Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Rudolph Fisher frequently reused certain themes in his short stories. Among the recurring themes in “Miss Cynthie” are the ineptitude of newly arrived rural southerners to New York City, the centrality of the grandmother figure, and the wonders of Black Harlem of the 1920’s.

In Fisher’s best-known short stories, which include “Miss Cynthie,” the author seems fascinated with how southern blacks who arrived in New York City during the Great Migration of the early part of the twentieth century were, for the most part, ill equipped to deal with the city’s sophistication and fast-paced life. Although for most of these characters the city failed to reveal itself as the proverbial “Promised Land,” Miss Cynthie seems to challenge Fisher’s typical southern character in that she possesses a keen wit and much wholesome, old-fashioned wisdom that characterize her as being able to handle herself in the city. Furthermore, the fact that she fares well during her stay and has several life-affirming experiences while there demonstrate that her visit to the city has been an edifying experience. Her naïveté notwithstanding, Miss Cynthie is presented as a character with spunk, one from whom Dave Tappen, her grandson, has obviously learned his lessons well.

Similarly, Miss Cynthie is an example of the grandmother figure who appears in several of Fisher’s stories. These characters are presented as strong, enduring, often long-suffering women...

(The entire section is 512 words.)