At the end of chapter 10, Johnson explains why he chose to pass as a white man. At the very end of chapter 11 he speaks of regrets.
1) I am looking for opinion as to his ideas of both shame and regret? I am confused as to why he chose this first and then regretted it later.
2) How does this part of the memoir increase one's understanding of the Reconstruction Era and of African American literature?
3) Do you think there is anything Johnson could have done to make himself happier without having the shame and regret?
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My notes are offered below:
1. Shame and guilt permeate the protagonist's state of mind constantly within these chapters. In chapter 10, for example, his traveling companion, the Texan, racist remarks, "anything-no country at all is better than having niggers over you. But anyhow, the war was fought and the niggers were freed; for it's no use beating around the bush, the niggers, and not the Union, was the cause of it; and now do you believe that all the niggers on earth are worth the good white blood that was spilt? You freed the nigger and you gave him the ballot, but you couldn't make a citizen out of him. He don't know what he's voting for, and we buy 'em like so many hogs." These remarks shame the protagonist as he confesses how he "went back into the main part of the car with the conversation on my mind. Here I had before me the bald, raw, naked aspects of the race question in the South; and, in consideration of the step I was just taking, it was far from encouraging. The sentiments of the ...
Theme in Johnson's work is supported by textual evidence.