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Marrow of Tradition

By kellybrumer Dec 15, 2010 517 Words
In Charles Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition, there is an overall theme of racism and how it affected both whites and blacks during the Reconstruction period, particularly in the South. I am not as knowledgeable on the racism that took place during the time of the reconstruction period and found this book to be very interesting. One of my favorite characters was Josh, since he is one of the only characters that seems to act of his own free will, ignoring the attitudes and beliefs of those around him, and giving the appearance of being free from the restraints of the racial inequality that surround the African-Americans in the story. Josh would rather die than be subservient and treated like an animal. I at first found this admirable but was later sad to read that his hatred got the best of him and it made me reflect on the different ways to be passionate about something. Since he originally had intentions on bettering himself it was disappointing to see his morals pushed aside. However, I was able to relate to him since his pain and anger was so understandable. Another character I found interesting was Dr. Miller. He had become educated and wealthy and even respected by some, however he is still treated unequally and still longs to be considered an equal among both whites and blacks. Even though Josh and Dr. Miller were both inspiring and heroic to me, the mulatto character of Janet was the most moral and determined throughout the book. She endures the shame of being outcast from the family heritage that she was entitled to, is repeatedly rejected by her white stepsister, and eventually loses her only child as a result of the savage acts of the whites. Regardless of this, she overlooks it all and acts purely on a moral level of what is the right the thing to do for humanity. She disregards the issues of race, class and gender to make the decision to send her husband Dr. Miller to save the life of Olivia’s child. I found this surprising since I don’t believe I could have made the choices that she did all of the problems she faces, however I think that Chesnutt was trying to sway this audience towards a more positive outlook on mulattos. All in all this book lead me to believe that no matter how hard you try, due to the concept of white supremacy if you are a person of the wrong race you must forever be submissive to the white man’s needs. Because of this story, the most influential thing that I have learned about living in the post-reconstruction South is: be careful who your friends are, and also because of who they are, knowing them might get you lynched (In regards to Sandy Campbell being accused of the robbery and murder of Mrs. Polly Ochiltree). Bringing me to conclusively decide that the events of the post-reconstruction era served as a foundation for the serious crimes against the Black community, in contemporary times.

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