C. W. Chesnutt: The House Behind the Cedars

(2380 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 …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to read about membership. All our articles have been written recently by experts in their field, more than 95% of them university professors.

Citation:
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 31 August 2014.]


Related Groups

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