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“A Municipal Report” takes place in Nashville, Tennessee shortly after the American Civil War between the northern states and southern states. It is told in the form of a report by a man who came to Nashville on business but whose name we never learn. The plot involves what happens between the narrator and three main characters: Azalea Adair, an educated, and gentle lady of the old South; Major Caswell, the cruel husband who treats her badly; and Uncle Caesar, a kind African American man with a royal bearing who tries to help Azalea. The storyteller says many times that Nashville is a quiet, boring the town. An interesting feature of the story is how O. Henry uses his description of the weather (he mentions at several key points that it is drizzling) as symbolism to add to the feeling that in the city there is nothing exciting or interesting to see or do. When talking about African Americans, the narrator uses the term “Negro”. Although not a polite form of address in modern times, this was the common (and polite) term used at the time of the story. When talking about one the the main characters in the story – Uncle Caesar – he says that Caesar looks like a famous Zulu chief by the name of King Cettiwayo (pictured on the right), and uses this name to refer to Uncle Caesar several times later in the story. When the storyteller first mentions King Cettiwayo he refers to him as the “late” King Cettiwayo. The word late in this case is a euphemism meaning that the person is dead. We know that King Cettiwayo died in 1884, so this puts the date of the story as sometime in the late 1880s. An important part of the story is an old coat that is worn by Uncle Caesar. It is described as once having been the military coat of an officer in the Southern Army. A normal southern officer’s coat would have looked like the picture on the left, but the one described in the original story is much fancier with many tassels. This is probably because southern officers in high positions...
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