The House Behind the Cedars Essay examples

2768 Words Nov 6th, 2013 12 Pages
Tammy Carnell
English 3410-01
Dec. 3, 2012
"The House Behind the Cedars" by Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were both free African
Americans who moved to Cleveland from Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1856. Chesnutt was of
mixed race -- both of his grandmothers were African American while both of his grandfathers
were white. Though he self identified as African American, he often referred to an extensive
white ancestry and claimed that the issues of his mixed race had a profound impact on him as a
young man. Themes of complex heritage and racial identity would be characteristic of Chesnutt's
writing in his novel, "The House Behind the Cedars", as well as his other
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To which the Judge replied, "You are aware, of course, that you are a negro?" and the
conversation goes on. "I am white," replied the lad, turning back his sleeve and holding out his
arm, "and I am free, as my people were before me." "You are black," he said, "and you are not
free..The Judge goes on to tell him why he is not free."It may all be true," replied the boy, "but it
don't apply to me. It says 'the negro.' A negro is black; I am white, and not black." "Black as ink,
my lad...."One drop of black blood makes the whole man black."(Chesnutt) After serving as an
apprentice lawyer in Judge Straight’s office and after reviewing the laws regarding
miscegenation in the South, he and Judge Straight decide that South Carolina is the best place in
the South for John’s new identity. Thus, a few years before the Civil War, the eighteen-year-old
John Walden gets money from his mother, Molly, kisses his little sister Rena good-bye, and
leaves his hometown of Patesville, North Carolina, for Clarence, South Carolina. There, he takes
the name John Warrick and begins his life as a white man.
In the first chapter of the book, John Warwick (formerly Walden) returns to the town of his
birth, Patesville. For ten years he has been practicing the great deception of "passing" or posing
as a white man. He had assumed the name Warwick, married a rich white widow who owned a
large plantation, passed the South…

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