The Known World Essay

Edward P. Jones
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In the following essay, Graham explores the literary heritage of The Known World and discusses its innovative plot and techniques.

Revisiting the slave narrative has become a seemingly obligatory rite of passage for contemporary African-American novelists. This compulsion has been most fortunate for American literature: novels such as Toni Morrison's Beloved, Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada, Octavia Butler's Kindred, and Charles Johnson's Middle Passage represent some of the finest works by those or any other late twentieth-century writers. To that august catalog must now be added The Known World, the astonishing debut novel from Edward P. Jones, which recently won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

Early reviews of The Known World have justifiably emphasized the unusual twist Jones gives to the typical slave narrative by illuminating a largely overlooked aspect of U.S. slavery: free blacks who owned slaves. The novel opens with the...

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This section contains 1,024 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Known World Study Guide
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