Paper Assignment: Consult the many contextual materials for The Marrow of Tradition in our edition, as well as others. Let them develop in you a fuller and deeper understanding of the era than you would have had by reading the novel alone, and a deeper understanding of the challenges African Americans faced in general and Chesnutt faced in particular as he strove to write about it. Describe one of the challenges African Americans faced in the dawn of the 20th century and how Charles Chesnutt addresses that challenge in The Marrow of Tradition. (Perhaps this structure would work for you: A problem African Americans (or African American authors) faced in 1901 was __. Chesnutt wanted to do ___. In order to do that, given this problem, here are the things he did in The Marrow of Tradition to try to achieve his goal ____ , ____, ____, ____. )Paper Structure. First, describe in detail one of the challenges African Americans confronted at the end of the 19th century. Support and develop this discussion using quotations from primary historical materials to make it clear why this challenge matters. Second, make an argument about how Chesnutt uses literature to respond to that challenge. Primary Documents: The paper must make ample use of primary historical materials and insightful close readings from the novel. These are the most important grading criteria.
In the history section of your paper, describe a specific historical phenomenon to which Chesnutt responds. For example, you could discuss: Separate but equal laws (Plessy) White Supremacist Ideology Lynching Rape Accusations Racist Press The legacy of miscegenation Black disenfranchisement The destruction of Black professional classes Racist literary values The Spanish American War Legal Actions against Black women
Some literary aspects to consider: Allusions to real-life events; allusions to philosophies and value systems; symbols; representative relationships and characters; irony, different discourses (Each of the Big Three speaks differently from the others); Recurring motifs; Word choices. Images. Silences. Parodies. Naming. Tone. Contrasts. Repetitions.