Dave’s Neckliss

Study Guide: Dave’s Neckliss

Remember, for our purposes satire is defined as a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption. Chesnutt uses satire as social criticism to targets injustice and disparity in institutions of power, including government, businesses, and even individuals.

The three overarching types of satire are:

  1. Menippean satire criticizes mental attitudes and ridicules character types, such as single- minded people, such as bigots, misers, and braggarts.
  2. Horatian satire is marked by joviality and hilarity although moralizing
  3. Juvenalian is austere, harsh, and often punitive in tone


  • Which forms of satire are used in this story? Give examples using concrete examples from the text.
  • Is there a moral to the story?
  • Are there examples in the story that you feel deserve a heavier or lighter hand to instill the moral and/or point of the story?
  • Does this story use irony or sarcasm? Give examples using concrete examples from the text.
  • Although the s tory of “Dave’s Neckliss” takes place in the South, what does the story suggest about Northern attitudes toward slavery?
  • Do John and his wife share the same attitudes towards slavery? How do they differ? Explain your answer(s) using concrete support from the text.
  • How is irony used in this story?
  • There is a turning point in the short story where the ham becomes a representation of something. Where is this turning point? (Give direct citation from story including your interpretation)
  • At what point does the symbolism of the ham evolve into another signification?
  • Dave knew it was against the law for him to learn to read; therefore, his response to Master Dugal was clever – in what sense?
  • What’s satiric about the way the thief of the ham was revealed?
  • How is exaggeration used in this story? How does exaggeration contribute to understanding the psychological effects of slavery?
  • What type of satire characterizes the story’s conclusion?
  • How does the conclusion of “Dave’s Neckliss” compare with that of other Chesnutt stories?


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Charles Chesnutt in the Classroom by Adrienne Johnson Gosselin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.