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The Lynching of Jube Benson

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Lynching of Jube Benson”  (1904) by Paul Laurence Dunbar. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an African-American writer. Dunbar is one of the first African-American writers to gain international fame. He was well-known for his work written in the African-American dialect. The short story “The Lynching of Jube Benson” was published in 1904 in the collection The Heart of Happy Hollow.

Extract

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Metaphors

The metaphors used in the story highlight that Dr. Melville sees white and black people differently. For example, Jube Benson is metaphorically called “a perfect Cerberus”, which is a reference to the mythological dog that guards the gates of the Underworld in Greek mythology. The metaphor, which praises Jube Benson, also suggests that Dr. Melville does not see him as an equal or as a human. 

Jube Benson is metaphorically associated with a demon, while Annie is metaphorically associated with a fairy: “To my chimerical vision there was only a black but gentle demon that came and went, alternating with a white fairy, who would insist on coming in on her head, growing larger and larger and then dissolving”. Here, Dr. Melville instinctively sees Jube Benson as a a traditionally evil creature which brings harm. On the other hand, because Annie is white, he sees her as a fairy which is traditionally good. Overall, the two metaphors suggest that Dr. Melville unconsciously differentiates between white and black people. 

When Dr. Melville believes that Jube Benson has raped and beaten Annie, he compares his anger to “the panther’s desire for blood”. The metaphor suggests that Dr. Melville’s anger is instinctual and that, just like an animal, he cannot listen to reason.

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The Lynching of Jube Benson

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