Cartwright’s Mistake

Study Guide: Cartwright’s Mistake

Remember, for our purposes satire is defined as a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption. Chesnutt uses satire as social criticism to targets injustice and disparity in institutions of power, including government, businesses, and even individuals.

The three overarching types of satire are:

  1. Menippean satire criticizes mental attitudes and ridicules character types, such as single- minded people, such as bigots, misers, and braggarts.
  2. Horatian satire is marked by joviality and hilarity although moralizing
  3. Juvenalian is austere, harsh, and often punitive in tone


  • Which forms of satire are used in this story? Give examples using concrete examples from the text.
  • Is there a moral to the story?
  • Are there examples in the story that you feel deserve a heavier or lighter hand to instill the moral and/or point of the story?
  • Does this story use irony or sarcasm? Give examples using concrete examples from the text.
  • Is there a moral to the story?
  • What was Cartwright’s mistake?
  • Did his mistake happen in his final physical action or was his mistake a matter of his mental disposition prior to his action?
  • Do you believe that Cartwright deserved the consequence of his mistake?
  • Is Cartwright a character that can be sympathized with?
  • Do you believe that Miss Florence made a mistake?
  • Despite Cartwright’s superficiality, could you be persuaded to believe that Cartwright did not actually make a mistake? After all, his actions served to reveal Miss Florence’s own superficiality.
  • Whose story is more important? Cartwright’s or Miss Florence? Explain your choice.


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Charles Chesnutt in the Classroom by Adrienne Johnson Gosselin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.