How are Mary Boykin Chesnut's perceptions shaped by her place in Southern society?  

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Although many historians prefer to study Mary Boykin Chesnut through the diary edition edited by C. Vann Woodward, a reader can still learn much from "A Diary from Dixie."  Specifically, Chesnut was a bit ahead of her time in terms of her perceptions, and objections to, the popular Southern practice of miscegenation.  It was not unusual for wealthy planters to have affairs and father children with slave women on their plantations.  The Southern ideal was that a well-bred woman was somewhat above, or outside the realm of, sexuality, and should spend her time running the household, ministering to the illnesses of slaves on the plantation, and generally looking the other way if/when her husband began socializing in the slave quarters.  At one point, she compares this situation to the concubines of the Old Testament, and generally seems to privately find the situation ahorrent, although as an upper crust well-bred Southern woman, she would never say so.