Charles Chesnutt’s “Paul Marchand” and the Social Construction of Race: Part I

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Charles Chesnutt’s Paul Marchand, F.M.C. highlights the legal fictions constructing race in America and the absolute absurdity of such constructions. Today, I want to look at some of the ways that Chesnutt illuminates the construction of race through legal fictions in the novel. Chesnutt explores these issues, specifically, through Paul and Julie’s marriage, and it is within this relationship that Chesnutt shows that race exists as nothing more than a social construction used to maintain power.

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Privilege, History, and Reality in James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”

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The conversation between Meridian Henry and Parnell James at the end of Act I in James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie, highlights some of the key aspects of the play that I discussed in my last post. Specifically, the conversation addresses issues of privilege, the continued influence of history (no matter how much we wish to deny it), and the ways that coming to the knowledge of reality “would lead, literally, to madness.” Today, I want to briefly look at these aspects in Meridian and Parnell’s conversation. This is by no means exhaustive, but I think it serves well to highlight Baldwin’s comments from his introduction to the play.

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Poison in James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”

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This semester, I’m teaching James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964). As I reread Baldwin’s play, a couple of items stuck out to me. The first item that caught my attention was the continual references to poison or disease throughout the text, in relation to both Black and White characters. The other item that stood out has to do with the illumination of white privilege in the play, specifically during the conversation between Meridian and Parnell at the end of the first act. Over the next couple of posts, I will briefly discuss these items and look at the ways that Baldwin deploys them throughout Blues for Mister Charlie.

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