illustrated portrait of American poet and author Langston Hughes

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In the short story "Berry" by Langston Hughes, how did Berry decide to solve his problems?  

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Milberry had learned to solve problems through hard work. He had made a decision that he was not going to be bothered by other people's prejudices because he had suffered too much and was not prepared to go hungry again.

When he started work at Dr Renfield's Summer Home for Crippled Children, Milberry soon discovered that the white people there were prejudiced and exploitative. He had been appointed as a kitchen help but was gradually burdened with a variety of other tasks as well. Everyone took it upon themselves to delegate some of their tasks to him. He realized that they were taking advantage of him since he was black but, as the text states:

Still, he did everything and didn't look mad - jobs were too hard to get, and he had been hungry too long in town.

And so he continued working. He realized that the whole set up at the home was a fake, for his employer was only interested in making a profit and did not care at all for the disabled children they were supposedly taking care of during the summer holidays. Their middle class parents were only too glad to be free of them and were willing to pay good money for their care.

Milberry noticed how the children were fed poor quality food and that the best was only used when the parents came. He felt sorry for the poor children who unknowingly suffered abuse from both sides - their parents, who basically abandoned them, and the unscrupulous owner, Dr Renfield, who did not provide them with what they truly deserved. Milberry, knowing that he was reliant on the doctor for an income, obviously said nothing for fear of losing his job.

It came to be that his services were needed one day to help the nurses take the children back inside from the beach. Milberry was too glad to assist and he then became a regular. He would play with the children and tell them stories. He was affectionate and caring, unlike the nurses, and the children came to love him as he did them. They called him Berry and his interaction with them made his tasks seem so much easier.

Disaster struck when one of the children, after a long period of rain, was so excited to get to the beach when the sun was shining, that he could not wait and fell out of his wheelchair in an attempt to get to the beach sooner. Berry, in an attempt to save the child from harm, knocked over the wheelchair which broke. The child, obviously traumatized more by the fall than actually being hurt, cried and Berry was blamed for the accident. Dr Renfield, who feared legal action from the child's parents and obvious criticism of his institution, decided to dismiss Berry sans his last wages of eight dollars, which was to be used to fix or replace the broken wheelchair.

Milberry then went to Jersey City.

The story is rich...

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inirony. Firstly, Milberry's hard work and dedication did not avoid him keeping out of trouble. It was, in fact, his commitment that led to his dismissal. Dr Renfield, and the white people who worked for him, were guided by their racist prejudice. In their estimation, because Milberry was a black man, he could never be right and had to, therefore, carry the blame. 

Secondly, Milberry was the only one who truly cared about the disabled children. All the others did not have an ounce of compassion for them and saw the children either as a burden or as a means to an end. The irony lies in the fact that the one who cared, was the one who was dismissed, leaving the children with very little to look forward to.

The story illustrates the dilemma so many blacks had to face as victims of others' prejudice. Their choices were limited to such an extent that even the good ones they made, as in Berry's case, eventually turned out bad, through no fault of their own. 

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