Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

All three of Hopkins’s magazine novels were first published in serial form in Colored American Magazine. Each episode was preceded by a synopsis, and each episode ended at a suspenseful point in the narrative. In this volume, the synopses have been omitted; only a line stating that the narrative will be continued demonstrates the original episodic format of these novels.

The first novel, Hagar’s Daughter, written under the pen name Sarah A. Allen, includes many of the narrative elements used in Winona and Of One Blood. Complex plotting, adventure, suspense, action, and use of disguises, along with multiple and faked identities, appear in all three novels. The main action of each of the novels occurs within white rather than African American society. In order for Hopkins to situate these novels in white society and create strong African American characters who fit into society as members of the upper classes, she relies heavily on the theme of passing for white.

All three novels deal with relationships between white and African American characters, relationships that challenged the prevailing views of society, focusing on often-unrecognized close blood ties between the races. The issues of heritage and inheritance shape these works. One of the major themes in these novels is the improbability of racial purity. So many generations mixed blood that there is little likelihood of anyone being purely white or...

(The entire section is 508 words.)