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Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic$
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Julia A. Stern

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226773285

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226773315.001.0001

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More Family Troubles in the House Divided

(p.231) Chapter Ten Revolt
Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Julia A. Stern

University of Chicago Press

Mary Chesnut's work remains unique to both slave narratives and master's accounts of slaveholding from the mid-nineteenth century; she alone seems to want to get inside the minds of her slaves, to know what they are thinking, to attempt to understand their actions. Though her initial desire for this kind of psychological migration may have been defensive—the better to know what the slaves are planning so as to remain on guard—at some point her reasons shifted. The fully developed character studies of Laurence, Molly, and Ellen, which are absent from the 1860s diary jottings, afford her 1880s narrative its psychological realism and her politics a humanity that many other former mistresses never revealed, moving her closer to the action of profound sympathy described by Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Keywords:   slave narrative, slaveholding, Mary Chesnut, psychological migration, psychological realism, humanity

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