Analysis Of The Wife Of His Youth

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“The Wife of His Youth” is a short story by Charles Chesnutt about a bourgeoisie man named Mr. Ryder who is in a dilemma when the wife of his past shows up a day before he proposes to his lover, Mrs. Molly Dixon. Originally Sam Taylor, an apprentice on a plantation, Mr. Ryder runs away and settles in a light-colored community Groveland where he becomes a bourgeoisie. In Groveland, Ryder joins a colored organization Blue Veins where he further advances himself in society and becomes the dean of the organization. The “Blue Veins Society” is created to “establish and maintain correct social standards among a people whose social condition presented almost unlimited room for improvement” (Chesnutt 624). As Ryder prepares for the ball and his proposal to Molly, ‘Liza Jane appears in his life and causes him to thwart his proposal. Instead of proposing to Molly, he presents to his guests, ‘Liza Jane, the wife of his youth. Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” addresses race and Chesnutt’s view on race, societal standards, language, and the significance of ‘Liza Jane’s appearance with racial identity and the color line.
Race is an important element in “The Wife of His Youth” and can be prominently seen in Ryder’s encounter with ‘Liza Jane. Ryder is a mulatto man, but has long forgotten his past and has embraced the middle class societal life until ‘Liza Jane presents him the case of her missing husband. When Ryder meets her, she is described as, “And she was very black,—so black that
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