The Marrow of Tradition

Chesnutt’s Criticism of Social Injustice During Reconstruction 10th Grade

In The Marrow of Tradition, Charles Chesnutt tells the story of social injustice in the Reconstruction period of the late 1800s. He uses a variety of unique characters, ranging from aristocratic white supremacists to vengeful blacks. Chesnutt criticizes the forceful removal of blacks from political office, the common denial that blacks are human beings, and lynching.

To begin, Chesnutt deems the violent coup d'etats against black office-holders to be unlawful and worthy of unanimous criticism. In the novel, the town of Wellington, based upon the infamous city of Wilmington North Carolina, commences in a state of relative peace. The population is mostly black or mixed race, and most local and regional politicians are black as a result. Whites and blacks live together without any significant instances of civil unrest, and though many whites still hold age-old prejudice opinions, each race normally keeps it boundaries unscathed. However, upon the rise of the Big Three (Major Carteret, General Belmont, and Captain McBane), the town’s civility teeters on the frail hinges of disaster. Major Carteret, plotting the removal of local Republican (mainly black) officials says, “You are mistaken, sir, in imagining me hostile to...

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