Believing fiction to be an invaluable tool for social change, Pauline E. Hopkins used her first novel to challenge the racist and sexist assumptions of her time. Contending Forces operates on an epic scale—with settings ranging from antebellum North Carolina to post–Civil War Boston—and Hopkins surveys this panorama with an eye in particular on the intersections of race, class, and gender relations. These themes are embodied most fully by its protagonist, Sappho Clark, who exerts an indomitable female agency, despite her vulnerability to the oppressive forces that surround her.
Rife with murder, blackmail, secrets, and twists of fate, Contending Forces succeeds as both a gripping high-stakes romance and as a subversion of the tropes then associated with the genre. Hailed by the New York Times as “her masterwork,” Hopkins’s ambitious novel of the post-Reconstruction era is an illuminating rediscovery for twenty-first-century readers—by a woman of her time, and ahead of it.
Revised edition: Previously published as Contending Forces, this edition of Contending Forces (AmazonClassics Edition) includes editorial revisions.