Concealment in Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars

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Concealment in Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars

Who has something to hide?

Everyone in The House behind the Cedars has something to hide. With the possible exception of a few minor characters and children (innocents/ innocence), most characters have something to conceal. Taking this into account, this is more than likely Chesnutt’s acknowledgement of human nature before he gets into the varying motives. Is concealment ultimately worthwhile? Who is hurt and who is helped – or is there any difference?

Molly, John, Rena (The Absent/ Dead Father)

This family is where much of the major concealment starts. Ironically, the family is the same place where secrets are revealed. They start as a secret themselves - hidden away, behind a row of cedars, and inside the house on Front Street. The long dead, white lover of Mis’ Molly, concealed this family from his world, just as he kept his name from his illegitimate children – denying something to each. As a result, Mis’ Molly made many sacrifices. The first sacrifice she made was herself to her lover, which in return brought some security for herself and her family. We are told by the narrator, “she worshipped the ground upon which her lord walked, was humbly grateful for his protection, and quite as faithful as the forbidden marriage vow could possibly have made her” (105). This passage does not seem to indicate a sacrifice on her part, but ultimately it was also done for her immediate family. When her immediate family began to include children, Mis’ Molly had to face that her children were not legitimate, had no family name, and were thrust into a world that would not easily accept them. As this escalates over time, she sacrifices her happiness for the happiness of her child...

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...tood hierarchy among classes, racial and economic, that while not publicly acknowledged, is indeed common knowledge. The novel discusses this in regards to Mis’ Molly, her neighbors – darker and poorer.

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