The Great Migration: A Fatalistic Attempt at Self-Determination

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In The Sport of the Gods, Paul Laurence Dunbar presents a naturalistic look at African American life during turn of the century. This novel is centered on the “Great Migration” which was the decided shift of the black community from the rural South to the urban North beginning in the early 1900s. Dunbar uses the Hamilton family to represent the false sense of agency African Americans possessed within the post-Reconstruction society. The characters within the family are constantly attempting to better their conditions through appearance, relationships, and eventually treachery, but they are powerless in the strict social confines of the Rural South, and even more so to the tumultuousness of the Urban North. In the end of the story, the family is destroyed but their unfortunate dissolution can then implicate readers and become a catalyst for change and unification within the African American community.
The story begins by illustrating the Hamilton’s Southern rural society, which seems eerily similar to the slave society that existed almost forty years before. Berry is initially described, as “one of the many slaves who upon their accession to freedom had not left the South, but had wondered from place to place in their own beloved section, waiting, working, and struggling to rise with its rehabilitated fortunes” (1). This description of the “beloved” South is strange considering that Berry, along with many other Southern blacks, had been enslaved here for generations and treated more like animals than human beings. This makes it apparent that while the South has been extremely limiting and unchanged since the Civil War, it still provides comfort and a sense of home for these unfortunate post-antebellum African Americans. It also...

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...ir race and place in society. In the South there was a very obvious contrast between the Hamilton’s who strove for a better life, and the other African Americans who resented. In the North the African Americans were drawn in by the temptations of a new lifestyle and destroyed by one another in the process. The Sport of the Gods exposes these truths and calls for a big change in African American relations across the country. From this fatalistic story it becomes clear that unity and a complete restructuring of the social norms in the North and the South are necessary for change. The Hamiltons “Great Migration” was unsuccessful and tragic but necessary in order for African Americans readers to divert from this type of existence and change their fate.

Works Cited

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. The Sport of the Gods . 1901. Reprint. New York: Signet Classics, 2011. Print.

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