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Megan O’Neill

ENG 662

Dr. Fagan

May 2, 2017

The Imprisoned Body: Violence of Societally-Imposed Boundaries in Cast the First Stone and

Yesterday Will Make You Cry

Published in 1998, Chester Himes’ Yesterday Will Make You Cry remains a book with a

complicated and problematic past. Originally penned in the late 1930s into the 1940s, Himes’

novel was initially rejected from publication on several occasions under differently titled

manuscripts until it finally found a home—of sorts—at the Coward McCann publishing house in

1952. This ‘home’ became a veritable chophouse where, according to editors of the 1998 edition

Marc Gerald and Samuel Blumenfeld, Coward McCann “upset the whole structure of the book

and reordered the chapters, even rewriting certain passages” (Yesterday 7). By the time McCann

had finished editing, it was early 1953; Himes’ manuscript was shorter by a third and renamed

Cast the First Stone. Four and a half decades later, Norton’s Old School Books took up this

nearly forgotten manuscript once again and republished it in its entirety, creating the textual

entity that is Yesterday Will Make You Cry (Himes’ intended title). Now, there are two strikingly

separate texts. In Cast the First Stone we find a pared down, confined narrative; in Yesterday

Will Make You Cry, we can see a more openly political text, grounded with a narrative

background completely missing from the former. These two texts demonstrate the paranoid

historical moment surrounding the initial publication of Himes’ work, where the restored text

reveals the earlier attempts to mask and underwhelm the novel’s racial and homosexual

overtones. Each of these texts engages in an interrogation of an imprisoned, implicitly racialized


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body as it exists through the novel’s white protagonist, Jimmy, in terms of both spatial and

temporal boundaries. Because of the different editorial choices performed in these two texts, how

such a subject interacts with these boundaries becomes vastly different. The original editing

choices for Cast to trim the setting to include only Jimmy’s time within the prison and the

subsequent republishing in Yesterday that returns the outside historical and background contexts

functions to illuminate the desire to cage the racialized and marginalized experience into a

particular space outside of general society, one that allows the white, heterosexual, privileged

experience to remain normalized, invisible, and uncritiqued.

An “Un”-Racialized Reading

Despite Cast the First Stone being a text now known for what it lacks, it still retains an

importance for what it is. For over forty years, it remained the only version of the text in

existence and culled its own sort of critical response. This response revolved mainly around two

factors: the genre of the prison novel and the race of his protagonist—and, perhaps, how those

aspects interact. Michel Fabre in his essay “A Case of Rape” paints Cast as “one of the best

prison novels ever written but [one that] did not transcend the limits of that genre” (Fabre 25,

emphasis in original). Because of McCann’s editing choices, Cast the First Stone does accord to

such a comment, for its setting was reduced from a text that included outside historical context

and background, especially for its protagonist, down to only the prison experience. In the

original manuscript, Himes had written an entire backstory for Jimmy Monroe, detailing his

adolescent deviations, crimes, and early attempts at defining his own masculine identity.

According to Himes himself, this section of the text comprised nearly a third of the overall

narrative and functioned as the core of Jimmy’s character and, by extension, that of the entire

novel: “He [Cecil Goldbeck, McCann’s main editor for Himes’ manuscript] cut 250 pages from
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the original script of 650 pages, and the part he cut was mostly the heart, the pulsebeat and

emotion, of the story” (qtd. in Rolens 433). What becomes Part II in Yesterday Will Make You

Cry had been completely stricken from Cast’s text, transforming the setting itself into a

confinement of Jimmy’s character to within the prison walls. Such a diminution had the dual

effect of maintaining the generic expectations for a ‘prison novel’ while also creating a sort of

safety net for the novel’s 1950s audience: they could imagine such circumstances, racially and

homosexually charged or not, as solely confined to the prison compound, far away from having

any ability to enact influence on their own actual, lived experiences.

This reduction, however, led to a poignant and marked moment of contention. Without

the background on Jimmy, a background based on Himes’ own life and one marked with

racialized language and experience, the novel’s focus rested only on Jimmy’s experiences in the

prison, a space filled majorly by other white men. By making the novel only about this prison,

the editors opened up the text to several critics who disparaged Himes’ content for its ostensibly

apparent lack of engagement with race. In particular, Gwendoline Lewis Roget cites Cast as

evidence of Himes’ “turning his back on his heritage” because of his seemingly sole engagement

with white characters (Roget 34). On the other hand, some critics found that centering the novel

on a white man from Mississippi to be a strength of Cast. Stephen F. Milliken in his book

Chester Himes: A Critical Appraisal notes that Cast’s main feat is “making Jimmy Monroe

white,” for, he contends, in doing that, “Himes effected an even more drastic narrowing of scope.

He eliminated the entire subject of racism” (Milliken 160). Such a statement appears, to the

modern reader, as rather surprising; simply by not having its protagonist as a man of color, some

scholars felt as though Himes (via his editors) had been able to completely pull out all aspects of

race from the novel in its entirety—though such a reading neglects whiteness as a racial
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category. This ‘removal of racism,’ for Milliken, then allowed Himes to focus on something else

entirely: the prison and only the prison. Prison, Milliken argues, is like racism in that it is “a very

demanding subject, tending to push to the side, as secondary, all other considerations…Prison

permits the writer who attempts to describe it with total accuracy no second overriding concern”

(Milliken 161). Taken alone, Cast certainly does appear to follow Milliken’s argument. Without

the background on Monroe’s character provided in Yesterday, the physical boundaries of the

narrative do lie only within the prison itself.

However, it remains incredibly difficult for a novel so filled with racialized language and

circumstance to ‘eliminate racism’ in its entirety. Both of these aforementioned arguments that

see race as entirely absent from Cast do the text a disservice. While Jimmy Monroe is a white

Mississippian man, his race is perhaps less paramount than his situation—a situation that is

fraught with racial implications. Because of these implications as well as the aforementioned

racialized language that both fill the text, many readers initially and completely misinterpreted

Jimmy’s race. Critic A. Robert Lee engages in a striking misreading of the novel in which he

sees Jimmy Monroe as black. Lee notes that while “Himes never explicitly acknowledges the

hero…Jim Monroe, as Black,…his account of time-suspended claustrophobia in a Federal prison

is loaded with analogies to the isolative and imprisoning sentences imposed by white society on

Black” (Lee 71). In both published versions of the text, Jimmy is a white man; however, when

some of the advertisements for the 1953 version read “JAMES MONROE WAS A COOL CAT,” and

when the back of the paperback version of Cast explicitly lists Jimmy incorrectly as a black man,

one can easily see where such a misreading as Lee’s originates. Lee’s argument, too, holds merit

despite its error. As a highly autobiographical text, Cast the First Stone embodies much of the

lived experiences of Chester Himes, a black man, in its protagonist, and one can see that the
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“analogies with racial repression, though implicit, are clear” (Lee 72). Such a ‘mis’reading

becomes even more compelling when taken alongside the more expansive text of Yesterday Will

Make You Cry and the emergent facts of its editing process. This desire the editors had to pare

down the text into its prison boundaries reflects their desire to cage, in a way, the racialized

experience as one existing only outside of general society.

However, Jimmy Monroe’s whiteness remains and remains significantly—though the

exact significance seems hard to pin down. Fred Pfeil sees the characterization of Jimmy Monroe

as white as a “resentful” supplication on the part of Himes, perhaps one meant to please his

editors and audience more than himself (Pfeil 38). Himes himself seemed to be a bit at a loss for

the reasoning behind making Jimmy white: in his autobiography, he says, “I had made the

protagonist of my prison story a Mississippi white boy; that ought to tell me something but I

don’t know what” (qtd. in Rolens 443). Later, he mentions that white protagonists were easier to

publish. In her essay “Write Like a Man: Chester Himes and the Criminal Text Beyond Bars,”

Clare Rolens would argue that “Jimmy’s difficult life and incarceration reflect the oppression,

criminalization, and control imposed upon black bodies by white society and specifically by the

criminal justice system, an interpretation certainly supported by the ingrained racism at every

level of that system” (Rolens 443). Of course, whiteness, too, constitutes its own racial category

and construct; the text need not be about a body of color to be about race. Perhaps reading a

scenario in which an experience otherwise relegated onto a black body is grafted onto a white

one, white readers could undergo some form of raised consciousness. Overall, then, there

appears to be a sort of ambivalence about race in this initial printing of Himes’ manuscript.

According to the critical response, Cast the First Stone both does and does not engage with race

within its pages, but it does so only from the safety of the prison’s boundaries.
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Homoeroticism: Subtext & Maintext

In many ways, Cast the First Stone is a text of its time, a historical document of a kind.

With its publication immediately following the Second World War and existing alongside a

rising fear and paranoia of communism, homosexuality, and racialized revolt, Himes’ text

needed to carefully navigate such strong political currents in order to garner any sort of monetary

profit. McCann’s major editing of the manuscript, according to Yesterday’s editors, had to do

with such a navigation on the part of the publishing company; their desire to create “a book for

the masses” was one which “reduced black existence to a caricature” and drastically scaled back

the homoeroticism otherwise rampant throughout (Yesterday 9). In fact, the homosexual

elements of Cast have rarely been addressed, mentioned mostly in the form of offhanded or

judgmental comments in book reviews. In the April 1953 edition of The Crisis, Henry F.

Winslow reviews Cast, labeling the homoerotic moments as thus: “the treacherous temptation of

sexual perversion,” and “a wierd [sic] but focused ‘love affair’…bursting into repulsive

degeneracy,” caused by “prison-bred madness” (Winslow 246, 247). Another reviewer, R.W.

Burnett, wrote in an edition of Saturday Review from 1953 that Cast as a whole was rather

“odd,” where “the oddest thing of all is the preoccupation with homosexuality”:

Although the author—frank otherwise—insists on calling this business

“friendship,” it bears no resemblance whatsoever to any sort of friendship I’ve

ever noted or experienced…However, I’ll admit that I’m prejudiced and that

prejudice makes for false judgments. So I will conclude by saying that the account

of this love affair is highly original—I’ve never read anything like it—and for that

reason alone is perhaps worth the reader’s while. (Burnett 15)


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These two reviews help to illustrate and illuminate the sort of political and social climate Himes

faced while originally writing Cast the First Stone. On the one hand, we have a perspective that

acknowledges the homosexuality as a ‘love affair,’ though it quickly falls into denigration,

labeled grotesque and a product of insanity. On the other hand, we have a more cautious reading,

open about its prejudice, but going no further in judgment than calling the homoerotic content

‘odd’—even giving it a potentially positive mark for originality. These two perspectives, as

openly judgmental as they are, only interact with the text in its scaled-back form, with the

homosexual content relegated majorly to subtext. Even so, they reflect the sentiments of the

1950s, unafraid to voice their condemnation of and aversion to homosexual content.

However, the entirety of Himes’ original manuscript presents a much more explicitly

politicized and homosexually charged arena than the editors at McCann allowed for Cast the

First Stone. Norton’s republication of the preserved text in 1998 allows for a deeper and more

political reading; in this sense, the publication of Yesterday is a political act, one that

demonstrates both the tensions of the 1950s and of the (near-)present moment. In both times,

homosexuality and, thus, homophobia rank as prominent aspects of social and political

consciousness. As aforementioned, the 1950s marked a moment of paranoia that linked

homosexuality with communism, which contributed, in part, to the drastic downscaling of

homosexual content in Cast the First Stone. In the 1990s, on the other hand, when Norton

rediscovered Himes’ manuscript, American society found itself panicked and in the midst of the

AIDS crisis. Only six years before Yesterday’s republication, AIDS became the primary cause of

death for men between the ages of 25-44; two years later, AIDS was the primary cause of death

for all Americans between the ages of 25-44; finally, in 1998, the year Yesterday was published,

the CDC reported that 49% of the AIDS-related deaths were accounted for by African Americans
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(“Timeline”). With these statistical events occurring concurrently to the rediscovery of and

republication process for Yesterday, one can certainly assume that such context helped both

inform and prompt Norton’s choice to republish Himes’ original manuscript. Even though

Himes’ work was written and set decades before the AIDS crisis, much of the homoerotic

subtext—now revealed even more so as main text—becomes increasingly relevant to the

sociopolitical climate of the 1990s. With its more explicit commentary, then, on both racial and

homosexual issues, Yesterday Will Make You Cry becomes the sort of political novel that Chester

Himes originally seemed to hope for.

Where Cast the First Stone presents itself—at least paratextually so—as a novel almost

devoid of explicit politics, Yesterday Will Make You Cry surrounds and immerses itself in the

political. Both the editor’s note and Melvin Van Peebles’ introduction placed before the narration

itself cement the novel’s politicization and the injustice they see as done to the text in the form of

Cast the First Stone. Van Peebles laments the lacerations to the manuscript when Yesterday’s

editors inform him of the original cuts: “What [else] would you call making Chester reduce the

literary device of flashbacks, including the back story of Jimmy, the central character’s life?

What would you call forcing Chester to change the original manuscript from the reflective third

person to the more ‘natural’ (i.e., primitive) first person?” (Yesterday 19). He decries the changes

as an effort steeped in racism, meant to ‘dumb down’ the literariness of the text, and finds the

restored version much more suitable—a novel with “literary and pulp sensibilities all rolled into

one unique style” (Yesterday 19). Yesterday’s editors, too, praise Himes for his ability to

“resolve what appeared at the time as an irrevocable contradiction: being a black man and a

writer and demonstrating that it is possible for an African American to go beyond ghetto

experience” (Yesterday 8). What Himes intended to give his audience, then, in Yesterday Will
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Make You Cry is an intersectional examination of privilege in terms of race, gender, and

sexuality as well as a critique of the overarching, oppressive system that otherwise allows such

privilege to remain normalized and invisible.

Yesterday, then, is a novel of difference—its audience only knows what it has gained (or

what it was initially missing) when they read this novel alongside Cast the First Stone. Where

critical questions of Cast alone centered mainly on articulations of race and the prison setting,

Yesterday’s focus both includes and moves beyond these concerns, focusing more fully on the

homoerotic content. Perhaps, then, a text by text analysis of the two, demonstrating their marked

changes in content and style, would create a more worthwhile reading. Several passages come to

mind, though three of the most notable that will be treated here consist of Jimmy’s first

homoerotic encounter, Jimmy’s time in the perverse, yet pleasant, prison hospital, and Jimmy’s

final articulation of masculinity. In all of these scenes, the audience can see the two texts

grappling with their separate but certainly interrelated themes of hypermasculinity,

homosexuality, and the fluid nature of both sexuality and gender identity.

In Yesterday Will Make You Cry, one of the most arresting scenes comes amidst the chaos

and anarchy of the prison fire. After the trauma of seeing so many gruesome and mutilated

bodies, Jimmy runs into Walter and engages in his first homoerotic encounter:

Walter took his arm away and asked, “You wouldn’t want me to do that, would

you, Jimmy?” There was no condemnation in his voice; it was a question, that

was all. Jimmy didn’t know whether to say yes or no. For a moment he just stood

there; then he rubbed his hand down his face as if to wipe away something, bowed

his head, licked his lips. “Damn you!” he said and turned away. (Yesterday 107)
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In this moment, it is not entirely clear as to what Jimmy is searching for—companionship,

comfort, a physical release after the trauma his mind has just undergone, or perhaps a conflation

of all or several of these. The tension in this scene, however, hovers and rests on Walter’s

reaction. Jimmy has had near-homoerotic encounters before with other inmates, but an air of

judgment or worry over being labeled a ‘sissy’ or a ‘boygirl’ was always present. What remains

significant in this scene, then, is Walter’s lack of denunciation; Himes explicitly writes that

Walter’s response to Jimmy has ‘no condemnation.’ It is this nonjudgmental response that allows

such a scene to occur, a scene that exposes Jimmy’s sexuality as perhaps more fluid that he

would like to think. On the other hand, in Cast the First Stone, the potentially welcoming and

nonjudgmental tone of this passage is mostly missing:

[Mal, Cast’s version of Walter] released me and stepped away. He was looking at

me queerly. “You don’t want that really, Jimmy?” . . . I wondered if he asked the

questions straight or in rebuke. He was smiling in a funny sort of way. He looked

strangely inhuman, like neither man nor woman. His eyes looked sick. I rubbed

my hand hard down my face, bowed my head, then looked up steadily at him.

Suddenly I felt repulsed. “You can go to hell,” I said. “Once and forever.” (Cast

157)

Mal’s reaction, to look at Jimmy ‘queerly,’ leaving Jimmy to wonder if his reaction could be

considered a ‘rebuke’ completely changes the crux of this scene. With such an ‘inhuman’

characterization of Walter/Mal, this version casts a negative, almost gothic or unnatural shadow

over the scene—Jimmy even feels ‘repulsed’ by his own actions. This unsettled tone and the

negative connotation of the passage’s word choice marks Jimmy’s desires as almost grotesque in

their nature. Jimmy’s desires are still present, as they are in Yesterday’s version, but any
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acceptance of them—or, more generally, any acceptance of the potential fluidity of sexual desire

at all—has vanished. In Yesterday Will Make You Cry, this encounter between Jimmy and Walter

is presented as a result of trauma, but its lack of judgment and its inclusivity become highlighted

when read alongside the same scene from Cast. Critics, too, have noticed the significance of

these two versions; Clare Rolens in particular notes that the changes have to do mainly with the

McCann editors’ requests: several of the textual changes are handwritten onto Himes’

manuscript, and “[t]hese written changes, clearly added in the very final stages of the

manuscript’s editing and publication alongside the editor’s final notes, strongly suggest that

Himes was responding to requests from editors” (Rolens 442). As with many other scenes in

Cast, the editors’ wishes come back in the text reflected as almost homophobic—or, at least, they

cast a negative and somewhat ‘repulsed’ light on any nonnormative desires/sexualities. In

contrast, then, Yesterday Will Make You Cry creates a representation of homosexuality and

sexual fluidity that thus becomes a political act; in order to overcome the (self-)censorship of the

1953 text, Yesterday’s presentation of homosexual desire becomes an act of recovery, one that

reveals the definite presence of queered gender and sexual identities in the 1950s, despite the

paranoia and repression of the time.

Such recovery acts were certainly not limited to scenes with Walter. McCann’s editors

changed quite a bit between Yesterday’s manuscript and their publication of Cast, particularly, as

noted before, in terms of the setting, but also more specifically in terms of these homosexual

relationships: they ramped up the ‘perversion’ levels of the prison hospital, while they drastically

reduced the homosocial contact between Jimmy and Rico (Dido). After being reassigned to work

for the prison’s coal company, Jimmy goes to the prison’s hospital complaining of an aching

back and gets admitted into the hospital. There, at least in Yesterday, Jimmy finds a place almost
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paradisiacal in comparison to the rest of the prison, a place filled with positively charged

homoeroticism:

…[I]t was the most pleasant place he had been since entering prison. Three nurses

were on duty at the time, all clad in white shirts and tight-fitting white trousers,

and smelling of perfume and pomade. One [Harry]…offered to wash [Jimmy’s]

back. So Jimmy let him, enjoying the smooth touch of his hands…For a moment

Jimmy did not know whether to blush or expand. Finally, he sputtered, “What is

this?” (Yesterday 73).

At first glance, one could almost misread this passage heterosexually; certainly the expectations

exist that nurses wearing ‘tight-fitting’ clothing would, at least initially, imply that such nurses

are women. It is not until after we read Jimmy’s acceptance of a veritable back massage that the

nurses’ masculine pronouns become clear. In a second read-through, then, this passage shifts

from erotic to homoerotic, filled with sensual imagery and innuendo between these two men that

leaves Jimmy feeling near-incredulous. Again, as with the passage from Yesterday between

Jimmy and Walter, here the interaction with Jimmy and Harry also has an air of non-judgment

and even acceptance, especially when considering Jimmy’s descriptors of the hospital as being a

pleasant and enjoyable place. On the other hand, the same scene reworked in Cast holds a

significantly more negative portrayal:

I didn’t fall out with the cute little nurse, Harry, either. He was neither a wolf nor

a wolverine but just a pleasant bitch who had a crush on me. He made it very

pleasant, not sexually of course…[The hospital] was a rotten, lousy joint. The hell

of it was that they treated degeneracy as one does normal sex. (Cast 78-9)
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Here, the description of the hospital has been almost wholly reversed; described as ‘pleasant’ in

Yesterday, the hospital has now become both ‘rotten’ and ‘lousy,’ with Harry’s care marking the

only truly ‘pleasant’ aspect of the entire experience—though Jimmy is quick to append that

whatever pleasantry he might be feeling is certainly not sexual. The eroticism present in

Yesterday’s passage remains absent from Cast’s version as well, instead replaced with a

commentary on degenerate (read: homosexual) encounters, categorizing them as the true ‘hell’ of

the place. Gone, too, is Jimmy’s indecisive incredulity; in Yesterday’s passage, Jimmy feels torn

between either relishing the contact between himself and Harry or ‘expanding’—reacting

angrily, but, in Cast, Jimmy’s reaction accords similarly to the repulsion he experiences after

feeling a sort of desire for Mal/Walter. He labels the homoerotic desires he views in the hospital

as a ‘degeneracy,’ a term later echoed in Winslow’s review on the novel. Rolens sees the

depiction of the hospital in Cast as portraying a “world of parasitic sexuality…where degeneracy

is seen as normal and the values of the outside world are turned on their head” (Rolens 441).

This inversion of the outside world functions in a rather similar way for the homosexual

experience that the elimination of Jimmy’s background from the text did for the racialized

experience: homosexual desire and sexual fluidity become confined, both inside Jimmy’s body

because he refuses to allow any desire to escape and be subject to judgment, and also inside the

prison more generally, where these homoerotic encounters, too, much like the racialized

experience in Cast, remain only within the prison walls. Yesterday’s version of the hospital

scene, then, also functions as a form of recovery and acceptance; instead of keeping all of the

homoerotic and homosexual content restricted, Jimmy is allowed to fully experience it. Even in

these smaller exchanges, where Jimmy interacts with characters like Harry that do not reappear

for the rest of the text, the sense of welcoming, acceptance, or, at least, a lack of judgment is
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present. Any emotional response it causes—whether positive, ambivalent, or negative—is also

allowed to occur. This simple experience of freedom opens up Yesterday to be a much more

accepting and tolerant political text than it was allowed to be in 1953.

This acceptance also moves beyond these less important interactions, spilling into

perhaps the most significant relationship for Jimmy in the novel: Rico. In Yesterday, Jimmy and

Rico’s relationship is explicitly and intimately homosexual; in fact, Jimmy’s final articulation of

masculinity in the novel has to do with his decision to cast himself in the role of prison

degenerate, actively categorizing himself as a queer man in order to be sent to the same ward as

Rico. This moment, too, becomes even more resonant when analyzed alongside its partner scene

in Cast. In Yesterday, Jimmy articulates his choice as thus:

He had done it because in his warped and unmoral way it made him something; it

made him a man. And if he lost his pardon, he had never had it anyway. He had

served plenty of time and he could serve plenty more. But the way he thought of

it, he could not have waited until later to have been a man. (Yesterday 360)

Here, Jimmy defines his masculinity as necessarily associated with his queer desire; such an

action in choosing to be labeled queer and degenerate is, for him, what it means to ‘have been a

man.’ Himes’ word choice, as in the previously analyzed moments with Walter and Harry,

remains unquestionably significant. Rolens pulls out Jimmy’s self-descriptors of being ‘warped’

and ‘unmoral’ in her analysis, arguing that Jimmy’s “pairing of the adjectives ‘warped and

unmoral’ [with] the process of becoming a man suggests an unlikely revision of conventional

masculinity that is usually defined as normal and moral” (Rolens 438). This revised masculinity

locates its power in Jimmy’s homosexual desires, in his ‘nonnormative’ expressions of gender
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and sexual identity. Cast’s iteration of this moment appears rather similar, at least on a surface,

textual level:

“[My mother] didn’t have any way of knowing that in the end—in full, final

decision—I had done it myself. I had done it to be a man...I had done a lot of time

and I could do plenty more. But I couldn’t be a man later. I couldn’t wait. I had

waited long enough as it was. I had to be it, then.” (Cast, 295)

However, in this scene, Jimmy’s expression of his masculinity is entirely devoid of the

descriptors so necessary in Yesterday; here, Jimmy merely suggests his decision as connoting his

masculinity. Again, these two scenes both include expressions of Jimmy’s homosexual/queer

desires; however, their articulation—whether they entail acceptance and/or a potential

imbuement of power—remains significantly different. John Charles, in his book Abandoning the

Black Hero: Sympathy and Privacy in the Postwar African American White-Life Novel, argues

that “Himes…[would] insist that love between men is a powerful weapon of resistance” (Charles

19, emphasis in original). However, the mere presence of that love—as demonstrated in Cast the

First Stone—is not enough, for, in Cast, that presence is often linked with negative, judgmental,

and unaccepting discourse. In order for such love and desire, then, to become this act of

resistance, it necessarily needs to be paired with some form of acceptance, whether that be found

in the nonjudgmental tone of another inmate or in the revised masculinity Jimmy interpolates

himself into by the end of the novel. Yesterday’s articulation of Jimmy’s final masculinity, then,

represents another act of recovery lifted from Cast the First Stone’s text. It allows for more the

just the presence of homosexual desire: it locates power in reintroducing and emphasizing that

very desire Himes was forced to edit away from.


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Overall, the politicization of Himes’ text remains a process of duality: in order to fully

grasp the recovery acts of Yesterday Will Make You Cry, one must necessarily also engage with

Cast the First Stone. Where, in Cast, the publishers removed or reduced much of this content in

order to maximize profit and maintain their branding, Norton’s 1998 edition of Yesterday, with

its extensive inclusion of historical background on its protagonist and its explicit interaction with

oppressed identities, allows for a more expansive reading, one that transgresses the boundaries of

the prison yard and moves out into society as a whole. This expanded reading, however, could go

unnoticed without Cast prefiguring it in 1953. Such a reading, at the very least for academic

readership and scholarship, becomes almost necessary in order to continue avoiding the

imprisonment of the racialized and homoeroticized experience that Jimmy—and the text as a

whole—undergoes in the form if Cast the First Stone and to, instead, fully value the tentative

acceptance put forth in Yesterday Will Make You Cry. It is only with both of these texts that such

a reading of locating power in prioritizing queer desire and dismantling the fictive societal

narrative of ‘normative’ gender and sexuality can exist.


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Works Cited

“A Timeline of HIV/AIDS.” AIDS.gov. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Burnett, R. W. “Hopeless Waiting.” Review of Cast the First Stone, by Chester Himes. Saturday

Review, 17 Jan. 1953, p. 15. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

Charles, John C. Abandoning the Black Hero: Sympathy and Privacy in the Postwar African

American White-Life Novel. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

Fabre, Michel. “A Case of Rape.” The Critical Response to Chester Himes. Ed. Charles L. P.

Silet. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1999. 25-32. Print.

Himes, Chester. Cast the First Stone. New York: The New American Library, 1972. Print.

---. Yesterday Will Make You Cry. Ed. Marc Gerald and Samuel Blumenfeld. New York: Old

School Books, 1998. Print.

Milliken, Stephen F. Chester Himes: A Critical Appraisal. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1976.

Print.

Lee, A. Robert. “Violence Real and Imagined: The Novels of Chester Himes.” The Critical

Response to Chester Himes. Ed. Charles L. P. Silet. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1999.

65-81. Print.

Pfeil, Fred. “Policiers Noirs.” The Critical Response to Chester Himes. Ed. Charles L. P. Silet.

Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1999. 37-40. Print.

Robet, Gwendoline Lewis. “The Chester Himes Mystique.” The Critical Response to Chester

Himes. Ed. Charles L. P. Silet. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1999. 33-5. Print.

Rolens, Clare. “Write Like a Man: Chester Himes and the Criminal Text Beyond Bars.” Callaloo

37.2 (2014): 432-51. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.


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Winslow, Henry F. “Sustained Agony.” Review of Cast the First Stone, by Chester Himes. The

Crisis, Apr. 1953, p. 246-7. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.