Emile R. Hall III
Dr. E. Bryant
Charles W. Chestnutt?s short story, ?The Passing of Grandison?, shows the effect the masters had on their slaves and also tells the impact of the abolitionist that focused on taking slaves up north to Canada to be free. At first glance the story was quite upsetting. Young Dick Owens was very concerned on making sure he receives the affections of Charity Lomax. Charity Lomax, Dick Owens?s pride and joy, was very concerned with what someone could provide her with. The story revolves around the way she will not be in love and marry Dick Owens unless he does something ?heroic?. A man should not be courted simply because of his heroism. It seems that he was being used by Charity and she was a woman looking for a popular man.
The next character that one can have strong emotions against is Colonel Owens. Colonel Owens is rich slave master who seems to treat his slaves with a small measure of respect. His slaves seemed to be pretty content with the way they were living. One would believe that the contentment of the slaves were do to how bad the other slaves around the county was being treated. Colonel Owens was also a person who loves to be viewed as special in the public eye. One could consider that he was guilty of brainwashing his slaves. Both slaves that speaks in this story, Tom and Grandison, says that they would go up north with Dick Owens if he promise to bring them home. The loyalty of the slaves to their master is unbelievable, and Colonel Owens gets a feeling of power and superiority. One believes that Colonel Owens believe that his slaves are an army that he controls and give orders to. When the Colonel was presented with the choice of what slave would be allowed to be the attendant to Young Dick, he chooses Grandison.
Grandison?s loyalty to his master is sickening. He seems to be brainwashed into believing the situation of living he is in is acceptable and the best possible way of living given to a Negro. Grandison shows his loyalty by constantly refusing to take the advice of Young Dick to escape. Grandison was known to be a slave of loyalty because he was definitely not a first choice of Young Dick. Dick wanted to take Tom because he knew that the chances of Tom running away were much greater. But of course, the Colonel knows which troops he can send into battle. Grandison represents the type of slave and slave life the Southerners wanted potrayed. They wanted the slaves to be content, and they also wanted everyone else to believe slavery was not bad at all. Slavery was to be seen as a happy event.
While Dick and Grandison were traveling north, Dick tried to figure out some way to make the faithful Grandison run away. After all, if Young Dick does not free a slave he will never have the heroism needed to win the love of Charity Lomax. Dick decides to give way to the abolitionists to convince Grandison. The abolitionists were believed to be the only way Grandison would break away. But that would be yet another challenge because Grandison felt that the abolitionists were wrong and that if they would approach him he would get mad enough to hit them. Throughout their journey of the north Grandison showed that he really was not going anywhere. Dick decides that if Grandison really felt he was free then he would definitely run away. They go off to Niagra Falls and Dick takes Grandison to the free side of Canada. Once Grandison realizes he is over on that side he immediately tells Dick that he is uncomfortable and he is ready to go. But Dick tells Grandison to stay on that side while he go and eat. Grandison was once again left alone to be tempted to run away. Old Grandison still didn?t run away, but while he was sleeping on the ground Dick left him in Canada.
Once arriving home Dick tells Charity of his heroics and he wins her affection. They decide to get married. But Colonel Owens is very upset that his slave is now missing. Days pass and the unbelievable happens, Grandison returns home without being captured. One immediately became upset at Grandison. He had to be brainwashed to come home to be a slave and also come home to someone who wants to leave you. The story Grandison gives is ridiculous. Grandison tells his master that the abolitionists plotted against him and captured him. Once his master hears the story Grandison gives, he broadcasts it across the county. The question in one?s mind was why would a slave lie on the abolitionists? Was he really that loyal not only to Colonel Owens, but Dick Owens also? One found out that was not the case. Three weeks after Grandison?s return he runs away from the plantation. But this time he is not alone. He takes his wife, the maid, his mother, his aunt, his father, his uncle, his brothers, and his little sister. Old Grandison suddenly is not so stupid anymore. He not only allowed the abolitionist to take him from his master, but also his whole family that he cared about. Though Colonel Owens searched for them, he would never order these troops again in his life.
?The Passing of Grandison? was a great story and shows us another side of Charles Chestnutt?s work. One believes that this story is a tribute to the work of the abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. Their work was very important and is well deserving of the tribute given to them by Chestnutt. Chestnutt has a way of presenting us with stereotypes of the earlier generations and showing us how wrong and misinterpreted they were. One believe that Grandison fooled a whole lot of us in to thinking he was a crazy slave, but he turned out to be a man that saved his whole family from the hand of their master. This story is excellent and one would recommend to anyone who is interested in the effects the Underground Railroad had on slavery.