Chapter

<i>Masks</i> Theatricals in White

Julia A. Stern

in Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780226773285
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226773315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226773315.003.0008
Masks Theatricals in White

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This chapter turns to the strangely inappropriate-seeming amateur theatricals mounted by the Richmond elite at the lowest point of the South's military prospects in 1864. Their frivolity impressed Mary Chesnut's husband, recently promoted to brevet brigadier general, as fiddling while Rome burned. A less partisan onlooker might have understood the theatrical frenzy as the planter class's collective attempt at self-distraction from a political and military disaster over which they had no control. Chesnut alludes repeatedly to St. Domingo and the Indian Mutiny in her narrative. These two events, one past, one contemporary, serve as global analogues, shorthand for all she most fears about the potential for violence simmering under the surface of master–slave relations at home. The 1880s writer searched the globe for such examples, though the case of Virginia's Nat Turner had unfolded virtually in her own backyard.

Keywords: theatricals; Mary Chesnut; St. Domingo; Indian Mutiny; global analogues; narrative

Chapter.  7228 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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