The Ingrate


‘The ingrate’ is a short story authored by Paul Dunbar thatfocuses on one Mr. Lecker, his wife and slaves. Mr. Lecker owned alarge plantation that had within it numerous fields, animals andbuildings. He believed he is a man of strong beliefs and principlesas pertains right and wrong. The author, whose father was a slave,owned by a white man, was inspired into writing the story by realevents in his life by bringing into light the definition an ingratealbeit not in a straight forward manner. None the less, he portraysit in the personality and attitude of the character as a person wholacks gratitude for kindness or assistance shown to them. It ishighly speculated that Josh was the best fit for this character inthe story. Like Dunbar’s father, Josh, a slave who worked as aplasterer in the fictional plantation desired freedom from slavery[CITATION Haj13 l 1033 ].Mr. Lecker had gone against his high principles that among othersfocused on not slaves to read and write. He per took responsibilityfor teaching Josh who instead of remaining loyal to his masterdecided to run away after he had gained immense knowledge.

This paper willdelve into Mr. Lecker’s conflict in the fictional story as herelates with his slave, Joshua, up to its culmination as representedin the fictional story. This effort is aimed at providing readerswith a better understanding and acknowledgement of Paul Dunbar’s‘’.

Mr.Lecker’s Conflict

Part one of thestory begins with a description of Mr. Lecker who is defined as ahighly principled man to which he acknowledged. He often soughtcounsel from his beloved resulting from an inner drive to findunlimited advice which was in most times not acted upon. His wifeunderstood this factor and heeded providing him with an ear andadvice. On this particular day, her husband was troubled by the nowcommon matter of principle that he wanted to ring to the attention ofhis wife. He claimed he was torn in between relinquishing ormaintaining principles that was the main cause of his troubled state.He blamed his principles in the form of generosity and confidence forstanding in between him and his interests considering he would havebeen a richer man if he was a “scheming and calculating Yankee”[CITATION Dum05 l 1033 ].

This represented a conflict between his duties and principles thatled him to acknowledge his slave’s efforts after working for Mr.Eckley in Lexington. He speculates that Mr. Eckley misappropriatedthe amount of work accorded to Josh thus reducing the amount he wassupposed to pay for services rendered. Considering he is a rich man,a few dollars did not matter to him but he was concerned about Joshwho would appreciate them and consequently feel a pinch if they werewrongly denied to him. From Mrs. Lecker’s perspective however, herhusband was also substantially affected considering the largerportion of pay goes to him while the servant who put in all theeffort receives a tenth of all earning.

This situation enlightened Mr. Lecker into considering teaching Joshhow to read, write and cipher so he could protect himself from beingmisused financially when working at distant places where he couldn’tintervene. This came as a surprise to his wife who was initiallybemused and couldn’t understand what her husband was leading to. Amore compassionate side of Mr. Lecker emerges as he admits to beingtroubled by his slave’s situation despite his own principles,public opinion and law agreeing to it. He wanted to teach himsecretly to arm him with necessary intellectual tools for personalprotection trusting Josh would maintain utmost discretion. Mrs.Lecker acknowledged the proposal much to the appreciation of herhusband who felt satisfied with himself after the conversation.

A year of working and learning quickly passed as Josh transformedinto the man envisioned by his master. He could now trust his slaveto take care of his personal interests and thus no need for furthereducation. His heart was full of joy as he reiterated hisaccomplishment as he sent him again to work for Mr. Eckley who wasequally surprised by Josh’s ciphering abilities. He was able tonote an error in payment managing to earn an extra two dollars thathad been misappropriated. Joshua became a book-warm to the dismay ofhis fellow servants who expected him to be already married. He becameswayed by ambitions prompting him to run away from his master andlead an independent life. Mr. Lecker was aggravated by this afterJosh forged a pass to get through checkpoints that went smoothlysince agents knew slaves did not know how to read and write. Mr.Lecker was left distraught blaming himself and his wife’s mistakenadvice for what had befallen him. The script ends with Mr. Leckerrepeatedly terming Josh as an ingrate[CITATION Dum051 l 1033 ].


This short story creates an internal conflict in Mr. Lecker, the maincharacter, who decided to go against his principles and law to teachhis slave how to read, write and cipher with nothing but goodintentions at heart. However, he ends up distraught after Josh, theSlave, uses the knowledge to run away and potentially teach hisfellow black men that would be detrimental to white supremacy at thetime.


Dumbar, P. (2005). . In P. L. Dumbar, G. A. Jarrett, &amp T. L. Morgan, The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunba (pp. 119-120). Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Dumbar, P. L. (2005). . In P. L. Dumbar, G. A. Jarrett, &amp T. L. Morgan, The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar (pp. 115-117). Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Hajar, S. L. (2013). No Gratitude Person: An Analysis Character of Mr. Lecker in Paul Laurence Dunbar`s &quot&quot. Bintang Sahara.

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