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The House Behind the Cedars

Charles W. Chesnutt

Book Overview: 

In this, Chesnutt's first novel, he tells the tragic story of love set against a backdrop of racism, miscegenation and “passing” during the period spanning the antebellum and reconstruction eras in American history. And through his use of the vernacular prevalent in the South of that time, Chesnutt lent a compassionate voice to a group that America did not want to hear. More broadly, however, Chesnutt illustrated, in this character play, the vast and perhaps insurmountable debt this country continues to pay for the sins of slavery.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .The judges put their heads together for a moment. The bugle sounded again, and the herald announced in a loud voice that Sir George Tryon, having taken the greatest number of rings and split the largest number of balls, was proclaimed victor in the tournament and entitled to the flowery chaplet of victory.

Tryon, having bowed repeatedly in response to the liberal applause, advanced to the judges' stand and received the trophy from the hands of the chief judge, who exhorted him to wear the garland worthily, and to yield it only to a better man.

"It will be your privilege, Sir George," announced the judge, "as the chief reward of your valor, to select from the assembled beauty of Clarence the lady whom you wish to honor, to whom we will all do homage as the Queen of Love and Beauty."

Tryon took the wreath and bowed his thanks. Then placing the trophy on the point of his lance, he spoke earnestly for a moment to the herald, and rode . . . Read More