Critical Context

The Conjure Woman was hailed as a significant work in American literature. Although Chesnutt began publishing in the 1880’s and “The Goophered Grapevine” received considerable critical acclaim in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887, Chesnutt did not make a substantial mark in American letters until the publication of The Conjure Woman in 1899. This work, followed by another collection of short stories, The Wife of His Youth (1899), assured his solid reputation as a writer of short fiction.

Although Chesnutt wrote three other novels, The House Behind the Cedars (1900), The Marrow of Tradition (1901), and The Colonel’s Dream (1905), many critics consider The Conjure Woman to be his best work. Its accurate representation of North Carolina dialect, its portrayal of character and racial themes, and, above all, its narrative technique make The Conjure Woman an American treasure.