Poetic Justice in “A Party Down at the Square” by Ellison

In “Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity”, Ellison elucidates the African-American experience in contrast to the (No Hyphen) “American” experience. “When the white American, holding up most twenth-th century fiction, says, ‘This is American reality,’ the Negro tends to answer ‘Perhaps, but you’ve left out this, and this, and this’…” To make the American Experience whole, Ellison wrote “A Party Down at the Square.”

Therein, he describes the lynching of a black man, burning at the stake. Even in the simple plot, Ellison creates justice through the “accidental” events that surround the burning: a terrible storm wrecks havoc on the the town’s infrastructure for three days, a plane crashes in the near distance; this causes electrical wires to whip about dangerously; they strike a woman and kill her instantly. In all of this, Ellison makes the case that when you lose a man (of any color), you lose much more than a man.

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