The origins of “Marse Chan” are important for they prepare the reader for the tone of the story and the mood the author wishes to create. The world of this short story is a mythical and sentimental one which is structured around the life of Southerners in antebellum Virginia. It happened that Thomas Nelson Page was shown a letter that had been taken from the pocket of a dead private on one of the battlefields near Richmond. Basically, the letter contained the words of a young girl in Georgia to her sweetheart in the Confederate army. She told him how much she loved him, and that she was sorry she had been so cruel to him before he went away. She professed that her love had been constant and had grown since they were small children. The writer also implored her beloved to come home during his first furlough so that they could be married. The soldier died in battle and never made it home. Page remarked that “he (the soldier) got his furlough through a bullet,” and it was only a few days later that “Marse Chan” was written. Page was moved by the true story of the letter and made it the basis for this successful and well-received short story.
“Marse Chan” contains all of the ingredients for a Southern local-color story. The ideas of honor, loyalty, battle, love, death, and an ideal hero and heroine are contained within the incident upon which “Marse Chan” is based, so they fit naturally into the structure of Page’s version of the story. Page was extremely interested in Southern literature and life. He...
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