Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The violence in this story is startling. In contrast to stories such as “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story,” “The Sad Fate of Mr. Fox” seems harsh and unexpected. The understatement of the word “sad” is gravely humorous, and the moral advice found in many of the other tales is reduced here to Phineas Taylor Barnum’s epitaph for suckers: “There’s one born every minute.” Certainly one is appalled by the fate of Mr. Fox. Joel Chandler Harris’s story, however, does not stop with the horror of the fox’s head in his wife’s stew pot. He goes on to detail the incredible stupidity of the widow and her son as they try in vain to capture the clever rabbit. What does this reveal about the characters and the worldview of Uncle Remus?

There is no doubt that it is the persona of the black slave, in the guise of the physically weak but clever rabbit, that escapes from the clutches of the more powerful, but slow-witted, foxes, which are obvious symbols of the dominating white man. Indeed, escape is not enough; Brer Rabbit seeks and finds revenge. However, the story does not celebrate death or revenge; it is a story of survival, the survival of the feisty spirit of Brer Rabbit. Although the main characters, Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, seem to cooperate, there is no compromise. Even though they share the same beef, there is no honest connection or communion between them. Thus, Brer Rabbit has no qualms about betraying the fox. Revenge is sweet, no matter...

(The entire section is 404 words.)