Critique: Honor and Violence in the Old South Essay

586 WordsNov 12, 20103 Pages
Critique: History and violence in the old south The main thesis of the book is honor and how it relates to every part of the southern way of life and culture. This book describes the ways honor is used to further prejudices and keep the ways of life in tact, even through the progressing society around them. He describes honor as an all‐encompassing element of life and thought in the South. Honor was immortal and derived its value from the opinions of others through a complex but well‐understood, and apparently, well‐adhered social hierarchy. Wyatt-Brown builds a convincing case that honor provides structure and implicit discipline for an ordered and hierarchical society. The details of this southern society of honor are revealed through…show more content…
The largest of his foundational chapters deals with sexual honor. Wyatt‐Brown paints a picture of a singularly depraved and sordid society. The essence of his argument centers on the dichotomy between women’s weakness and power. It would have been better argued from a different point of view about power and points of leverage instead of a stale discussion of women’s matriarchal power over hen‐pecked husbands balanced against the dependency of women and their requirement to marry to avoid barrenness and shame. He is particularly challenged by the ideal of a southern woman who is to be “not only ethereal but also hardworking, politically aware (though never ‘to mingle in discussion’), and prudent in household management” (p.35). I think he could have done a much better job in describing the black‐white sexual relations as well, while highlighting the differences and the social preeminence of the white classes over the black. This book is ultimately a one-dimensional study of a very complex society. I think it is written without objectivity. He never tells the story from the side of the white slave holders. Though most, if not all of his writing is true, this book only sheds light on one side of the topic and therefore cannot be taken as absolute
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