|1968 Beacon Press Edition|
The final chapter in Book One "Jacobins," shows Criddle, Ditcher, a mulatto boy, Mingo, Blue, Old Catfish Primus, and Juba preparing to follow Gabriel and overtake Richmond. The chapter only constitutes about four pages, and each of the characters mentioned above gets his or her own little section within the chapter. They do not appear in the space; the third person omniscient narrator moves from one character to another showing each one's preparations. Criddle's movements begin the chapter. He enters Marse Prosser's stable at night, and no one pays any attention to him. He finds a loose board in the floor then removes a "hand-made cutlass" and begins to sharpen it. Next, Ditcher can be seen leaving his cabin and speaking with the moon and a neighbor about the upcoming events. Close to morning, a mulatto boy fishes by the creek and converses with his "mammy" about the upcoming rebellion. The free African American Mingo thinks about his position as a "free" man who owns his own business. However, his wife and children remain slaves. He locks up his shop and thinks back to his wife being whipped mercilessly. After working in the fields, Blue speaks with his mule and contemplates his impending freedom, daydreaming about "riding in a public stagecoach with a cigar in his mouth" and drinking freely in a tavern (79). Next, Old Catfish Primus speaks with another man about conjure and protection for the rebellion. Primus gives the man a "fighting 'hand'" (79). Juba, Gabriel's lover, concludes the chapter. She prepares Araby for the ride to come; Gabriel enters, checks to see if everything is ready, then leaves to prepare for the night ahead.
When I read that chapter in Black Thunder, I could not help but recall chapter 30 in Gaines's book. Both let us, as readers, see into the heads of characters as events unfold around them. This is nothing new, of course. What makes it unique, to me, is the fact that Gaines's novel switches its point of view for only one chapter, near the end, and that Bontemps's, while told in third person, takes the time to highlight character's thoughts and preparations for the upcoming rebellion.
For the next post, I want to look at another unique characteristic I picked up on in Black Thunder. As I said earlier, the novel is told from the third person perspective, but the narrator periodically moves in to characters' minds and shows how they think and perceive the events. This technique, which employs stream of consciousness, reminds me of some sections of Toomer's Cane.
Do you see these stylistic elements in other modernist texts? In other texts in general? What are some examples? Let us know in the comments below.
Bontemps, Arna. Black Thunder. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968. Print.