact that the condition of the young generation is not ideal. The author bases his argument on the gap between the have and the have not’s. The society has a number of classes that are brought about by different factors. This type of condition is traced back to slavery where the minority race performed a majority of the workload. This gave the white man the upper hand in that they reaped the gains of the hard work of their slaves. Lester compares this to the present economy that shows the difference between the wealthy and the poor. This is promoted by the capitalist state of the country that allows for the influential man to gain from the hard work of their employees. Slavery is thus seen as the root of all forms of oppression that the members of the communities are facing on a day to day basis.
The book is presents as a play in that it has qualities that resemble dialogue speech. This is displayed in one of the scenes known as the weeping day. “I aint never seen rain like this. Will said, this isn’t rain. This is God’s tears”. p. 90) One of the significant parts of the play is seen in the auction of the slaves. The writer makes the audience feel the pain of the slaves through the dialogue between Emma and Pierce’s two daughters. One of the passages shows the plight of some of the slaves who long for their long awaited freedom. This part of the book makes the reader more interested in the content of the book. The author elaborates the helplessness of members of the African American community at the time. The fact that the slaves are sold to cover debts of their owners is inhumane on its own. This is a time where the white race is superior compared to all the other races. Blacks on the other hand have no choice but to comply with the demands of their masters. Lester ensures the reader to grasps the seriousness of the situation during this period.
Betrayal and lack of trust is an essential aspect of the writer’s argument. The book forms a theses that talks of betrayal on a personal and national level. Despite the fact that Emma is a slave to Pierce and his family, she has a distinct place in the household due to her role. She acts as the mother of his three daughters who spend the most part of their adult life without the influence of their mother. Emma forms a special relationship with Piece’s daughters in that they do not consider her a slave. The family is however, brought back to reality when Emma is among the slaves who are in line to be sold in the slave auction. This brings out the ultimate betrayal in that Pierce breaks the promise he made to Emma’s parents. The writer argues that this type of treatment is not only formed on an individual approach. He states that the whole African American society has as a result been shortchanged due to the past events. The content of the book shows the alarming rate at which the population of slaves reduced on a daily basis. This is caused by the lack of regard for the lives of the race. One of the examples is seen through the death of several slaves both adults and children. The society is not a stranger to the same level of treatment. Most of the members of the minority community do not have access to the basic needs due to the lack of opportunities. These opportunities are given to the well off living the less fortunate without the chance to improve their position in life. The book thus places the reader in the position of the slaves. This is difficult to portray considering the fact that the story is based on events that took place one hundred years ago. The story is inspired by examples of former slaves that were made available in the past. Society tends to distance themselves from these types of occurrences due to the stigma that it brings to the community. The writer makes the reader embrace the situation so that they can learn from the occurrence.
The dialect in the book is intense due to the use of words such as nigger. This is a word that was reserved for the black man so as to place them in an inferior position. Words are used to associate human beings with certain stereotypes. This can either make or break an individual depending on the word they are branded. The treatment of African Americans tampered with their self esteem making them invaluable. The writer is daring in his approach in that he ensures that he brings out the hurt associated with the word. He thus brings out the intensity of the situation making the readers relive the situation as they read.
“Nearly 200 years ago, it rained for two days, merging Gods tears with those of 400 slaves auctioned in Georgia separated from loved ones forever” p. 11).
The fact that the slaves were taken from their natural habitat to a strange country against their will displays the highest form of injustice. The book elaborates the lives of the slaves on the farms of their white owners. They lose their source of identity in several aspects of life. This is seen through the loss of their last name and the adaptation of their master’s name. The loss of identity is unfair due to the lack of direction it brings to an individual. Slaves are thus placed at the mercy of their masters in that they rely on them for any form of identity. The book places emphasis on the level of ownership at this period. The fact that slaves can be exchanged for an amount of money turns them into a commodity as opposed to human beings. This makes blacks lose their value and pride making their lives meaningless. As stated earlier, a slave does not possess any form of free will. The author ensures that the reader feels this through the relationship between Emma and her master. When Emma is sold to another owner, she becomes a type of product that is used to cover a portion of her master’s debt. Lack of control of one’s life removes the justice in the community. Injustice is thus one of the significant arguments of the author which is seen in the level of oppression that the community experiences (Lester, p, 134).
Slavery was predominantly practiced in the southern part of America. It continues to define the country in different ways. The African American community has gone through an immense amount of oppression over the years. It is essential to note that African Americans have come a long way from the times of slavery. The population in present day cannot identity with the level of oppression that the slaves experienced. Through the book, a reader becomes educated and knowledgeable of the situation of the slaves. This is made possible by the plights that the reader displays in the book.
The book is not arranged in the typical format that readers are accustomed. The writer uses a unique way of introducing new characters to the readers. This as a result confuses some readers who are used to the traditional arrangement of books. It therefore, takes a long time for a reader to adapt to this type of system making it challenging for a beginning reader to follow.
The author is successfully persuasive in the message that he brings in the book. This is credited to the sources that he uses in the examples. Another factor that makes the content of the book persuasive is the tone that the authors use. He is authoritative in his stance which in turn, ensures that the reader pays attention to the opinion that he has to offer.
The author has a lot of strengths in that it makes the reader interested in the content of the book from the beginning. This is made possible due to the use of various examples that are relatable to the reader. The writer is precise in his delivery of the points, this is essential for the accuracy of the book (Lester, p, 94).
In conclusion, slavery is part and parcel of the history of the United States of America. It is suggested that slavery is one of the factors that shaped the present America. “Days of tears” is one of the books that write on the events that occurred during this period. Through the writer, the reader is able to gauge the critical nature of slavery. The author uses principal arguments to make his case on the situation at hand. This initiates the message he intends to relay to the country as a whole. Like any other book, the author displays some advantages and disadvantages. This however does not affect the content of the book due to the fact that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The book is as a result an ideal piece of information that is essential to the knowledge of the country’s history. The writer therefore meets all the criteria that place the book in the books to read in the future.
Lester, Julius. Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue. New York: Jump at the Sun, 2005. Print.