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The House Behind the Cedars: A Summary

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  1. Introduction
  2. The character of George Tryon
  3. Speaking through other characters to shed some light on the case
  4. Speaking out in opposition to black rights and interracial marriage
  5. Conclusion

The Charles Chesnutt novel, The House Behind the Cedars, is the tale of a young woman of mixed race trying to make it in the antebellum South. She ultimately fails, dying mere months after an unsuccessful romance with a white man. Chesnutt's views on miscegenation can be discerned through the course of the novel. Being of mixed race himself, Chesnutt constructs Rena as a sympathetic character. Through his characters' thoughts and feelings, the author provides scathing commentary on the ?color line,' thus presenting his acceptance of interracial relationships into the story.

[...] Judge Straight knows for a fact that there is some black blood in nearly all the white people in the area, which seemed to make these semi-white people treat their ?distant cousins? all the more cruelly (79). Because of this, he sympathizes with Rena and tries to help her avoid being found out. The judge supposes that Tryon's feelings might ?change from worship to that of desire and that Rena might find herself in the same ?marriage' that her mother had with a white man. [...]

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