Tragic Race in The Prince of Darkness: Southworth’s Call for Social Change

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Caitlin MacDonald


This essay analyzes popular nineteenth century female novelist E.D.E.N. Southworth’s 1890 novel Hickory Hall or The Outcast: A Romance of the Blue Ridge, which is also referred to as The Prince of Darkness, in terms of race and class relations. As a contemporary of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Southworth attempts to navigate the racial and political tensions of her pre-Civil War era society in her serialized novel. This essay employs close readings of character descriptions, interactions, and instances of moral insanity, to examine Southworth’s antislavery perspective. It will also demonstrate the political engagement of an important author whom many wrongfully perceived as simplistic and frivolous because of the serialized medium of her narratives. This essay will formulate the argument that Southworth advocates for necessary social change and, through the tragic consequences of the antiquated racial relations exhibited by her characters, cautions her readers against the inevitable decline of society should the status quo remain unexamined. The research conducted here draws upon the primary source of the novel as well as scholarly articles by Dale Bauer, Julia Deane Freeman, Eric Lott, and Vicki Martin to support its claims.

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