The House Behind The Cedars Analysis

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Charles Chesnutt tackles the concept of racial identity in the novel The House Behind the Cedars by using his characters to attack the myth of race as a biological concept. In the novel, characters like John Warwick and Rena perform whiteness by adopting the mentality of whites in their area. Their performance did not include just passing using their skin color, but it also included adopting an attitude of racial superiority towards their black counterparts. This racial superiority includes adopting the mentality that white blood is superior to black blood. After Warwick meets with his mother and sister secretly, the novel expounds on this mentality stating: Warwick . . . went back to his hotel with the understanding that the morrow should be devoted to getting Rena ready for her departure, and that Warwick would visit the household again the following evening; for, as has been intimated, there were several reasons why there should be no open relations between the fine gentleman at the hotel and the women in the house behind the cedars, who while superior in blood and breeding to the people of the…show more content…
While the slave system of the United States used the “One drop rule” to decide if someone was black, it cannot help but to undermine the concept of whiteness and the idea that white blood is superior. Even though Warwick is successfully performing the role of a white man, there is always the threat overhead that someone will find out that his blood is not “pure.” His sister and mother both live in an area that know them and their background, which is why, despite their “superior” blood, the family is “under the shadow of some cloud which . . . shut them out from the better society of the town” (21). This “shadow” is their known black lineage. No amount of performance in the town that knows that they are not “pure” whites will allow them to move as whites in white
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