WEB DuBois The Souls Of Black Folk

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?.