“Bloody liar! But tell me what's up. There's somethin' funny goin' on. I smelled it in the air first thing I got up this mornin'.”
Smithers, a white trader who is friendly with Jones despite being a horrible racist, arrives at the palace to find it curiously empty. In this line, he acknowledges that he can sense an imminent revolution being planned.
“Who dare whistle dat way in my palace? Who dare wake up de Emperor? I'll git de hide frayled off some o’ you niggers sho'!”
The very first lines spoken by the Emperor are revealing. Since installing himself as Emperor—and one endowed with certain magical powers at that—Jones has behaved like a Roman Emperor at the height of the empire’s corruption. Not only is he imperious and short-tempered, but he has also adopted the racist language of his own oppressors.
“Ain't a man's talkin' big what makes him big−long as he makes folks believe it?”
This line epitomizes Jones' attitude towards his right to power. He suggests that he can use words as a way of amplifying his own power, and that the only thing he needs to become an emperor is the ability to get his subjects to believe in his authority.
“Stupid as 'ogs, the lot of ‘em! Blarsted niggers!”
This is the final line in the play, uttered by Smithers, the only white character in the play. It is a horribly racist line, one that belies his hateful attitude towards the black characters in the play. He suggests that all of the black characters, Jones and the revolutionaries alike, are intellectually inferior, and have brought all this destruction and chaos on themselves.
"Talk polite, white man! Talk polite, you heah me! I'm boss heah now, is you fergettin'?"
In the first scene of the play, when Smithers begins to become a little disrespectful towards the emperor, Jones calls him on his haughty attitude and suggests that he better know his place. He invokes his own ultimate authority as emperor.
"I has de silver bullet moulded and I tells 'em when de time comes I kills myself wid it. I tells 'em dat's 'cause I'm de on'y man in de world big enuff to git me. No use'n deir tryin'. And dey falls down and bumps deir heads."
Jones says this to Smithers to describe how, after Lem's failed attempt to assassinate him, he told his subjects that he can only be killed by a silver bullet. By saying this, Jones thinks he has taught his subjects that only he can kill himself, and that otherwise, he is impervious to violent attack.
"I ain't no fool. I knows dis Emperor's time is sho't. Dat why I make hay when de sun shine. Was you thinkin' I'se aimin' to hold down dis job for life? No, suh! What good is gittin' money if you stays back in dis raggedy country? I 'wants action when I spends. And when I sees dese niggers gittin' up deir nerve to tu'n me out, and I'se got all de money in sight, I resigns on de spot and beats it quick."
Jones says this to Smithers in the first scene, to signify that he knows his autocratic rule could not last long. He suggests that he only wants to be emperor long enough to extract the money that he needs, but that he has no desire to stay in the "raggedy" West Indies. His attitude is that of a dismissive colonial ruler.
"Give my regards to any ghosts yer meets up with."
Smithers says this to Jones before he goes to escape the island in the middle of the night. It foreshadows the fact that Jones is going to encounter some ghosts, visions, and hallucinations in the forest.
" Jeff! I'se sho' mighty glad to see you! Dey tol' me you done died from dat razor cut I gives you."
In the forest, Jones hallucinates the man that he killed in a craps game when he was a Pullman porter. He speaks to Jeff as if he was still alive, and expresses his relief that Jeff is still alive. Jeff isn't still alive; it's just a ghostly hallucination.
"De silver bullet! You don't git me yit!"
Jones has been saving his silver bullet as a good luck charm, a symbol of the fact that Lem and the revolutionaries will never get him. When he runs into a hallucination of a witch-doctor, however, and faces the jaws of a hungry crocodile, he grabs his revolver and shoots.
The Emperor Jones Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Emperor Jones is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.