Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Southern town

Southern town. The unnamed southern town is supposed to represent a typical place in the South following the Civil War. While from appearances things appear to be looking up for former slaves remaining in the South, Dunbar shows that once the veneer of gentility and goodwill lifted, the South was the same wretched place it had always been, so far as its black citizens were concerned.

Hamilton cottage

Hamilton cottage. Home of the Hamilton family in the yard of the Oakley family mansion; a play on words that reflects the facade of improved conditions for African Americans. The Hamiltons’ “cottage” is a former slave cabin, but as the means and status of the Hamiltons seem to improve, so the cabin takes on a new appearance of its own and becomes a “bower of peace and comfort,” furnished mostly with discarded items from the Oakley mansion. Indeed, its edenic appearance is further exemplified by the many blooming flowers in its yard and the profusion of morning glories and Virginia creeper that hang over the entranceway. Also, Berry Hamilton, his wife Fannie, and his children Joe and Kitty appear to have garnered for themselves a life of freedom and high standing. Not only are they gainfully employed, but they have both the time and means for a full complement of social and cultural activities, and they seem to be living quite well in the South that only a few decades earlier was plagued by the evils of slavery. However, Dunbar holds this myth up to ridicule once Berry is wrongly accused of theft of money from the Oakley mansion. Not only does his employer turn against Berry Hamilton, but so do the others of the town, white...

(The entire section is 691 words.)