Incest in Nineteenth-Century American Literature The Concern For Social Order - Essay

The Concern For Social Order

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Anne Dalke (essay date 1988)

SOURCE: "Original Vice: The Political Implications of Incest in the Early American Novel," in Early American Literature, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, 1988, pp. 188-201.

[In the essay that follows, Dalke argues that the incidents of unconscious incest in early American novels indicate a concern with social instability.]

The first American novel and many of its most popular successors incorporate a striking motif: that of unconscious incest. Eight times before 1830, the early American novel raises the possibility of unwitting incest. The discovery usually results in madness or suicide; only once does the threat prove specious....

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