What is Chapter 8 in Elijah of Buxton about?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 8, which is entitled "The Most Exciting Night of My Life So Far", the carnival comes to the town of Chatham.  Because it is a notoriously sleazy operation, the parents of the children of Buxton forbid their offspring to go.  The Preacher, however, has in mind a devious plan to make some money for himself as usual, and tries to convince Elijah to sneak away and accompany him to the forbidden event.  Although Elijah knows his parents would not approve, he is excited and curious about the carnival, and allows himself to be persuaded to go with the Preacher, who tells him to bring along a sack full of stones with the obvious intention of somehow exploiting Elijah's uncanny talent for "chunking" rocks.

At the carnival, the Elijah and the Preacher go to see Madame Sabbar, a prodigy with the slingshot.  Madame Sabbar, who is white, puts on a show whereby she vanquishes MaWee, a "savage of the Swedish Mohongo tribe".  Although for this performance, MaWee is played by a white boy whom Elijah recognizes as one of his schoolmates, Jimmy Blassingame, it is evident that ordinarily, the "savage" is black, and the show an exhibition of racist degradation of the Negro by Madame Sabbar, who purportedly uses her skill to save the "purity of...innocent white (women) from the "black...barbarian".  The ethnicity of MaWee has been changed because the political climate in the Buxton area will not tolerate such a blatant display of bigotry, but the derogatory essence of the script cannot be hidden.  As MaWee, Jimmy is abused and humiliated, but the mean-spirited audience "laugh(s) so hard that the tent (shakes)".  At the end of the show, the Preacher pulls Elijah with him to see "one more person" with whom he needs to speak.  It is clear that the Preacher has plans, and that he is up to no good (Chapter 8).