Langston Hughes Questions and Answers

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In Langston Hughes' story "Berry," how is Berry treated?

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In Langston Hughes's short story "Berry," the African-American boy named Milberry Jones, called Berry for short, is instantly treated like an "other" the moment he arrives to work in the kitchen at Dr. Renfield's Summer Home for Crippled Children. Mrs. Osborn immediately sets him to work washing dishes, but also immediately treats him as a problem. The greatest problem she thinks she has to resolve is where he will sleep, since she's not sure how the other white help will react to sleeping in the same room with him.

She immediately goes to Dr. Renfield to present him with the problem, and he propose that they let him sleep in the attic and only pay him $8 a week, whereas the Scandinavian boy formerly working in the kitchen was being paid $10 a week.

While they allow him to stay, and he is grateful for the job, soon, they begin taking advantage of him, making him do the jobs that belonged to the handy-man, the waitresses, and extra cleaning and odd jobs. However, the tide turns, at least for a bit, when he begins to realize the crippled children at the home are just as mistreated as he is and begins doing all he can to make them happy. As a result of his kindness, the children begin treating him like a friend. All goes well until a child has an accident while Berry is pushing him in a wheelchair. Dr. Renfield then calls Berry a "fool nigger," demands that a week's worth of his wages be deducted to cover the child's broken wheelchair, and fires him, sending him back to Jersey City to be unemployed and hungry again.

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