Friday, March 04, 2005

A couple of notes on Chesnutt's work

I finished The House Behind the Cedars two days ago. Without giving too much away, but also because there's a passage in there that I want to spend some more time thinking about, I can tell you that it does end tragically. But I can also tell you that Rena's white lover does have a change of heart regarding the possibility of a relationship with her, and it's the passage where he most fully articulates his thinking about the power of love to transcend racial difference that I need to think about. I'll get back to you.
Next up is his novel The Marrow of Tradition. I have a vague, blurb-y sense of what it's about, but I've found myself, at the oddest times, simply musing on the title itself. I have no idea what its relation to the novel is, but it doesn't really matter. What would Tradition's marrow be, assuming that Chesnutt has in mind that which marrow does in the body? Mrs. Meridian and I took some stabs at it night before last while on our way to eat supper out at a bona fide taqueria. (I'm so thankful to have married a woman who is as big a nerd as I am AND likes cheap but good Mexican food.)
Some possibilities:
Does Chesnutt mean to refer to white blood cell-making? White blood cells fight off disease, of course. So, if Tradition were figured as a body, what, first of all, would be "diseases" that Tradition must ward off? And what would be analogous to the marrow, then. Here's where my blurb-y knowledge comes in: the novel is in part about race riots in a town in North Carolina at the turn of the century. If we have a monolithic sense of Tradition, then, a sense that it has an integrity, a purity to maintain, then those (usually) self-appointed defenders of that integrity could be said to serve as the "marrow."
Maybe. It seems as though I'm assuming that it's white Tradition that we're musing about here; but, given the time of the novel, I feel I'm on fairly safe ground in making that assumption.
Anyway. I'm posting this not just to hear myself talk but to invite those of you who are so inclined to speculate along with me. Remember: I'm musing on the title without having started the novel, so any idea has the potential to be right, so far as I know.

4 comments:

René López Villamar said...

Cheap mexican food is the only good mexican food. In Mexico and abroad.

John B. said...

Ain't that the truth?

Raminagrobis said...

Re: 'marrow'. The Latin word 'medulla' (which literally means '[bone] marrow') is often used in titles of books in the Renaissance and after to denote 'the essentials' of a particular subject. So, Medulla Historiae Anglicanae (='The Marrow of English History'), Medulla Theologiae Moralis (='The Marrow of Moral Theology'), etc. Funny, I'd never thought of it before in terms of physiological metaphor, the nourishing part of the 'body of knowledge', but that is surely what it is.

zakalwe said...

It could be a vegetable marrow of course, but I suppose it's unlikely. I had something just as erudite as Grobie's comment to add, but I seem to have temporarily forgotten it...

Mexican food in Japan is usually terrible, sadly: all the spice taken out, thus castrating one of my favourite cuisines. BAh.