What is the Blue Vein Society in The Wife of His Youth?
In Charles Chesnutt's story "The Wife of His Youth," written in 1898, the issue of race is central to the story. The protagonist, Mr. Ryder, is a light-complexioned African-American man who belongs to a society known informally as the Blue Vein Society. They are called this because people say that only those individuals whose skin is light enough to see their blue veins are allowed into the society. This then suggests that African-Americans who have darker complexions would not be allowed entry. The ideal the society aspired to was a lighter skinned, more educated, cultured African-American individual, therefore they excluded darker skinned people. In writing about such a society, Chesnutt brings attention to the challenges of African-Americans after the Civil War and the end of slavery--how they fit into society, how they were treated, and the perception of light and dark skinned individuals.