The Trickster Figure in Charles Chesnutt's The Passing of Grandison

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“The Passing of Grandison” debunks the stereotypical image of a slave in the 19th Century. The author Charles Chesnutt uses his personal background and ability to pass himself as a white man to tell a very compelling story. Grandison was more than an uneducated farm hand doing his masters bidding. “The Passing of Grandison” provides evidence that while the society of the time thought of slaves as nothing more than property to be bought and abused, slaves could be much more than what was on the surface. In Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” Grandison is a plantation slave in the early 19th Century who through his actions eventaully escapes and aquires his own freedom as well as that of several family members. Most people have been in a situation where they wish they could outsmart or outwit another. Whether it is a peer or a higher-up, many wish they had the ability or courage to get the better of others. Is it possible for a subordinate to really fool their superior and eventually gain what they really wanted in the end? This is accomplished through the actions of an trickster figure. A trickster is a character in literature who attempts to outwit and outmaneuver his or her adversaries. The trickster uses whatever means necessary to reach whatever goals they might desire. , Trudier Harris states, “tricksters achieve their objectives through indirection and mask-wearing, through playing upon the gullibility of their opponents” (Harris, 1). In “The Passing of Grandison”, Chesnutt uses a trickster figure to achieve that one-ups-man ship and plot twists while providing social commentary to present part of his own belief system as it relates to the treatment of slaves in the 19th century. Two characters in “The Passing of Grandis... ... middle of paper ... ...The Passing of Grandison. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1899. Delmar, Jay. "The Mask as Them and Structure: Charles W. Chesnutt's The Sherriff's Children and the Passing of Grandison." American Literature (1979): 364-375. Dunbar, Paul Lawrence. Norton Anthology of American Literature. USA: W.W Norton and Company, 2003. Harris, Trudier. "The Trickster in African American Literature." Freedom's Story Teacher Serve (n.d.). 05 03 2014. <>. Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wing. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936. Montgomery, Georgene Bess. "Testing and Tricking: Elegba in Charles Chesnutt's The Goophererd Grapevine and the Passing of Grandison." Studies in the Literary Imagination (2010): 5-14. Schlosser, S.E. Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Guilford: Globe Pequot Press, 2012.

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