Racial Themes in Wife of His Youth and the Passing of Grandison

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Kyle Redman
Racial Themes
The racial themes in Charles Chesnutt's “The Wife of His Youth” and “The Passing of Grandison” along with Zitkala-Sa “Impressions of an Indian Childhood” show how these two authors were trying to portray to the rest of the world how difficult it was at that time to grow up as an African American and Native American in the United States. These two authors expressed to the rest of the world what white people thought of them and what they did to overcome it and also showed how they dealt with their own past.

In “The Wife of His Youth” Chesnutt, who was a light skinned African American, talks about the struggles that people who were also light skinned at this time goes through, through the character Mr. Ryder. “I have no race prejudice,' he would say, 'but we people of mixed blood are ground between the upper and the nether millstone. Our fate lies between absorption by the white race and extinction in the black. The one doesn't want us yet, but may take us in time. The other would welcome us, but it would be for us a backward step. 'With malice towards none, with charity for all,' we must do the best we can for ourselves and those who are to follow us. Self-preservation is the first law of nature” (466).

Another racial theme that is prominent in this story is that of acknowledging the past. The past for Mr. Ryder refers to slavery. Mr. Ryder is part of a society called the “Blue Veins” which was a group whose purpose was to “maintain correct social standards among a people whose social condition presented almost unlimited room for improvement” (464). It is called the “Blue Veins” because it was believed to be a member you had to be white enough to show blue veins and also you had to be considered to be more white than black. Not much is known about Mr. Ryder's early life. This changes one day when a women by the name of Liza Jane comes in looking for her husband. Her and and her husband were slaves in Missouri but he was sold...
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