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“Gone Over on the Other Side”: Passing in Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars

  • Irina Negrea
Chapter

Abstract

Within a nation of binary and supremacist racial politics, “mulatto” characters in Chesnutt’s turn-of-the-century novel found themselves living “in-between”—legally deemed “black” regardless of cultural upbringing. While the protagonist John Walden succeeds in being accepted by white culture by internalizing a white identity and passing as a white man, his sister Rena continues to identify as black and finds herself unable to successfully pass as a white woman. Negrea focuses specifically on the spatio-performative act of passing and argues that Chesnutt’s novel is itself a Borderland narrative in that John’s ability to completely disappear into white society shatters myths of the impossibility of successful passing and of an impermeable racial border. John tactically reshapes an oppressive geography into a space of resistance and subversion.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irina Negrea
    • 1
  1. 1.Shaw UniversityRaleighUSA

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