C. W. Chesnutt: The House Behind the Cedars

(2257 words)

Charles Chesnutt published his first novel, The House Behind the Cedars, in 1900. It takes place “a few years after the Civil War”, tracing the lives of John Warwick and his sister, Rena—two light-skinned blacks who pass for white in the deep South (1). The white world appears to offer limitless possibility for the siblings. Warwick becomes a lawyer and Rena becomes engaged to George Tryon, a white aristocrat who seems to offer a love that is sincere and redemptive. But when Tryon discovers Rena’s racial history, tragedy ensues, and what appeared to be a land of opportunity becomes the site of tyranny and sadness.

As it portrays the complexities of a shifting racial system that is paradoxically both rigid and …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Ritzenberg, Aaron. "The House Behind the Cedars". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 07 July 2012
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=516, accessed 29 September 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. African American Fiction
  2. Literature of the American South