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Paul Laurence Dunbar's novel The Sport of the Gods - Essay Example

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Paul Laurence Dunbar's novel The Sport of the Gods was one of the first African American migration narratives. It has depicted the struggles of Fannie, Joe and Kitty Hamilton as they settle into New York after escaping racial and social suspicion from the head of the household's, Berry Hamilton's, wrongful imprisonment…
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Paul Laurence Dunbars novel The Sport of the Gods
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Paul Laurence Dunbar's novel The Sport of the Gods

Yet as Fannie fears, " there could not be so many people without a deal of wickedness." (49). This paper will analyze each family member's slow degradation, by means provided by the city, evils which are commonplace to metro regions, but natives grow defense against while newcomers quickly become ensnared.
Joe proves to be the most easily susceptible to the new found charms of the city. In his hometown, before the scandal, his position as a barber to white men had caused him to become haughty in demeanor. Humbled first in his hometown, the exposure to metropolitan ways again continue his consternation. He is envious of the well dressed young men of leisure he sees everywhere, and uses Mr. Thomas to gain access to them but only after Joe has become employed and has money to spend. Joe soon finds himself with the mistaken illusion of satisfaction: he has friends (for whom he buys much alcohol) and has become involved with a starlet, Ms. Hattie Sterling (who likewise drinks heavily). Through the attainment of these dreams, Joe achieves a level of social acceptance and a semi-long term relationship. He also becomes an alcoholic, which causes him to lavish all of his funds on acquaintances and none on his family, simultaneously going to work less and less. When he confesses to Sadness his father's (wrongful) imprisonment, Sadness rattles off various people's histories. Sadness is trying to help Joe by first revealing how much worse off others have it, but also trying to insinuate that Joe needs to depend less on others. When Joe claims that Sadness' words have helped, Sadness angrily declares "You lie. I haven't; I was only fool enough to try." (85) Joe instead takes the advice to be an invitation to a society of leisurely leeches. His drinking becomes so pronounced that Hattie break up with him several times over it. Ultimately, drink and desperation result in Joe murdering Hattie and receiving a life sentence in prison. Thus, Joe's initial fleeing of the stigma attached to his father's supposed crimes have caused him to emulate a self-defeating strata of society; in distancing himself from his father's alleged crime, Joe has unfortunately perpetuated a stereotype of a violent Southern Negro.
Mr. Thomas first interest had been to win over Kitty's affections; it was only failing this that he befriended Joe in order to get closer to Kitty. In a way, Mr. Thomas does aid Kitty, but through a circuitous route. Kitty in general adheres to the moral guidelines she has followed all of her life. Her only weakness with metropolitan life is the theatre, which Hattie is able to provide access to through a Chorus Line contact. Kitty quickly gives up singing her traditional songs in favor of what are referred to as 'coon songs'. Her voice insures her quick rise from chorus to headlining, yet she develops a necessary callousness to go with it. As Joe's fortunes declined and hers rose, Joe frequently came to 'touch' Kitty for cash which eventually resulted in them no longer being on speaking terms. When Joe was arrested and convicted, Kitty "felt the shame of it keenly, and some of the grief." (123)This stemmed in part from earnest regret and in part of the de ja v experience from her father's incarceration: people couldn't help but connect her name to her brother's. Fearing an assumption ... Read More
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