Date of this Version
Yarabe, Dominic. The Earliest Surviving Version Of Charles Chesnutt's "Rena Walden," The Short Story That Became The House Behind The Cedars. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Mar 2018.
My research project presents an edited version, with an introduction, of the earliest surviving version of “Rena Walden,” the short story that ultimately became the novel The House Behind the Cedars. The novel is a passing story in which a light-skinned, mixed race girl enters white society to live life as a white woman. Interestingly, however, the short story on which the novel was based began as a fiction with no white characters whatsoever. As the manuscript of this story is often difficult to read because of hard-to-decipher handwritten revisions, I had to create my own editorial policy to support my decisions. I have conducted research on the publication process of The House Behind the Cedars and Chesnutt's life in order to make informed editorial decisions. As a result, I have produced my own transcription of the draft, which I have titled "Rena Walden,” adopting the name Chesnutt himself used for this story in his correspondence with publishers. One of the goals of this project has been to give careful editorial treatment to a manuscript written by a person of color; commonly, such treatment has been reserved for white authors. As noted above, my research has highlighted inconsistencies between the early draft story and final published novel, which provides the reader with further insight into The House Behind the Cedars.