The critique of white male society that Charles W. Chesnutt
launched in A Marrow of Tradition continues in
Evelyn's Husband, one of six manuscripts left unpublished
when this highly regarded African American innovator died.
Set in Boston society, on a deserted Caribbean island, and in
Brazil, Evelyn's Husband is the story of two men-one old,
one young-in love with the same young woman. Late in his career
Chesnutt embarked on a period of experimentation with eccentric
forms, finishing this hybrid of a romance and adventure story just
before publishing his last work, The Colonel's Dream.
In Evelyn's Husband, Chesnutt crafts a parody examining
white male roles in the early 1900s, a time when there was rampant
anxiety over the subject. In Boston, the older man is left at the
altar when his bride-to-be flees and marries a young architect.
Later, trapped on an island together, the jilted lover and the
young husband find a productive middle ground between the
dilettante and the primitive.
Along with A Business Career, this novel marks
Chesnutt's achieve-ment in being among the first African American
authors to defy the color barrier and write fiction with a white
cast of main characters.
Matthew Wilson, Bainbridge, Pennsylvania, introduces both A
Business Career and Evelyn's Husband. He is associate
professor of humanities and writing at Penn State University,
Harrisburg. Marjan van Schaik, Bainbridge, Pennsylvania, edited
both novels along with Wilson and is a part-time instructor at
Subjects: Language & Literature
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