1891 (First Edition)
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| An Imperative Duty: A Novel|
William Dean Howells books, Other books
An Imperative Duty is a short realist novel by William Dean Howells published in 1891. The novel explores the idea of "passing" through the racially mixed character of Rhoda Aldgate, a young woman whose aunt informs her that she is one-sixteenth African American. Rhoda lived her whole life "passing" as a white person.
Rhoda Aldgate, a woman of one-sixteenth black ancestry
Rev. Mr. Bloomingdale, Rhoda's first suitor, a white man
Dr. Olney, Mrs. Meredith's physician and Rhoda's eventual suitor, a white man
Mrs. Meredith, Rhoda's aunt, a white woman
An Imperative Duty Wikipedia
The book is about Rhoda Aldgate, a young woman who discovers she is one-sixteenth African American, after living her whole life as a white person. Rhoda's father was Mrs. Meredith's brother, a white man, and Rhoda's mother was a southern woman of one-eighth black ancestry. In the nineteenth century, Rhoda's mother would have been referred to as an "octoroon."
The book is about a "Tragic Mulatta" character, a stereotype used by 19th-century American authors to explore racial miscegenation.