Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most obvious stylistic technique used by Chesnutt is the pronounced dialect speech of his African American characters. Critics of his day, William Dean Howells in particular, praised Chesnutt highly for his use of dialect, which they hailed as accurately reflecting the speech of blacks. In his later works, Chesnutt used dialect far more sparingly. No doubt this was in large part because the use of this dialect often aroused condescending laughter at the black characters, enabling the readers to feel a sense of superiority over those whom they considered poor, ignorant blacks. Uncle Julius, in the language he uses, the tales he tells, and the mannerisms he possesses, plays the role of the clown, the buffoon, a role Chesnutt and other black writers hesitated to assign their characters for the purpose of entertaining white readers. Thus, Chesnutt did not use this folksy style of writing in his later works.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Kulii, Elon A. “Poetic License and Chesnutt’s Use of Folklore.” CLA Journal 38 (December, 1994): 247-253.

Lehman, Cynthia L. “The Social and Political View of Charles Chesnutt: Reflections on His Major Writings.” Journal of Black Studies 26 (January, 1996).

McElrath, Joseph R., Jr., ed. Critical Essays on Charles W. Chesnutt. New York: G. K. Hall, 1999.

McFatter, Susan. “From Revenge to Resolution: The (R)evolution of Female Characters in Chesnutt’s Fiction.” CLA Journal 42 (December, 1998): 194-211.

McWilliams, Dean. Charles W. Chesnutt and the Fictions of Race. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002.

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Wilson, Matthew. Whiteness in the Novels of Charles W. Chesnutt. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Wonham, Henry B. Charles W. Chesnutt: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1998.