American Literature in the Gilded Age

Hunter Youngblood


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ENGL 2328


American Literature in the Gilded Age

Several writers contributed to the body of literature in the nineteenth century’s social revolt in the United States of America. Through the novels, there was an attack of the growing business powers and the corrupt government that could not consider the poor citizens’ lives. Similarly, the novels helped reveal the growing racism by addressing the adverse impacts resulting from the same. Most of the authors addressed utopia by revealing the imagined communities that existed in the country. Such societies were considered to ironically have desirable qualities for their citizens. The novelists featured similar themes to explain how life used to be during the time.  Political corruption was one of the central factors affecting the region that many writers wished to address through their work. They intended to draw an accurate picture of the state of affairs for a change to be initiated. Almost every literary work during the gilded time was associated with social disorder brought by incompetent leadership.  The period saw the publication of several articles addressing similar challenges in society. The need to identify the social, political, and economic structure in the United States of America helped the authors decide to engage in the works relevant in revealing the actual image of the relationship between different people residing in a commonplace. Most of the works criticized the U.S political and economic life by arguing that socialism would be the most effective remedy for the challenges brought by political instability and the declining economic status. According to the solutions they suggested, there was a claim that individuals do not live or work in isolation because of some factors like racial segregation and individualism. The paper analyzes Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” and Red Cloud’s “All I want is peace and justice” to reveal the various themes of racism and liberty from different perspectives but yield similar outcomes of attaining autonomy and freedom.

Racism is described in the two texts by narrating stories from the various perspectives of the scope, although with the same implications to society. “The Passing of Grandson” is a story in the United States during the anti-slavery sentiment (Chesnutt 11). Its plot is centered on the abolitionist movement in the northern states after the passage of slave law in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty. Remarkably, racial passing is addressed on the narrative and textual levels to show the destabilization of race and identity. Racial passing is shown in the way members were classified as belonging to a particular group based on multiracial ancestry. According to Charles, passing is a significant issue in the article. However, this racial passing is evident in the form of slavery. Grandson passes for the devoted slave chosen to follow the master’s son.  Eminently, Grandson adopted the racist discourse of the slave system. Such a relationship is described as blissful. By such a relationship, there is protection in one hand and loyal dependence on the other. Being a slave, Grandison expresses loyalty, humility, and servility (Chesnutt 13). Eminently, Grandison’s reply to the colonel’s question indicates that there was racism in the country. He was inquiring whether he could lead a better life than the free negroes. on the other hand, Red Cloud, in the article “All I want is peace and justice,” reveals racial segregation in the way he addresses Indian rights. Red Cloud was the chief of one large tribe in Teton Sioux (Cloud 11). His fame was achieved by advocating for the need to have peace and justice in the United States following the increased racial segregation. The Indians were oppressed in the United States because they had a distinct ethnic background. Racism led to a poor relationship between the Americans and the Indians, hence a disruption in the peaceful coexistence. The need to restore the previous relationship led to the chief’s efforts to urge order and justice from the Americans who had perceived the Indians as the minority group. His visit to the East led to a speech that revealed the actual state of affairs as far as social relationships are concerned. He opposed agitation for more wars with a view that it would lead to loss of life. Although Red Cloud and Charles W. Chesnutt address the theme of racism from different scopes, they are all aimed at attaining a common goal because the consequences are the same. According to both accounts, racism was the cause of slavery and suffering among non-whites. Consequently, it increased tension and anxiety among people living in the United States due to rampant segregation. Besides, some individuals lost their lives due to stereotyping attitudes. Addressing such themes intended at achieving autonomy and freedom among individuals in the various social institutions to eliminate disparities.

Another similar theme in Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” and Red Cloud’s “All I want is peace and justice” is liberty. In the article “All I want is peace and justice,” Red Cloud advocates for peace from the U.S government following the missing liberty among the non-whites. The white community seems to enjoy more freedom at the expense of the Indians. Such a condition led to the desire for chief Red Cloud to seek peace and justice in the United States. Red Cloud wanted the U.S government to assure the Indians that their rights are protected (Cloud 22). he wanted the government to preserve his people by ensuring they are not suffering due to the distinct origins. Consequently, there was no freedom in the country as the Indians were exploited than the Americans staying in the same place. It is worth noting that the chief’s speech was a plea to eradicate the invasion of dishonest and corrupt men from entering his territory. Corruption was rampant in the country, that it was a challenge to eradicate it efficiently. Such a condition denied some people the freedom to live desirable lives. Critically, the chief’s speech was centered on the Christian teachings that advocated for equality that would give people freedom regardless of where they lived. Red Cloud considers liberty an essential element in human life as it helps individuals develop confidence in the current administration (Cloud 7). Pity, self-depreciation and humility were three vital aspects that Red Cloud emphasized in his speech to seek the government and the citizens to incorporate them in every activity they undertook. It is out of his speech that he begged his people to be left alone, for they wanted to raise their children in peace. Liberty would assure people that the cultural divide between the Native Americans and the whites was eradicated. Similarly, there would be less abuse and mistreatment of the Native Americans. Moreover, The Passing of Grandison provides an account that discusses the element of liberty in how Dick demanded to release one of the individuals enslaved by his father, colonel Owen, to win Charity (Chesnutt 39). There were several slaves in one plantation owned by Owen. Slaves were to work under pressure in the plantation where they were enclosed and could not escape. The novel provides adequate information about Dick’s decision to free a single slave from his father’s plantation to impress Charity, who claimed she could fall in love only after the former had done anything heroic. There is slavery in Colonel Owen’s plantations evident in how he rejected Tom’s decision to accompany his son because he knew that such a slave would escape. Such an escape is considered a property loss for the colonel, indicating that slaves were perceived as trading objects to offer cheap labor. Arguably, liberty could not be found with such a condition. All the efforts applied by Dick were meant to attain liberty for the enslaved.

In summary, the two texts incorporated in the paper are Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison” and Red Cloud’s “All I want is peace and justice.” They are used to reveal the themes of racism and liberty from distinct perspectives but offer similar outcomes of attaining autonomy and freedom. From the texts, readers will realize that the authors intended to address similar themes during ancient times in the United States. Although to some extent, they take different scopes, they are aimed at achieving typical results of ensuring equality for people to enjoy their freedom. There is adequate information regarding life in the United States of America whose incompetent leaders could not provide a ground for equality among residents. In “The Passing of Grandison,” Charles W. Chesnutt provides a valid account of events during the anti-slavery sentiment and the abolitionist movements when the slavery laws were enacted. Racial passing is the center of his discussion, where he gives much information concerning the destabilization of the various constructs of race and identity in the country. The theme of racism is addressed from the perspective that colonel Owen had abducted some individuals to provide labor in his plantations. Such individuals could not be allowed to move out of the place because of the restrictions he had established. They were exploited and could not have the freedom like other people who could move anywhere, interact freely and assemble based on their wish. Another article by Red Cloud reveals racism from a view that the Indians were not given the same treatment as the whites, who were perceived as superior beings. Red Cloud claims that the government officials in the United States of America were corrupt to the extent that he did not want them to enter his territory. Notably, the themes addressed in the novel were intended to show the country’s actual state of affairs to advocate for a similar goal; attaining freedom for all people regardless of their race and origin. The texts have the same themes from the gilded age that flourished in the social revolt to show how the political system could not address such issues that had adverse impacts on society, as discussed in the paper.


Work Cited.

Chesnutt, Charles W. “The Passing of Grandison”. Ohio University Press, 2016, pp. 11-39.

Cloud, Red. “All I Want Is Peace and Justice”. 2016, pp. 7-22.


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