By Charles Duncan
Following the hugely autobiographical nonfiction produced via Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and different slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's advanced, multi-layered brief fiction reworked the connection among African-American writers and their readers. yet regardless of beneficiant compliment from W. D. Howells and different very important critics of his day, and from such trendy readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a interestingly ambiguous position in American literary history.
In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt's uneasy place within the American literary culture could be traced to his notable narrative subtlety. Profoundly conscious of the delicacy of his state of affairs as a black highbrow on the flip of the century, Chesnutt infused his paintings with an complex, enigmatic inventive imaginative and prescient that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, specifically in regards to problems with race and id that preoccupied him all through his career.
In this primary book-length learn of the cutting edge brief fiction, Duncan devotes specific recognition to elucidating those refined narrative ideas because the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a practice of African-American fiction.
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Extra resources for Absent Man: Narrative Craft Of Charles W. Chestnutt
Andrewslikewisecites “Chesnutt’s choice of the stock tragic ending to his novel of mulatto experience”in concluding that thenovel ends “so comfortably for white social prejudices and so melodramatically for popular literary sentiments” (Literary Career 173). But The House Behind theCedars differs in crucial fashion from the tradition of the tragic mulatto genre, and inso doing inlays a pointedly subversive message. ” For while Rena’s travails and death dofollow the conventions of the tragic mulatto plot, Chesnutt’s use ofJohn Walden in this novelistic account of “passing”anticipates the radical evocations on the same theme by James Weldon Johnson in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored a who, unlike Man.
W. Harper, and Sutton Griggs. In response to the social and cultural changes wrought by the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the subsequent racially motivated backlash, these writers described the constantly shifting roles of black Americans as the turn of the century approached. African-American literature continued during this period in its role as a lever for social change, but it no longer had the abolition of the slave system as a uiiifyliig goal. Thus, black writers of the late nineteenth centuiy regularly disagreed as to the best social course for African Americans to take, an ongoing disagreemeiit personified in Chesnutt’s day by Booker T.
And if Barbara Johnson is right in claiming that the mulatto figure represents “an allegory for the racially divided society as a whole, simultaneously un-American and an image of America as such” ( 2 5 2 ) , then Chesnutt’s two railway anecdotes dramatize those 29 3o The Absent Man apparently polarized but finally complementary consequences of, or responses to, a social order based on racial taxonomies. In the first instance, the mulatto doctor is forced into exile, is subject, that is, to the caprices of an unjust legal and social system.