Charles W. Chestnutt

The Goophered Grapevine

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The Goophered Grapevine Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 23-page guide for the short story “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chestnutt includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Literary Regionalism and The Aftermath of Slavery, The Civil War, and Reconstruction in the American South.

This guide is based on Charles Waddell Chesnutt’s “The Goophered Grapevine,” available at The Atlantic website and originally published in the monthly in August 1887. Chesnutt was the first African-American to publish in the highly-respected monthly. Structured as a story within a story, “The Goophered Grapevine” is the history of a ruined North Carolina plantation as told to an unnamed narrator by Julius McAdoo, a former slave on the plantation.

The narrator opens the story by explaining that he moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to Patesville, North Carolina,to live in a place that was more comfortable for his ailing wife and to pursue business opportunities.During a stay in Patesville with his cousin, the narrator went to see a plantation that was for sale. Overgrown and debilitated because of poor farming practices, the plantation nevertheless was overrun by wild grapes.

The narrator took his wife, Annie, to see the plantation on another day, and the two discovered the ruins of the main house.During a break, the couple encountered an older African-American man, Julius McAdoo, sitting on a bench, eating scuppernong grapes.Initially embarrassed, the man sat back down at the narrator’s insistence and explained that he knew the history of the plantation.Julius advised the narrator not to buy the plantation because it was cursed. When prodded for more details, Julius began to tell the story, eventually getting so immersed in the storytelling that he lost his self-consciousness.

According to Julius, Dugal McAdoo, the old master, bought the plantation before the war. Back then, the plantation’s vineyards produced a thousand gallons of wine. The grapes were so tasty that slaves came from miles around to steal grapes from the vineyard, the only one in neighborhood.Not even guarding the grapes at night could put an end to the pilfering.

Eager to protect his crops, the master consulted with Aunt Peggy, a local conjure woman whose powerful spells terrified the free blacks and slaves in the area. A day after Master McAdoo stopped by her home with a basket of food, Aunt Peggy performed a conjuring at the vineyard and told the slaves that the grapes were bewitched: anyone who stole them would die within a year. All who heard her left the grapes alone after that. The death of a coachman who ate the grapes because he didn’t know about the goopher and of a runaway slave child who ate the grapes convinced the slaves (but not the whites) that the goopher was working. With everyone afraid to raid the grapes, Dugal McAdoo was able to bottle fifteen hundred gallons of wine that first year, a good return on the ten dollars he’d paid Aunt Peggy for the goopher.

The master bought a new slave: Henry, a bald, aging man. Henry arrived on the plantation just as the master and his neighbors were out hunting for a runaway slave and, unaware of the goopher, ate some of the grapes. He was horrified to learn about the curse the next morning. The overseer gave Henry a drink of whisky and took him to see Aunt Peggy the next day. Aunt Peggy gave Henry a bitter concoction that would protect him from the goopher since he had been unaware of it before he ate the grapes, but Henry would need to come back that spring for further conjuring. When spring came, Henry brought Aunt Peggy a stolen ham, and she instructed him to rub the sap of cut grapevines on his head every spring to protect himself from the goopher.

That spring, Henry followed her instructions by rubbing his bald head with sap from the biggest vine between the house and fields. When the vines sprouted, Henry’s hair began to grow again, and by the summer, his hair was full of curls that…

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