Gravedigger man and Coffin boy

In the beginning of the story, the two cops, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed, seem to be less than average african american cops. They fight with one another, they choke women, and in many ways are extremely unprofessional. However, towards the end of the story, they begin to become more intelligent and almost “super human”. Or at least, more capable than the common man.

As the story moves on and the two cops become closer to retrieving the bale, they evolve to fit the demands of their mission. In my opinion much more than a normal character would. For example, in Red Harvest, written by Dashiell Hammett, the Continental OP does not increase in talent or skill over the span of the book and remains in my eyes as a regular man doing his every day job. While the Continental OP changes during the book, it is not for the better and it does not make him larger than life. In Cotton Comes to Harlem, written by Chester Himes during the civil writes movement, the characters almost become larger than life. Gravedigger and Coffin have turned into sneaky detectives with cool weapons to blow away their enemies from bickering sub-cops. Towards the end, the two men seem almost invincible.

Given the time period, I can’t help but wonder if these larger than life figures were being used to promote the civil rights movement. The book shows the abilities of african american people and has the white man as the villain of the tale. This being the case, there is no way that anyone could cheer for the “white man” in this story. Cotton Comes to Harlem would indeed encourage the Civil rights movement by showing the capabilities of african americans in the book and how they can compete with and surpass the “white man”.




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