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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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8. Regional Realism   

8. Regional

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Activities: Author Activities

Joel Chandler Harris - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Which animals are weak and which are strong in the Uncle Remus stories? How does Brer Rabbit succeed in reversing traditional power relations in his encounters with supposedly stronger animals? What qualities enable Brer Rabbit's success?

  2. Comprehension: Examine the frame narratives surrounding the animal fables (in a story that describes the conditions of its own telling, the portion that sets up the "story within the story" is called the frame narrative). How is Uncle Remus portrayed? What is his relationship to the boy and the boy's family? How does Uncle Remus assert control over the stories and authority over the boy on occasion?

  3. Context: Compare Harris's representation of Uncle Remus and his trickster stories to Charles Chesnutt's Uncle Julius in "The Goophered Grapevine." How are these portraits of African American storytellers different from one another? How do the trickster tales narrated by each of the "Uncles" compare? How do Chesnutt's accounts of Uncle Julius's history and motives complicate our understanding of "The Goophered Grapevine"?

  4. Exploration: Stories about Brer Rabbit and his fellow animals have continued to entertain American readers--adults and children alike--through the twentieth century. Books featuring Uncle Remus have continued to sell well, and in 1946 Disney produced Song of the South, an animated feature film about the characters that populate the Uncle Remus stories (despite criticisms of the film's racial insensitivity, Disney re-released Song of the South as recently as 1986). Why do you think these stories and images have remained so popular? How might their significance to white and black audiences have changed over time?

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