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A Party Down At The Square
Transcript of A Party Down At The Square
By: Ralph Ellison
Protagonist (main character)-
A nameless white boy from Cincinnati, who is visiting his uncle in the south. He represents the North and their views on African Americans.
** Why is it significant that Ellison wrote the story in the perspective of a young, white boy? **
A young black man, who is lynched by white mob. He is tied up, and set on fire, and is forced to beg to his murderers to slit his throat so he does not have to suffer.
Appears to be the leader of the mob and is, ironically, expected to be voted in as sheriff of the town. He had a twisted sense of patriotism.
Woman Burned by Electric Wires-
An unnamed white woman is burned and killed from the accident. However, the mob quickly turns their attention away from her and back to the burning black man.
Historical and cultural Importance of the story
*Grew up in Oklahoma
*Was African American
*Served In World War I, and began writing shortly after returning home
*Frustrated by white supremacy, Ellison wrote many of his short story's on racial issues.
* General's Statue- A statue of a confederate general.
*What is the significance of the general being a Confederate General?
*What does the airplane represent in the story? Why was it important to include a plane crash in the story?
language used throughout the story
Use of the word N*****.
* Found over 40 times in the story
* Why does Ellison repeat this word so many times throughout his story?
* What is the words significance in the story?
Using the word "Party" to describe the lynching.
* Why would he call it a party?
* What clues in the story lead to you to believe that some characters in the story actually did believe the lynching was a party?
1.)Place- Somewhere in the deep South of Alabama, there's the "party" Down at the square.
2.) Weather- Storming out
3.)Time- Post WWI, in the 20th century
4.)Atmosphere- disgust and misery.
The Story is told (In first person) by a narrator from the North, who is visiting his Uncle
* Why is it important that the boy is from the North?
* Why would the story be in the the first person perspective from a white, northern boy? Why not the perspective of the black man?
The story is about a black man being lynched by a white mob and is later set on fire.
Bystander Effect- The larger the crowd, the less likely someone will come to the aid of another.
The narrator mentions how the boy is physically disgusted by the events he witnessed (He even throws up) but he continues to watch them, without stopping them.
Desensitization to Violence- The boy watches the black man burn to death, and he then watches the white woman die from electrocution. Although he gets physically sick, his Uncle later tells him "You get used of it in time."
Other Examples of important ideas and themes:
The loss of innocence
Becoming a Man
The effects of Racism
Why is it important that he is black?
The "Party" down at the square
There was no party at the square on the night of the plane crash, storm, or burning of the man. There was only prejudice and cruelty for the narrator to observe.
* Jed Wilson is in line to be the next sheriff in town.
*The black man asks for mercy in a polite ans calm manner (He even calls the white men "Gentlemen", and Wilson reply with the comment "There ain't no Christians tonight.... we're just one-hundred percent Americans"
* Degrading women-
In this time period women were less important.
-How did Ellison show this idea
throughout his story?
*De- humanizing Blacks in this time period.
The moment of
occurs when a plane, its pilot confused by the brightness of the fire, starts circling overhead. The narrator realizes that the plane is about to crash, causing the assembled lynch mob to scatter. There is a period in which we think the lynch victim may get away while the mob is distracted or the narrator might (?) free him, but the victim is tied securely and beginning to roast over the growing fire. The mob then returns to their victim and throw gasoline on the fire, continuing the torture.
Crisis, Climax, and Conflict
A peripety is a turning point in which the protagonist--in this case, the narrator--changes in some way we don't expect. In this story, we get a hint of this at the end, after the narrator seems to be having a revelation regarding the horror and unfairness of lynchings. In the same paragraph, as though these details were just as important and thought-provoking as the lynching he witnessed, he relates how a sharecropper spit tobacco on Brinkley's floor because the store keeper wouldn't give him credit. The incident is not as important, but we realize at this point that, despite the narrator's initial horror and revulsion, the lynching he witnessed is just another cool story, and he ultimately doesn't really care.