Race, region, and realism in the postbellum fiction of Albion Tourgée, Charles Chesnutt, George Washington Cable, And Mark Twain
Barrow, Katherine Brown
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In the literary movements of Regionalism and Realism that emerged in the wake of the Civil War, Albion Tourgée (1838-1905), Mark Twain (1835-1910), George Washington Cable (1844-1925), and Charles Chesnutt (1858-1932) contributed to the growing field of Southern fiction within these traditions. With varying degrees of verisimilitude, romance, and satire, all four of these authors placed issues of race and nationhood at the thematic center of their most influential novels. In many of their postbellum works of fiction, such as The Grandissimes, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, A Fool’s Errand, Bricks without Straw, Mandy Oxendine, The Conjure Woman, The House Behind the Cedars, and The Marrow of Tradition, they explored the persisting racial problems of American life in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century and developed themes that suggested that the nation was still mired in the problems of its past. Perhaps the most significant aspect their postwar novels share is the manner in which they present African American protagonists who actively pursue a better life for themselves by challenging the white patriarchal order. Through various methods of empowerment, such as verbal trickery, escaping slavery, passing into white life, educational and economic advancement, as well as the subversive acts of protest, violence, and revenge, these characters refuse to submit to the social hierarchy to which they are bound by either custom or law.