Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Nights with Uncle Remus is a thematic novel of seventy-one chapters, sixty-one of which contain animal stories and one of which contains a witch tale. The final chapter provides a climactic celebration of Christmas Eve festivities led by Uncle Remus, including the marriage of Daddy Jack and ’Tildy, a dance, and a communal song session. The white plantation owners and their guests are appreciative onlookers.

In most of these chapters, Uncle Remus tells stories in a rural black dialect to the young son of the plantation owner. The device of stories within a frame was introduced in Joel Chandler Harris’ first book, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1880). In Nights with Uncle Remus, however, the time has shifted to before the Civil War to allow for more variety in black narrators and black dialects and for differences in storytelling techniques. A lively competition between narrators ensues in the sessions.

Reconciliation, a major theme of the book, is established in the frame of the novel when these narrators come to appreciate their differences as individuals and as storytellers. At first, they argue over the authenticity and details of tales, but eventually they become a mutually appreciative and cooperative group. Their tales provide contrast to this harmony by focusing on the negative and destructive aspects of the animal community. Brer Rabbit, along with Benjamin Ram and Brer Terrapin, must constantly be on guard to avoid being captured and eaten by Brer Fox, Brer Wolf, and Brer Bear. When the...

(The entire section is 638 words.)