Race and Racism in The Wife of His Youth

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People are known to categorize fellow humans on the basis of race, class age and other known social parameters. The book, “The Wife of His Youth,” by Charles Chesnutt seeks to shed light on many of the pertinent issues plaguing the society. The issue of minor race struggling against the major race and the struggle to blend-in cannot be overlooked.  It also exploits the idea of how low class societal hierarchy goes an extra mile trying to group and label one another by ”Blue Veins Society” and other racial struggle amongst this minority group.

Race and racism are two blatant themes in the story. Racial background could hinder someone from joining the Blue veins society and this is merely on the basis of his or her skin color.  Chesnutt wrote that ”the blue veins did not allow any of such….declared that character and culture were the only color” (part I). In essence, the blue veins admitted not on the basis of color but purely on character and color. This also depicts how people of color strived to blend in and subtly accept members considered white to help them eventually be accepted into the white race. It is also apparent that race plays a major role in determining how you get treated in the society. Mr. Ryder chose to marry Molly Dixon in order to gain acceptance into the white race.

The issue of love is also widely represented and tied down to racism. In pursuit of a partner, Mr. Ryder is so much interested in Mrs. Dixon. Mr. Ryder makes every effort to lure Mr. Dixon into the blue veins. As he puts it, ”I have no prejudice” (part I). In a nutshell, he has two missions to accomplish in the long run; love and acceptance in the white circle. Even though there are other themes presented in the book, they are all crowded out by the race and racism. Love is overshadowed by the plan to gain acceptance by the white.

Class in relation with racism is also highlighted in the book. Mrs. Dixon is the ultimate example of a high class individual. Mr. Ryder on the other part depicts a struggling social class. It is indicated that, ””Mrs. Dixon had come to Groveland from Washington …she was whiter than he, and better educated.””  The society and class defines how and where one lives and the level of education he or she is expected to receive. It is important to note that they are all based on different social classes. Despite the divide, Mr. Dixon is accepted into the blue veins society anyway. On the other hand, this also shows love and determination transcend every boundary such as race set by the society in general.

From the onset it can be deduced that of all the set norms and human behaviors, race and racism was perhaps one of the most unbridled of all. The book demonstrates how some of the hurdles in social setup have an impact on one’s personal life. Nonetheless, at the deepest level, one is expected to introduce measures designed to propel them to their dreams and ambitions. The paramount objective therefore is to focus the attention on other aspects such as love that transcend every social setting, prejudice, class, race and even individual background in the midst of any precarious time.

December 12, 2023



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