Uncle Ash

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Uncle Ash
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Ash, Uncle
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Ash, or Uncle Ash, is an old Negro who works for Major de Spain. In the five fictions in which he appears, he is most often seen in the woods, as the cook and chief servant on the Major's annual hunting trips, "a-helping around camp," as Ratliff puts it in "A Bear Hunt," where Ash first appears (67) - though in the last section of "The Bear" in the novel Go Down, Moses he sits in the corner of De Spain's office in Jefferson, pulling the cord on the "bamboo-and-paper punkah" that provides the Major with a breeze in the heat of Mississippi (301). That suggests the menial place in which his character is usually confined, even in the big woods, but there are two exceptions to this. Also in Go Down, Moses Ash provides a kind of minstrel comedy when he tries hunting himself with Boon's gun and four shells he's collected over the years, including one that "Genl Cawmpson guv me" eight years earlier (308). The first story in which he appears is a comedy too, but in it Ash reveals himself to be observant and smart, and perfectly capable of arranging a sly act of revenge against a white man, Luke Provine, for his demeaning, racist treatment of Ash many years before. (In the first publication of "A Bear Hunt" - in The Saturday Evening Post - his name is Old Man Bush; in his last appearance, in The Big Woods, he is Ash Wylie; and in "Lion," the man who cooks for De Spain in the woods is named "Ad.")