Charles Chestnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition Essay

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Charles Chestnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition

Based on historical events, Charles Chestnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, gives human details to produce a vivid picture of life in the south after the failure of reconstruction. His work has many underlying themes among which are the use of the press to stir already volatile emotions through propaganda, class structure not only along color lines but within races, and the effects of the white supremacists’ agenda on the integrity of those who claimed to be morally advanced. Through this story, Chesnutt allows the reader to enter the minds of the characters to show how change will not take place until both whites and blacks detach themselves from traditions that seem to be engraved on their
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These men convicted him based on circumstantial evidence and race (181). After their conference, Major Carteret put to press Sandy’s death warrant in the form of an extra addition that convicted him without due process of the law. It would later come out that the true murder was not even a black man, but the grandson of a white aristocrat whose debauched behavior had let him to commit murder. But because he was from a respectable family, his guilt was swept under the rug.

Another theme evident in Chesnutt’s novel concerns the class system religiously adhered to in the post-Civil War south. As the plot develops, it becomes evident that each of the major characters is contrasted with a counterpart, clearly showing which class each belonged to. An example can be found when comparing Major Carteret and Captain McBane. Major Carteret boasts a proud heritage of original plantation owners in the state. Pryor to the war, his family was quite wealthy. Despite his lack of financial resources, his name alone earns him respect in the community. He is well educated and carries himself in a dignified manner. Conversely, Captain McBane is the son of an overseer. He was representative of the lower class whites who took advantage of opportunities involving questionable politics that earned them considerable money. Having attained considerable wealth, he expected to become one of the elite. He dressed the part of the
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