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"The wife of His youth"

            In every society there is a hierarchy of the classes and then again within each class there is a hierarchy. So it was with the African-Americans at the time Charles Wadell Chestnutt wrote "The wife of His youth", in fact it is today still the same. Chestnutt wrote in order to educate the white people, he wanted us to understand the feelings, the concerns, the morals, the very way that African-Americans thought. Through reading such material as "The Wife of His Youth" white America was in part educated to the fact that blacks were just as prejudiced against each other as whites were; but more than that they were forced to consider the contents of our own hearts. For the most part whites would not openly admit to being prejudiced especially in the North where this story takes place. After all did they not risk life and limb to free the blacks from slavery? Did they not give refuge to runaway slaves? No, they were not prejudiced. And stories such as "The Wife of His Youth" filled them with outrage. How dare these people treat each other with such disdain and disregard? Although I am only guessing at the reactions that stories such as this met I am sure that my guess is correct.
             What Mr. Ryder was faced with was a choice between honor and perhaps the loss of all he had worked so hard to gain. He chose honor but not until he had done some soul searching and found that he could not live with himself if he disavowed Liza Jane. For he was a man of honor and to turn away from her would have violated his sense of honor. He was faced with a terrible dilemma because his wife was everything he had worked so hard to escape. And while he occupied a position of respect in his community once his friends found out about his slave wife he might lose their support. The repercussions of publicly recognizing Liza Jane were loss of his position in the society, loss of companionship, loss of the woman he had determined to marry (this woman was everything Liza Jane was not), he stood to lose the intellectual stimulation of the society, he had a lot to lose.

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