Uncle Wellington’s Wives

Study Guide: Uncle Wellington’s Wives

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.
  • Why does Uncle Wellington decide to move to the North?
  • Why was Uncle Wellington unsuccessful in the North?
  • What does this story reveal about the necessities of self-reliance, especially literacy?
  • What is the irony of Uncle Wellington stealing his common-law wife’s money with his lawful second wife taking what arguably was his when she left him?
  • Discuss the ending. Fair or not?
  • Why is Chesnutt compassionate with Uncle Wellington?


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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.