Charles W. Chesnutt Criticism - Essay

Heather Hathaway (essay date 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hathaway, Heather. “‘Maybe Freedom Lies in Hating’: Miscegenation and the Oedipal Conflict.” In Refiguring the Father: New Feminist Readings of Patriarchy, edited by Patricia Yaeger and Beth Kowaleski-Wallace, pp. 153-67. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.

[In the following essay, Hathaway compares Chesnutt's pre-Freudian story “The Sheriff's Children” and Langston Hughes's post-Freudian “Father and Son,” and examines how the plots reform the image of the father.]

“I dearly loved my master, son,” she said.

“You should have hated him,” I said....

(The entire section is 5427 words.)

Lorne Fienberg (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Fienberg, Lorne. “Charles W. Chesnutt's The Wife of His Youth: The Unveiling of the Black Storyteller.” In Critical Essays on Charles W. Chesnutt, edited by Joseph R. McElrath Jr., pp. 206-23. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1999.

[In the following essay, originally published in the American Transcendental Quarterly, in 1990, Fienberg delineates the differences between Chesnutt's The Wife of His Youth, and The Conjure Woman.]

I

At the pivotal moment in Charles W. Chesnutt's “The Wife of His Youth” a mysterious old black woman walks through a doorway and tells her story. For twenty-five years she has been...

(The entire section is 8340 words.)

Eric J. Sundquist (essay date 1993)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sundquist, Eric J. “Part 3: The Critics.” In Charles W. Chesnutt, A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 135-42. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

[In the following essay, originally published in his To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature in 1993, Sundquist discusses Chesnutt's skepticism about black American folk beliefs regarding the notion of conjuration and the author's emphasis on a rational explanation for the apparent success of curses and cures.]

In 1901 Chesnutt contributed to Modern Culture an essay, “Superstitions and Folklore of the South.”1 What is remarkable about it, especially in light of...

(The entire section is 3207 words.)

Ben Slote (essay date 1994)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Slote, Ben. “Part 3: The Critics.” In Charles W. Chesnutt: A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 143-52. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

[In the following essay, originally published as “Listening to ‘The Goophered Grapevine’ and Hearing Raisins Sing” in American Literary History in 1994, Slote explores race iconography in Chesnutt's short stories and compares it to the iconography used in modern television commercials.]

Like a lot of young academics who came to their interest in American literature through canonical routes, I first studied Charles Chesnutt's writing in the mid-1980s by reading The Conjure Woman and teaching “The...

(The entire section is 4300 words.)

Henry B. Wonham (essay date 1998)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Wonham, Henry B. “Part 1: The Short Fiction.” In Charles W. Chesnutt: A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 3-80. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

[In the following essay, Wonham details Chesnutt's literary career and the author's dialect and non-dialect short stories.]

INTRODUCTION

One of the many arresting ironies of Charles W. Chesnutt's brilliant but abbreviated literary career lies in the fact that the masterful short stories for which he will be remembered in anthologies and histories of American literature were intended as preparation. Chesnutt's grandiose literary ambitions always pointed in the direction of the novel, the one...

(The entire section is 31589 words.)

Charles Duncan (essay date 1999)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Duncan, Charles. “Telling Genealogy: Notions of the Family in The Wife of His Youth.” In Critical Essays on Charles W. Chesnutt, edited by Joseph R. McElrath Jr., pp. 281-96. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1999.

[In the following essay, Duncan discusses Chesnutt's probing of race consciousness in the United States and the manner in which the writer's short stories add a “stanza” to the genealogical poem formed by black American literature.]

Any consideration of the literary output of Charles W. Chesnutt must, of course, acknowledge race as a defining feature. Certainly, Chesnutt exhaustively probed the matter, examining in great detail both the...

(The entire section is 8075 words.)