Tales of Manipulation
Chesnutt uses the Conjure Woman Tales to show that the black people had ingenuity, and some were able to use superstition and manipulation to their advantage. The use of superstition and manipulation were clever ways of getting things in life. The black people knew that playing on one=s fears could often make them easier to manipulate and this is how superstition was used to their advantage. The ingenuity of manipulation and superstition is seen throughout the stories and is quite intelligent even when it is seemingly ineffective.
This is clearly seen in the Goophered Grapevine, where Uncle Julius attempts to dissuade John from buying the grapevines so that he can continue eating and selling the grapes. Uncle Julius does this by concocting a story about how some of the grapevines are goophered and if one eats from them, bad things will happen to them. He explains his ability to eat the grapes by saying that he knows which are hexed. While John may not seem to lend much credence to the tale his wife is affected by it. This is a good piece of information to have, because now Uncle Julius knows that Annie can be manipulated through the use of his stories, and that Annie is able to have an influence on her husband.
One can see the influence of Annie in the story Mars
Jeems Nightmare. Uncle Julius tells the story as a way of manipulating
john into allowing his nephew to continuing working despite how lazy he
is. John fires the boy but Annie then rehires him as a result of the tale.
Uncle Julius knows that John will not deny Annie and this is how the manipulation
is effective. These are not the only examples; all of the Conjure Woman
tales serve a purpose of Uncle Julius's. It is through them that he is
able to gain many of the material things he wants and would otherwise be
denied. While some are subtle manipulations, others are not so craftily
hidden. All of them prove that there is intelligence and ingenuity lucking
behind the submissive attitude portrayed by Uncle Julius who is a representation
of the old black man.
This page is the work of Teresa Sweeney.
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