Saturday Afternoon by Erskine Caldwell is a short story that conveys just how regular racism and violence had become in a small southern town during the early 20th century In the short story the author Erskine Caldwell incorporates indirect characterization and a passive tone These elements fused together to allow the reader to experience just how ordinary violence was at this time The characters that Caldwell creates for the story are pertinent to the story s setting and time Readers can obtain a more in depth assimilation of each character reflective upon their actions and mannerisms Throughout the piece Tom Denny s inner characterization is built through his attitudes motives and actions In Tom s everyday life he comes across as rather careless As the town s butcher he sleeps on the meat and produce he sells to his neighbors The tobacco juice splattered on the floor midway between the meat block and cigar box What little of it dripped on the piece of rump steak did not matter most people cleaned their meat before they cooked and ate it Like other civilians Tom was a white male in the working class whom despite his exhaustion wanted to please everybody Caldwell does a fine job of painting a normal day in the life of Tom Denny All the town people who had wanted some of Tom s meat for Saturday dinner had already got what they needed and it was too early in the day to buy Sunday meat
The readers can see Tom's daily routine and understand the role he played in his community and the relationships it has built Another flat character the readers are introduced to is Will Maxie Will Maxie much like Tom was a civilian in the town whom many knew to be successful Caldwell lays down a series of characteristics that are connected to both Tom and Will Will was the best at his profession and many could have benefited from his skill but they grew envious and decided to hate him instead Will was a pretty smart Negro But nobody liked Will He made more money than Tom and Jim made in the butcher shop selling people meat This quiet Saturday afternoon Caldwell illustrates for his readers abruptly converts into an uprising hate crime The reader is snapped into the action just as Jim ran in the back door and grabbed Tom by the shoulders As the audience is walked through the day in the life of Tom Denny there is a relationship established between them Caldwell creates a routine employing repetition and emphasizing the certain minute actions such as Tom swatting a fly out of his face These subtle actions which typically can be overlooked portray how ordinary the day was This particular Saturday afternoon begins quite monotonous and the lack of events almost extracts a feeling of empathy As soon as the readers are comfortable with Tom Caldwell begins another journey that scars the mental image they have developed of him It is an incredible feature how Caldwell can instantly flip the mind of his readers just as quickly as Tom s day turned around
For the readers the mob of blood thirsty white men is appalling Jealous white men are out to make an event of publicly assassinating a man and the readers can only anticipate the role their character Tom will play in it It is best that the story is told from a third party because of everyone's role no matter how big or small seems to be important to the cause The young boy going around selling Coke s for his father only highlights how normal these events were There is nothing better to drink on a hot day if the dopes are nice and cool A man felt that it was safe enough to have his child out selling items to a large group of angry men killing an innocent man on a Saturday afternoon Caldwell takes advantage of this role and inserts his own beliefs of learned racism and hate through the minor role of a young boy The violence taking place in this town was just that normal Caldwell does a great job of fulfilling a wholesome setting and mood throughout the story by simply describing each characters actions and the fitting the minor actions into the current lynching The story ends by coming back full circle and the readers and the characters end right back where they would be on any other day as if nothing important is happening such as a man being beaten and hung Everything s slick as a whistle except my old woman's got the chills and fever pretty bad again All of which features that Caldwell uses an instrument that depicts just how nonchalant violence was during this period
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