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Adulthood and Other FictionsAmerican Literature and the Unmaking of Age$
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Sari Edelstein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831884

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831884.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 March 2021

Coda

Coda

The New Old Age

Chapter:
(p.140) Coda
Source:
Adulthood and Other Fictions
Author(s):

Sari Edelstein

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198831884.003.0007

The coda brings together the concerns of the book via a reading of Charles Chesnutt’s “The Wife of his Youth.” Through an examination of this story, the coda pursues some of the questions raised in the final two chapters about the representation of elderly characters and about caregiving, individualism, and autonomy. I argue that the story’s treatment of age markers in relation to social hierarchies and historical trauma suggests ways not only to read them critically but also to engage them ethically. That is, the story urges its resistant readers toward an accountability to vulnerable populations, a responsibility that can seem onerous, even grotesque, in an age in which ideals of individualism, autonomy, and acquisition prevail. Ultimately, the coda positions the book in relation to contemporary concerns about growing old in a neoliberal climate that stigmatizes dependence and repose.

Keywords:   Charles Chesnutt, Reconstruction, elderly, dependence, neoliberalism, individualism

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