The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt

1376 Words6 Pages
Tryon’s Transformation Norman Vincent Peal once remarked: when a person changes their thoughts, they change their world. Unfortunately, too many individuals do not want to make that change. Human nature causes one to stick to what he knows, to be cautious and remain within his own boundaries. Some people, however, accept differences and embrace change; they may not know what to expect but they are ready to change. In The House Behind the Cedars, Charles Chesnutt writes of George Tryon, who is able to take such a step. Tryon, a young white man who has lived a very sheltered upper class life, is a very self-centered, racist man, who finds extreme pride in his race. Chesnutt describes this character as someone who does not want to change one detail of his own life, yet is willing to completely alter the lives of those around him for his own benefit. When he wins the heart of Rena Warwick, he finds that if he truly cannot live without her, he needs to make a lifestyle change. Although Tryon has difficulty choosing love over status, he ultimately realizes what matters more. He therefore changes from a racist, close-minded man to a more open, accepting individual. Tryon’s prejudiced personality does not present itself until he makes his first trip to Patesville. While courting Rena, he never mentions or speaks badly of a person of color; had he done so, she may have been more cautious. When Rena tests Tryon’s love, asking “would [he] love [her]...if [she] [were] Albert’s nurse”, Tryon joyously replies, “If [she] were Albert’s nurse… within a week [they] should be married” (59). He pays no attention to the race of the nurse but rather her occupation. It is later that he realizes what Rena was trying to tell him with this question, and how oblivious he was to reality. Certain that Rena is white; Tryon has no care for her background and ancestry. To Tryon, “[Rena] represented…the finest flower of the finest race that god had ever made… the flower would soon be his, why should he care to dig up the soil in which it grew” (66). Tryon feels he is marrying the most attractive white woman in the world so why should he care who her ancestors could have been. Ironically, her ancestors actually matter so much to him that he breaks her heart. Once Tryon sees Rena’s true identity he knows he has to choose between the life he lives or the woman he loves.
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