Abstract

This essay considers The House behind the Cedars (1900) as a laboratory for ethical inquiry, a space in which the author stages multiple acts of dubious discernment and then clearly marks out the failure of his characters to move beyond race-based judgments and predetermined outcomes. The approach situates Chesnutt’s novel within an ongoing debate regarding the efficacy of literature, its influence on the reader, and its practical power to generate reformative conversations about human worth, virtue, and the “right thing” to do. Key points from the discourse on discernment—in theology as well as ethics—are used as analytical tools for reading Chesnutt’s penetrating critique of discrimination.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-6182
Print ISSN
1062-4783
Pages
pp. 541-556
Launched on MUSE
2013-12-27
Open Access
No
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