Mixed-Race Characters in the Novels of Charles Chesnutt
This chapter discusses the reasoned arbitrariness of racial identity which piqued Chesnutt’s interest in its stipulations. A Person’s status, with regard to legal restrictions and privileges, varied by state, time period, and, in the case of South Carolina, by reputation. These rules were in place at the very time that the assertion was being made both socially and “scientifically” that “race” was an absolute and fixed biological category. The discussion in this chapter suggests that Chesnutt’s two novels, House behind the Cedars and Paul Marchand, might be considered as thought experiments by Chesnutt that track the meaning of such arbitrariness. It delves into the performance of race in these works rather than into the nature of its reality.
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