The Marrow of Tradition

Why is the book titled The Marrow of Tradition?

Like what does it mean and how does the title relate to the text of the novel?

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The book’s title comes from a line in a poem by Charles Lamb, a nineteenth century English writer. The book’s epigraph contains a few lines from the poem; “I like you and your book, ingenious Hone! / In whose capacious all-embracing leaves / The very marrow of tradition’s shown.” This poem refers to an 1824 book written by a British bookseller entitled The Every-Day Book. This volume was a chronicle of everyday British life with commentary upon both important days and events, such as Saints’ Day and the major religious happenings of the year, as well as the banal everyday street life of London. Lamb praises the book in his poem because, as he says, it embraces all of life and an essence of an antiquarian tradition. Chesnutt uses this quote ironically because this “marrow of tradition” is a white tradition. It does not include an African American point of view. This quote illustrates the book’s overarching theme: the tyranny of the white ruling class in their efforts to recover a slaveholding tradition, and the struggles of African Americans to overcome this tyranny.