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‘ [360] Brer Rabbit, which he wuz gwine by, got de idee dat she wuz callina him.’

Another interesting characteristic of the Uncle Remus speech is found in the present tense of verbs. Uncle Remus does not say, for example, I make, you make, he makes, we make, you make, they make, but I makes, you makes, he makes, we makes, you makes, dey makes. Negro dialect, like the dialect of all illiterate peoples, is an ear dialect. The eye has nothing to do with it. The law of analogy, therefore, which is nothing more than the rule of the majority, has unfettered operation. The illiterate man, whether black or white, hearing the third person singular with its invariable s-ending far more frequently than he hears any other form of the present tense, makes it his norm and uses it for all forms of both numbers. The same is true of the verb to be, though is has not in the language of Uncle Remus entirely succeeded in dispossessing am and are.


II. dialects of the whites

Why dialect should have been so sparingly used by American writers before the Civil War and why it should have become so constituent a part of American fiction immediately after the Civil War are questions not easily answered. A partial explanation would seem to lie in the increasing sectionalism from 1830 to 1860 which, culminating in 1865, gave place not only to an increasing sense of national solidarity but to a keener interest in how the other half lived. Sectionalism meant indifference and ignorance; union means reciprocal interest and understanding. There can at least be no doubt that the American short story1 has been the chief vehicle of dialect since the Civil War, and the American short story, by its fidelity to local usages, has done more during these years to acquaint or re-acquaint the North with the South and the East with the West than any other type of literature. Bret Harte, writing in 1899, mentioned as the leading short-story writers then living Joel Chandler Harris, George W. Cable, Mark Twain, Charles Egbert Craddock (Miss Murfree), and Mary E. Wilkins (now Mrs. Freeman). These names, together with that of Bret Harte himself, indicate that excellence

1 See Book III, Chap. VI.

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