Essay on Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison”

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Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” is a satirical short story about southern plantation life in the early 1850s. Dick Owens, the spoiled first-born son of a rich Kentucky slaveholder named Colonel Owens wants to impress a young woman named Charity Lomax enough to get her to marry him. To do so, Dick decides to secretly free one of his father’s slaves. With his father’s permission, Dick travels North with one of the slaves named Grandison. He does not tell anyone that he intends to leave Grandison behind in a free state. Although Grandison has no intention of escaping, claiming to love his life as a slave, Dick manages to leave him in Canada. Dick returns home and marries Charity Lomax, having mildly impressed her with his …show more content…
When Grandison returns home after being left behind in Canada, his master celebrates by “killing the fatted calf” (Chesnutt, 623). He is so happy and relieved to have Grandison home that he treats him like the prodigal son. True to his character, Grandison persists in how thankful he is to be back safely. However, three weeks later he has escaped along with his wife, maid, mother, father, uncles, and sister.
Although Grandison fools everyone into believing he loves his life as a slave, it becomes apparent at the end of the story that he had the desire and intention to escape from the start. Not wanting to reveal his true intention, Grandison acted like a model slave and showed no interest in escaping throughout his entire trip North with Dick. His almost over-the-top praises of slavery and criticisms of abolitionists and free life actually convince both Colonel Owens and Dick Owens that he enjoys his life as a slave. However, he ultimately “passes” from slavery to freedom, bringing his family with him. It may seem irrational that Grandison made the perilous journey all the way home just to escape again, but he did so to free his family too. This shows how much Grandison cared about his family and how blind Colonel Owens and Dick were to overlook that possibility. In the situation with Grandison, Chesnutt is poking fun at the conception of plantation life. Colonel Owens is convinced that his
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