By Ryan Simmons
A huge exam of Charles Chesnutt as a practitioner of realism. With the discharge of formerly unpublished novels and a up to date proliferation of serious experiences on his lifestyles and paintings, Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932) has emerged as a huge American author of his time—the age of Howells, Twain, and Wharton. In Chesnutt and Realism, Ryan Simmons breaks new floor through theorizing how understandings of literary realism have formed, and will proceed to form, the reception of Chesnutt’s work. Although Chesnutt is usually stated because the so much well known African American author of the realist interval, little awareness has been paid to the significant query of this learn: what does it suggest to name Chesnutt a realist? A author whose profession used to be circumscribed by means of the dismal racial politics of his period, Chesnutt refused to comply to literary conventions for depicting race. Nor did he use his inventive abilities to ward off the realities he and different African american citizens confronted. particularly, he experimented with methods of portraying truth which could elicit a suitable, proportionate reaction to it, as Simmons demonstrates in prolonged readings of every of Chestnutt’s novels, together with very important unpublished works which have been missed by means of past critics. Chesnutt and Realism additionally addresses a interestingly missed topic in American literary studies—the dating among American literary realism and race. by means of taking Chesnutt heavily as a contributor to realism, this booklet articulates the techniques in which one African American highbrow helped to outline the discourses that prompted his fate.
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In successive drafts, Chesnutt tried out, and apparently rejected, numerous plot twists, including the kidnapping of Jimmie by his father and Jimmie’s death at a baseball game upon being hit by a line drive. While a few gaps are apparent in the plot of the most recent draft—we do not know how Chesnutt resolved some of the loose ends before sending the manuscript to Houghton Mif®in—it seems that he was working to extract sensational events and let a more plausible story unfold. He apparently could not, however, bear to leave his characters penniless: the novel ends with Quilliams, now destitute as a result of the failure of both his scienti¤c and his investing enterprises, becoming engaged to Julia and learning that she has inherited a fortune in the form of a gold mine obtained by her father.
Admittedly, Chesnutt super¤cially can sound more like a product of the mid-nineteenth century than of the early twentieth, with his prosy narration and often sentimental appeal. What must not be overlooked, however, is that the sentimental strain in Chesnutt’s ¤ction is not any sort of a stopping point; in fact, his use of sentiment is ambivalent and quite complex. On one hand, he often mocks the prose style of romance, as the over-the-top purple prose and bad poetry of Mandy Oxendine and the critique of Warwick’s “trite” re®ections Introduction 19 in the opening of The House Behind the Cedars illustrate.
On one hand, the implausible occurrence seems to trivialize the novel; on the other, the ending accentuates Chesnutt’s point that what had once 36 chapter 1 seemed essential now is acknowledged to be trivial. The novel does not depend on the infusion of money to end successfully; if anything, the introduction of the lost-fortune contrivance is disappointing rather than gratifying. The receipt of a sudden fortune via Julia’s father, of course, is no more fortuitous than Quilliams’s own inheritance from his father, the loss of which instigates the novel’s plot.
Chesnutt and Realism: A Study of the Novels (American Literary Realism and Naturalism) by Ryan Simmons
Categories: African American Studies