Paul Marchand, F.M.C.

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University Press of Mississippi, 1998 - Fiction - 144 pages
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Chesnutt wrote this novel at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance, but set it in a time and place favored by George Washington Cable. Published now for the first time, Paul Marchand: Free Man of Color examines the system of race and caste in nineteenth-century New Orleans. Chesnutt reacts, as well, against the traditional stance that fiction by leading American writers of the previous generation had taken on the issue of miscegenation.After living for many years in France, the wealthy and sophisticated Paul Marchand returns to his home in New Orleans and discovers through a will that he is white and is now head of a prosperous and influential family. Since mixed-race marriages are illegal, he must renounce his mulatto wife and bastardize his children.Chesnutt resolves Marchand's dilemma with a surprising plot reversal. Marchand, although white, chooses to pass as a black so that he can keep his wife and children. Thus by altering the traditional narrative that Cable, Twain, and Howells had developed for their fiction on mixed-race themes, he exposes the issue of race as a social and legal fabrication. Moreover, Chesnutt shows Marchand's awareness that traits of inferiority and superiority are not based on blood but on other factors. In him Chesnutt has created an admirable male character responsive to human needs and civility rather than to artificial institutions.

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Paul Marchand, F. M. C

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Reminiscent of Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, this tale of morality and choices was written in 1921 by respected black author Chesnutt but never published. It takes place in New Orleans in 1821, at a ... Read full review

Contents

The Prophecy
12
Philippe and Josephine
36
The Quadroon Ball
47
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

An African American born in Ohio, Charles Waddell Chesnutt grew up in North Carolina. At age 25, he returned to Cleveland to raise his family and practice legal stenography. Resisting the temptation to pass as a white man, he made the issue of race and the inequality of African Americans in the Reconstruction South the primary subject of his fiction, essays, and speeches throughout his life. His first story, "The Goophered Grapevine" (1887), was published in the Atlantic Monthly. His major story collections, The Conjure Woman (1899) and The Wife of his Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line (1899), are local-color stories rich in dialect. Uncle Julius, the former slave storyteller, is realistically presented as he tells his Northern white employer tales that show slaves using wit and intelligence to get the best of their masters. Chesnutt's later novels, The House Behind the Cedars (1900) and The Marrow of Tradition (1901), stories of passing and interracial relationships, speak more boldly and bitterly against the racial injustices of the South. They were not well received and, despite the more conciliatory tone of his last novel, The Colonel's Dream (1905), his popularity waned and he returned to his legal business. In 1928 the NAACP awarded Chesnutt the Spingarn Medal for distinguished service to the Negro race. Readers today are rediscovering the humor and subtle satire of Chesnutt's stories.

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