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Love Consumes All, Love Destroys All

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Love Consumes All, Love Destroys All

Piety found Theron Ware, the tragic fool in The Damnation of Theron Ware, in a constant struggle between his internal and external desires. His internal strife picked at the thread of his tightly-woven life. The fabric of his ideologies seemed to cripple his long-held beliefs as he was exposed to new and opposing beliefs. His devoutness to his faith and even his love for his wife took backseat to his immediate desires. While he strove to maintain his old life while embracing his new beliefs, a paradigm shift for the tragic kept him from maintaining his piousness. This ill-fated transformation is ultimately leading to his tragic downfall. The "tragedy of the mullatoe" is not far removed from the downward spiral that engulfed Theron's life. In The House Behind the Cedars, piety, desire, passion, and, above all, love have an invaluable effect on the various characters within its pages. Love stirs, love blinds, love enrages. Love is the current that stirs the motives. While Theron failed to remain pious in the midst of a new, intriguing world, Rena and many of the other characters found that love was not enough to save them from the intruding world they lived in. As much as they strived to express their love, the "ruling law" of the South kept them from fully grasping their desires.

Love, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as a feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other's welfare and pleasure in his or her presence. (OED) Love is a profound emotion that people do not or cannot intentionally give to another. Love can result from natural affinity, like the love a mother feels towards her children. In the beginning of House Behind the Cedars, John Warwick, who changed his last name from Walden due to his ability to escape his past ancestry, is returning home after having much fortune pretending to pass as a white man. He has made a nice name for himself as a "white" man and is hoping to help his younger sister Rena do the very same. When he enters the home of his mother, she is simply brimming with joy and her love is apparent. Her love is eventually extended to her daughter when John asks Rena to leave with him to his home in Clarence, South Carolina. Her mother pleads, "Oh, John don't take her away from me! Don't take her John, darlin', for it'd break my heart to lose her!" (17) Eventually we see her give in because her love is not selfish. However, as much as they all love one another that love does not allow their mother to come along. Because Miss Molly Walden bears the Ethiopian resemblance she could never pass as white. And although John and Rena are the children of a black woman, they bare no outward features that disguise this fact. Because of this illusion of the "superior race" they are allowed to escape their old life-style as poor third class mullatoes and experience life not only as a free person but as a person of status and respect. Their ability to alienate a previously selfless paradigm for a self-centered one is what binds John and Rena to Theron. Theron's inability to stay true to his self and remain pious to his faith, values, and loved ones is what separates him from the white John and Rena.

Theron is a self-proclaimed intellectual and believes himself to be well-educated as a whole. However, it is not until he is thrown into the new society of Octavius that he realizes how truly naive he had been before. After several weeks in Octavius, customs of the new began to have subtle but present effect on Theron. He has found himself investigating new principals, visiting churches other than his Methodist Church, and showing an overall change in demeanor. On a specific occasion, while he is speaking with the lawyer Levi Gorringe, Theron even notes his own change in demeanor when responding to a story Levi told him. Theron states:

I am getting to see a great many things differently, here in Octavius. Our Methodist Discipline is like the Beatitudes-very helpful and beautiful, if treated as spiritual suggestion, but no more or less for a stumbling-block if insisted upon literally. I Declare! I never talked like this to a living soul before in all my. Your confidences were contagious. (93)

In the presents of a man with different beliefs, who speaks honestly of his intentions but never-the-less seeming all the same poised, Theron is compelled to begin to think in a new light. The minor statement 'your confidence was contagious' foreshadows the looming effects that this new environment will have a Theron.

Like Theron, the result of Rena's new found life begins to develop into a longing sense of fear and helplessness. Love can blind. As the novel, House Behind the Cedars progresses, the love between Rena and George Tryon, a genuine white man, begins to unstitch the life that John has tried so tirelessly to create. The fear that she would never be able to escape her ancestral chains continuously looms over Rena's head. Many times she hopes that love will overpower the tyranny of custom (194). Entertaining the idea to test Tryon's true love for Rena, she asks him if he would love her if she were Albert's nurse; Albert's nurse is a colored woman. Tryon replied, "If you were Albert's nurse he would have to find another within a week, for within a week we should be married" (59) She saw that he did not truly understand what she meant "But love blinded her" and she excepted his answer wholeheartedly. (59). Her assurance that love would prevail over the institutions of race were satisfied for the time being, only to be horribly realized in the reality of the society she lived in. Inevitably the truth comes to the forefront of their relationship. As custom has institutionalized into all members of society, George cannot look past the labels set forth and feels obligated to leave this woman of a lesser race upon learning the knowledge of her lineage. He can no longer see the woman he fell in love with, but now only sees the status that society gives her. He dreams, "In all her fair young beauty she stood before him, and then by some hellish magic she was slowly transformed into a hideous black hag" (98). In all appearance Rena was white. She was numerously mistaken for white by many true white people throughout the novel. In her hometown of Patesville, she was known to be of black descent, and, there for, ostracized by the higher class. In Clarence, her heritage was not known and by her outward appearance deemed white by George and the rest of the community. Only when her true identity was revealed to George did



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