Answers 1Add Yours
Tarp's story, which he relates wholeheartedly to the narrator, illustrates his punishment for protecting his family from the white man. He is part of a chain gang for the nineteen years but comments that the punishment was never fully paid and will never be in the terms his oppressors wanted. He makes the significant point that he received his punishment for saying No. The consequences when a black man says no to a white man is contrasted by the grandfather's dying notion of yessing a white man to death. The two men provide two different options of resisting the white power, neither of which the narrator is capable of discerning against or deciding between at this point in his narrative. Tarp gives the narrator the chain link he broke to escape the chain gang to give the narrator strength. The narrator acknowledges to himself that he does not really want the link but takes it from the old man out of respect and sympathy for him and his condition. However, he subconsciously must reflect on the inherent power associated with the symbolic link as he will keep it with him for the rest of the novel, often grasping it in times when he is being attacked or questioned. Tarp himself is a link to the deep and dire struggle against oppression. Tarp was forced to escape from actual chains whereas the narrator is kept running by the men in power who have stripped him of his own meaning but whom he runs to please. By giving the narrator the link, Tarp is enabling him with the symbolic power to escape his oppressors. First, though, he must discover the power within himself in order to use the link. Because of this power, the character of Wrestrum is disgusted by the link. As one of the power structure, he finds the symbolic weight of the chain link to be dangerous. He makes the ironic point that the link is " a good reminder of what our movement is fighting against".