20 June 2015
Separation in the works of Charles Chesnutt
The stories by Charles Chesnutt, who is known for his works of literary realism, contain similar thematic elements that link them together. In the short stories found in “Tales of Conjure and the Color Line”, Chesnutt writes unique tales from the era of slavery and segregation. His stories are told from the same narrator, all containing elements of race, suffering and slavery. After reading through a selection of his short stories, it becomes evident that there are certain themes that are prominent in the telling of his stories. In Charles Chesnutt’s stories, such as Po Sandy, The Wife of his Youth, Dave’s Neckliss and others, the descriptions of physical and cognitive separation become a reoccurring theme that represents the psychological effects that slavery had on African Americans during that time period.
In Po Sandy, the main character Sandy experiences the separation from the people he loves twice. Due to his captivity as a slave, Sandy is to be moved around the family’s plantations against his will. As a prized slave, Sandy experiences physical separation from his wife when his slave master trades his wife with another female slave. Once attached to this new woman, who claims to be a conjure woman, Sandy agrees to let her turn him into a tree in fear that he will be separated from his wife again. I find this interesting in Charles Chesnutt’s writing for two reasons. Not only does this represent the fear of physical separation from other slaves due to the control white slave owners had at the time, but by turning into a tree, Sandy separates his mind
from his human body. In my opinion, Chesnutt uses instances of separation physically and cognitively to symbolize the psychological effects slavery entails, as well as to represent the mind set and self worth a slave may have felt in comparison to a White American in this time period in...
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