Chester Himes's Cotton Comes to Harlem: A Reparations Parable
Law and Literature, Vol. 19, p. 103, 2007
36 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2007 Last revised: 25 Oct 2007
This paper locates the fiction of Chester Himes within the literary traditions of classic and, later, hard-boiled detective fiction, and examines Himes's departures from established narrative forms in order to elucidate the legal and political ideology of race and crime that he enacts in them. I demonstrate that, in his representation of crime and punishment in his 1965 novel COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, Himes repudiates formal systems of retributive justice, while simultaneously endorsing an ad hoc regime of restitution that prefigures, by metaphorically enacting, the economic reparation of African Americans for injuries inflicted during their slave past.
Keywords: Chester Himes, detective fiction, law and literature, race
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