The Passing of Grandison: a Trickster Narrative

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William Lyons Professor Theus English 223 18 October 2013 The Passing of Grandison: A Trickster Narrative Conceptually, Charles Chesnutt’s The Passing of Grandison uses an incendiary technique to show the atrocities and horrors of slavery during that time, while also highlighting the intelligent nature of black people, which was unheard of in writing during Chesnutt’s illustrious career. The literary motif of masking plays a tremendous role throughout the text, and it comes to fruition with long yet hard fought victory in the end. Characters within the text faced problems of dehumanization, indignity, psychology domination and manipulation, while inversely emphasizing that in the end slaves weren’t just dumb cattle that couldn’t think for themselves. The Passing also introduces the trickster character, which Chesnutt implemented into most of his bodies of work from the time of 1899-1905, wherein he was arguably the most influential African American writer in the United States. This story can be classified as a trickster narrative simply because the main character entices and makes other characters believe that his words are true simply for the better meant of himself, and his family. With there being such an abundance of negative themes it would be difficult to decipher the true meaning of the story, but in The Passing of Grandison Chesnutt shows how masking played a huge role in the survival of the African American race, and showed how slaves had to interact with Southern whites to ensure that their lives weren’t harmed in any way. The dehumanization of African American people was an everyday occurrence in the antebellum south, which is a recurring fact throughout all slave narratives that have been written. The Passing of Grandison is no different in that aspect. Chesnutt dives deep into this idea when Colonel Owens asserts, “I hope the conviction of
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