W.E.B. DuBois: The Souls Of Black Folk Essay, Research Paper
When William Edward Burghardt Du Bois wrote The Souls
of Black Folk, he had no idea that it would become one of the
greatest pieces of southern literature written in his time. This
book made a definitive impact on how black culture was
viewed. The Souls of Black Folk even revolutionized white
society?s perceptions and attitudes toward blacks. Through the
usage of vivid descriptions in the areas of dialect, food,
symbols, location/landmarks, architecture, and characters,
W.E.B. Du Bois portrays the south in its truest form.
One of the most substantial elements of southern culture
in literature is dialect. Du Bois depicts southern dialect in this
novel, using shortened, incorrect forms of words. Many of the
characters in The Souls of Black Folk speak, using ?Them white
folks,? ?Fitey-three cent,? ?Gits,? ?Sittin?,? ?So does yo?,? ?Heah,?
?Plum full o?,? and other sayings. One man even stretch his
?southern drawl? to say ?He ?peared kind o? down in tha mouf.?
Food and drink also play an important role in a southern
novel. Du Bois uses food and drink, such as fried pork, corn
meal, and whiskey to reveal his deeply rooted southern culture.
In one instance he writes, ?Hello!? cried my driver,- he had a
most impudent way of addressing people, though they seem
used to it,- ?what have you got there?? ?Meat and meal,?
answered the man, stopping. The meat lay uncovered in the
bottom of the wagon,- a great thin side of fat pork covered
with salt; the meal was in a white bushel bag.? And in another
instance, ?In the tiny black kitchen I was often invited to take
out and help myself to fried chicken and wheat biscuit, meat
and corn pone, string beans and berries.
The symbols in The Souls of Black Folk also reveal its
southern flavor. For example, white-washed fences, hot, dusty
country roads, wrap-around porches, tall oak, weeping willow,
and magnolia trees, grass-grown paths, duck hunting,
plantations, railroads, and numerous churches were
mentioned. In fact, the southern churches had a profound
impact on these people?s lives. The Episcopal, Methodist, and
Baptist churches were these people?s lives. ?The Negro church
of today, explains Du Bois, ?is the social center of Negro life in
the United States, and the most characteristic expression of
African character. Take a typical church in a small Virginian
town: it is the ?First Baptist?-a roomy brick edifice, seating five
hundred or more persons, tastefully finished in Georgia pine,
with carpet, a small organ, and stained-glass windows.
Underneath is a large assembly room with benches. This
building is the central club-house of a community of a
thousand or more Negroes. Various organizations meet here,-
the church proper, the Sunday-school, two or three insurance
societies, and mass meetings of various kinds. Entertainments,
suppers, and lectures are held beside the five or six regular
weekly religious services. Considerable sums of money are
collected and expended here, employment is found for the idle,
strangers are introduced, news is disseminated, and charity is
Another of the seemingly endless aspects of southern
culture is location/landmarks. This story takes place all
throughout the south, from southeastern Georgia, to the hills
of Tennessee, which face the Alleghany Mountains; where rows
of corn, and fields of cotton and tobacco blanket the south,
like urban snow.
The architecture, more specifically, ?black? architecture,
mentioned in The Souls of Black Folk is deeply southern. One
church described was ?a great white-washed barn of a thing,
perched on stilts of stone, the center of a hundred cabin
homes.? Hammocks decorate over-grown backyards of cabins
and farmhouses. The schools are mostly small, tiny plank
houses, such as the one that ?has within it, a double row of
unplaned benches resting mostly on legs, sometimes on
boxes.? There was also a lodge-house, 2 stories high, behind
that particular schoolhouse.
The last area of southern culture I will discuss is the
characters. W.E.B. Du Bois creates his characters so clearly
and realistically, that they dance off the page, and into the
mind of the reader. The families are quite large, consisting of
a ?mammy?, a ?pappy?, five to ten children, and in some cases,
the extended family. Many southern names mentioned in this
novel were ?Lugene?, ?Mun Eddings?, ?Mack?, ?Ed?, ?Doc Burke?,
?Reuben?, ?Neills?, ?Hickman?, ?Josie?, ?Fanny?, ?Martha?, ?Jim?,
?John?, and who could forget- ?Uncle Bird.? But as lightsome as
their names may sound, majority of the characters come from
poverty-stricken homes. Their bodies are thin and spindly,
their faces are stained with dirt and filth, and their clothes are
torn and frayed from wear.
In this astounding piece of southern literature, Du
Bois captures the reader?s mind, takes them on a journey to
the south, and inquires the moral and mental issues
surrounding the perceptions of African-Americans within
?white? society at the dawn of the 20th century. To say the
least, it is truly a ?work of art?.