Environment in Dunbar’s The Sport of the Gods
The Sport of the Gods presents a variety of literary devices that when combined create a strong work of fiction. Paul Laurence Dunbar, the author, focuses on characterization and setting to shape the lives of an African American family, the Hamiltons. The Hamilton family consists of Berry, Fanny, Kit, and Joe. Dunbar moved his characters from the Southern United States to New York City to record the effects of a new environment upon them. New York is a typical, large American city that has potential to warp aspiring individuals such as the Hamiltons. Setting and characterization work together to create individual characters with many layers. It can be questioned whether the Hamiltons themselves can be held responsible for what happens to them after their migration.
The setting illuminates the darkness in the lives of the central characters. The early chapters of the novel emphasize the unwillingness of other African American families in the Southern town to befriend the Hamiltons. This feeling of resentment toward the Hamiltons is because of the way they set themselves above other members of their race: “W’enevah you see niggahs gittin’ so high dat dey own folks ain’ good enough fu’ ‘em, look out” (21). These feelings carry out when Joe searches for employment in black barbershops. In the past, Joe refused to shave a black mans head despite being black himself. Like Joe, Fanny becomes frustrated when people she had known her entire life refuse to allow her to rent property after she was evicted from the Oakley cottage. Not only does Berry’s disgrace show the resistance of the townspeople towards them, but it shows the Hamilton’s own flaws as well. This turn of events cause the Hamiltons to migrate to New York, a city they believe holds the key to their success. However, the Hamiltons find that their pride and arrogance follow them despite the setting.
Although a large frame is needed in order to describe the...
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