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.