Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On "His Virginia Mammy" by Charles W. Chesnutt (6821 words) ***

In this tale from Reconstruction days, a white man falls in love with a pretty woman who doesn't know her ancestry. Like Moses, she's been pulled from a river and raised by adopted parents, these, Germans with a particular status that, though lost, doesn't make the white man fret. In fact, nothing does--or would--he's so in love with the gal. But the girl is concerned that her real parentage might not come from decent stalk, and so she refuses to marry, until one day she meets an old black woman who is able to tell her all about her wonderful parents and the ship on which the daughter was rescued from. What's rather heartbreaking about this story is the willed ignorance that all three of these major protagonists allow to stand in for truth. A mother knows her daughter is better off not as a daughter. A suitor and his love know this too. And so do we. While one may blanch at the idea of living a lie, it's hard not to see it as the best situation in an unjust world. Read the story here.

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