An author can only partially structure an experience in an attempt to elicit a desired response from the reader, for there are two types of readers an author must consider: the implied reader and the actual reader. The implied reader is “assumed and created by the work itself” whereas, the actual reader brings his/her own experiences to the text and thus each reader takes away a different message from a text (MacMannus, para 1). Du Bois's narrative, “A Mild Suggestion”, attempts to ensure a certain response, from the reader, by including a description of the passengers' reactions to the colored man's story, but to some degree, the effects on the reader vary depending on the experiences he or she brings to the text. However, without this final description, the message many have been interpreted even more differently, thus its inclusion is to help ensure that the intent of the colored man's story is not misconstrued. By including it, Du Bois leads his audience and structures the reaction more thoroughly. By examining the reactions of the characters in the final paragraphs while considering both Du Bois's purpose and initial characterization, it is apparent what reaction he would like the reader to have.
The reaction of the Little Old Lady impacts the audience. At the beginning of the story, the Little Old Lady is not very concerned about sitting beside the “colored man” and in somewhat annoyed at the colored man's "bad habits”, but she has not been presented as prejudice towards the coloured man. This establishes a context with which to interpret her final reaction, when she is depicted as having tears in her eyes and going silently to her cabin (Du Bois, 94). She is not angry at the colored man, but rather is upset about the story. Perhaps, as a suppressed woman, she is sad about the story and can to some degree identify with the coloured man’s plight. Perhaps she is teary eyed because the others have missed the satirical point of the story. Regardless of the...
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