Pudd’Nhead Wilson Thesis
One Drop People are always told that in the end what really matters is who they are. The question is, what all goes into whom a person “is”? Many would argue that personality is the main factor in that equation. However, family and background obviously contribute to a person’s development as well. The society In Pudenda Wilson has decided that race is more Important than personality In discovering what makes up a person. Being born white means being born with prestige, while being born black means being born less than human.
In the book Pudenda Wilson, one drop of black blood is enough to form the course of a person’s life. Arrogant, commonly called “Rosy”, Is a slave woman owned by Percy Drills. What sets her apart from many slaves Is the fact that she appears to be white. If It weren’t for her manners of speech, telling her apart from other white women would be Impossible. Technically, she is one-sixteenth black, which makes her legally a slave. Early In the book, Rosy is taking care of both, her son, Chambers, and her master’s son, Tom.
Realizing that Chambers will be forced into the cruel life of slavery for being one- thirty second black, she secretly switches him with the completely white child of her aster (21 Although it was an incredibly risky and not very well thought out plan, it is clear why Rosy makes that dangerous decision. Being born a slave was basically the equivalent of being born an animal. Slaves were the property of their frequently cruel masters, and were forced to do whatever was asked of them, with harsh repercussions if they did not.
No person with any sign of black ancestry in them could ever hope to lead a life at all equivalent to the life they would have lived had they been born white. Because of this, Rosy knows being raised white will greatly inept her son. Even if it meant his morals and ideas would be skewed into the harsh and evil ways of slave masters, he would lead a better life. Thus begins the ultimate social experiment, a white boy raised black, and a black boy raised white.
As expected, Tom, (actually Chambers), grows up with every advantage in the world because he is believed to be 100% white. He also develops quite the attitude and treats his slaves, including Rosy, with very little respect. Rosy goes from being his mother to being, “merely his chattel now, his convenience, his dog, his cringing and elapses slave” (29). Chambers, who is really Tom, Is forced to work diligently from a young age. The one drop of black blood which Is thought to be In his system Is enough to condemn him to a ruthless life of slavery.
Tom and Rosy meet again when he has reached adulthood. At this point, his father has died, and he Is under the care of his uncle, Judge Drills. He Is spoiled, rich, and eagerly awaiting the Inheritance he will get through his uncle’s will. Tom spends most of his time gambling In SST. Louis, wasting his life away. Rosy attempts to speak to him, but he rudely pushes her way (47). Being a strong, smart woman, she Is thoroughly enraged by still receiving this treatment so many years later.
She angrily tells him that he is not really of white descent and that she will tell everyone what she did if he does not agree to give her money and treat her like a mother. Eventually, a lawyer with a not so great reputation, Pudenda Wilson, discovers the switch by examining his extensive down the river as a slave. Chambers is given the privileges of being white, but never really adjusts to his new situation because of how he was raised. He speaks and acts eke a lowly slave and, “money and fine clothes [can] not mend these defects” (136).
This situation proves that it is not the ancestry which determines the person, but the living situation. Tom is really a black slave, but by being put in the position of a white man, his attitude on life changes. He acts Just like any white man would be expected to, while Chambers acts like any common slave would. That one drop of black blood which runs through the real Chambers’ veins does not determine who he is, but in the society of Pudenda Wilson it is enough to make him less than human.