Free «The Marrow of Tradition and Loving v. Virginia» Essay Sample

The Marrow of Tradition and Loving v. Virginia


Interestingly, America is amongst those few countries that have been embroiled in almost all sorts of situations and circumstances in the history, and continue to do so. From the struggle of independence, to the heated era of enslavement and rise of racism, America endured it all. Somewhat similar endeavour was taken by Charles Chesnutt, in which the author strives to assimilate the personal lives of the mixed races, to the ongoing circumstances race riots in late 19th century.


Keeping aside the generalities that the discussion of this essay, pertaining to The Marrow of Tradition, can encompass, it is imperative to rest the focal point on the causes that compelled the characters to execute the actions mentioned in the novel. The key aspects here, pertaining to the scenario sketched in the 30th chapter, where Olivia discovers a few documents that not only reveal that her half sister is a legitimate child, but also that her father had legally vowed to his slave, rather than merely treating her as an affair; however, most importantly, the key discussion begins as though why Olivia’s father could not muster up the courage to proclaim Janet as his legal daughter during his life time, and under what circumstances could the previously mentioned figures be even legally married, if the ongoing circumstances of that era forbade the inter racial marriages.

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The Documents and Their Revelation

All three documents pinpoint towards Janet being the legal daughter, let it be the will, or the marriage certificate of her father and his slave. However, as perplexing as hiding the truth for this long may seem, the fact cannot be denied that Olivia’s father has his own reason to conceal the truth until the last moment. The time period which the novel depicts was outrageous towards the racial minorities, specially the African Americans; hence, given the situation where such discrimination and hatred for the African Americans would prevail, it is understandable, as though why could not Olivia’s father muster up the courage to come out of closet and reveal to the world that Janet possesses legal rights and legal name.

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Her father’s stance can further be substantiated via the case Loving v. Virginia, where the society and the law enforcement agencies were always looking out for the cases of mixed race’s indulgence in either any sexual act or marriage, so that such cases can be subjected to punishment and lay down an example for the society. If in those times, had her father revealed Janet as his legal daughter, not only would that affirm Olivia’s father’s sexual relationship with a African black woman, but he would also have to prove his marriage, which again would go against him, in the eye of law, police and most importantly society.

Controversy and Concealment of the Marriage 

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The 30th chapter shows Olivia being perplexed about the validity of her father’s marriage with the slave. This perplexity can be solved via both the novel, as well as the case Loving v. Virginia. The novel clearly states that although, inter-race marriages were invalid via law, yet had that marriage taken place during the war period, then its legitimacy cannot be questioned, given the circumstances of the war time. Moreover, event the case clearly depicts that Columbia (South Carolina) had legalized the inter-race marriages, and Olivia’s father’s marriage was certified in the same state; hence not only was the marriage legal, but also rightly certified.


Had her father revealed in his life time, his revelation would render him strong unfavorable repercussions. However, the consequence of eventual revelation would not only compel Olivia to accept Janet as the legal offspring of her father, but it at the same time subtly depicts the petty issues our society has embroiled itself into, and subsequently compel the inhabitants to comply to them, against their wish. The case, as well as the novel is the astute manifestation of how individuals are made to suffer by the society, of what they cannot relish even if they want to.

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