Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” Essay

Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” Essay

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Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” is a satirical short story about southern plantation life in the early 1850s. Dick Owens, the spoiled first-born son of a rich Kentucky slaveholder named Colonel Owens wants to impress a young woman named Charity Lomax enough to get her to marry him. To do so, Dick decides to secretly free one of his father’s slaves. With his father’s permission, Dick travels North with one of the slaves named Grandison. He does not tell anyone that he intends to leave Grandison behind in a free state. Although Grandison has no intention of escaping, claiming to love his life as a slave, Dick manages to leave him in Canada. Dick returns home and marries Charity Lomax, having mildly impressed her with his act. A few weeks later, Grandison returns to the plantation, telling the story of his perilous journey home. Colonel Owens fawns over his lost slave and rewards him with tobacco and whiskey. A few weeks later, however, Grandison and all his family escape to freedom. In this story, Chesnutt changes the reader’s initial perception of Grandison and pokes fun at the concept of plantation life and the attitudes of slaveholders, all while commenting on relevant topics to the time period.
Throughout the story, Grandison seems like a devoted slave who loves his master and the security and protection he provides. He tells Colonel Owens, “You is de bes’ marster any nigger ever had in dis worl” (Chesnutt, 617). Additionally, Grandison shows no outward interest in escaping despite the numerous opportunities Dick gives him. He tells Dick that the free blacks in the North, “’lows dey’re free, but dey ain’ got sense ‘nuff ter know dey ain’ half as well off as dey would be down Souf, whar dey’d be ‘preciated” (C...

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...e story. He shows that slaves are smart and rational people too. Chesnutt pokes fun at the long-held attitudes of slaveholders and plantation life. He uses Grandison as over-the-top sarcasm how slave masters treat their slaves. Finally, Chesnutt comments on social issues in a comical way – making the topics easier to handle, yet still pertinent.

Works Cited
"Charity, n.". OED Online. December 2011. Oxford University Press. 29 January 2012 .
Chesnutt, Charles. "The Passing of Grandison." The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004. 613-24. Print.
"Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act. “Africans in America. PBS Online, 1998. Web. 29 Jan 2012. .

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