Societal oppression persists in many facets of life and forces individuals into imposed roles that drastically determine their mindsets and identities. Those oppressed are not accepted into such societies and instead forced into subservient positions. These roles then become these individuals’ entire identities as they become unable to view themselves as anything but that what they are solely perceived. Charles W. Chesnutt’s “Dave’s Neckliss” depicts several examples of such oppression through both the use of female characters and the background of slavery to the framed story. By viewing the short story through both a feminist and a postcolonial lens, the subservient roles of certain individuals and the detrimental effects of society’s oppressive nature are revealed.
Chesnutt’s short story features only two female characters who receive little focus or development. Despite this apparent lack of women in the text, the plot of both the main and framed narratives depend upon their existence. Without Annie, the wife of the narrator, Julius would not have had the option to dine at John’s house, and subsequently not had an opportunity to tell his tale. Even within Julius’ tale of Dave and his “neckliss” (Chesnutt), Dilsey, the love interest of Dave and object of desire for many others, and the want of her cause the process of Dave receiving the punishment for supposedly stealing meat. Although these women are essential to both stories, they are used merely as devices for furthering the plots and never receive development beyond the roles specifically designed for them.
Both women play subordinate roles to men and are defined only by their relationships and necessity to the male gender. Annie’s only appearances throughout the entire ...
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...nounces to everyone Dave’s folly—thus directly influencing the “nigger ‘ooman” (Chesnutt) and subsequently indirectly biasing Dilsey.
Just how men manipulate Dilsey and Annie, the patriarchy itself forces them into their roles as submissive, traditionally feminine women. Society convinces the women how they must act, thus keeping them from developing past the type of woman that men have idealized. Such oppression is what keeps Annie and Dilsey from becoming dynamic characters, forcing them forever into a subordinate, domestic, and prize-like role. This role society has coerced them into allows for their perpetual manipulation and use by men which they cannot escape due to years of mental conditioning into believing their own inferiority.
In conjunction with an oppressor conditioning their subordinates into believing they are that what they are perceived, the