Discussing “Possum or Pig”

This story is a true short story. Just two pages long, Possum or Pig is a story that would have been told by one of the loungers on the porch of Joe Clark's store in Eatonville. It is the story of a house slave who has stolen one of the master's pigs and is cooking up some good pork in his fireplace of his shack. The master of the plantation comes to his shack and house slave John begins deflecting. He tries to convince the master that he does not want to come his lowly shack, then that he would not want any of his lowly “Possum” stew. But when he is threatened for a third time with being beat, he gives in and begins serving up a helping of the meat to the master. The story ends with John saying, “Ah put dis heah critter in heah a possum, – if it comes out a pig, 'tain't mah fault.”

I can picture a skilled storyteller performing this story. I am sure that it got laughs from everyone who heard it.

I think of stories like this one as a way for black to deal with the trauma caused by centuries of slavery. Remember that it was just December 0f 1865 when the 13th amendment was officially adopted into the U.S. constitution. This story was written in the mid-1920s. The raw memory of slavery was still present. Family members may have had living relatives who were slaves as children or recently deceased family members who were adults in slavery. This story is a way of laughing to keep from crying or raging about a not too distant past.

More discussions of Hurston's short stories.