According to the dictionary, humor can be defined as a comic, absurd, or incongruous quality causing amusement. However, in many African American literature humor was used to showcase and conform their constant strife with prejudice and racism. According to one scholar, humor can be defined as the reversal of actuality and expectation.
To experience the world as otherwise than it appears. Slim Greer in Hell is a poem written by Sterling Brown, that explores a tale of an African American man named Slim Green. In short, Slim arrives in heaven where he is informed by Peter he must put his wings on and go to hell before he can stay in heaven. In astonishment, he’s shocked by what he sees in hell. He witnessed white devils throwing black devils into a big furnace with pitchforks. He saw the devil transform into a cracker with a sheriff star, He saw preachers with brown-skinned ladies on each knee and many more indescribable events. Within the mist of this chaos, Slim sees how the white devils are enjoying the chaos they are acting upon the blacks as if nothing wrong. After witnessing all of this Slim returns to heaven and tells Peter that hell reminded him of home.
Throughout the poem of when Slim was in hell, he made quite frequent remarks of how hell reminded him of home and places he was familiar with in the south. As if he recognized and experienced the occurrences that were going on in hell. When he realizes, Slim infers he was sent into the radicalized racist south. When Slim returned he was shocked and goes to Peter informing his misfortunes he has witnessed. However, Peter later processes what Slim says and informs him he’s a little too dumb for heaven. The poem explores racism in America where hell is the south stuck in the midst of the days of slavery, the devil transforming into a white racist sheriff and where Peter, a man of heaven dismisses Slim from Heaven stating he’s too dumb to recognize hell was actually the south.
When Slim returned he was shocked and goes to Peter informing his misfortunes he has witnessed. However, Peter later processes what Slim says and informs him he’s a little too dumb for heaven. Readers can see this as how whites had the perception of African Americans. That African Americans weren’t seen as academically and intellectually as smart compared to the whites. The character of Peter shifts immediately to show the reversal. Peter who is a man of heaven and who is full of virtue and faith changes into a man with arrogant beliefs. The poem shows how Slim unexpected the unexpected of what hell was.
What he saw, the chaos left him in disbelief however left him to understand that hell was a reality, his reality as an African American.