Fire in a Canebrake

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In her Fire in a Canebrake, Laura Wexler describes an important event in mid-twentieth century American race relations, long ago relegated to the closet of American consciousness. In so doing, Wexler not only skillfully describes the event—the Moore’s Ford lynching of 1946—but incorporates it into our understanding of the present world and past by retaining the complexities of doubt and deception that surrounded the event when it occurred, and which still confound it in historical records. By skillfully navigating these currents of deceit, too, Wexler is not only able to portray them to the reader in full form, but also historicize this muddled record in the context of certain larger historical truths. In this fashion, and by refusing to cede to a desire for closure by drawing easy but inherently flawed conclusions regarding the individuals directly responsible for the 1946 lynching, Wexler demonstrates that she is more interested in a larger historical picture than the single event to which she dedicates her text. And, in so doing, she rebukes the doubts of those who question the importance of “bringing up” the lynching, lending powerful motivation and purpose to her writing that sustains her narrative, and the audience’s attention to it. This motivation and purpose are most evident in the quality of Wexler’s writing, made outstanding by her painstaking awareness throughout the text of, firstly, such fundamental things as setting and the introduction of characters, and, secondly, the overarching threads of, for instance, national and state politics, which set the larger stage for the story. In her text, Wexler briefly mentions a prominent figure in the NAACP, Walter White, noting his biting statements regarding the lynching a ... ... middle of paper ... ...lusions—not only in regards to who the lynchers were, but also in regards to the identities of the victims (230), and, worst of all, whether or not the issues central to the Moore’s Ford lynching have been settled, and are past. In these senses, conclusiveness about these issues encourages falseness, precludes justice, and makes the audience let go of things that ought not to be let go—and this, short of the lynching itself, is one of the greatest possible wrongs (244). It is by refusing to conclude, then, that Laura Wexler achieves the greatest success of her outstanding narrative, and is able to successfully navigates the lies and deception of a muddled historical event by adeptly presenting them in the context of larger historical truths. Work Cited Wexler, Laura. 2003. Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America. Scribner; 2004. Print

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how laura wexler's fire in a canebrake describes an important event in mid-twentieth century american race relations, long ago relegated to the closet of american consciousness.
  • Analyzes the motivation and purpose of wexler's writing, which is made outstanding by her painstaking awareness of fundamental things like setting and the introduction of characters, and overarching threads of national and state politics.
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