The characters in The Chinaberry Tree defy a number of traditions established for black characters in American literature, for most of them belong to the black upper and middle classes. Jesse Redmon Fauset had to make her characters believable as representations of upper-class black people while at the same time making sure their individuality grew out of the specific contexts of the story.
Laurentine Strange is, on one hand, the stock “tragic mulatta” character. Her father is white, her mother one step from being a slave (Sarah Strange was a maid in the Halloway home), and Laurentine suffers in consequence. For most of her life, Laurentine steadfastly refuses to give into the demands of the black community. While Laurentine does not overtly challenge or confront members of the black community who judge her, she does get on with the part of her life that requires no social acceptance. The most significant area of her life that blossoms is her creativity, as expressed not only in her dress designing but also in the management of her business.
In addition to her creativity and management skills, Laurentine battles the black community in another way. She attends the black church and holds her head up high when she goes, even though she is aware of the gossip about her and her mother.
This is not to say that Laurentine is happy with her role as outcast. She merely refuses to bow to community judgment. This, however, is not all in keeping with...
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