Robert Penn Warren (1905, JH JUSTUS

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Content: FIFTY SOUTHERN WRITERS AFTER 1900. A BIOBIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOURCEBOOK EDITED BY JOSEPH M. FLORA AND ROBERT BAIN GP GREENWOOD PRESS NEW YORK WESTPORT, CONNECTICUT LONDON ISBN 0-313-24519-3 (lib. bdg. : alk. paper) Copyright © 1987 by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain FIFTY SOUTHERN WRITERS AFTER 1900. A BIO-BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOURCEBOOK ....1 Introduction ...............................................................................................................................................1 Erskine Caldwell (1903- ) .........................................................................................................................5 Truman Capote (1924-1984) ...................................................................................................................12 Ralph Ellison (1914- ) .............................................................................................................................19 William Faulkner (1897-1962) ...............................................................................................................25 Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945) ....................................................................................................................35 Carson McCullers (1917-1967) ..............................................................................................................40 Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) ..............................................................................................................46 Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) .............................................................................................................52 Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) .......................................................................................................58 William Sydney Porter [O. Henry] (1862-1910) ....................................................................................64 John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974) ..........................................................................................................72 William Styron (1925- ............................................................................................................................77 Allen Tate (1899-1979) ...........................................................................................................................84 Robert Penn Warren (1905- ) ..................................................................................................................91 Eudora Welty (1909- ) ............................................................................................................................97 Tennessee (Thomas Lanier) Williams (1911-1983) .............................................................................102 Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) ..................................................................................................................107 Richard Wright (1908-1960) .................................................................................................................113 Introduction "Far from slipping quietly into the American mainstream--whatever that may be--a new generation of Southern novelists and short-story writers seems to be staging what amounts to yet another literary uprising, a far better word than 'renaissance,' with its intimations of mugged-up classicism." So said Gene Lyons in "The South Rises Again," a lively essay in Newsweek of 30 September 1985. And so said Donald R. Noble in the final chapter of The History of Southern Literature, published by Louisiana State University Press in 1985. In the chapter entitled "The Future of Southern Writing," Noble wrote, "Yet, for every sign of homogenization there is equal evidence that Southern life retains traditions and values, attitudes and accents that will be a very long time in the erasing. For the foreseeable future, there is a South, therefore a Southern literature." Fifty Southern Writers After 1900 is about these uprisings and continuities. Though Renascence might sound to Lyons even more mugged up than renaissance, Fifty Southern Writers After 1900, a companion volume to Fifty Southern Writers Before 1900, uses that word to describe Southerners' remarkable literary achievements during William Faulkner's generation. These Renascence writers, publishing between 1919 or thereabouts and mid-century, include such diverse talents as Thomas Wolfe, Richard Wright, Ellen Glasgow, Jean Toomer, James Branch Cabell, Allen Tate, Zora Neale Hurston, John Crowe Ransom, and Eudora Welty. Now a new generation of Southerners, publishing within the last three decades, has created an uprising full of wit, outrageousness, pity, violence, compassion, love, honor, courage, and human perversity. Like the Renascence writers before them, authors of this new generation tap Southern regional peculiarities and experience to create art that talks of the griefs that grieve upon universal bones. Besides recounting the lives and achievements of the Renascence authors, FiftySouthern Writers After 1900 -1 1
Southern Writers After 1900 documents some rumblings from this new generation with essays about Harry Crews, Doris Betts, and others. Fifty Southern Writers After 1900 offers students and teachers an overview of the writers' lives and work. Each essay, written by a knowledgeable scholar, contains five parts: a biographical sketch, a discussion of the author's major themes, an assessment of the scholarship, a chronological list of the author's works, and a bibliography of selected criticism. Readers working their way through this volume and its companion will have, we hope, a valuable complement to The History of Southern Literature, which emphasizes chronology and movements. For several reasons, we have fixed the dividing line between our two volumes at 1900 rather than the Civil War. First, to give as much coverage as our format of 100 authors would permit, we decided to concentrate in our second volume on those twentieth-century writers important in the literary uprising known as the Renascence. Such a volume would have to include essays about Erskine Caldwell, Paul Green, Shelby Foote, Hamilton Basso, and Caroline Gordon, as well as those authors more often anthologized in collections of Southern and American writing. And because much Southern writing before the turn of the century is significant for cultural and historical reasons rather than artistic achievements, we chose 1900 as our dividing line in order to make our portrait of the period and its artists as comprehensive as we could. Another reason for setting 1900 as the dividing line between the two volumes seems even more compelling. Though the Civil War and Reconstruction were the cataclysmic events in Southern history, it took a generation's distance before Southerners began to transmute this experience into enduring art. With the exceptions of Mark Twain, George Washington Cable, Charles W. Chesnutt, and a few others, most Southerners writing between 1865 and 1900 defended proudly and fiercely their father's choices and lamented the consequences of the Lost Cause. Though these Southerners produced little enduring art, they created a powerful mythology that still captures the imagination. In this myth, moonlight and magnolias surround dashing gentlemen and beautiful ladies attended by faithful slaves who treasure their servitude. Often set in the South before the war, these tales recount the tragic consequences of the Lost Cause. Thomas Nelson Page's "Marse Chan" ( 1884) draws the archetypal outlines of this Southern myth. Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind ( 1936), probably the most popular American novel in the twentieth century, presents this myth powerfully and imaginatively, but Mitchell also transforms it by celebrating the bourgeois values of the antebellum South and by adopting Freudian insights to comment on the Southern social order. Other Renascence writers questioned even more mercilessly than Mitchell their inherited Southern mythology. In their quest for truth rather than justification, they created new and more powerful mythologies that set aside the evasions and sentimentality of the old myth for a clear-eyed, humane look at the comedies, tragedies, and grotesqueries of their Southern heritage. Firing one -2 of the uprising's first shots, H. L. Mencken in "The Sahara of the Bozart" ( 1917) castigated Virginia for being "senile" and Georgia for being "crass, gross, vulgar and obnoxious." In between, said Mencken, "lies a vast plain of mediocrity, stupidity, lethargy, almost of dead silence." But the iconoclastic Mencken was only partly right. In such novels as The Deliverance ( 1904) and Virginia ( 1913), Ellen Glasgow had already begun writing Virginia's social history; she had questioned Southern stereotypes about the social order and about the roles of men and women in that order. James Weldon Johnson The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, published privately in 1912 and reissued in 1927, had portrayed dramatically the plight of talented, sensitive blacks in a segregated society. In 1919, two years after Mencken's essay, James Branch Cabell published Jurgen. Banned as a lewd and lascivious book, Jurgen mingled mythmaking, adventure, philosophy, and sex in an assault on the genteel tradition--South and North. In addition to putting the genteel tradition on the defensive, Jurgen provided Southerners with a model of the avante-garde in art. The rebellion was under way. In the fall of 1920, there gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, an extraordinary group of young men who spearheaded another arm of the rebellion by becoming first-rate critics, editors, poets, and fiction writers, and by changing radically the study of literature in the United States. John Crowe Ransom, already the author of Poems About God ( 1919), and Donald Davidson began meeting privately with Vanderbilt faculty, students, and Nashville citizens to talk of literature and culture. Joined shortly by Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren, this group published the Fugitive ( 1922-25). Fleeing from the "high-caste Brahmins of the Old South," the Fugitive sounded new Southern poetic voices, particularly in the experimental verse of Ransom and Tate. The immediate impact of this shared concern for poetic excellence was the publication of several volumes: Ransom Chills and Fever and Grace After Meat, both published in 1924; Tate Mr. Pope and Other Poems ( 1928); Davidson The Outland Piper ( 1924) and The Tall Men ( 1928); and later, Warren first collection, Thirty-six Poems ( 1935). Equally important were the critical ideas emerging from conversations and correspondence--and appearing in periodical essays. Such works as Ransom's The World's Body ( 1938) and The New Criticism ( 1941) and Tate On the Limits of Poetry, Selected Essays, 1928-1948 ( 1948) defined central critical issues, not just for the South but for the country. Cleanth Brooks 2
and Warren translated much of this theoretical criticism into a practical text, Understanding Poetry ( 1938), the most influential and imitated textbook in twentieth-century literary study. By 1928, when The Fugitives: An Anthology of Verse appeared, the Fugitive era had ended. Tate had moved to New York and Warren was continuing his studies in California and Italy. More important, the Nashville group's interests had turned from a preoccupation with literature as such to a concern with Southern culture. Partly in response to Mencken's attacks on Southern fundamentalism during the Scopes Trial and partly in reaction to growing fears of business and -3industrialism, a new and larger group formed. Calling themselves Agrarians, this group published in 1930 a collection of twelve essays entitled I'll Take My Stand. The South and the Agrarian Tradition. The book's major theme--the superiority of Southern rural community life over Northern urban industrialism-explored the social, cultural, moral, and aesthetic values of these two different ways of living. The book's distinguished contributors included Ransom, Davidson, Tate, Warren, Frank Lawrence Owsley, John Gould Fletcher, Lyle H. Lanier, H. C. Nixon, Andrew Lytle, John Donald Wade, Henry Blue Kline, and Stark Young. Assailed by both Southern and Northern critics as a trumped-up version of the moonlight and magnolia myth, I'll Take My Stand stirred controversy in its own day and continues to do so in ours. Published at the beginning of the Great Depression, the book enraged many New South writers concerned with the misery and poverty of a region not yet recovered from the Civil War and Reconstruction. To many, the book's racial views seemed uninformed or ill-formed. But as Louis D. Rubin, Jr., William C. Havard, and Thomas Daniel Young have noted, I'll Take My Stand belongs in the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson's and Henry David Thoreau's attacks on the dehumanizing effects of materialism and industrialism. As a " Southern Manifesto," I'll Take My Stand advocated the agrarian tradition because it offered individual and social values that gave life and art meaning. Never as cohesive a group as the Fugitives, the Agrarians soon turned their attention again to literature. The major figures in the group--Ransom, Davidson, Tate, Warren, Lytle, and Young--all achieved national reputations as poets, fiction writers, critics, and editors. The young rebels of Nashville left large marks. In 1919 another young rebel named Thomas Wolfe watched the Carolina Playmakers of Chapel Hill produce two of his one-act plays--"The Return of Buck Gavin" and "The Third Night." Hoping to be a dramatist, he enrolled in George Pierce Baker's playwriting workshop at Harvard University, completed at least three more plays, but failed to find professional producers for his work. Turning to prose fiction, Wolfe earned immediate success with Look Homeward, Angel ( 1929). The novel both delighted and shocked Southerners with its unsentimental portraits of characters, of family and community life in Wolfe's Altamont ( Asheville). A Raleigh newspaper accused Wolfe of betraying his region, of spitting upon his native state and the South. But Wolfe believed otherwise. He wrote to his mother in April 1930: I belong to a different generation from that of certain older people who were perhaps shocked by some things in my book, but I really do not think my own generation is worse than theirs; I think in many respects it is much more honest. Every writer who is honest, I think, feels the tragedy of destiny and much of living, but I hope that I shall never be bitter, in what I write, against people. I think some people made that mistake about my first book-they thought the author was bitter about people, but he was not: he may have been bitter about the toil, waste, and tragedy of living. -4Eugene Gant, the novel's portagonist and a thinly veiled portrait of Wolfe himself, calls the South "the dark, ruined Helen of his blood." Wolfe's South is filled with moonlight and ghosts, but the magnolias of the aristocratic plantation were missing. His Altamont was not Eden; it was a place where people's warts showed and men got drunk and cursed the world. But it was also the stage for Wolfe's human comedies and tragedies. Always a prolific writer who had trouble shaping his novels, Wolfe completed three more books before his death in 1938: Of Time and the River ( 1935), a collection of stories, From Death to Morning ( 1935), and The Story of a Novel ( 1936). From a mountain of manuscript material Wolfe had written before his death, Edward Aswell of Harper and Brothers edited and patched together, without comment, three books that were published posthumously-- The Web and the Rock ( 1939), You Can't Go Home Again ( 1940), and The Hills Beyond ( 1941), stories of Wolfe's family set in the North Carolina mountains. Though Wolfe's work after Look Homeward, Angel included "lyric paeans to the American scene," his novels and stories about Eugene Gant and George Webber were always rooted in the "dark, ruined Helen of his blood." Also in 1919, another young rebel from Oxford, Mississippi--mustered out after a brief tour of duty with the Royal Air Force of Canada--published his first fiction, a story entitled "Landing in Luck" in the 26 November number of The Mississippian, and a poem entitled "L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune" in the New Republic. At home in Oxford, William Faulkner contributed verse to local papers, wrote a verse drama ( The Marionettes) in 1920, and with the help of Phil Stone, published his first book, The Marble Faun, a volume of poems, in 1924. The year 1925, according to Cleanth Brooks, was "a most important one in the process of Faulkner's maturation" because he 3
discovered A. E. Housman's poetry and Cabell Jurgen. The following year, with the help of Sherwood Anderson , he published his first novel, Soldiers' Pay. Then, in a burst of creative energy, he invented or discovered Yoknapatawpha County, his own little postage stamp, and between 1927 and 1936, wrote thirteen books, among them his greatest: Sartoris ( 1929), his first Yoknapatawpha volume; The Sound and the Fury ( 1929), which he called his most successful failure; As I Lay Dying ( 1930); Sanctuary ( 1931), a book even more sensational than Jurgen; Light in August ( 1932); and his greatest work, Absalom, Absalom! ( 1936). Before his death in 1962, he would publish fourteen more volumes, among them the Snopes trilogy and Go Down, Moses ( 1942). Faulkner's experimental fictions about Yoknapatawpha County and the Deep South--especially in Absalom, Absalom!--cast aside the moonlight and magnolia myth, which he associated with "hoop skirts and plug hats," for a new mythology that got closer to the truth of what it meant to tell about the South. To tell his stories of Yoknapatawpha County and of the truths of the human heart, Faulkner combined in original ways fictional techniques old and new to create a voice so distinctive that it would damn imitators to oblivion. Multiple narrators, stream of consciousness, repetitions with variations, tales filled with allusions, -5stories with a strong sense of the oral tradition, a combining of old literary genres in new ways (including detective and mystery stories), and a convoluted prose style--these became Faulkner's stock-in-trade. Perhaps more important, he generally refused to tell his stories chronologically, a fact that confused and frustrated many early readers (and still does). Instead, he made his readers work, made them sort and arrange and judge. In doing so, Faulkner abjured chronology (the written tale's traditional mode) to create in his readers a consciousness of the complicated process of discovering truth. Faulkner also created such a list of memorable characters that he mapped the territory of the Deep South more completely than any other writer. Southern letters would never be the same after Faulkner. But Faulkner's recognition came slowly. Although he early had a small, enthusiastic following, he was always pressed for money and could not support his family on the proceeds from his writing. He wrote SHORT STORIES furiously, hoping for quick sales, and in May 1931 made the first of his forays to Hollywood as a screenwriter, again hoping for big money. Sanctuary, published early in 1931, brought him notoriety, and Time magazine featured Faulkner on its 23 January 1939 cover. Money problems, however, plagued Faulkner throughout the early 1940s. The Portable Faulkner ( 1946), with Malcolm Cowley's influential introduction, enhanced Faulkner's reputation by making his work readily available, and when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid $50,000 for movie rights to Intruder in the Dust ( 1948), Faulkner's finances improved considerably. When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, both his finances and his literary reputation were secure. As Thomas E. Dasher notes in this volume, Faulkner "ranks among the greatest writers of his nation and century." If Faulkner's recognition came slowly, black Southerners fought even harder battles against the region's hard segregation laws designed to deny them their humanity and to crush their creativity. Like Richard Wright, who dramatizes his struggles for survival in Black Boy ( 1945), many Southern blacks fled North to look for more congenial climates. During New York City's Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Southern blacks especially found encouragement for their creative efforts. James Weldon Johnson, one of the earlier Southern artists to head North, published privately in 1912 The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, a novel about the vicissitudes of its lightskinned protagonist who in desperation decides to pass for white. Reissued in 1927 with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten, The Autobiography encouraged other blacks--South and North--to cast their experience in fiction and poetry. More important than Johnson's Autobiography is his God's Trombones ( 1927), a collection of seven free verse Negro sermons that capture "the essence of the old-time rural black ministers who, through their magnificent and moving sermons, served as eloquent instruments of God, God's trombones." For years associated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Johnson never forgot his Southern heritage and advanced the cause of black artists from both South and North. -6The careers of Jean Toomer and Zora Neale Hurston, both strongly rooted in the South and both associated with the Harlem Renaissance, illustrate two strikingly different paths. After writing Cane ( 1923), a boldly experimental novel with sections set in rural Georgia, Toomer published little during the remainder of his life. Though he continued to write, he turned his interest to philosophical reform, but Cane influenced many black writers, among them Langston Hughes. Though Hurston published stories in the mid- 1920s, she did not complete her first book, Jonah's Gourd Vine, until 1934. Between 1934 and 1948, Hurston wrote seven books, the most famous of which is Their Eyes Were Watching God ( 1937), the story of Janie Crawford's search for love and selfhood. At her death in 1960, Hurston had received recognition as a folklorist, but scholars and critics rediscovered her fiction in the early 1970s, and her stock has risen to that of a major writer. The major Southern black voice, however, belonged to Richard Wright, born in 1908 on a cotton plantation east of Natchez, Mississippi. Wright published his first story in 1924 in the Southern Register, a black weekly newspaper, but he found his native South oppressive and headed for Chicago in 1927. By the mid-1930s, his 4
stories, essays, and poems were appearing in Northern magazines, and in 1937 he moved to New York City, where he became Harlem editor of the Daily Worker, a Communist publication. His first book, Uncle Tom's Children, appeared in 1938; then in 1940 Native Son won critical accolades and sold 200,000 copies in three weeks. Three more books--among them Black Boy ( 1945)--and a play appeared before Wright moved to France in 1947. The Outsider ( 1953), his first novel after Native Son, reflected Wright's disenchantment with and abandonment of his Communist associations in 1944. By the time The Long Dream appeared in 1958, Wright had fallen from favor with American critics, but he had firmly established himself as the major black writer of the South and the nation. Among the galaxy of women writers during the Renascence, Ellen Glasgow stands first. The Descendant ( 1897), her first novel, and much of her early fiction, including The Battle Ground ( 1902), were marked by sentimentality, but even in these early works, she created strong women characters who often challenged received opinions and attitudes. By the time she wrote Virginia ( 1913), Glasgow had discovered her fictional milieu (her "social history of Virginia") and was sharpening her craft as a writer. In such books as Barren Ground ( 1925), The Sheltered Life ( 1932), and Vein of Iron ( 1935), Glasgow produced her best work. Her psychological realism, her satiric portraits of romantic men, and her toughminded view of her region's social history have assured Glasgow a secure place in Southern letters. Recent feminist criticism indicates that her stature grows. Fifty Southern Writers After 1900 takes obvious risks--even in representing the Renascence. In identifying our fifty authors, we have included some whose reputations have declined and excluded others whose achievements warrant inclusion. Though the reputations of Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Jesse Stuart, and John Gould Fletcher have waned, these writers deserve continued study as sig- -7nificant figures of the Renascence. We hope this volume will help readers to rediscover their appeal. To include some writers of the new uprising, we omitted such authors as Evelyn Scott, Anne Spencer, and Julia Peterkin, all still worth reading. Our format demanded some exclusions. Though we believe we have covered the Renascence well within the limits of our format, we stand in quicksand in representing the new writers--mainly because there are so many of them writing so well. The writers we have included--Harry Crews, Doris Betts, Ernest Gaines, Reynolds Price, and Anne Tyler--were born mostly in the 1930s and have already published a sizable body of work. Texan Larry McMurtry, sometimes identified with the South, appears in Fifty Western Writers, a just placement in our view. But the list of Southerners achieving regional and national reputations is long. Fifty Southern Writers After 1900 and its companion volume, Fifty Southern Writers Before 1900, owe their existence to many people. Foremost, we are indebted to the many scholars who have contributed to the making of these books. Their willingness to share their love and knowledge of Southern letters constitutes an act of faith. To Fred Erisman and Richard W. Eutlain, editors of Fifty Western Writers ( 1982), we owe the format of our volumes. We thank especially Louis D. Rubin, Jr., who has given us wise counsel about our work. We are grateful to Cynthia Harris and her associates at Greenwood Press for their patience and help in a complex job of editing. We also wish to thank our colleagues at Chapel Hill and the Department of English for their support and advice. Suzanne Booker Canfield proved an able sleuth at uncovering many of our errors. Cheryl Baxley, Toni Carter, Diana Dwyer, Jo Gibson, Kim Lassiter, Angela Miller, Tobi P. B. Schwartzman and Sandi Monroe helped us with typing and clerical duties. Nancy West aided us in compiling the index. Ramona Cook, Christine Flora, Maggie Boone Ford, and Charlotte McFall assisted us with numerous details. Frustrations there were, but these good people helped us to keep our sense of humor and our confidence in a good cause. -8................................................................................................................................. ................................ RONALD WESLEY HOAG Erskine Caldwell (1903- ) Erskine Caldwell is among the most prolific and controversial of Southern writers. Both his popular and critical reception have fluctuated dramatically over a halfcentury career. Recent interest in his work has focused on its regional and historical importance as well as on its stylistic and thematic development. BIOGRAPHY Erskine Preston Caldwell was born in Moreland, Coweta County, Georgia, on what he believes to be 17 December 1903; there is no accurate record of his birth. The only child of the Reverend Ira Sylvester Caldwell and Caroline Preston Bell, Caldwell spent his boyhood and early teenage years moving with his parents throughout the Southeast. Ira's position with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church necessitated this peripatetic life, an experience that contributed to at least four characteristics that have marked Erskine Caldwell as a man and writer: a restless pursuit of new places, people, and events; a sensitivity to the problems of the underprivileged and 5
the underdog; a lingering preoccupation with the South-as-place and with the forms of Southern life; and a search for new perspectives from which to regard past experience. Although Caldwell received little formal schooling in his youth, he was regularly tutored at home by his parents. Caroline, a former teacher, and Ira, who had compiled a brilliant college record, were equal to the task of educating their son. Supplementing this parental instruction was a brief term at the Wrens Institute in Wrens, Georgia, where the family settled in 1918 when Ira was recalled to the state by the ARP. In this period, Caldwell also gained his first writing experience working for the local weekly paper and, as a stringer, for several major Georgia dailies. Valuable, too, were his excursions into the tobacco country with his father, with one of the local doctors, or with the county tax -87 assessor. These trips constituted Caldwell's first conscious exposure to the hard life in the east Georgia sand hills. In fall 1920 Caldwell entered his father's alma mater, Erskine College in South Carolina, where for two years he established a reputation as a poor student and a distinguished traveler, the latter by dint of boxcar-hopping weekend visits to cities on the line. During his second year this yen for travel and adventure led to an abortive quest for a deckhand's job on a gulf freighter and to a brief incarceration in the Bogalusa, Louisiana, jail as a vagrant and suspected "wobbly" agitator. From 1923 to 1925 Caldwell was an in-and-out student at the University of Virginia, where his desire to write, his restlessness, and his preference for experience to schooling all intensified. He used his frequent absences from Charlottesville to enrich his experiences by working as a milkman in Washington, D.C., and as a store clerk and professional football player in Pennsylvania. Before returning to Virginia, he briefly studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Abandoning college to work full-time for the Atlanta Journal in 1925, Caldwell returned to Georgia with a new bride, the daughter of a University of Virginia faculty member. His thirteen-year marriage to Helen Lannigan produced three children. During his year at the Journal, Caldwell's interest in writing became an obsession that governed the rest of his life. His acquaintance with Margaret Mitchell, then a feature writer for the paper, along with his own labors as a book reviewer, prompted him to try writing fiction. Although his short-story submissions netted only an album filled with rejection slips, he resolved to spend the next ten years making himself a proficient professional writer. To further that goal, Caldwell took his family and small savings to an isolated farmhouse in Mount Vernon, Maine. In that outpost he hoed potatoes, chopped wood, wrote book reviews to slow the drain on his finances, and-most of all-wrote his stories. No slave to inspiration, he used his journalist's discipline to generate several stories a week. Occasional wanderlust took him to such faraway places as a one-room cabin in the piney woods of South Carolina, but always his typewriter went along and always he used it to swell his supply of stories. After three years of writing during Maine hibernations and intermittent escapes, Caldwell in 1929 placed stories with several "little" magazines, including the Paris-based transition. That October his first book, a seamy novelette called The Bastard, was published in a small-press limited edition and was promptly banned in nearby Portland, Maine. Caldwell's long feud with censors had begun. A second novelette, Poor Fool, appeared the next year in a similar format and to similar response. The most important advance for Caldwell in 1930 was the budding of a relationship with Maxwell Perkins, Scribner's famous editor in chief, who had written to request stories and then for months had rejected all submissions. Early in the year, however, Perkins accepted not just one but two stories, both of which were printed in the June issue of Scribner's Magazine. (Thinking he had been offered a mere $2.50 instead of $250 for the stories, Caldwell brazenly -88rejected Perkins' first proposal and so, in his confusion, earned a robust $350 for his first major magazine publication.) Perkins was so impressed by Caldwell's work that he soon contracted to publish a collection of his stories. American Earth, a mix of new and previously published pieces, appeared in 1931 under the Scribner imprint; it was Caldwell's first significant book. While visiting his parents in Georgia at the end of 1930, Caldwell explored again the back roads of Burke, Jefferson, and Richmond counties, sharpening impressions from former journeys and finding the subject of his first major novel. Written in a New York hotel room and polished at the homestead in Maine, Tobacco Road was accepted by Perkins for Scribner's in the summer of 1931, just two weeks after its submission. Unfortunately, the initial reception of the novel by its reviewers in early 1932 was considerably cooler than that of its editor. When another new novel, written partly at a hotel managed by his friend Nathanael "Pep" West, failed to find a home at Scribner's, Caldwell reluctantly switched allegiance to Viking Press, where his rendering of life in rural Maine was again turned down. (Twenty years later it was published as A Lamp for Nightfall.) Retreating to Mount Vernon, Caldwell wrote in a single draft during summer 1932 the manuscript of his next Southern novel, 6
God's Little Acre. Published by Viking in 1933, the book in its first year sold twice as well-approximately 10,000 copies--as Tobacco Road and attracted greater, if still mixed, notice. For Caldwell, 1933 was a year of both honor and disapprobation. His story "Country Full of Swedes" won the Yale Review award for fiction, a windfall that enabled him to buy the Maine house in which his family had long resided. Public attention of a different sort resulted when the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice took exception to the antics of Ty Ty Walden and company in God's Little Acre. Defended by a parade of intellectuals, the book was exonerated in a famous judicial decision. (Later controversies over other works brought Caldwell notoriety and contributed to his vast sales, especially in the growing paperback market.) To improve his finances, Caldwell spent three months working as a scriptwriter for MGM, a lucrative interlude but one he condemned in later life as hackwork and a waste of time. More to his liking were two other events of 1933, the publication of a second collection of stories, We Are the Living, and the opening on Broadway of Jack Kirkland's adaptation of Tobacco Road. After a slow start, the play established a then-record run of seven years, ultimately earning Caldwell a substantial fortune and making "Tobacco Road" part of the American literary landscape. During 1935 and 1936 Caldwell published in rapid succession four of his best books. In 1935 he brought out two works of fiction: Kneel to the Rising Sun, a story collection graced by the title piece about a lynching, and Journeyman, a humorously trenchant account of a visit by a con man-preacher to the town of Rocky Comfort. The social consciousness reflected in these books finds alternate expression in Some American People ( 1935), a volume of travel essays mellowed -89by their sympathetic portraits of men and women in a sometimes quixotic struggle to outlast hard times. Not to be overlooked from this period is the stylistically eccentric and experimental The Sacrilege of Alan Kent, published in 1936. A prose poem later judged by its author to be too self-conscious, the book is a loosely narrative progression of images, many of which haunt the memory. The latter half of the 1930s was dominated by Caldwell's productive professional association with the renowned Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White, the woman he made his second wife in 1939. Their automobile tour of the South in the summer of 1936 generated the 1937 photo-essay volume You Have Seen Their Faces, which graphically portrays the problems caused by sharecropping and peonage. Of the other three books they brought out together before their divorce in 1942, North of the Danube ( 1939), a study of Czechoslovakia and the fruit of Caldwell's first European travel, has earned more praise than Say, Is This the U.S.A. ( 1941) and Russia at War ( 1942). While critics generally have consigned to lesser status or dismissed entirely Caldwell's work after the 1930s, the next decade in fact saw the publication of three important new novels: Trouble in July ( 1940), a story about the personal and political circumstances surrounding a lynching; Georgia Boy ( 1943), a masterful story cycle that whimsically evokes the youth of imagination; and Tragic Ground ( 1944), a study of displaced persons whose actions are both humorously and disquietingly grotesque. During this decade Caldwell also began his editorship of the American Folkways series, a multivolume celebration of different regions of the country. He was also a reporter-broadcaster from Moscow in the early days of World War II and subsequently worked in Hollywood on the propaganda film Mission to Moscow. In 1942 he married his third wife, June Johnson, who became the mother of his fourth and last child. Since 1950 Caldwell's most significant writing has been in nonfiction. He abandoned the short story--which he still terms his favorite genre--in the 1950s and, after a flurry of novel writing in the 1960s, turned exclusively to reminiscences and travel books such as his latest all new publication, Afternoons in Mid-America ( 1976). Among the notable books of this period are Call It Experience ( 1951), a chronicle of his rise to fame that holds its peace on personal matters; In Search of Bisco ( 1965), his exploration of racial attitudes in the context of a quest for a lost friend; Writing in America ( 1967), an interesting hodgepodge of literary opinions; and Deep South ( 1968), a tribute to his father and an examination of Southern religion. Ever the traveler, Caldwell shifted his residence in the 1970s from Florida to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he lives with his wife and occasional illustrator of his work, Virginia Moffet Fletcher, whom he married in 1957. He still travels extensively throughout a world that knows him as the author of some 60 books that have been translated into 40 languages and have sold, collectively, more than 80 million copies. Despite his cosmopolitan awareness, Erskine Caldwell remains a most proper subject for the present volume. When told of this project, -90he responded in a letter to the author: "I'm glad they still consider me a Southern writer. I do too." MAJOR THEMES Not a critical theorist, Caldwell has nonetheless expressed over the years many opinions about writing. From these statements emerges an essentially romantic aesthetic that asserts the primacy of imagination in the creative process. Caldwell's art emphasizes spontaneous linear storytelling rather than either plotting or revising. He views himself as a recorder, not a manipulator, of his characters' words and deeds. "I don't manufacture tapestries," he 7
says. "I let the people say or do what's going to happen next" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Paris Review 131). Admitting to no influence over his characters, he refuses to censor their behavior because such restraint would invalidate his laissez-faire method. Curiously wedded to Caldwell's belief in unfettered imagination is his insistence on experience as the true school for a writer. Deliberately rejecting both influence and instruction, he says he was shaped to no significant degree either by books or by the study of books. (Although he has read more than he sometimes pretends, it is probably a fact that he has not read very much.) Rather, he uses an experientially acquired knowledge of psychology, economics, and sociology as the foundation on which his imagination builds. His is a fiction of moreorless real gardens inhabited by more-or-less imaginary toads. Following the dreamlike flights of his imagination, Caldwell's people stumble over problems observable in the real world. Thus, his hybrid art often vacillates between surrealism and realism. Consistent with Caldwell's spontaneous approach to storytelling is his preference for "content" over "style," since by style he means something akin to conscious manipulation. For example, he maintains that he is neither a deliberate humorist nor an intentional distorter of reality. Of humor he says: "What can be humorous one moment can be very sad the next. It all depends upon the circumstances, and I don't think humor should be forced" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Mississippi Quarterly 581). About distortions of reality, he attributes any disparities between his world and the real world to the unforced workings of his artistic imagination and says that he has not "distorted anything beyond recognition" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Georgia Review 91). In Call It Experience Caldwell defines fiction as "an imaginary tale with a meaning"; elsewhere he declares himself to be a man who means no meanings. His explanation for this superficial contradiction is that he is as perplexed as the reader by the doings of his people who are "their own creations," but like the reader he believes that the stories do have some meaning. Disclaiming intentions of philosophy, evangelism, or reform--although he concedes a degree of the last in some of his nonfiction books--he says that the purpose of his fiction is "to provide a mirror into which people may look" ( Call It Experience235). -91What is Fiddler in "The growing season"? Are Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road and Spence Douthit in Tragic Ground victims of circumstance or of themselves? In Caldwell's open-ended, reflexive fiction the stories and their readers interpret each other. Although readers must judge for themselves the degree to which Caldwell's precepts, as summarized, inform his literary example, some of his other opinions are less subject to debate. Although he considers the short story to be "the essence of writing," he does not distinguish hierarchically between fiction and nonfiction: "In the end it's how well you do it that's going to count" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Paris Review 148:137). Neither does he admit a qualitative difference between popular and serious fiction; in fact, he regards large sales as something of an imprimatur. He must please himself first, he says; however, his next most valued appreciator is not the reviewer or critic but "the ordinary man in the street, the golden mean" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Paris Review 152). Finally, while he resents being thought of as "some sort of regional character" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Georgia Review 84), he prefers regional writing because of his interest in the varying local interplay among economics, sociology, and psychology. A frequent experimenter with home-brewed literary modes, Caldwell varies his prevailing approach, often identified as naturalistic realism or symbolic naturalism, with a smorgasbord of other tactics. The Bastard and Poor Fool, apprentice works, share with parts of God's Little Acre an expressionistic technique. On the other hand, his prose poem The Sacrilege of Alan Kent is a series of epiphanies impressionistically rendered. When his stories seem, as Kenneth Burke says, "subtly guided by the logic of dreams," they are surrealistic (in MacDonald, Critical Essays172); and when his often grotesque characters behave in perversely humorous ways, there is black humor afoot. " Caldwell," declares James Devlin, "paints with a palette knife, smearing flamboyant daubs of humor and gross characterization" to create "vivid" and "pulsating" works ( 121 ). Says Caldwell himself. "I do not have a velvet touch. . . . I like to hammerhammer-hammer and make all the noise I can" ( Writing in America10). Despite the emotional impact of outrageous characters and bizarre events, Caldwell almost never breaks his narrative stance of distanced objectivity. Indeed, among the many ironies in his work--and irony is Caldwell's principal stock-intrade-none is greater than this gap between the flat, detached narrative voice and the circus of extremes it describes. Contrasting with this proliferation of techniques are the structural simplicity of his stories and the primitive quality of his narration and dialogue. Held together by controlling themes and recurrent images rather than elaborate architectonics, his fictions move linearly, chronologically, and episodically to their swift climaxes. A disciple of oral storytelling, Caldwell makes effective use of anecdotal narration and conversational prose. In "Candy-Man Beechum" and other tales that feature a black protagonist, he eschews the phonetic representation of dialect in favor of a rhyming, syncopated prose meant to capture the movement and tone of black speech. Although Caldwell makes little use of metaphor and -92- 8
figurative language in general, he does employ--in keeping with the oral tradition--repetition for a variety of purposes, including characterization and choric commentary. Ideologically, Caldwell's fiction is about needs, obsessions, frustrations, and sublimations. In Tobacco Road Jeeter Lester needs to farm cotton, his wife needs a dress, his mother needs food, one daughter needs an operation, and another needs freedom from her husband. But because of a hard-to-determine meld of social, economic, and personal handicaps, they cannot have what they need. Instead, these people get by on anodynes ranging from snuff to sex, from mindless daydreaming to pointless excursions in an automobile whose rapid demise underscores the decline of the South, the fall of the family, and the yielding of the human spirit to the spirit of animal survival. In God's Little Acre Will Thompson is obsessed with turning on the power at the mill just as Ty Ty Walden is obsessed with finding gold on his Georgia farm. In these vain pursuits, the former loses his life, the latter his sons. Similarly, in Journeyman, Tragic Ground, and other stories, people want what they do not know how to get and are forced to live without. Essentially unthoughtful and unperceptive, Caldwell's characters learn little from their suffering; they endure or die, but almost never do they change. The feeling that builds for the reader is of an itch that sometimes tickles and sometimes torments, but is seldom satisfactorily scratched. In Caldwell's best work a romantic belief in emotion and a primitive faith in the agrarian worker exist side by side with a naturalistic sense of futility in the face of environmental and biological determinism. Difficult to unravel, this knot at the core of things gives his books their power. Several notable shifts characterize Caldwell's writing over the past half century. Perhaps the most obvious is in prevailing genres. From a concentration on short stories in the 1920s and early 1930s, he moved to an emphasis on novels, his dominant form of the 1940s and 1950s. Then, in the mid-1960s he turned largely to nonfiction, exclusively his province in recent years. Other movements have been, in fiction, away from the prickly humor that spiked his best work until the end of the 1940s and, in nonfiction, away from observations of troubled men and women to travel books and reminiscences. What social wrongs do find their way into the later books usually involve race, as in In Search of Bisco, his nonfiction contribution to the literature of the civil rights period, and many of the novels. The best of Erskine Caldwell's fiction appeared in the 1930s and early 1940s, any list of which must include the novels Tobacco Road ( 1932), God's Little Acre ( 1933), Journeyman ( 1935), Trouble in July ( 1940), and Tragic Ground ( 1944). Together with the less-distinguished novels-- A House in the Uplands ( 1946), The Sure Hand of God ( 1947), This Very Earth ( 1948), Place Called Estherville ( 1949), and Episode in Palmetto ( 1950)These comprise what Caldwell refers to as a "cyclorama" of "representative vistas, or visions, of the South" ( Broadwell and Hoag, Georgia Review 93). Also among his best works are the long prose poem The Sacrilege of Alan Kent ( 1936) and the story cycle -93Georgia Boy ( 1943), the latter of which is arguably his masterpiece. Although all of his story collections contain interesting pieces, nowhere does he surpass the achievement of American Earth ( 1931), We Are the Living ( 1933), Kneel to the Rising Sun ( 1935), and Southways ( 1938). The more extensive offerings in Jackpot ( 1940) and The Complete Stories of Erskine Caldwell ( 1953) make them, also, important titles in his canon. Many commentators have suggested that Caldwell's forte is the short story; and the large measure of truth in this assertion is demonstrated by such sparkling creations as "Midsummer Passion," "Saturday Afternoon," "Country Full of Swedes," "Maud Island," "Candy-Man Beechum," "The Growing Season," "Kneel to the Rising Sun," "The Fly in the Coffin," and perhaps twenty others that, collected, would constitute a classic of the genre. In nonfiction his best works are Some American People ( 1935), Call It Experience ( 1951), In Search of Bisco ( 1965), Deep South ( 1968), and-with Margaret Bourke-White--You Have Seen Their Faces ( 1937) and North of the Danube ( 1939). SURVEY OF CRITICISM In view of the quantity of his production, the variety of his literary forms, the high quality of his best work, and the paucity of critical response to date, Erskine Caldwell studies are now only a shadow of what they will become. For the critic and teacher, one of the rewards of Caldwell scholarship is the chance to help refurbish the reputation of a neglected and worthy writer, ultimately restoring his best works to circulation and enlightened consideration. The superior novels belong on bookstore shelves just as the superior stories deserve to be included in the anthologies that introduce students to important writers. What Malcolm Cowley The Portable Faulkner once did to revive flagging interest in William Faulkner, a similar volume could do to hasten the long-delayed reconsideration of Erskine Caldwell. The American Academy of Arts and Letters has recently embraced his company; it remains for the American academy of students, teachers, and scholars to do the same. The history of Caldwell criticism from its beginning in the 1930s through the 1960s is one of acclaim and anticipation followed by disregard, disdain, and dismissal. The more he wrote, the more his reputation sagged, leaving behind what was perceived as the unfulfilled promise of the early books and stories. By the 1950s Caldwell-baiting had become a sport for reviewers who used him as a target for their often mindless showmanship. Since the late 1960s, however, his stock has gradually risen until now a full-scale revival seems imminent. 9
Many early commentators, among them Randall Jarrell and Carl Van Doren, praised Caldwell for his humor, while others such as Norman MacLeod, writing in New Masses, were attracted to his social consciousness. In 1935 Kenneth Burke argued that Caldwell was not primarily a social realist, humorous or otherwise, but rather a dreamer of the fantastic and surreal. In that same decade Southern advocates such as John Donald Wade and Donald Davidson accused -94him of grossly distorting and selling out his homeland. Joseph Warren Beach, in 1941, saw Caldwell's fiction as a laudable hybrid in which social consciousness served art without losing its own import and impact. Three years later Malcolm Cowley cited unresolved difficulties in his own attempt to reconcile Caldwell's social criticism with the seemingly willful disreputableness of his largely unsympathetic fictional characters. In the 1950s Robert Cantwell, in his introduction to The Humorous Side of Erskine Caldwell, defended his subject as a great humorist and, in a separate article, discussed the complex relationship between Caldwell's characters and the land that holds them in its sway. Despite kind words from C. Hugh Holman, George Snell, and Walter Allen, generally negative assessments by John M. Bradbury, Louise Y. Gossett, and others comprise the majority of what little serious consideration Caldwell received during most of the 1960s. The first comprehensive study of Caldwell's work is James Korges pamphlet Erskine Caldwell ( 1969), which, despite its excesses, offers useful insights into the novels and focuses deserved attention on the nonfiction. In a 1971 article, James J. Thompson, Jr., examines Caldwell's portrayal of Southern religion. The only Englishlanguage book on Caldwell to appear during the 1970s is William A. Sutton Black Like It Is/Was ( 1974), an ambitious if uneven attempt to describe Caldwell's treatment of race. In 1975 R. J. Gray discussed Caldwell's comedy of frustration in light of the tradition of old Southwest humor. The following year saw two important statements: Sylvia Jenkins Cook comparison of Caldwell and Faulkner in From Tobacco Road to Route 66 and Malcolm Cowley's support for a Caldwell revival (subsequently published as part of And I Worked at the Writer's Trade). Scott MacDonald's examination of repetition as technique in the stories ( 1977) and Guy Owen's articles on the unpublished poetry ( 1978) and The Sacrilege of Alan Kent ( 1979) are also worthwhile. Of considerable interest, despite its stylistic and structural flaws, is the 1979 issue of Pembroke Magazine, which devotes 184 pages to a potpourri of Caldwelliana. The 1980s have thus far generated several articles and, more significantly, the two most important books to date on Caldwell's work. Notable articles include Guy Owen consideration of The Bastard and Poor Fool, published in A Fair Day in the Affections ( 1980); John Seelye study of Caldwell and Harry Crews ( 1980); and Robert D. Jacobs discussion of Tobacco Road and the low-life comic tradition in Southern humor ( 1980). The two highlights of 50 years of Caldwell criticism are Critical Essays on Erskine Caldwell ( 1981), edited by Scott MacDonald, and James E. Devlin Erskine Caldwell ( 1984). In an excellent introductory essay MacDonald both surveys at length the history of Caldwell scholarship and offers a new approach to his subject based on Caldwell's own aesthetic of spontaneous storytelling. This book reprints many of the most important reviews of and essays on Caldwell's work, introduces Sylvia Jenkins Cook's new essay on the nonfiction, and reprints twenty essays by Caldwell himself. Although MacDonald labels Caldwell "a great writer," Devlin assesses him more modestly as "an important minor figure in the broad tradition of -95American naturalism." Both agree, however, that Caldwell has been the victim of unwarranted neglect. Erskine Caldwell is flawed by a somewhat disjointedly amorphous structure and the unevenness of its interpretations. For example, although Devlin analysis of God's Little Acre in terms of its Dionysian orientation is a real contribution, his estimation of Journeyman reductively wrings darkness and gloom out of this lively, often funny, book. On balance, Devlin's is the most comprehensive treatment of Caldwell's canon and career. Even its deficiencies should stimulate profitable discussion among potential correctors. Students of Caldwell eventually must account for the disparity between his reputation in America, which sagged for decades, and his more stable reputation abroad, especially in Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan. As early as 1961 Stewart Benedict posited cultural and psychological differences as reasons for the greater esteem in which Caldwell was held by the French critical establishment. More recently, Hartmut Heuermann excellent Erskine Caldwell's Short Stories ( 1974), in German, surveys Caldwell's European reputation. Despite these beginnings, the bulk of work on Caldwell from a culturally comparative perspective remains to be done. Although there is no full biography of Caldwell, the bibliographical compilation of his work has been given a good start by Scott MacDonald and William White. The former's contribution to First Printings of American Authors and his evaluative checklist of Caldwell's short fiction, both of which appeared in 1978, are substantially complete. The latter's checklist of reviews and criticism through 1980 is a boon to all Caldwell scholars. Good sources of information on both Caldwell's life and writings are the many interviews with Caldwell published over the years. The most comprehensive of these is that conducted by Elizabeth Broadwell and Ronald Hoag in 1980 10
and published serially by three journals in 1982-83. Substantive earlier interviews include those with Richard Sale and Jac Tharpe. Erskine Caldwell's contribution to American literature can no longer be ignored. To evaluate that contribution is a significant opportunity and challenge. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Erskine Caldwell The Bastard. New York: Heron Press, 1929. Poor Fool. New York: Rariora Press, 1930. American Earth. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1931. Tobacco Road. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1932. God's Little Acre. New York: Viking, 1933. We Are the Living. New York: Viking, 1933. Journeyman. New York: Viking, 1935. Kneel to the Rising Sun. New York: Viking, 1935. Some American People. New York: R. M. McBride, 1935. The Sacrilege of Alan Kent. Portland, Maine: Falmouth Book House, 1936. -96You Have Seen Their Faces, with Margaret Bourke-White. New York: Viking, 1937. Southways. New York: Viking, 1938. North of the Danube, with Margaret Bourke-White. New York: Viking, 1939. Jackpot. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940. Trouble in July. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940. Say, Is This the U.S.A., with Margaret Bourke-White. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1941. All-Out on the Road to Smolensk. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942. Russia at War, with Margaret Bourke-White. London and New York: Hutchinson, 1942. Georgia Boy. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943. Tragic Ground. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1944. A House in the Uplands. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946. The Sure Hand of God. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947. This Very Earth. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948. Place Called Estherville. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949. Episode in Palmetto. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950. Call It Experience. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1951. A Lamp for Nightfall. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1952. The Complete Stories of Erskine Caldwell. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. Close to Home. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1962. In Search of Bisco. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965. Miss Mamma Aimee. New York: New American Library, 1967. Writing in America. New York: Phaedra, 1967. Deep South. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1968. The Weather Shelter. New York: World, 1969. Afternoons in Mid-America. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1976. "Interview with Erskine Caldwell," ed. Jac Tharpe. Southern Quarterly 20, no. 1 ( 1981): 64-74. "The Art of Fiction LXII: Erskine Caldwell," ed. Elizabeth Pell Broadwell and Ronald Wesley Hoag . Paris Review 24, no. 4 ( 1982): 126-57. "'A Writer First': An Interview with Erskine Caldwell," ed. Elizabeth Pell Broadwell and Ronald Wesley Hoag. Georgia Review 36 ( 1982): 82-101. "Erskine Caldwell on Southern Realism," ed. Elizabeth Pell Broadwell and Ronald Wesley Hoag . Mississippi Quarterly 36 ( 1983): 579-84. Studies of Erskine Caldwell Those studies mentioned in the survey of criticism that do not receive a separate citation here are included in Critical Essays on Erskine Caldwell, edited by Scott MacDonald. Cantwell Robert. "Caldwell's Characters: Why Don't They Leave?" Georgia Review 11 ( 1957): 252-64. -----. Introduction. The Humorous Side of Erskine Caldwell. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1951, pp. ix-xxxi. Cook Sylvia Jenkins. From Tobacco Road to Route 66: The Southern Poor White in Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976, pp. 64-84. Devlin James E. Erskine Caldwell. Boston: Twayne, 1984. 11
-97"Erskine Caldwell: America's Great 20th Century Writer." Pembroke Magazine 11 ( 1979): 2-185. Gossett Louise Y. Violence in Recent Southern Fiction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1965, pp. 347. Heuermann Hartmut. Erskine Caldwell's Short Stories. Frankfurt/Main, Germany: Peter Lang, 1974. Holman C. Hugh. "The View from the Regency-Hyatt: Southern Social Issues and the Outer World." Southern Fiction Today: Renascence and Beyond. Ed. George Core . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969, pp. 16-32. Jacobs Robert D. "Tobacco Road: Lowlife and the Comic Tradition." The American South: Portrait of a Culture. Ed. Louis D. Rubin Jr. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1980, pp. 206-26. Korges James. Erskine Caldwell. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. MacDonald Scott, ed. Critical Essays on Erskine Caldwell. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. -----. "Erskine Caldwell 1903- ." First Printings of American Authors: Contributions Toward Descriptive Checklists. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and others. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978. 2: 85-97. Owen Guy. "The Apprenticeship of Erskine Caldwell: An Examination of The Bastard and Poor Fool." A Fair Day in the Affections: Literary Essays in Honor of Robert B. White, Jr. Ed. Jack D. Durant and M. Thomas Hester. Raleigh, N.C.: Winston Press, 1980, pp. 197-204. -----. "Erskine Caldwell's Unpublished Poems." South Atlantic Bulletin 43, no. 2 ( 1978): 53-57. -----. "The Sacrilege of Alan Kent and the Apprenticeship of Erskine Caldwell." Southern Literary Journal 12, no. 2 ( 1979): 36-46. Sale Richard B. "An Interview in Florida with Erskine Caldwell." See MacDonald, Critical Essays. Seelye John. "Georgia Boys: The Redclay Satyrs of Erskine Caldwell and Harry Crews." Virginia Quarterly Review 56 ( 1980): 612-26. Snell George. The Shapers of American Fiction 1798-1947. New York: Cooper Square, 1961, pp. 263-88. Sutton William A. Black Like It Is/Was: Erskine Caldwell's Treatment of Racial Themes. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974. Wade John Donald. "Sweet Are the Uses of Degeneracy." Southern Review 1 ( 1936): 449-66. White William. "About Erskine Caldwell: A Checklist, 1933-1980." Bulletin of Bibliography 39 ( 1982): 916. -----. "About Erskine Caldwell: Addenda." Bulletin of Bibliography 39 ( 1982): 22426. -98HELEN S. GARSON Truman Capote (1924-1984) Truman Capote was an extremely visible writer, thrusting himself constantly before the public. Throughout his life he gave carefully choreographed, sometimes flamboyant, interviews; but almost always, Capote stressed his seriousness as an artist. Another side of Capote appeared in front of television cameras where he seemed to enjoy the role of jester and clown. Even the most private facts of his personal life became part of the entertainment. Most television viewers and even some readers of his books took Capote's self-mockery both as the measure of the man and the writer. His short stature, his high-pitched voice, and his speech mannerisms led much of the public to focus on him rather than his writing. Some forgot and some never discovered the diversity and complexity of the work. BIOGRAPHY Although Truman Capote rejected the designation "Southern writer" (he was a resident of New York for almost 50 years), readers and critics continue to see him as a Southerner. Named Truman Persons at his birth, 30 September 1924, in New Orleans, he lived in Louisiana until he was four. During the next six years he was cared for by his mother's relatives in rural Alabama. His parents had been divorced, and his mother had moved to New York, where she married Joseph Capote. After several years she sent for her son, who was then adopted by her second husband. Truman Persons became Truman Capote. Capote's schooling was fragmentary and brief; he attended both public and private schools, including a military academy. He did not finish High School, dropping out at the age of seventeen. Educationally, Capote was the "intellectual hitchhiker" he calls one of his fictional doubles, P. B. Jones of the "Answered Prayers" stories. -99After leaving school, Capote held a number of jobs, several of them at the New Yorker magazine, where he worked for two years. He had begun writing during the time he was still in school, and he continued to write while working full-time. He was still in his teens when several of his short stories were published, among them "Miriam," for which he won the O. Henry Prize. Characteristically, Capote gave several different reasons for the 12
brevity of his stint at the New Yorker. In retrospect, the important fact is that his leaving enabled him to give all his time to writing his first novel. Although Capote had begun a work called Summer Crossing, he soon abandoned it for the book that made him famous at the age of twenty-four: Other Voices, Other Rooms. Controversial though it was, harshly criticized by some and hailed by others as part of a new movement in literature, the novel was a commercial success. Nobody had been able to determine how important Capote's self-publicizing ability was in creating an audience, but few critics have spoken of that first novel without mentioning his use of public relations and provocative photographs. Playwright, essayist, short-story writer, film scenarist, and novelist, Capote tried many modes, though not with equal success. Different works show different sides, like the man himself: sad and funny, melancholy and happy; some have a joyful sense of life, whereas others are filled with overtones of death. He told stories of children growing up in the country, learning about the seasons, learning about tenderness; he depicted another world of children who are preyed upon by adults; he created young girls who long for those irreconcilable opposites, fame and security; he wrote of stars and of cleaning ladies; he drew--and empathized with--murderers; and he showed victims of many kinds--young, middle-aged, and old. The contrary sides of Capote's work have been described as daylight and darkness, terms that seem applicable to the writer's own personality. Capote never escaped from the sorrows and bitterness of his childhood, although some of the happier moments are also woven into his writing. Nevertheless, to the end of his life Capote saw himself as an abandoned child, unwanted and unloved by either parent. Many of his stories contain orphan figures, a type he identified with--lost, solitary, vulnerable children who belong nowhere. Even one of his very late stories, "Dazzle," written in 1980, gnaws on the old, unresolved issues. Autobiographical elements are inherent in Capote's characters. Not only do the fictional children portray something of the author himself, but also several versions of various relatives appear in the stories: for example, Miss Sook Faulk, a cousin with whom Capote lived for a while during his childhood, is his "friend" in "A Christmas Memory," Dolly in "The Grass Harp," and herself in "The Thanksgiving Visitor." In the short stories, young and middle-aged men who are destructive, cruel, and sometimes decadent often may be identified with Capote himself. Indeed, the writer almost insists on such a reading in the stories written in the 1970s. In the nonfiction work, the essays, The Muses Are Heard, -100and the "nonfiction novel," In Cold Blood, Capote appears both as observer and occasional participant. A list of Capote's books might suggest that he was a prolific writer; however, that was not the case. He had most of his work published as short pieces in magazines and later collected them, occasionally publishing parts of these collections under different titles. As a result, The Selected Writings of Truman Capote ( 1963) contains stories from A Tree of Night and Other Stories (all of which had appeared originally in magazines), parts of Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Novel and Three Stories, and selections from Local Color. The Dogs Bark ( 1973) also has parts of Local Color, as well as selections from Observations and The Muses Are Heard. Capote last book, Music for Chameleons ( 1980), was publicized and reviewed as "new writings," but it consisted of pieces that had appeared in several magazines, predominantly Andy Warhol Interview. A widely traveled man, Capote occasionally lived abroad, often writing about the places he visited or settled in. His longtime friend and companion, Jack Dunphy, was generally with him. Dunphy occupied Capote's house in Switzerland but recently has been living in another Capote home in Long Island, where Capote spent much of his time before his death in Los Angeles, 24 August 1984. He died at the home of Joanne Carson, a former wife of the famed talk show host, Johnny Carson. There were many ironies associated with Capote's death; not the least was the fact that it took place in a city he claimed to despise. Several of his essays about Hollywood, in particular, and California, in general, stress the deathlike quality of what he saw as an artificial world. Yet the artificial world was the one Capote deliberately chose for himself in the last two decades of his life. With the success of In Cold Blood ( 1966), Capote was at the high point of his career. Not only was he famous, he was rich; and he was in demand everywhere. To commemorate his achievement he gave a ball, which several people called "the party of the decade." Reporters reviewed the party as if it were one of Capote's plays, and it was written up in newspapers and magazines for weeks. What is important about the party is that it punctuates the end of Capote's significant writing as well as his charmed social life. Never again was he able to write a sustained work of any value. The stories of the 1970s were failures. Not only were they badly written, they were cruel, gossipy tales about the jet set that had accepted him as one of their own. Attacks and counterattacks were common for a time. Doors were closed to Capote, who declared himself friendless but still an artist. There were frequent accounts of the writer's bouts of drinking and drug taking. There were arrests for drunk driving. Capote and those sympathetic to him blamed his condition on the trauma left by his relationship with the murderers depicted in In Cold Blood. Although he wrote and socialized less in the last decade 13
of his life, newspapers continued to treat him as a celebrity, reporting his illnesses, hospital stays, and nights on the town. After the failure of the stories intended as the nucleus of Answered Prayers, -101- Capote kept announcing that he was rewriting the book. Although he published another collection, Music for Chameleons ( 1980), there continued to be statements about the rewriting of the novel. Obituaries and eulogies following his death noted that Capote had just completed the final chapter of Answered Prayers while visiting in California. Whether that is fact or a final example of Capote's personal inventiveness remains to be seen. Planning to have yet another splashy party in celebration of the book's completion, Capote died a month before his sixtieth birthday. MAJOR THEMES Capote first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms ( 1948), belongs to what Irving Malin has called "New American Gothic." It also represents, along with the work of other Young Writers of Capote's era, a different type of fiction, a change from the predominantly sociological and realistic mode popular in Capote's youth. The only link Other Voices, Other Rooms has to the realistic mode is that it contains a taboo subject, homosexuality. Other Voices, Other Rooms is a novel unlike others that use elements of Southern gothic to symbolize a dying civilization or a corrupted world. Capote's novel is concerned with a small cast of characters and a limited landscape. There is no examination of the Southern past, its history, its failures, its guilt. Written in a highly stylized form, the novel tells of a boy's search for love and of his entrapment in a narcissistic existence from which there is no escape. The novel reveals qualities that became characteristic of Capote's writing: poetic language, with strong use of symbols and images; the lost child motif; and the themes of betrayal and loss of innocence. The collection A Tree of Night and Other Stories ( 1949), published a year after Other Voices, Other Rooms, has some of the same dark and gothic elements of the novel, although not all of the stories are set in the South. Five of the stories--"Master Misery,""Miriam,""The Headless Hawk,""Shut a Final Door," and "A Tree of Night"-contain aspects of fantasy, fear, and horror. Each is about loneliness and disintegration. The young women in "Master Misery" and "A Tree of Night" are victimized in part because of their own fears. The elderly woman in "Miriam" slides into a schizophrenic world because of her isolation from the real one. The young men in "The Headless Hawk" and "Shut a Final Door" betray everyone who loves them and ultimately come to a point of paralysis and collapse. "Children on Their Birthdays," one of the three "sunny" stories in the collection, is in numerous ways a forerunner of Capote novel Breakfast at Tiffany's ( 1958). The aspiring young female character, the devoted swains, and the poetic use of nostalgia appear in both. The light and humorous side of Capote permeates "Children on Their Birthdays," with its sparkling dialogue, succession of funny episodes, and eccentric characters. The central figure, Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, is obviously a fantasy child, a compendium of the wishes, desires, dreams and hopes of children, and, -102 perhaps at some level, of adults. Her longing to be a star, to be somebody, to be extraordinary, mirrors the longings of everyone, including Capote himself as a boy. Miss Bobbit is a creature who lives in the sky, an idea that Capote uses in other stories and develops more completely in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Those who live in the sky are not like the rest of us: they are wild things; they cannot be captured; and even if they long for peace and security and fame they cannot attain them. They vanish like our dreams of childhood. Nostalgia, or a type of pleasurable melancholy, is a hallmark of much of Capote's writing; the sweet, brief moments of joy that disappear like flower petals or autumn leaves are inherent to his narrative devices. The teller of the tale, sometimes Capote or his persona, looks back to a time or episode of happiness. In "Children on Their Birthdays" the narrator tells of a single year when a young girl came to his town. To create the aura of reality within a dream, the author uses both structure and symbol, something like movement within a paperweight. At the beginning we are told the ending. In the novel The Grass Harp ( 1951), which appeared two years after A Tree of Night and Other Stories, the narrator tells about the "lovely years," for him the years between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Like many of Capote's other characters, Collin Fenwick, the narrator, is an orphan--shy, delicate, and sensitive--like the boys in Other Voices, Other Rooms, "A Christmas Memory," and "The Thanksgiving Visitor." Raised by two maiden sisters, Collin enters an idyllic world and from his cousin Dolly he learns about love and happiness. But Collin also learns about death and memory, sadness and sweetness that are blended together. The air of nostalgia and remembrance in the story is close to that of Breakfast at Tiffany's, as is the circular structure. The gentle, elderly cousin who teaches the boy about nature and about love is a forerunner of the old, eccentric cousin in "A Christmas Memory," and there are certain resemblances in the conclusions to the two stories. The tonal qualities of the endings are, however, very different. Although The Grass Harp ends with an air of melancholy, it is a melancholy that also contains a kind of joy, the joy of memory, the wholeness of existence. In the later story the melancholy is not tempered by joy of any kind, and the reader is left with a sense of loss and pain. 14
Holly Golightly, of Breakfast at Tiffany's, is another one of Capote's lost children--sweet, touching and vulnerable. But, like Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, and unlike the lost boys of Capote's stories, Holly is also tough. A survivor, she is also one of the "wild things," one of the creatures who live in the sky. She wants what all the young people of Capote's stories want--a secure world, a place "where nothing very bad could happen." To the narrator, Holly is a part of his own beginnings: a time when he was starting out, a time of hopefulness and disappointments, a time of finding out who one is, a time of youth. The story is not a true one, and Capote never suggests it is anything but an invention; nevertheless, Capote puts himself into it, just as he does in "Children on Their Birthdays." Because he takes no fictional guise, wears no masks, and because he is who he says he is and attaches real -103facts about himself (his own birthday, for example), the story seems closer than fiction. Once again, it is a story filled with dualities: humor and sadness, happiness and pain, with madcap episodes and moments of tenderness. But it is the tone painting of the story that strikes the reader with greatest force, the colors and scenes that sometimes have the qualities of stained-glass paintings. "A Christmas Memory" shares many of the characteristics of other Capote stories. The nostalgia and sadness are greater in it than in the earlier stories, perhaps because the loss that occurs is one with which the reader may easily identify. It is not so much the specific loss of a beloved person, although that does occur, but rather all that is suggested in the passing of a world that can never be recaptured, the lost Edenic world. In memory that strips away what it chooses, the childhood world comes to us as idyllic; the reader mourns its loss at the end of the story. While he was writing his short stories, novels, and plays, Capote also produced nonfiction of various kinds. In 1950 he published, under the title Local Color, a collection of sketches written over a period of years. The eight sketches are accompanied by photographs that lend another dimension to the writing. Although Capote was not a photographer, his sensitivity to the medium was recognized by Richard Avedon, who asked him to write the narrative for his book Observations ( 1959). The essays in Local Color describe New Orleans, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hollywood, Haiti, Paris, Ischia, Tangiers. Unlike his next nonfiction book, the articles in Local Color have no relationship to each other, except in the persona of Capote. The Muses Are Heard ( 1956), originally a series of travel articles in the New Yorker, connects each segment to the central story, a cultural exchange between the United States and the USSR. In this story about the theatrical troupe that put on the opera Porgy and Bess, the people who accompanied the performers, and the Russians involved in the venture, Capote is at his wittiest; he also captures the gloom and fear in the Russia of the late 1950s. The Dogs Bark ( 1973), a collection of Capote's essays, includes one of his most famous, "The Duke in His Domain," a portrait of Marlon Brando at the height of his career. Capote's skill as an interviewer and his ability to stand back from the subject, as well as his unobtrusiveness, are evident in this article, qualities that are even more important in In Cold Blood. Capote is, however, often more personal in some of the other pieces in The Dogs Bark. "Louis Armstrong," which had accompanied Avedon's portrait in Observations, describes Capote's long-standing appreciation of Armstrong's kindness. Another memorable piece from Observations, and reprinted in The Dogs Bark, is about Marilyn Monroe. The commentary, written a few years before the actress's death, captures much about Monroe's personality that led to her suicide. Capote's interest in the childlike, insecure Monroe later prompted another essay that became part of Music for Chameleons ( 1980). With In Cold Blood ( 1966), Capote brought together all the skills he had learned throughout his career of writing both fiction and nonfiction. In this work -104he is both reporter and creative artist, displaying what he considered a new art form, the "nonfiction novel." Both the term and Capote's claim to be the originator of the type have been the source of much controversy. There is no question, however, that the technique has been extremely influential since the appearance of the novel. Further, the book was one of the century's greatest commercial successes. It sold in great numbers not only in the United States but also in translation in 25 foreign countries. Capote's interest in what Robert Langbaum called "motiveless malignancy" came about from reading a news account of a murder that took place in Kansas in 1959. When he decided that he wanted to write a book about the events, he arranged to publish in the New Yorker a series of articles that he would later rework for a book. To prepare himself for this new project, he researched material about criminals, meeting a number of them, including the two accused of murdering the Clutter family in Kansas. Capote's techniques in relating the story suggest a mixture of reporter, painter, photographer, and novelist. Even though the outcome was known to every reader, the four-part book is a masterful study in suspense. Only the final section lacks the drama of the three preceding segments. The sometimes overwhelming number of details about the last five years of the murderers' lives spent in effort to avoid the death penalty necessarily detracts from the taut drama of the story. There is also a certain lopsidedness in Capote's interest in one of the criminals, Perry 15
Smith. His attraction to Smith is easy to understand: Smith had been a lonely boy, a deserted child, someone who never found a place for himself in society. In many ways, Capote identified with Smith, who felt himself unloved and unwanted, who, as boy and man, always expected to be betrayed. After publication of In Cold Blood, Capote was to publish only one more book before his death, Music for Chameleons, another collection of unrelated pieces: short stories, a novella, and "Conversational Portraits." Although a number of reviewers praised the work, the part they focused on was the novella, Handcarved Coffins, which Capote called "A Nonfiction Account of an American Crime." Because of its subject and Capote's participation in the story, the work invited comparison with In Cold Blood, but readers generally found it less forceful, less interesting, and too derivative. Three of the "Conversational Portraits" received passing praise from reviewers: the essay on Marilyn Monroe, entitled "Beautiful Child"; a piece called "A Day's Work," in which Capote tells about his cleaning woman; and the very personal "Nocturnal Turnings," where the writer talks about his fears and beliefs and many of his experiences from childhood through adulthood. He also makes a statement that was picked up by numerous commentators: "I'm an alcoholic . . . a drug addict . . . [a] homosexual." Once more the familiar note is sounded at the end, the conviction that he has nobody but himself, that he is completely alone. Several of the stories in Music for Chameleons are reworkings of those published in the 1970s in Esquire. Although each story had an individual title, it -105was to be part of the book-length Answered Prayers. Each story is about the sexual behavior of famous people, known nationally and internationally. Readers familiar with Capote's circle have identified the characters, but in many instances the guessing game is unnecessary because the names of numerous celebrities are undisguised. In the stories Capote gossips about socialites, artists, writers, photographers, movie and television stars, presidents and their wives. The stories are cruel, often crude, and rambling. For the reader, aside from the dubious pleasure of learning about the secrets of the rich and famous, the one value of the stories is that they provide more information about Capote himself. Three of the four stories of Answered Prayers have a narrator named P. B. Jones, with whom Capote chose to identify himself. Much autobiographical information is given through Jones, a writer who is drawn to be Capote's stand-in. The reader wonders about Capote's intentions in creating a monstrous and corrupt figure in Jones, for Jones is not only given Capote's own background but is also made the author of Capote's stories. Jones makes an important statement in "Unspoiled Monsters": that his one "obligation was to his talent." That is exactly the point that Capote made frequently in the last years of his life. When interviewers questioned him about the kind of material he wrote, Capote answered that the artist uses what he has, what is available to him. He and those he wrote about are merely mortal, but art is everlasting, "durable and perfect." SURVEY OF CRITICISM When Other Voices, Other Rooms was published in 1948, it was praised by Mary McGrory, but disliked by Elizabeth Hardwick and Diana Trilling, whereas Leslie Fiedler, John Aldridge, and Orville Prescott gave it mixed evaluation. Such splitting is characteristic of the critical reaction to all Capote's work. Of the 25 reviews of A Tree of Night and Other Stories ( 1949), four were unfavorable, nine were mixed, and twelve were favorable. Even the nonfiction book Local Color ( 1950) got mixed reviews. John Aldridge, writing about Capote in After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars ( 1951), saw him as unable to create works of any social significance. Malcolm Cowley, however, in "American Novels Since the War" ( New Republic, 28 December 1953), called Capote a significant new writer. Although Capote lacks interest in social realism, Cowley noted, he is concerned with significant personal questions. In an early interview with Rochelle Girson, ( Saturday Review of Literature, 12 February 1949), Capote disclaimed being a Southern writer or a Freudian. Although Capote gave many interviews over the years, some of the subject matter remained constant. When The Grass Harp both as book and play received the usual mixed reception, Capote defended himself in a number of interviews. Harvey Breit, in "Talk with Truman Capote," in the New York Times Book Review, recounts Capote's criticism of the critics as well as his statement that he sought to write things "psychologically and emotionally true." In interviews -106with Henry Hewes and with Norton Elliot, who wrote "Fable Drawn From Life: Capote's 'Grass Harp' Deals with Character He Knew As a Child" for the New York Times, Capote discussed not only his childhood relationship to the story of The Grass Harp but also the role Robert Frost played in his leaving the New Yorker. Like the reviews of the play The Grass Harp, those of the play The House of Flowers were generally unfavorable; however, Capote's next endeavor, his nonfiction book The Muses Are Heard, was praised by most critics, as was his next novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's ( 1958). Also, beginning in 1958, numerous articles about Capote's style and subjects began to appear. Paul Levine, in "Truman Capote: The Revelation of the Broken Image," finds two kinds of stories, dark and light, and discusses a search for identity as a theme of the early stories. 16
In "The Grotesque in Modern American Fiction," William Van O'Connor comments on Capote's use of abnormal characters and situations ( 1959). Considering Capote to be a writer of romances, Ihab Hassan, in "The Daydream and Nightmare of Narcissus" ( 1960), discusses Capote's themes and his two styles--dark and light. In another essay, "The Character of Post-war Fiction in America" ( The English Journal, 51, 1962), Hassan counts Capote one of ten major American writers. Avedon Observations ( 1959), with commentary by Capote, also received mixed reviews. In 1961 Walter Sullivan, writing for South: Modern Southern Literature in the Fifties, criticizes Capote's grotesquerie, but Irving Malin New American Gothic ( 1962) expresses a completely different opinion of gothicism and grotesquerie and the ways Capote used them. A chapter entitled "Truman Capote and the Twisted Self" in Chester Eisinger Fiction in the Forties ( 1963) also examines Capote's use of the gothic tradition. Louise Gossett, in Violence in Recent Southern Fiction ( 1965), finds that though Capote's abnormal characters are unable to love, they still search for love. She also points out that the characters lack moral dimensions. In 1965 Kenneth Tynan accused Capote of moral irresponsibility in relationship to the criminals he wrote about in In Cold Blood; Tynan echoed the most frequent criticism of Capote from the beginning to the end of his career--that he lacked moral involvement. (The other was that his characters lacked substance.) In 1966 there were more interviews on as well as an outpouring of reviews of In Cold Blood and articles about the author and his work. Many critics saw the book as a brilliant work of art, whereas others saw it as hollow, immoral, voyeuristic, and self-promoting. In an interview with George Plimpton for the New York Times Book Review ( "The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel," 16 January 1966, pp. 2-3), Capote discussed his choice of subject, his invention of the nonfiction novel, and the two Kansas murderers. At that time Capote declared he would write no more plays but would work only in forms that were more congenial to him; however, in 1966 he saw "A Christmas Memory" made into a television play. A year later, the short story "Among the Paths of Eden" appeared on television and received excellent -107reviews. But a revised version of House of Flowers was shown on Broadway, and, like its predecessor, failed. In the late 1960s, Capote began to talk in interviews about his new project, Answered Prayers. He discussed it in a lengthy interview with Eric Norden for Playboy magazine ( 1968), with Alden Whitman for the New York Times in 1971, and with Gerald Clarke for Esquire in 1972. In the Rolling Stone interview with Jann Wenner, Capote stated he had begun writing Answered Prayers as early as 1956. In the Village Voice Arthur Bell article on "La Cфte Basque, 1965" (one of the stories of Answered Prayers) is entitled, "A Suicide Follows Capote's Latest Tale" ( 1975). Capote defended himself then, as he had in 1968 in an interview for Mademoiselle, when he talked about differences between artists and craftsmen, a point he was to make frequently over the following years. In interview after interview for the remainder of his life, he continued to stress the importance of writing over relationships. Esquire printed numerous letters praising the stories, but the majority of critics see them as mischievous, vengeful, and debauched. One of the best interviews with Capote is Ann Taylor Fleming's in the New York Times Magazine ( 1978): part 1, "The Descent from the Heights," and part 2, "The Private World of Truman Capote." Here Capote surveys his own life, talking of his childhood, his loneliness, and his homosexuality. There are several bibliographies and checklists of Capote's work. The most important of them is Robert Stanton's Truman Capote: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography ( 1980). It lists everything written about Capote through 1979, as well as his works and the places of publication. Although there are few book-length studies of Capote's work and fewer about the man, there are some lengthy treatises. Craig Goad 50-page pamphlet, entitled Daylight and Darkness, Dream and Delusion: The Works of Truman Capote ( 1967), treats the psychological aspects of Capote's characters. One of the most revealing portraits of Capote himself appears in John Malcolm Brinnin "The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect," in Sextet: T. S. Eliot and Truman Capote and Others ( 1981). Brinnin describes meeting Capote at Yaddo when Capote was writing his first novel; he describes the period of rising success, taking the story up to the writing of In Cold Blood. Brinnin shows Capote changing from naive charmer to cynical social climber for whom everything and everyone were material to put between the covers of a book. William Nance wrote the first book-length study; his The Worlds of Truman Capote ( 1970) traces the developement of the writer from the first stories through In Cold Blood. Nance's prophecy that Capote would go on to produce even more significant literature proved inaccurate. Helen S. Garson Truman Capote ( 1980), the second and most recent book on Capote, presents biographical information and critical appraisal of Capote's work. To date there is no full-scale biography of Capote, although Stanton calls Gerald Clarke Capote's biographer and says in his introduction to his bibliography that Clarke's book "is scheduled to be published . . . in late 1979." Clarke -108 17
himself announced in television interviews after Capote's death that he was working on the biography. Undoubtedly, a large audience awaits the publication of a Capote biography, whoever writes it. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Truman Capote Other Voices, Other Rooms. New York: Random House, 1948. A Tree of Night and Other Stories. New York: Random House, 1949. Local Color. New York: Random House, 1950. The Grass Harp. New York: Random House, 1951. The Grass Harp [Play]. New York: Random House, 1952. The Muses Are Heard. New York: Random House, 1956. Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories. New York: Random House, 1958. Observations. Photographs by Richard Avedon, commentary by Truman Capote. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959. The Selected Writings of Truman Capote. New York: Random House, 1963. A Christmas Memory. New York: Random House, 1966. In Cold Blood. New York: Random House, 1966. The Thanksgiving Visitor. New York: Random House, 1967. House of Flowers [A Play]. New York: Random House, 1968. Trilogy: An Experiment in Multimedia, with Eleanor Perry and Frank Perry. New York: Macmillan, 1969. The Dogs Bark: Public People and Private Places. New York: Random House, 1973. Music for Chameleons. New York: Random House, 1980. Studies of Truman Capote Aldridge John. After the Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars. New York: Noonday Press, 1958. Bradbury John. Renaissance in the South: A Critical History of the Literature, 19201960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963. Breit Harvey. The Writer Observed. Cleveland: World, 1956. Brinnin John Malcolm. Sextet: T. S. Eliot and Truman Capote and Others. New York: Delacorte Press, 1981. Bryer Jackson R. "Truman Capote: A Bibliography." In Cold Blood: A Critical Handbook. Ed. Irving Malin. Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth, 1968. Cowley Malcolm. The Literary Situation. New York: Viking Press, 1954. Eisinger Chester. Fiction of the Forties. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Garson Helen S. Truman Capote. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Gordon Caroline and Allen Tate. The House of Fiction. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1960. Gossett Louise. Violence in Recent Southern Fiction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1965. -109Hassan Ihab. Radical Innocence: The Contemporary American Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961. Hill Patti. "Truman Capote." Writers at Work: The "Paris Review" Interviews. Ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: Viking Press, 1959. Kazin Alfred. Bright Book Life. Boston: Little, Brown, 1971; New York: Delta, 1974. -----. Contemporaries. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. -----. The Open Form: Essays for Our Time. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1961. Klein Marcus. After Alienation: American Novels in Mid-Century. Cleveland: World, 1962. Levine Paul. "Truman Capote: The Revelation of the Broken Image." Virginia Quarterly Review 34 ( 1958): 600-17. Malin Irving. New American Gothic. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962. Nance William. The Worlds of Truman Capote. New York: Stein and Day, 1970. Newquist Roy. Counterpoint. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964. O'Connor William Van. "The Grotesque in Modern American Fiction." College English 20 ( April 1959): 342-47. Schorer Mark. "McCullers and Capote: Basic Patterns." The Creative Present: Notes on Contemporary American Fiction. Ed. Nona Balakian and Charles Simmons. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963. Stanton Robert J. Truman Capote: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. Starosciak Kenneth. Truman Capote: A Checklist. New Brighton, Minn.: Starosciak, 1974. Sullivan Walter. "The Continuing Renascence: Southern Fiction in the Fifties." South: Modern Southern Literature in Its Cultural Setting. Ed. Louis Rubin Jr., and Robert Jacobs. New York: Doubleday, 1961. Waldmeir Joseph, ed. Recent American Fiction: Some Critical Views. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963. 18
Wall Richard and Carl Craycraft. "A Checklist of Works about Truman Capote." Bulletin of the New York Public Library 71 ( March 1967): 165-72. West Ray B. The Short Story in America. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1952. -110- ................................................................................................. J. LEE GREENE Ralph Ellison (1914- ) It is rare for an American novelist who publishes only one novel to receive the sustained critical acclaim that Ralph Ellison has received for Invisible Man. In less than two decades following its publication in 1952, Invisible Man was widely considered an American classic. BIOGRAPHY Oklahoma had been a state only seven years when on 1 March 1914 the second of three sons was born to young pioneer migrants Lewis and Ida Ellison. Lewis Alfred Ellison, an avid reader, named the infant Ralph Waldo Ellison, an expression of his desire that the child grow up to be a poet and a philosopher. During his childhood Ralph frequently was teased about being named after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Uncomfortable with his name, he later shortened the Waldo to W. But, like his namesake, he became a distinguished writer and thinker. Fifty-two years after Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, his native state held a special ceremony to honor his contributions to the creative arts. Ralph was walking by the time he was six months old and was frequently his father's companion. Lewis Ellison died when Ralph was only three, and because such a strong bond had developed between the two, it was difficult for Ralph to accept the reality of his father's death. But Ida Millsap Ellison kept the vividness of Lewis Ellison alive for her two sons (the firstborn had died) by telling them of their father's life. Lewis Ellison was a native of Abbeville, South Carolina, where he ran away from home at a young age. Later he became what his son Ralph has characterized as a "professional soldier," traveling eventually to Cuba, the Philippines, and China. Before migrating to Oklahoma from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lewis tried several business ventures. He had a creative -147 imagination and a strong interest in the construction trades. In Oklahoma City he worked as a construction foreman. Ralph seemingly inherited his father's creative temperament, particularly the desire to build and to create. As a child he attempted to build crystal set radios from cast-off parts and to experiment with a chemistry set. Most of his creative energies as a child, however, were devoted to music. Even before he was trained in music he attempted to write marches, songs, and exercises in symphonic form. Throughout Ralph's childhood and adolescence, Ida Ellison provided him with an environment that stimulated his affinities for the creative arts. A lover of the performing arts, she often played opera recordings in her home, frequently attended plays in the city, and occasionally interacted with actors and other artists who came through Oklahoma City. When Ralph was still a young child, his mother bought him a secondhand cornet after their next-door neighbor had taught him the fundamentals of playing an alto horn. Subsequently, he developed considerable skill as a trumpeter. She also encouraged his interest in reading. From her work as a domestic she brought home Vanity Fair, Literary Digest, cast-off copies of novels, and other reading materials that Ralph absorbed. Attracted to fairy tales as a child, he gradually moved to reading juvenile fiction, Westerns, detective novels, and the classics, although he was about thirteen years old before he scaled down his reading of fairy tales. Ida Ellison was equally instrumental in helping shape her son's social consciousness. The year he was born she was canvassing for the socialists in Oklahoma City. In the 1920s, with the backing of the NAACP, she sustained a protest against the city's segregated housing laws by living in a neighborhood reserved for whites. That she was arrested several times did not deter her. Only after the threat of violence affected her younger son, Herbert, did she relinquish this campaign. Although they moved frequently, the Ellisons lived primarily in the black communities of Oklahoma City's East Side, where Ralph was exposed to different types of music. It was here during his childhood and adolescence that he developed a strong interest in blues and jazz. Even at a young age he attended dances and became acquainted with some of the prominent local blues and jazz musicians, several of whom later became nationally famous. Music also was an integral part of the curricula in the primary and secondary schools he attended in Oklahoma City. Blues and jazz, however, were excluded. He took courses in music appreciation, studied classical music, participated in the band, and, from the ninth through the twelfth grades, took courses in music harmony. 19
Ellison also enjoyed activities and pursued interests typical of children and adolescents of his time, place, and circumstance. In high school he was both academician and athlete. From a relatively young age he worked at a variety of jobs, including shining shoes, running errands, selling newspapers, and working in a drugstore. While he was in high school, one of his jobs was cutting grass for Dr. Ludwig Hebestreit in exchange for trumpet lessons. A German immigrant -148who formed what became the Oklahoma Symphony, Hebestreit also taught Ellison the importance of musical technqiue and increased his understanding of classical composers such as Beethoven, Wagner, and Schumann. In 1931 Ellison graduated from Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. Financially unable to enroll in college that fall, he found work in the city and saved toward his college education. At the end of two years his savings were meager, and even with a music scholarship to Tuskegee Institute, he still faced difficulty paying the expenses for his freshman year. Yet he was determined to take advantage of this opportunity to study classical music at Tuskegee under the black conductor-composerWilliam L. Dawson. His goal was to write a symphony and have it performed by the time he was twenty-six. So in the late summer of 1933 he left Oklahoma City to enroll at Tuskegee. He could not spare from his savings the price of a train ticket. Riding the trains as a hobo and hitchhiking, he reached Tuskegee, Alabama, in a week. At Tuskegee Institute he maintained his interest in blues and jazz, but his teachers there did not encourage this interest. He also continued to expand his reading, much of it independent of what he was taught in class. Melville and other writers of the American Renaissance, Marx, Freud, Pound, Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein particularly interested him. In 1935 he by chance read T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and this marked the beginning of his desire to become a writer instead of a musician. Off to New York in the summer of 1936 with the intent of earning and saving enough money by the end of the summer to complete his education at Tuskegee, Ellison remained in New York because he did not achieve his aim. He enrolled in art classes to study sculpture and continued his formal study of music; however, two illnesses-his and his mother's--permanently halted his formal studies. In 1937 Ida Ellison was living in Dayton, Ohio, and was seriously ill as the result of a fall and her physician's inaccurate diagnosis. Her sons moved to Dayton to care for her. Ralph and Herbert made their living that winter hunting and selling game. During the winter nights Ralph studied the craftsmanship of authors such as Joyce, Stein, Dostoevsky, and Hemingway, and seriously began to work on his own craft as a writer. After his mother died in 1937, he returned to New York, was introduced to Richard Wright by a mutual friend, and formed a close friendship with Wright. With Wright's encouragement and guidance, Ellison wrote a book review and a short story, and continued to study the fictional technique of other writers. Within a few years his friendship with Wright began to dissipate. According to Ellison, as early as 1940 Wright had come to view him as a potential literary rival. Although he first arrived in New York about five years after the wane of the Harlem Renaissance, he was aware of its literary, artistic, and cultural activities. He had studied Afro-American history in grade school and had been introduced -to the works of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance before he graduated from high school. -149In New York he met several of the Harlem Renaissance thinkers and artists, and some of them, such as Hughes, encouraged and helped guide his ambition to become a writer. Wright helped him get a job with the Work Projects Administration, and Ellison worked as a researcher with the New York Federal Writers' Project from 1938 to 1942. By the early 1940s he had published a few short stories and several book reviews and had gained minor notice from the literati. In 1942 he became editor of Negro Quarterly, joined the merchant marine in 1943 (working as a baker and a cook), and received a Rosenwald Fellowship in winter 1944 to work on a novel. He worked for several months but made only minimal progress on this novel about the wartime experiences of a black soldier. He put the manuscript aside and began to plan the outline for a different novel. On sick leave from the merchant marine in the summer of 1945, he moved temporarily to a farm in Vermont in order to rest and to work on this second novel. While there, he wrote the opening paragraph of what became Invisible Man. During the next seven years he worked methodically and laboriously on the novel's form and meaning, interrupting his work on Invisible Man for about a year in an unsuccessful attempt to complete the short war novel he had begun in 1944. In July 1946 he married his second wife, Fanny McConnell. His wife's interests and aspirations in the creative arts and her stalwart moral and financial support helped sustain their marriage and his efforts to complete Invisible Man. Ellison wrote a few short stories and articles and did some work as a free-lance photographer during this period, but he devoted most of his time to writing his novel. For thirteen weeks following its publication in April 1952, Invisible Man was a best-seller. Ellison's stature as a first-rate American novelist was established immediately. The following year, 1953, the novel won for him the 20
National Book Award and the National Newspaper Publishers Russwurm Award. Since then, he has led an active life as teacher, lecturer, and writer. From the 1960s through the 1970s he taught at Rutgers University, Bard College, the University of Chicago, and New York University. He was a favored speaker on the lecture circuit, even during the mid-1960s when his novel received its most scathing criticism. Shadow and Act ( 1964) and Going to the Territory ( 1986), collections of essays, are his only other booklength publications. Yet he has continued to be a frequent contributor of essays and articles to journals and magazines. He also has published several short stories during the last 25 years, most of which are excerpts from a projected novel and are collectively referred to as the Hickman stories. While a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in Rome ( 1955-57), he began work on this projected novel. In the late 1960s a fire in his summer home destroyed several hundred pages of the manuscript. Although he is said to have reconstructed most of the manuscript pages that were destroyed, and to have writen several hundred (even several thousand) additional pages, it remains unpublished, a fact that has generated much literary discussion about Ellison as an artist. -150 The recipient of several honorary degrees during the last two decades, he also has been awarded America's Medal of Freedom and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Artes et Lettres, one of the most prestigious honors France accords a foreign artist. From 1970 until his retirement in 1980, Ellison was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University. Since his retirement there have been renewed hopes and promises that the long-awaited Hickman novel, rumored to be in three volumes, will be published. MAJOR THEMES Ellison Invisible Man is a quintessential example of how thoroughly the problem of identity pervades the form and meaning of a twentieth-century American novel. The novel's complex thematic structure is predicated on two interrelated questions: Who am I? How did I come to be? The posing and answering of these questions undergird the novel's point of view, its several structural layers, its major characterizations, its richness of language, its allusions, and its imagistic patterns. Ellison draws from various components of American life to chronicle the experiences of the novel's protagonist, a black Everyman who searches for an authentic identity through self-definition. Integral aspects of the novel's form and meaning are based on a careful mixture of what can be called classicisms, Americanisms (both Afro- and Anglo-), and Africanisms. Its artistry derives from a harmonious blending of different traditions, of which the dominant influences are literature, folklore, history, and music, many of the same ingredients dominating Ellison's life and pervading his essays and short fiction. In the novel (rather than in a musical composition) Ellison fulfilled an ambition he had as an adolescent to blend the traditions of blues and jazz with those of classical music. Like the author, the novel's protagonist is both writer and musician. Near the end of the prologue the protagonist intones the narrative perspective of his memoir: "And so I play the invisible music of my isolation." Thematically and structurally, the protagonist's dilemma is the blues, which Ellison defines in his essay "Richard Wright's Blues" as "an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically." At the same time, the novel's form coincides with the structure of a jazz composition. While a central theme runs throughout and hovers in the background, each of the novel's episodes is like a virtuoso performance, a variation on the central theme. Its tripartite structure of prologue, body, and epilogue also parallels the A-B-A structure of a classical composition. This blending of different traditions as a characteristic of Ellison's fictional artistry in Invisible Man is not confined to his use of music. Both oral and written literary traditions figure prominently in the novel's form and meaning. European folklore and its Anglo-American remnants are as meaningfully woven into the fabric of the novel's fictive vision as the Afro-American folktales of Brer Rabbit and his African antecedent. Ellison use of folklore in Invisible Man is only -151one example of his contention, expressed in many of his essays, that crosscultural influences are essential in defining an American. To be sure, folklore such as that recorded by the Grimm brothers is as much a part of AfroAmerican culture as Brer Rabbit is a part of Anglo-American culture. The folk idioms Ellison absorbed as a child from barbershops, dance halls, street corners, and other places in the black community find a place in the novel along with the literary idioms of some of the Western world's most prominent authors, its recorders of folktales, and writers of fairy tales. From the written literary traditions of classical cultures, Ellison's uses of Homer, Dante, Virgil, and others are obvious. From European literary traditions one hears in the novel echoes of Dostoevsky and Joyce. Aspects of the works of such writers as Emerson, Whitman, and Mark Twain blend with those of James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright. The philosophical, social, economic, and political ideas of Nikolai Lenin and Abraham Lincoln, of Thomas Jefferson and Jack Johnson, of Marcus Garvey and George Washington, of Andrews Norton and Booker T. Washington, of Henry Moton and John D. Rockefeller, among many others, find a functional place in the novel's artistry. The various comparisons and contrasts, ambiguities and ambivalences, 21
affirmations and negations, and other ways of blending traditions in the novel help define the protagonist's identity as well as support one of the novel's basic themes that America--and thus, the individual American--is woven of many strands. What Ellison demonstrates in Invisible Man, various essays, and some of his short stories (especially the Hickman stories) is that for any American to know who he is, he must understand how he came to be. In his works he concentrates on the dilemma of black Americans, but it is a dilemma other Americans, especially whites, share. It is the problem of an individual's, a race's, and a nation's relationship to the past, a past that is ever present. In the novel black characters such as Bledsoe, Ras, and Rinehart, and white characters such as Norton, Jack, and Sybil all suffer from various degrees of an identity crisis, a crisis precipitated by tensions between their present circumstances and their personal and racial pasts. To be sure, as the last line of the novel states, the protagonist speaks for everyone. The theme of coming to terms with the past, presented through characterization, allusions, incidents, and scenes, is inextricably bound to the theme of history, especially American history. Thus, as the protagonist points out in the epilogue, what he says about individuals also applies to societies. The problems of being an American and the problems of America are central concerns in Ellison's works. Often his works deal with problems of a character who rejects his ethnic past. Expanding the literary use of the black folk sermon in his story "Juneteenth" (itself a folk version of Afro-American history), Ellison explores this idea as it applies to black Americans in general. In the story, the power of music, language, and ritual, essential ingredients of the African past, aids the black American in attaining an authentic identity. His story "NightTalk," -152 Talk," part of the Hickman series, provides another perspective on how one's identity is integrally connected to the past. "Night Talk," as Ellison's headnote to its first publication indicates, is a strange dialogue between the two chief characters of the Hickman series, a dialogue that attempts "to arrive at the true shape and substance of a sundered past and its meaning." The problems of the individual reflect the problems of the society in which he lives. In his essay "The Art of Fiction," Ellison states that "one function of serious literature is to deal with the moral core of a given society." For him, the black American "symbolizes among other things the human and social possibility of equality," a theme that resounds throughout his novel, his short fiction, and his essays. It is, overall, the inability or unwillingness of America to live out the principles of its democracy. The willful distortion of those principles, especially but not only as that distortion affects blacks, makes American democracy a joke, what elsewhere Ellison speaks of as a Jokeocracy. Invisible Man and other of Ellison's characters eventually recognize and reject the illusion of the American Dream. In this context theirs is a journey from illusion to reality. In some instances, these characters change the joke and slip the yoke. In his story "Cadillac Flambй," for instance, the central character burns his Cadillac on the lawn of a racist white senator. The Cadillac is a symbol of American prosperity and of blacks' exclusion from that prosperity. In this story, as in Invisible Man, the themes of politics and technology merge. The result is a vision of America as a technocracy whose scientific approach to history, to life, has eroded the humanitarian spirit supposedly embedded in the idea and the ideal of America. In "Cadillac Flambй," a tragicomedy predicated on the use of myth and ritual, the character's ritualistic burning of his Cadillac signals his knowledge of the difference between the illusion and reality of American democratic principles. One of the principles on which America was founded was the separation of church and state. In his Hickman stories and elsewhere in his writings, Ellison explores variations on the integration of religion and politics. Indeed, one of the chief characters in this series of short fictions is Bliss/Sunraider, a Southern black child evangelist (Bliss) who becomes a Northern white (apparently) racist politician (Sunraider). He is the essence of the contradiction that is America-politically, racially, culturally, morally, and ethically. Ellison sees America as a glowing contradiction, and through a series of reversals he explores basic manifestations of this contradiction through characterization, language, theme, and allusion. In his essays he is an acute observer of literature and Literary Artists, of music and musicians, of politics and politicians, of history and historical figures, and of society in general. In his creative writings these are the sources upon which he frequently draws to shape his fictive world. It is the manner in which he incorporates these sources that provides a gloss on his major themes. He may parody or he may paraphrase both the form and the content of his source materials (such as in his use of Emerson, Whitman, or Booker T. Washington). At other times he may merge ideologically with his -153sources (as in the case of Melville). Seldom, however, is he a mere imitator of his literary predecessors or contemporaries. To be sure, he uses literary artists and their works as an integral part of the thematic fabric of his novel and stories, as another cultural component that provides a fictional perspective on American democracy. SURVEY OF CRITICISM During the year following the publication of Invisible Man in April 1952, there were numerous reviews and essay reviews of the novel published in some of the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and journals. Most of 22
the white critics who praised the novel added the qualification that for a black writer the novel was exemplary. A few critics thought the novel was at best second- or third-rate. In general, black critics gave the novel moderate praise. For the next 25 years, the most informative critical comments about the novel dealt with its style, its use of black American folk materials, its affinities with the works of Anglo-American and European writers, and its overall fictive vision of the place and plight of blacks in America. In 1964 Ellison published his collection of essays, Shadow and Act. In 1965 Book Week's poll of 200 prominent authors, editors, and critics declared that Invisible Man was the most distinguished work of fiction published since 1945. About the same time America's black awareness movement gained full stride. These three events marked a significant shift in focus in critical assessments of Ellison, of Invisible Man, and of his other writings. In effect, there developed a polarization of critical opinions (though not exclusively along racial lines) that lasted until the early 1970s. In the main, white critics continued to praise the novel but somewhat tempered the racial condescension evident in previous years. They concentrated on affinities between Invisible Man and works in the AngloAmerican literary tradition. Many of them strained to make the definition of "universal" synonymous with "white," and overall they avoided thematic discussions that might have overt racial implications. One result was that more articles about the novel's craft began to appear. On the other hand, many black (and a few white) critics during the period complained that Ellison's vision in Invisible Man strayed too far from the principles, motives, and aesthetics of black art and black artists as determined by the social and political orientation of the times. In 1963 Irving Howe had set much of the tone for this perspective and had drawn Ellison himself squarely into the debate over art and protest--the now-famous Howe-Ellison critical exchange. Ten years later the general debate itself was the subject of an informative article by William Walling. The publication of Shadow and Act established Ellison as an astute critic of literature, music, and American culture. Since then, his collected and uncollected essays in large measure have determined the direction of critical responses to Invisible Man and to his other works. In his introduction to Shadow and Act -154Ellison points out that the essays are autobiographical. His essays and his numerous interviews are the sources for published information about his life, thoughts, and experiences. He also contends in the collection that Invisible Man is not an autobiographical novel. Apparently, critics and scholars have taken this statement at face value, for comparatively few studies have focused on the parallels between Ellison's life and incidents, characters, and ideas in Invisible Man. This is true even of the most inclusive study of Ellison's life and writings yet to appear, Robert G. O'Meally The Craft of Ralph Ellison ( 1980). There are conflicting details in the information Ellison and others have published about his life, and a full-length biography remains to be done. In his essays and interviews Ellison frequently speaks of the literary influences on his life and art. He gives particular attention to writers in the Anglo-American and European literary mainstreams, whom he calls his "literary ancestors." Since 1964 several critics, many of them following what can be called the validation-byassociation school of literary criticism, have concentrated on the direct parallels between Invisible Man and the works of Ellison's "literary ancestors." The trend has been to deal with those writers whose inclusion in the form and meaning of the novel is obvious. In part, this trend accounts for the fact that far fewer critics have noted affinities between Invisible Man and the works of Ellison's Afro-American literary predecessors, whom he calls his "literary relatives." Critical discussions of similarities between Invisible Man and works by W. E. B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, and, of course, Richard Wright, and literary discussions of the Wright-Ellison-Baldwin triad constitute the bulk of critical articles about Ellison and his "literary relatives." Except for very general and chronological studies of black American literature, critics ( Houston Baker is one exception) basically have ignored Ellison's alignment with the AfroAmerican literary tradition. Throughout his critical writings Ellison has focused on the significance of literary technique, a topic that itself has generated both positive and negative comments about his role and accomplishments as a literary artist. Shelby Steele, Ronald Walcott, Gene Bluestein, and several other critics have produced significant commentary about the influence of blues and jazz on the novel. The influence of classical music, gospel music, and spiritual music on the form and meaning of Invisible Man needs to be critically assessed. Susan Blake and Floyd Horowitz are among several critics who have written perceptively about Ellison's use of black American folklore in Invisible Man. Satire and comedy in the novel have been the topics of critical articles written from quite different critical perspectives. Numerous critics have dealt with various aspects of the novel's concern with identity, and existential themes in the novel have been the focus for several critical studies. Although numerous articles since the 1960s have studied particular aspects of the artistry in Invisible Man-its structure, characterization, language, allusions, and patterns of imagery, among other techniques--there is need for a compre- -155- 23
hensive and sophisticated study of the novel's craft and of Ellison as a literary artist. O'Meally The Craft of Ralph Ellison was a major first step in this direction. O'Meally provides one of the fullest discussions of Ellison's short fiction yet to appear. The decade of the 1970s indeed was a high mark in critical attention to Ellison. Between 1970 and 1975 alone he was the exclusive or a principal subject of more than twenty doctoral dissertations completed at American universities. He received widespread attention from literary critics in Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, and other European countries. He was a favored subject of American literary critics and literary historians during the 1970s. The different articles, book chapters, and dissertations about Ellison that have appeared since 1952 now number in the hundreds. Bibliographical studies of him are appearing more frequently. His short fiction also is receiving more attention. Yet the critical focus remains on Invisible Man. Recent trends are toward a more in-depth exploration of the novel's language, its mythic, folkloric, and ritualistic ramifications and implications, and its various musical, political, religious, and literary sources. The novel's richness and complexity promise to generate critical studies for many years to come. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Ralph Ellison Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1952. Shadow and Act. New York: Random House, 1964. Going to the Territory. New York: Random House, 1986. Short Fiction "Slick Gonna Learn." Direction 2 ( September 1939): 10-11, 14,16. "Afternoon." American Writing. Ed. Hans Otto Storm et al. Prairie City, Ill.: J. A. Decker, 1940, pp. 28-37. "The Birthmark." New Masses 36 ( July 1940): 16-17. "Mister Toussan." New Masses 41 ( November 1941): 19-20. "That I Had the Wings." Common Ground 3 (Summer 1943): 30-37. "Flying Home." Cross Section. Ed. Edwin Seaver. New York: L. B. Fischer, 1944, pp. 469-85. "In a Strange Country." Tomorrow 3 ( July 1944): 41-44. "King of the Bingo Game." Tomorrow 4 ( November 1944): 29-33. "Invisible Man." Horizon 16 ( October 1947): 104-18. "Invisible Man: Prologue to a Novel." Partisan Review 19 ( January 1952): 31-40. "Did You Ever Dream Lucky?" New World Writing 5 ( April 1954): 134-45. "February." Saturday Review 1 ( January 1955): 25. "A Coupla Scalped Indians." New World Writing 9 ( 1956): 225-36. "The Roof, the Steeple and the People." Quarterly Review of Literature 10 ( September 1959): 115-28. "And Hickman Arrives." Noble Savage 1 ( 1960): 5-49. -156 "It Always Breaks Out." Partisan Review 30 (Spring 1963): 13-28. "Out of the Hospital and Under the Bar." Soon, One Morning. Ed. Herbert Hill. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, pp. 242-90. "Juneteenth." Quarterly Review of Literature 13 ( 1965): 262-76. "Night-Talk." Quarterly Review of Literature 16 ( 1969): 317-29. "A Song of Innocence." Iowa Review 1 (Spring 1970): 30-40. "Cadillac Flambй." American Review 16 ( 1973): 249-69. "Backwacking: A Plea to the Senator." Massachusetts Review 18 (Autumn 1977): 41116. Studies of Ralph Ellison Baker Houston A. "Forgotten Prototype." Virginia Quarterly Review 49 (Summer 1973): 433-49. Blake Susan L. "Ritual and Rationalization: Black Folklore in the Works of Ralph Ellison." PMLA 94 ( January 1979): 121-36. Bluestein Gene. "The Blues as a Literary Theme." Massachusetts Review 8 (Autumn 1967): 593-617. Covo Jacqueline. The Blinking Eye: Ralph Waldo Ellison and His American, French, German, and Italian Critics, 1952-1971. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974. Doyle Mary Ellen. "In Need of Folk: The Alienated Protagonists of Ralph Ellison's Short Fiction." CLA Journal 19 ( December 1975): 165-72. Gayle Addison. The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975. Gibson Donald B., ed. Five Black Writers: Essays on Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Hughes, and Le Roi Jones. New York: New York University Press, 1970. Giza Joanne. "Ralph Ellison." Black American Writers: Bibliographical Essays, vol. 2. Ed. M. Thomas Inge, Maurice Duke, and Jackson R. Bryer. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978. 24
Hersey John R., ed. Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974. Horowitz Floyd R. "Ralph Ellison's Modern Version of Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit in Invisible Man." Midcontinental American Studies Journal 4 (Fall 1963): 21-27. O'Daniel Thurman B. "Image of Man as Portrayed by Ralph Ellison." CLA Journal 10 ( June 1967): 277-84. O'Meally Robert G. The Craft of Ralph Ellison. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980. Steele Shelby. "Ralph Ellison's Blues." Journal of Black Studies 7 ( December 1976): 151-68. Walcott Ronald. "Some Notes on the Blues, Style and Space: Ellison, Gordone and Tolson." Black World 22 ( December 1972): 4-29. Walling William. "'Art' and 'Protest': Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Twenty Years After." Phylon 34 ( June 1973): 120-34. -157 THOMAS E. DASHER William Faulkner (1897-1962) William Faulkner has achieved a greater influence on Southern writers than has any other. But his appeal is finally international, and he ranks among the greatest writers of his nation and century, as the continuous outpouring of criticism on his art testifies. BIOGRAPHY William Cuthbert Falkner (he would later add the u dropped by his greatgrandfather) was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on 25 September 1897. The son of Murry Cuthbert and Maud Butler Falkner, he soon moved with his family to Ripley, Mississippi, but after the births of two more sons--Murry and Johncy--the family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, in September 1902. These moves were tied to family, for the Falkners had been prominent in north Mississippi for several decades. William Clark Falkner ( 1825-85), the "Old Colonel," had been a Confederate officer, a novelist ( The White Rose of Memphis), and a cofounder of the Ripley Railroad Company. After the war, he practiced law and later was shot and killed by an irate former partner; an impressive eighteen-foot statue dominates the monument at his grave near Ripley. His son John Wesley Thompson Falkner, the "Young Colonel" ( 1848-1922), attended the University of Mississippi, practiced law, moved to Oxford in 1885, and briefly entered politics. His elder son Murry, however, never found the success his grandfather or father knew. Attracted to the railroad, William Faulkner's father moved his family to Oxford where he ran a livery stable; he loved to hunt and to drink. Maud Butler, whose mother Lelia Butler, called Damuddy, lived with the Murry Falkners when they moved to Oxford, was a small, reserved, determined woman whose relationship with her husband was often strained. She loved to -158paint and to read, recommending Shakespeare, Balzac, Conrad, and contemporary fiction writers to her sons. She and her husband disagreed almost from the first about their oldest son, whose own relationship with his mother had an especially strong impact upon his life. Until her death in 1960, William Faulkner visited with her every day he was in Oxford, and while she often failed to understand his actions and his writing, she remained one of his staunchest defenders. Initially, Faulkner was a good student, but by the eighth grade he was bored with school and far more involved in his own reading and writing, as well as the activities of the community and his father's livery stable. He already felt alienated from many of his peers who found him different and difficult. By the eleventh grade, the final year in high school, he had dropped out of school, briefly returning to play football but leaving for good in the fall of 1915. He was not, however, totally alone in a hostile environment, for he always enjoyed hunting with other boys and men, and he had become involved in two relationships that altered his life and career. One was with Estelle Oldham. Twenty months older than Faulkner and a popular coquette in Oxford, she had known the Falkner boys since childhood, the oldest having always been her favorite. He shared books and poems with her and tried to please her with his clothes and constant attention. And she responded, for if he placed her and her world upon a pedestal, she, in turn, took his world and interests seriously and tried to share in them. By the time she entered college, they both acknowledged their mutual love even though she gladly received the attention of other men. The other relationship was with Phil Stone, the scion of an established Oxford family, who was four years older than Faulkner and educated at Ole Miss and Yale. In June 1914 he and Faulkner met through a friend who recognized the younger man's talent and the older's learning. Thus began a lifelong friendship that changed and nearly crumbled, but that Faulkner still acknowledged with the dedication of his Snopes trilogy. At first, Stone served as mentor and resource. A man who loved to talk and teach, he found a willing, insatiable student. They 25
spent much time together discussing classic and contemporary literature, philosophy, and history. Stone further opened a world into which Faulkner had begun to wander by encouraging the younger man to write his own poetry. Although Faulkner would have doubtlessly developed into a writer without Stone's influence, he benefited in a number of ways from their friendship in the early years of his career. One benefit to Faulkner from Stone's friendship occurred in spring 1918 when Estelle gave in to family pressure and agreed to marry Cornell Franklin. To help Faulkner through this difficult period and to head off a possible elopement, Stone invited Faulkner to join him at Yale, where he was in law school. Working as a ledger clerk in New Haven, Faulkner experienced briefly the atmosphere and stimulation of a great university, but in midJune, two months after Estelle's marriage, he joined the Royal Air Force in New York and later reported to -159 Toronto for active service. Although he desperately wanted to see action in World War I, he never left Canada and was discharged in early December. This experience, however, profoundly affected his fiction, and for many years, he cultivated the myth that he had been severely wounded during the war. He even wore his uniform and limped around Oxford. Only much later did he attempt to clarify his role during the war. Meanwhile, he used this experience repeatedly, even in his first published fiction, which appeared in the Mississippian a year later, "Landing in Luck." Faulkner's sojourn in New Haven and Canada and his return to Oxford were only the first in a series of extended journeys that would take him in the next decade away from and back to Oxford. In 1919 he wandered around Mississippi, taking trips to Memphis and New Orleans. His poem "L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune" appeared in the New Republic in August, and he began to publish poems in the Mississippian and Oxford Eagle, having enrolled in the University of Mississippi as a special student. In the following year he joined the Marionettes, a university drama club for which he wrote a verse play, The Marionettes, even though he withdrew from Ole Miss in November 1920. During the fall of 1921, after presenting Estelle Franklin with a gift volume of his poems, Vision in Spring, he went to New York, where he stayed with Stark Young and worked at a bookstore run by Elizabeth Prall. Reading such writers as Melville, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and Cervantes, he continued his own writing and drawing. He briefly rented a room in Greenwich Village and revisited New Haven but returned to Oxford in December 1921 to become postmaster at the university post office, a position Phil Stone had helped to secure for him. As postmaster, Faulkner was a complete failure; he preferred to read and write-continuing to publish in the Mississippian and having one poem appear in the Double Dealer in June 1922. Stone helped to arrange the publication of his first volume of poems, The Marble Faun, with the Four Seas Company; Faulkner agreed to pay the $400 production costs. By the end of 1924, having lost his postmaster's job, Faulkner decided to visit New Orleans, where his New York employer Elizabeth Prall now lived with her husband, Sherwood Anderson. New Orleans was a center for artists and writers, whose work often appeared in the Double Dealer. At the center of this group was Anderson, the author of Winesburg, Ohio and Horses and Men; he and Faulkner got along well together when they first met in late 1924. After The Marble Faun was published in December, Faulkner returned to New Orleans in early 1925 on his way to Europe. Since he would not sail until July, he frequently visited with the Andersons; and he began to contribute a series of sketches to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, met many people--including Helen Baird, with whom he fell in love--and wrote his first novel, Soldiers' Pay, which Anderson sent to his own publisher with his recommendation. When Faulkner sailed with William Spratling to Europe after a brief trip to Oxford, he had no definite plans. He traveled in Italy and Switzerland and settled in Paris in mid-August. Enthralled with the city and its art, he began his second -160 novel, Elmer, which he never published but from which he repeatedly used material in later published work. After a brief visit to England, he returned to Paris and then sailed in December for New York, where he checked on the progress of Soldiers' Pay. When his first novel was published on 25 February 1926, he was back in New Orleans with Spratling. Most of the first printing of Soldiers' Pay sold quickly, and the good reviews encouraged Faulkner to begin his third novel, Mosquitoes, which drew heavily on his New Orleans experiences with Anderson and his circle of friends and on Helen Baird, to whom he dedicated the novel, completed in September 1926. Two other works composed during these New Orleans periods were written expressly for Helen: Mayday and Helen: A Courtship. Unlike Estelle, who was beginning to have marital problems, Baird rejected Faulkner's love. With his novel, however, he was more successful. Liveright accepted Mosquitoes, which was published on 30 April 1927. During this period Faulkner had begun work on Snopes material called Father Abraham, but he put it aside to write Flags in the Dust, his first completed novel to deal with the Sartorises and Yoknapatawpha. He also returned briefly to New Orleans and collaborated with Spratling on Sherwood Anderson & Other Famous Creoles. 26
When he returned to Oxford, he found Estelle, with her two children, who had decided to divorce Cornell Franklin; the divorce, however, would not be final for two years. After revising Flags extensively, Faulkner sent it to Liveright in October 1927, confident that he had written a great novel. When his publisher rejected the manuscript and advised Faulkner not to try to publish it, the author was devastated. He was also having little success in trying to publish his short stories. Putting Flags temporarily aside, he plunged into his next novel with a fervor that remained unique in his career. He wrote The Sound and the Fury, convinced that no one would publish his work and that he was thus freed from outside considerations. He knew that this time he had truly written a great novel. Meanwhile, Harcourt, Brace accepted Flags on the condition that he cut it. He agreed and went to New York, taking the manuscript of his new novel with him. Ben Wasson, now his agent, actually did the cutting, and Flags in the Dust became Sartoris, Faulkner's third published novel; it appeared on 31 January 1929. By the time The Sound and the Fury was accepted by Cape and Smith in early 1929, Faulkner, determined also to write a novel that would sell, completed a draft of Sanctuary. On 20 June 1929 he and Estelle married, two months after her divorce was final, and he corrected the proofs of The Sound and the Fury on his honeymoon. He had accomplished two great personal goals: he had written his first truly great novel and had married the woman whom he had always loved. His marriage, however, never matched the success of his career, and although he wrote many great novels, he and Estelle were seldom happy together. Neither could adjust to the other, and both used alcohol as an escape and a means of release. Although their marriage lasted and produced two daughters, one to die in infancy and the -161other to become her father's delight, their lives remained separate and often at war. By the time The Sound and the Fury was published on 7 October 1929, Faulkner had a wife and little money; his short stories did not begin to sell until the following year. He found a job in the Ole Miss power plant where, during the night, he wrote As I Lay Dying. By the time it was published in October 1930, his stories had begun to sell, and he bought a home, Rowan Oak. When the galley proofs of Sanctuary arrived, he viewed them with dismay and insisted on extensive revision. Sanctuary was published in early 1931, assuring Faulkner the notoriety that he had known the novel would produce. These 13, a collection of his stories, soon followed, and in October he attended the Southern Writers' Conference in Charlottesville before a seven-week stay in New York, where he drank heavily, met many writers--including Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, and Nathanael West--and was treated as a famous and respected writer. Back in Oxford, he continued to work on Light in August and to face severe financial problems. Thus in May 1932 he made his first trip to Hollywood, where he earned $500 a week writing for movies. In Hollywood he met the director Howard Hawks, for whom he worked on scripts for over two decades. In August Murry Falkner died, and on 9 October 1932 Light in August was published to considerable acclaim as a major novel by an internationally known author. Once again in Oxford, he continued to work on short stories and took flying lessons. A Green Bough, his second volume of verse, was published in April 1933, and his second volume of stories, Doctor Martino and Other Stories, appeared in April 1934. During this period he continued to fly and to work periodically on film scripts as well as his own work, a novel about the Snopes family and one he entitled Requiem for a Nun. By the end of 1933, he put both novels aside to begin the novel that would become Absalom, Absalom! He also earned his pilot's license and later attended the dedication of the Shushan Airport in New Orleans. In mid-- 1934 he worked on a series of stories about Bayard Sartoris for the Saturday Evening Post and returned to Hollywood to make $1,000 per week. When he arrived back in Oxford in September 1934, he put Absalom aside and began work on Pylon, which drew heavily from his experiences with flying and with the people whom he had met at air shows and airports. He wrote quickly, finishing the manuscript in late November, and the novel was published on 25 March 1935. He continued to work on stories and returned to Absalom as his financial situation worsened once again. Then in November his beloved youngest brother Dean, whom he had encouraged to fly, was killed in a plane crash; he felt totally responsible. But he was not able to grieve in Oxford; he returned to Hollywood, this time not only for money, but although he did not yet know it, also for love. He was drawn to Meta Carpenter, Hawks's secretary, and an intimate relationship that lasted intermittently over much of the rest of his life developed. In Hollywood he also finally finished Absalom, which was published on 26 October 1936. During the first half of 1937, still in Hollywood after several brief visits home, -162 he revised his Bayard Sartoris stories and wrote a long, final story for the novel The Unvanquished, which was published in early 1938. By this time he had begun The Wild Palms and severely burned his back during a visit to New York. After the sale of The Unvanquished to Hollywood, he bought a farm not far from Oxford where Faulkner the novelist, who had never wanted to be seen as the literary man, could also be Faulkner the farmer. He finished The Wild Palms in June 1938. He had also returned to the Snopes material, which he already knew would become a trilogy; the first volume of the trilogy was later entitled The Hamlet. 27
Meanwhile, Faulkner was named to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and his picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Between grief and nothing, he would choose grief, as he told several people in his life, including Meta Carpenter, but he would not be able to grieve away from the public eye. An intensely private man, he was now a public person whose reputation grew increasingly during the next decade and culminated in the Nobel Prize. It was a difficult decade: he continued to struggle financially and, at times, artistically. The Hamlet, however, progressed smoothly, and it was published in April 1940. During. this period, Conrad Aiken published an essay favorably comparing him to Balzac, and Faulkner, who claimed to have little interest in politics, contributed th6 manuscript of Absalom, Absalom! to a relief fund for Spanish loyalists. Faulkner's own funds, however, were depleted. The sole provider for much of his family, he asked for advances from his publisher, wrote more stories, worried about the impending war, and did civil defense work. He also began to revise stories for the novel Go Down, Moses, which was published in May 1942. During this period he tried for a screenwriting job and also a commission in the military. Always, he turned out stories, hoping to cover the constant bills. Finally, in July 1942 he returned to Hollywood for only $300 per week as part of a long-term contract that sent him back and forth between Oxford and Hollywood for several years. He renewed his affair with Meta Carpenter, but the burden of his financial problems and his misery in Hollywood combined with his heavy drinking to create perhaps the lowest point in his life. As a result of a conversation in Hollywood he began the story that slowly evolved into A Fable, but he was able to produce little of his own work except for a few stories. He spent much of 1943, 1944, and 1945 working on scripts and trying to progress with his fable about Christ. In mid-- 1945 Malcolm Cowley began work on The Portable Faulkner for Viking Press. The book had a great impact upon Faulkner's reputation and the availability of his work. Published in April 1946, this volume included both a long introduction by Cowley and a new piece on the Compsons by Faulkner. Also in early 1946, Warner Brothers agreed to let Faulkner finish his fable, allowing him to stay in Oxford and to begin to extricate himself from his Hollywood bondage. The novel progressed slowly as Faulkner continued his life in Oxford--riding horses, hunting, participating in family activities, and meeting with English classes at Ole Miss in April 1947. Finally, in early 1948 he put aside the incredibly complex manuscript of his fable and began Intruderin the Dust -163 in the Dust, which he finished in April after careful but rapid revision. Not only did the novel receive enthusiastic reviews and sell well, but MGM bought the film rights for $50,000. Once again, he was the highly touted author, widely entertained when he arrived in New York in October. Almost immediately, back in Oxford, he began to plan two collections of short fiction--one to contain his collected stories and the other to focus on Gavin Stevens as detective. Clearly, much of the artist's agony of the past few years was behind him. In early 1949 Faulkner helped the film crew who came to Oxford to film Intruder, and in November Knight's Gambit was published. Earlier, in August, he had met a young woman, Joan Williams, with whom he became involved first as confidant and mentor, and later as suitor and rejected older lover. He proposed that they coauthor a play that he would outline and she develop. She did little work on the play, which became Requiem for a Nun, the story he had conceived as early as 1933. Before he could finish it, however, he received the American Academy's Howells Medal for Fiction in May 1950, saw his Collected Stories published in August, and in November learned that he had been awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. At first refusing to go to Stockholm, he did take his daughter Jill with him to the award ceremonies in December 1950 and delivered his famous acceptance speech, although no one in the audience could hear it. When the speech was published, it seemed to mark another turning point in his life. Many people saw it as an affirmation of man's ability to prevail over the agony, defeat, and suffering that some felt dominated his fiction; but as others recognized, Faulkner's work had always affirmed the verities of the human heart, and the short Stockholm speech said nothing new. For the new Nobel Prize novelist, 1951 was a busy year. Agreeing to help Howard Hawks on a script, he went to Hollywood for two months at $2,000 a week and, once again, saw Carpenter. In March he received the National Book Award for Fiction for Collected Stories; in April he traveled to England and France. He also worked on the stage version of Requiem, which had been published as a novel in September. In October he received the French Legion of Honor in New Orleans and returned to his fable as the new year began. In early 1952 he stayed in Oxford, speaking in May to an enthusiastic audience at the Delta Council, where he attacked federal welfare programs. He then left for Paris where severe back pain--probably caused by a fall from a horse--proved almost crippling. He traveled to Norway, then back to New York and Oxford. He continued to see Williams and tried to help her with her writing. In late 1952, despite the back pain and heavy drinking, he worked on A Fable in Princeton and New York. In early 1953 he left Oxford again, this time planning to stay nearly six months, seeking for a way to finish his novel, to escape the physical pain, and to ease the emotional suffering. In New York, although Faulkner remained physically ill from heavy drinking for several months, he managed to work steadily; his work included television scripts and a long piece on Mississippi for Holiday magazine. He returned home in April to work through the summer on A Fable, which he was convinced would 28
-164be his best novel. Back in New York, Saxe Commins, his editor at Random House, helped him wrestle with the huge manuscript as he tried to continue the troubling relationship with Williams. Finally, with the novel finished, he left for Europe in November to work with Hawks on another movie. In Europe, he traveled in France, Switzerland, England, and Italy; he became involved with yet another young woman, Jean Stein. In early 1954 he traveled to Egypt to meet Hawks; there he completed his script and learned of Williams's marriage to a younger man and the approaching marriage of his daughter. Back in Oxford in April, he continued to worry about A Fable, finally published on 2 August 1954 to mixed reviews nearly ten years after he had begun to write it. Before Jill's marriage on 21 August, he attended an international writers' conference in Brazil at the request of the government. After the wedding he divided his time between Oxford and New York writing stories and teleplays, continued his relationship with Stein, and received the National Book Award for A Fable in January 1955 and the Pulitzer Prize in May. In 1955 he became embroiled in the heated dispute over desegregation; he was vehemently attacked for his opposition to the segregationists. Then in July he made a triumphant visit to Japan, again at the request of the State Department. On his way home he made stops in Manila, Europe, and Iceland, arriving in Oxford in October, not long after the publication of Big Woods, a carefully crafted collection of his hunting stories. Thus, he was assuming a more public voice even though he continued to cherish his privacy. His patriotism and his conscience combined to make him a spokesman for America, for writers, and for white Southerners struggling to deal with the growing civil rights movement. By late 1955, when he began his second Snopes volume, royalties and movie sales of his novels had increasingly relieved his financial worries. Through 1956, he visited Charlottesville, Virginia, where Jill lived, as he traveled between New York and Oxford. In June he agreed to head a section of President Eisenhower's "peopleto-people" program to establish better contacts between American and foreign writers, and in late September he finished The Town, published in May 1957. Meanwhile, he had agreed to serve as writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia for the second semester. Together, he and Estelle, who had lived separate lives for years, moved to Charlottesville. He also visited Greece in February for a production of Requiem and a medal from the Athens Academy. When he returned to Oxford from Virginia, he began the third Snopes volume, which he continued when he was again writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia in 1958. He divided his time between Oxford and Charlottesville, where he increasingly felt at home and especially enjoyed the fox hunting and horseback riding. The Mansion was published on 13 November 1959 after he had bought a home in Charlottesville; he had found a certain peace in his second home near his daughter and grandsons. In early 1960 Faulkner was in Oxford but soon returned to Charlottesville, where he was appointed Balch Lecturer in American Literature; he continued to visit classes and give one public reading a year. In October his mother died, -165 severing one of his major ties to Oxford, and he further cemented his ties to the University of Virginia when he decided to leave his manuscripts to the William Faulkner Foundation in Charlottesville. In April 1961 he paid a successful visit to South America as a guest of the North American Association of Venezuela and, soon after, began his next novel, The Reivers, published in June 1962. Throughout the last of 1961, he remained in Virginia, where he had another serious riding accident and complicated health problems. Returning to Rowan Oak in January 1962, he visited with friends and family. When he and Estelle moved back to Virginia, they planned to make the move permanent. He visited West Point in April, and in May accepted the Gold Medal for Fiction of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York. He returned to Oxford in early June, and while he was there he had another riding accident. Making plans to buy an estate not far from Charlottesville, he relaxed at Rowan Oak. On 5 July he entered the hospital after a drinking bout and died there of a heart attack on 6 July, the old Colonel's birthday. He was buried in St. Peter's cemetery in Oxford on 7 July 1962. MAJOR THEMES In "Race at Morning," one of Faulkner's late stories written in 1954 and sold to the Saturday Evening Post, Mister Ernest tells the disbelieving narrator, a young boy, that the boy must go to school. The boy wants to stay with Mister Ernest, farming and hunting and leading the kind of life he observes the older man living. "'That ain't enough any more [Mister Ernest tells him]. Time was when all a man had to do was just farm eleven and a half months, and hunt the other half. But not now. Now just to belong to the farming business and the hunting business ain't enough. You got to belong to the business of mankind.'" The boy must go to school to learn how to teach others not only what is right and wrong but, more important, why it is right and why the boy, later a man, acts the way he does. Thus, the boy must understand why maybe is "'the best word in our language, the best of all. That's what mankind keeps going on: Maybe.'" 29
Mister Ernest realizes that man's most difficult challenge is to face choosing and then accepting the responsibility of living with the consequences of that choice. With a knowledge of Mister Ernest's world--the land, the hunt, the relationship of man with nature, man with his fellowman--the boy must go further to help others live in a complex world where the choices are perhaps no more difficult than those faced by previous generations, but which now demand response from individuals whose very consciousness of the complexity makes knowing why essential before they can make the choice. In other words, the boy's initiation into good and evil has only just begun, and he will spend a lifetime facing moral questions to which farming and hunting alone cannot provide the answers. He must develop the critical awareness of the educated individual, the ability to ask the difficult questions and then accept acting even -166 though one knows that only after the action will he be able to judge whether or not he acted rightly. He also knows that even then he will never know whether or not choosing another response might have produced better or more just or more compassionate results. Yet belonging to the "business of mankind" forces the boy out of childhood, out of the world of the past, the world of Mister Ernest, into the future--all contained in the present moment of decision. Critics continue to debate the merits of Faulkner's late fiction; all agree that the greatest work began with The Sound and the Fury and continued through Go Down, Moses. Most concur that Faulkner wrote at least five or six truly great novels during that period. About the work written after 1942, however, they still vehemently disagree. Some claim that although Faulkner continued to write great parts of novels, the great novels were behind him. Others maintain that he lost the drive, the spark, as he moved from the dark world of the earlier period to the brighter vision of the later period. Still others believe that he felt compelled to affirm man's ability to prevail over the human condition while he earlier denied that possibility. In all of Faulkner's work--both early and late-there emerges, however, a consistency of themes and commitment. His Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech does anticipate A Fable, "Race at Morning," and The Reivers, but it also incorporates As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and The Wild Palms. Faulkner's major themes do not divide neatly into dark and light, despair and hope, tragic and comic. They do, in many ways, merge into Maybe. For Faulkner, an individual who must live in the modern world faces the traps that other twentieth-century writers have explored: alienation, isolation, fragmentation. Certainly in the post--World War I world, modern man is constantly in danger of following Prufrock's model or Yeats's "passionate intensity." Sadness at a world bereft of values, moral certainty, or belief in anything shaped the young Faulkner's poetry and prose. The early work is filled with epicene, faunlike creatures who exist only half-formed in world-weary despair or ennui and are replaced by young men seeking meaning in what they perceive to be a meaningless world. Their vision is turned inward, toward self, recoiling in horror from full involvement in the world around them; Little Sister Death lurks in the doorway, and they often turn to welcome her embrace. For Quentin Compson, this embrace results in his actual suicide; Horace Benbow, on the other hand, returns to Belle Mitchell and a death-in-life situation. Young Bayard Sartoris feels driven away from his family and the community as he pursues his own inevitable death in a plane crash, whereas Darl Bundren withdraws into insanity, unable to cope with his family's odyssey and his own ineffectual efforts to derive meaning from the lives around him. None of these men knows how to come to terms with time, history, the community, and Original Sin. Eating the apple only assured the knowledge of good and evil, not of what is good and what is evil. Thus, these great forces and influences overwhelm many Faulkner characters when they are unable to incorporate them into a whole rather than disparate fragments. For Faulkner, who chose to write mainly of Yoknapatawpha residents, Southerners were particularly appropriate examples of the universal condition -167of man. Yet he never saw the dilemmas or problems of his characters as unique to the South. On the contrary, he found in his native region the strengths and weaknesses, the supports and threats that assail all people. Among those strengths is always community. As Cleanth Brooks states, community "is the circumambient atmosphere, the essential ether of Faulkner's fiction." From Joe Christmas to Lucius Priest, the community exerts a powerful influence over the lives of the individuals within it. At times it can be destructive, as when it is stirred by hatred, bigotry, and mindless respectability; however, in Faulkner it always provides the context, the framework in which people live their lives. It cannot save anyone, but it can help someone save himself. Joe Christmas in Light in August cannot fit, for he fails to learn who he is. His is the tragedy of a man who becomes subsumed by a passion to discover his identity fixed forever in being white or black. Like Ahab pursuing Moby Dick, he refuses to compromise and propels himself toward destruction. Gail Hightower also cuts himself off from the community by pursuing his own obsessions to the destruction of his home and life. In contrast to them, Lena Grove and Byron Bunch elicit the strengths of the community as they grope toward a family unit and a stable existence. This community does not depend upon some aristocracy at the top of a social hierarchy, but very often upon the yeoman farmer whose integrity and ties to the land make him able to reach out and embrace Lena and Byron. Similarly, in 30
Intruder in the Dust the various elements of the community combine forces to save Lucas Beauchamp. Gavin Stevens, Aleck Sander, Chick Mallison, and Miss Habersham finally involve even the Gowries in proving Lucas's innocence. In the Snopes trilogy, Flem gains a wife, the presidency of the bank, and the mansion, but again through Gavin Stevens and Chick Mallison and especially V. K. Ratliff the community presides over Flem's self-ordained doom. The values of the community, chosen by Sarty Snopes in "Barn Barning" over his father's values, assure that Flem, who, unlike Sarty, chooses his own ruthless ambition over family, will face Mink's bullet without an attempt to save himself. In Faulkner's fiction those people who cut themselves off from the community deny themselves a vital strength and important foundation. History also figures in much of Faulkner's work. Certainly history haunts Gail Hightower, whose obsession with his grandfather's exploits in the Civil War prevents him from living in the present. In Go Down, Moses Ike McCaslin's reaction to his discovery of his family's history dooms him to an ineffectual repudiation of the land and a hollow existence as every hunter's uncle and no child's father. Both Quentin Compson and Shreve McCannon in Absalom, Absalom! imaginatively reconstruct the past in order to understand the Sutpens' destruction. Quentin, however, cannot assimilate the past--his own in The Sound and the Fury or Sutpen's--and shivers in the cold, knowing he cannot move into the future. Shreve, his Canadian roommate, sees the search for the truth about the Sutpens as a challenging game and seems no wiser for his discoveries at the end of the novel. For these characters and others, time is a linear element that they hope to slice off as seconds on a clock. For Faulkner, time past and -168 time future are contained in time present. One cannot escape history, as Temple Drake discovers in Requiem for a Nun, nor can one live successfully without history, as the Reporter sees in Pylon. Like Bayard Sartoris in The Unvanquished, man must learn from the past to live in a viable present, to adapt to change so that change will not control his existence. That ability to live fully--to maintain standards of conduct and to strive to inculcate the verities of the human heart in oneself as well as others--is always balanced by the knowledge that man will not inhabit Eden again. There is no millenarianism in Faulkner. Some of his harshest criticism is leveled not at the villains Jason Compson, Flem Snopes, and Popeye but at ineffectual idealists: Gavin Stevens, Horace Benbow, and Ike McCaslin. Certainly Jason Compson is a thoroughly despicable character who lacks any compassion or pity or love. Faulkner condemns those incapable of love and those who exploit the love of others. Yet such characters are as "easy" to condemn in fiction as they are in life. Love, of course, can also be destructive, as Harry Wilbourne discovers in The Wild Palms. But idealism and softheadedness can be equally as destructive and perhaps more harmful. Stevens, Benbow, and McCaslin are indeed sympathetic characters, but they finally fail to do more good than harm. In Go Down, Moses and Light in August, Stevens obviously misinterprets the events he witnesses; and in Requiem for a Nun, The Town, and The Mansion, he does little more than maintain a watch. His self-righteousness and moral rigidity are no match for the forces at work in Linda Kohl, Temple Drake, or Flem Snopes. Benbow fares even worse, for in the face of evil he is powerless and collapses. Ike McCaslin is surely one of Faulkner's most appealing youths, but as a man he signs away his inheritance and, like Pilate, believes that he can escape responsibility for the failures of his family as well as for man's basic nature. Unable to be Christ, Ike crucifies the opportunities he has to use the past and his own ability in a meaningful, constructive way. Faulkner believed in man's ability to prevail over the tragedies of the human condition. As Cleanth Brooks writes, " Faulkner's work speaks ultimately of the possibilities and capacities of the human spirit for finding and embodying meaning." Readers will not find central heroes who achieve mindless happiness. Yet throughout Faulkner's fiction his characters emerge triumphant in their denial of the meaninglessness of life. Judith Sutpen not only loves Bon, who in turn clearly loves her, but also commits her life to his child and the world that remains after 1865. Dilsey cannot save the Compsons, but she refuses to let their tortured lives overwhelm the compassion and pity and courage she insists upon within herself. Henry Armstid madly digs at the Old Frenchman's Place; but Ratliff, with his wisdom and integrity, always counterbalances Gavin Stevens's idealism and foolishness and finally surveys Flem's ruin in all its aspects. But avarice, selfishness, cruelty, and bigotry are never defeated in Faulkner. "Prevailing" does not mean the elimination of man's vices. In fact, one of man's greatest strengths is his capacity to recognize those very weaknesses that struggle internally with every virtue. -169Harry Wilbourne in The Wild Palms spends much of his life in prison. He and Charlotte try to escape time and responsibility, to make of love an absolute into which they can entwine their lives. Attempting to make life all honeymoon, they destroy the romance. Seeking a perfect union, they find separation. Yet Harry refuses to escape, to commit suicide when the possibility is offered. He wants to know why he should act in such a way and, more important, why he and Charlotte failed so miserably in their attempt to prevail over the limitations of life and human relationships. Although they have been foolish and have hurt others, he and Charlotte are not wicked people who scorn all the verities of the human heart. In fact, they try to redefine them all in terms of themselves, their own personal lives. Throughout Faulkner's work, such attempts are doomed. Yet Harry lives through the attempt, 31
chooses to live with the wisdom he has finally gained and the memory of the love that he and Charlotte shared. He chooses grief over nothing. Faulkner believed in man's capacity to learn, to gain a certain wisdom, to choose life, to discover meaning. In the word maybe lie the possibilities of such capabilities; in man himself lies the potential to make of the moment a continuum with the past and an assurance of the future. SURVEY OF CRITICISM Beginning in the 1950s and accelerating through the 1960s and 1970s, critical and biographical studies of Faulkner have proliferated to the point that probably no other American author has been so studied. Unfortunately, many of these works are flawed by careless scholarship and needless repetition of prior critical analyses. Nevertheless, as O. B. Emerson Faulkner's Early Literary Reputation in America ( 1984) shows, Faulkner never lacked for astute critics. Although it has been popular to decry his critical reception before the mid--1940s, his work has been read carefully and with insight. Much of this work, however, was done by foreign critics, especially the French, and the sale of his books was adversely affected by unperceptive reviews in the popular press and, of course, the demands that the novels themselves placed upon the reader. Yet by the mid--1930s Faulkner was already seen as a major American writer, and when he won the Nobel Prize in 1950, the sale of his books began to match the reputation he had already established. Perhaps the major lack in Faulkner scholarship today is a complete and upto-date bibliography of his work. Until it appears, James B. Meriwether bibliographical work in The Literary Career of William Faulkner ( 1961), "The Short Fiction of William Faulkner: A Bibliography" in Proof 1 ( 1971), and "The Books of William Faulkner: A Revised Guide for Students and Scholars" in the Mississippi Quarterly (Summer 1982) must suffice. There are, however, several fine bibliographies of work about Faulkner: Thomas L. McHaney William Faulkner: A Reference Guide ( 1976) and John -170 Earl Bassett's two works, William Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Criticism ( 1972) and Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Recent Criticism ( 1983). McHaney lists works chronologically through 1973 and includes an index to authors and titles, and a great number of subject entries. Bassett's first volume ends in 1971 and is organized under topical headings with some works listed alphabetically and others chronologically under the headings; the second volume covers from about 1971 through 1982 and is set up much like the 1971 checklist. The annual "Checklist of Scholarship on Southern Literature" published in the Mississippi Quarterly is also quite helpful. For critical assessments of work on Faulkner, one should begin with Meriwether's chapter on Faulkner in Sixteen Modern American Authors ( 1974) and consult the Faulkner chapter in the annual American Literary Scholarship and the "Survey of Research and Criticism" published annually in the Faulkner issue of the Mississippi Quarterly since 1978. Among the many guides, handbooks, and character indices to Faulkner, the most comprehensive index is Thomas E. Dasher Faulkner's Characters: An Index to the Published and Unpublished Fiction ( 1981); Calvin S. Brown A Glossary of Faulkner's South ( 1976) can also be useful. Although Faulkner vehemently opposed intrusions into his private life such as Robert Coughlan The Private World of William Faulkner ( 1954), based upon two unreliable articles in Life, scholars have repeatedly explored his life. Until 1974 the best biographical study was Michael Millgate first chapter in The Achievement of William Faulkner ( 1966); it was superseded by Joseph Blotner's massive two-volume Faulkner: A Biography ( 1974), the authorized study. An overwhelming compilation of details and information, Blotner's work assiduously avoided critical analyses, and its omissions were pointed out by numerous reviewers. Still, it stands as probably the major biographical study of Faulkner; Carvel Collins's long-awaited biography has never appeared. Since Blotner's work appeared, Collins has published several intriguing introductions to Faulkner volumes, notably Mayday ( 1977) and Helen: A Courtship ( 1981). Of significance is Meta Carpenter Wilde A Loving Gentleman: The Love Story of William Faulkner and Meta Carpenter ( 1976); Carpenter's long-term involvement was omitted from Blotner. Also of interest are Malcolm Franklin Bitterweeds: Life with William Faulkner at Rowan Oak ( 1977) and Ben Wasson Count No 'Count ( 1983). Blotner's edition of Faulkner Selected Letters appeared in 1977. Judith B. Wittenberg Faulkner: The Transfiguration of Biography ( 1979), a biographical study that overuses psychoanalytic methods, and David Minter William Faulkner: His Life and Work ( 1980), a critical biography that does not totally successfully explore the relationship between Faulkner's life and his fiction, herald the probable deluge of biographical studies based upon Blotner's work. Certainly a study such as the one Minter purports to do would be a valuable addition to the field, but perhaps the most valuable addition since Blotner's 1974 biography is Blotner's 1984 one-volume biography. A condensed, revised, and updated version of his earlier work, Faulkner: A Biography -171 ography is, in many ways, more reliable and usable than the 1974 volumes. Blotner has incorporated others' work published since 1974 and has greatly profited from the corrections that reviewers and scholars sent him. Since Harry M. Campbell and Ruel E. Foster William Faulkner: A Critical Appraisal ( 1951), over 150 critical books and several thousand articles have been published. As critical theories develop and go in and out of 32
fashion, new studies proliferate. Many of these are thesis-ridden and reveal far more about a particular theory than about Faulkner. Several book-length studies are, however of unquestioned importance. Cleanth Brooks William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country ( 1963) and William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond ( 1978) head the list. Devoting a chapter to each of the novels, Brooks also considers Faulkner's treatment of nature, the common people, and time and history. Other critics have gone into greater depth on individual novels or developed more complex theories, but no one has surpassed the insight, balance, and usefulness of these works. Indeed, almost all of Brooks's many Faulkner essays have similar strengths and yield similar pleasure. Brooks remains the premier critic of Faulkner's work. Also very valuable, although more limited in its treatment of the individual novels, is Michael Millgate The Achievement of William Faulkner ( 1966). Together with Brooks's, Millgate's work on Faulkner continues to be the starting point for any study of Faulkner. Other useful studies that range over Faulkner's entire canon or focus on several novels include Olga Vickery The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Interpretation ( 1959: rev. 1964) and Warren Beck Man in Motion: Faulkner's Trilogy ( 1961), a complex and rewarding study of the Snopes novels. Most of the other critical books on Faulkner prior to 1970, such as Irving Howe William Faulkner: A Critical Study ( 1952, 1962), were superseded by Brooks and Millgate. Since 1970, reviewers have continued to debate the merits of the book-length studies that explore, often in great detail, particular aspects of Faulkner's work. Among these studies are Panthea Reid Broughton William Faulkner: The Abstract and the Actual ( 1974), which stresses the relationship between experience and abstractions in Faulkner, and John T. Irwin Doubling and Incest/Repetition and Revenge: A Speculative Reading of Faulkner ( 1975), a psychoanalytic study showing the influence of structuralism, Lacan, and Nietzsche. David Williams Faulkner's Women: The Myth and the Muse ( 1977) is a provocative study discussing female characters through the use of Jungian archetypes and symbols. Arthur F. Kinney Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision ( 1978) explores Faulkner's use of the narrative techniques in the modernist tradition; Hugh M. Ruppersburg focuses on narrative structure and technique in four of the novels in Voice and Eye in Faulkner's Fiction ( 1983). Heavily indebted to Derrida, John T. Matthews The Play of Faulkner's Language ( 1982) is a stimulating addition to Faulkner criticism, as is Thadious M. Davis Faulkner's "Negro": Art and the Southern Context ( 1983), perhaps the best of the several books focusing on Faulkner's treatment of Negroes in his fiction. Judith Sensibar TheOrigins of Faulkner's Art -172 Origins of Faulkner's Art ( 1984) is a useful study of Faulkner's early work in poetry and prose. Several intriguing studies of individual novels are Thomas L. McHaney's William Faulkner's "The Wild Palms": A Study ( 1975), Andrй Bleikasten's The Most Splendid Failure: Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" ( 1976), and Noel Polk Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun": A Critical Study ( 1981). Also of interest are the volumes that have emanated from the annual Faulkner conference held at the University of Mississippi since 1974. Although greatly uneven in their quality and usefulness, these essays often offer interesting insights into the better-known Faulkner critics and scholars as well as Faulkner himself. Finally, it is important to stress that much of the best work on Faulkner continues to appear in journal articles. There is no indication that the Faulkner industry will taper off, thus, the student of Faulkner faces an awesome task of dealing with the outpouring of work on Faulkner and slowly sifting out the worthwhile from the worthless. Unfortunately, the latter often threatens to overwhelm the former. BEBLIOGRAPHY Works by William Faulkner The Marble Faun. Boston: Four Seas, 1924. Soldiers' Pay. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1926. Mosquitoes. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927. Sartoris. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1929. As I Lay Dying. New York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1930. Idyll in the Desert. New York: Random House, 1931. Sanctuary. New York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1931. These 13. New York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, 1931. Light in August. New York: Harrison Smith & Robert Haas, 1932. Miss Zilphia Grant. [ Dallas]: Book Club of Texas, 1932. A Green Bough. New York: Harrison Smith & Robert Haas, 1933. Doctor Martino and Other Stories. New York: Harrison Smith & Robert Haas, 1934. Pylon. New York: Harrison Smith & Robert Haas, 1935. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Random House, 1936. The Unvanquished. New York: Random House, 1938. The Wild Palms. New York: Random House, 1939. 33
The Hamlet. New York: Random House, 1940. Go Down, Moses. New York: Random House, 1942. Intruder in the Dust. New York: Random House, 1948. Knight's Gambit. New York: Random House, 1949. Collected Stories. New York: Random House, 1950. Notes on a Horsethief. Greenville, Miss.: Levee Press, 1951. Requiem for a Nun. New York: Random House, 1951. A Fable. New York: Random House, 1954. -173Big Woods. New York: Random House, 1955. The Town. New York: Random House, 1957. Faulkner in the University: Class Conferences at the University of Virginia, 1957-1958, ed. Frederick Gwyn and Joseph L. Blotner. New York: Vintage, 1959. The Mansion. New York: Random House, 1959. Early Prose and Poetry. Ed. Carvel Collins. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. The Reivers. New York: Random House, 1962. The Wishing Tree. New York: Random House, 1967. New Orleans Sketches. Ed. Carvel Collins. New York: Random House, 1968. Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner, 1926-1962, ed. James B. Meriwether and Michael Milgate. New York: Random House, 1968. Flags in the Dust. Ed. Douglas Day. New York: Random House, 1973. The Marionettes: A Play in One Act. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1975, 1978. Mayday. [ South Bend, Ind.]: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977, 1980. Selected Letters of William Faulkner. Ed. Joseph Blotner. New York: Random House, 1977. Mississippi Poems. [ Oxford, Miss.]: Yoknapatawpha Press, 1979. Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner. Ed. Joseph Blotner. New York: Random House, 1979. Helen: A Courtship. New Orleans: Tulane University and Oxford, Miss.: Yoknapatawpha Press, 1981. Sanctuary: The Original Text. Ed. Noel Polk. New York: Random House, 1981. Elmer. Ed. Dianne L. Cox. Northport, Ala.: Seajay Press for the Mississippi Quarterly, 1983. Father Abraham. Ed. James B. Meriwether. New York: Random House, 1984. Vision in Spring. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984. Studies of William Faulkner Adams Richard P. Faulkner: Myth and Motion. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968. Bassett John Earl. Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Recent Criticism. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1983. -----. William Faulkner: An Annotated Checklist of Criticism. New York: David Lewis, 1972. Beck Warren. Man in Motion: Faulkner's Trilogy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. Bleikasten Andrй. Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying." Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. -----. The Most Splendid Failure: Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury." Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976. -----. William Faulkner "The Sound and the Fury": A Critical Casebook. New York: Garland, 1982. Blotner Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974. -----. Faulkner: A Biography. 1 vol. New York: Random House, 1984. Brooks Cleanth. William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978. -174-----. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963. Broughton Panthea Reid. William Faulkner: The Abstract and the Actual. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974. Brown Calvin S. A Glossary of Faulkner's South. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. Butterworth Keen. A Critical and Textual Study of Faulkner's "A Fable." Ann Arbor: UMI Research, 1983. Cox Dianne L. William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying": A Critical Casebook. New York: Garland, 1984. Dasher Thomas E. William Faulkner's Characters: An Index to the Published and Unpublished Fiction. New York: Garland, 1981. Davis Thadious M. Faulkner's "Negro": Art and the Southern Context. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983. Emerson O. B. Faulkner's Early Literary Reputation in America. Ann Arbor: UMI Research, 1984. 34
Franklin Malcolm. Life with William Faulkner at Rowan Oak. Irving, Texas: The Society for the Study of Traditional Culture, 1977. Hayashi Tetsumaro. William Faulkner: Research Opportunities and Dissertation Abstracts. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1982. Irwin John T. Doubling and Incest/Repetition and Revenge: A Speculative Reading of Faulkner. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975. Kawin Bruce F. Faulkner and Film. New York: Ungar, 1977. -----. Faulkner's MGM Screenplays. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1982. Kinney Arthur F. Faulkner's Narrative Poetics: Style as Vision. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978. Longley John. The Tragic Mask: A Study of Faulkner's Heroes. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963. McHaney Thomas L. William Faulkner: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976. -----. William Faulkner's "The Wild Palms": A Study. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1975. Matthews John T. The Play of Faulkner's Language. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982. Meriwether James B., ed. The Literary Career of William Faulkner: A Bibliographical Study. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Library, 1961. -----. "William Faulkner," Sixteen Modern American Authors. Ed. Jackson R. Bryer. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1974. Pp. 223-75. Millgate Michael. The Achievement of William Faulkner. New York: Random House, 1966. Minter David. William Faulkner: His Life and Work. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Muhlenfeld Elisabeth. William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!": A Critical Casebook. New York: Garland, 1984. Pitavy Franзois. Faulkner's "Light in August." Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. -----. William Faulkner's "Light in August": A Critical Casebook. New York: Garland, 1982. -175 Polk Noel. Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun": A Critical Study. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. Ruppersburg Hugh M. Voice and Eye in Faulkner's Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983. Sensibar Judith. The Origins of Faulkner's Art. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984. Skei Hans H. William Faulkner: The Short Story Career. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1982. Vickery Olga. The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Interpretation. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1964. Wagner Linda W., ed. William Faulkner: Four Decades of Criticism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1973. Wasson Ben. Count No 'Count: Flashbacks to Faulkner. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983. Wilde Meta Carpenter and Orin Borsten. A Loving Gentleman: The Love Story of William Faulkner and Meta Carpenter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976. Williams David. Faulkner's Women: The Myth and the Muse. Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1977. Wittenberg Judith B. Faulkner: The Transfiguration of Biography. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979. -176................................................................................................... LINDA WAGNER-MARTIN Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945) Ellen Glasgow was known not only as a Southern writer through most of her career: she was known as a Virginia writer. Many of her nineteen novels and her short stories are set in Virginia, or a location that might be Virginia. Even though she loved to travel and tried living in New York City, she found she could not write there. She returned to Virginia to finish the book she was then working on (titled, appropriately, Virginia) and soon thereafter came back to her home at One West Main in Richmond, where she remained until her death. BIOGRAPHY Ellen Glasgow was born 22 April 1873 or 1874 (there is no official record), the eighth child of Francis T. Glasgow, manager of the Tredegar Iron Works-a stern Presbyterian and Scotsman--and Anne Jane Gholson, who was descended from Virginia Tidewater aristocracy. An Episcopalian, Ellen's mother was worn with both the worry of depressed times and continuous dissension with her husband. Ellen's childhood was darkened by the uncertain 35
economy, her mother's failing health, and her own fragility. "Born without a skin," her "mammy" said to describe her susceptibility to illness, Glasgow seldom attended school because of health problems. Glasgow was, consequently, largely self-educated, but by the time she was eighteen, she was reading Darwin, Spencer, and Mill. Except for her brotherin-law Walter McCormack, also her tutor, and her sister Cary, Glasgow's family had little sympathy with her ambition to write. In 1897 she published The Descendant anonymously and was thrilled when critics attributed it to Harold Frederic. With the publication in 1898 of Phases of an Inferior Planet, under her own name, Glasgow's career was well launched, although her family never approved of her life as an independent woman. -206 The heavy infusion of philosophy and scientific argument in her first two novels indicates Glasgow's search for belief. (When her mother had a breakdown in 1890 after discovering her husband's black mistress, Ellen left the church as a gesture of protest against her father.) Her sympathy with a liberal and agnostic hero is evident in both these novels, where the spirited women characters-Rachel Gavin and Mariana Musin--are secondary to the male protagonists, Michael Akershem and Anthony Algarcife. Even early in her career, for Glasgow the "proper" subject of literature was mankind. With her 1900 novel, The Voice of the People, Glasgow began to treat the theme of the "outsider." Nicholas Burr is poor, uneducated, and noble. Once again Glasgow portrays a strong woman, Eugenia Battle, but her focus falls more steadily on Burr as he develops into the governor of Virginia. This is Glasgow's first novel to use a Southern setting and history for plot and characterization. The book became a best-seller. Her ability to draw historical events in her fiction was unmistakable. She was clearly interested in her state, the South, and the conflicts inherent among established social classes--but that is not to say that she was primarily a social historian. Glasgow was, first, a novelist, albeit a novelist who made use of her Southern knowledge and heritage. In 1902 she published one of her best early books, The Battle-Ground. A story of the Civil War, the novel gave American readers Betty Ambler, a determined, indomitable heroine whose persistence won for her the love of the book's hero. Glasgow's first happy ending reflected her own anticipation of personal happiness. The love she discovered for a man who was unfortunately already married never came to fruition (his identity has never been established definitely); so the tenor of her fiction later in this decade was remarkably chastened. But in both The Deliverance ( 1904)--the novel of the strong, unconventional heroine, Maria Fletcher, who waits for her love while he serves a prison term--and The Wheel of Life ( 1906)--where the beautiful poet Laura Wilde finally breaks her engagement and finds happiness in her own self-sufficiency-Glasgow tests the assumptions about romance that dominated most fiction by women. What she arrives at, even this early, is a kind of renunciation of "romance." For Glasgow, "love" comes to mean devotion transcendent of sexual passion. The Ancient Law ( 1908), her novel of Daniel Ordway Smith and Emily Brooks, is further illustration of love as renunciation. The characters of Glasgow next novels, The Romance of a Plain Man ( 1909) and The Miller of Old Church ( 1911), reflect her need to escape from reality. Several of her siblings had died; her beloved sister Cary was suffering from cancer; and Glasgow had just broken her engagement to the Reverend Frank Paradise. She turned to old friends, largely women friends, and to an interest in Eastern philosophy ("Peace dwells in impersonality alone," she wrote later in life, "--beyond the personal"). These novels feature both strong women characters and atypical social situations. Glasgow seems to be actively investigating the conventions of most interest to women at the turn of the century. The Romance of a Plain Man includes an abused wife, a wife who insists on attention -207from her busy businessman husband, and the portrayal of possible infidelity as a choice for women. The Miller of Old Church criticizes traditional notions of women's discreet silences by portraying the strong bond between Molly Merryweather and Blossom Revercomb. Despite its title, the novel is partly about friendships among women, as Glasgow says in the text, ". . . the relation of woman to woman. Deeper than the dependence of sex, simpler, more natural, closer to the earth, as if it still drew its strength from the soil . . . the need of woman for woman was not written in the songs and the histories of men, but in the neglected and frustrated lives which the songs and the histories of men had ignored." Much of Glasgow's later fiction was an effort to illuminate those neglected and frustrated lives. Virginia ( 1913), the story of a woman who gives up any identity she once had for the roles of traditional wife and mother, is Glasgow's first mature novel. The long and moving rendition of Virginia's marriage to playwright Oliver Treadwell depicts her as a "good" woman, faithfully putting her husband first in all considerations, losing her beauty and her chance for mature development in this willful self-abnegation. Glasgow writes of Virginia, however, with great sympathy, and places the blame for much of her attitude on her mother (who has told her that love is all that matters and that a wife is always subordinate to her husband) and on all aspects of the Southern social code, including the church. This novel includes some of Glasgow's strongest criticism of the religious milieu (at one point she describes Virginia as "the logical result of an inordinate sense of duty, the crowning achievement of the code of beautiful behaviour and the Episcopal Church"). Susan Treadwell, Virginia's self-reliant friend in this 36
novel, is re-created in Life and Gabriella ( 1916), a less successful book than Virginia. Gabriella as divorced "new" woman makes her living in New York and raises her children, alone. Eventually, however, she marries again--a conclusion that keeps her housed within traditional boundaries for a fictional heroine. Life and Gabriella was the novel Glasgow tried to write in New York, but she had come to recognize the claims of Virginia on her imagination, and in 1916 returned to her family home in Richmond. She met and became engaged to a successful Richmond lawyer, Henry Anderson. They never married, but the anticipation of marriage-and then disappointment when it did not occur--kept Glasgow in suspension for the next decade. She was fortythree when she met Anderson, and she had to reconsider all the decisions about life-style and belief she had already made. The process was tumultuous, but from it came several of her most interesting books. She drew a fond portrait of Anderson as David Blackburn in The Builders ( 1919). One Man in His Time ( 1922) is a kind of sequel to it. In this latter book Corinna Page, an independent woman in her late forties, finally decides to give up her lover because another woman--weaker, more desperate-needs his love. In this novel, Glasgow as Corinna Page advises an ingenue, Patty Vetch, about loving wholeheartedly: "Just so much and no more. . . . Give with the mind and -208the heart; but keep always one inviolable sanctity of the spirit--of the buried self beneath the self." Corinna is the character truest to the author's own selfimage during these years, and were it not for her creation, Glasgow would probably not have been able to write her masterpiece, Barren Ground ( 1925). In Barren Ground, Dorinda Oakley, the pregnant and unmarried girl who runs away from home and then returns to vanquish the poor farmland and build a comparative empire for her family, breaks all stereotypes-particularly for a Southern heroine. Dorinda properly deserves to be called a hero. She is passionate and fearless. She loves Jason Greylock and goes nearly mad when she realizes that he has married someone else. She even attempts to kill him. But she also knows that saving her own life means leaving her family and home. In New York, she learns about scientific farming--and also about financing. Returning to Virginia, she changes her allegiance from her mother to her father, works incredibly hard, is best friends with her black maid, and eventually settles her score with Greylock as she buys out his property and then cares for him in his dying days. Revenge has prompted a decade of her life, and Dorinda can be read as embittered as well as strong; but there is success and life at the end of her story. We may not like her in her marriage or her role as stepmother, but she has made something of the limited options for women--especially unmarried and pregnant women--without economic support of any kind. Glasgow considered Barren Ground her best book, and the psychological realism and passion that inform the novel make it one of the period's best. But as if free of the intensity that prompted the book, Glasgow then turned to her trilogy of satiric novels about women's sanity in the face of men's romantic foibles-- The Romantic Comedians ( 1926), They Stooped to Folly ( 1929), and the somewhat more biting The Sheltered Life ( 1932). The first two of these satires are genteel treatments of older men who look for eternal romance through love for younger women. In The Romantic Comedians Judge Honeywell makes the mistake of marrying fortune-hunter Annabel Upchurch. In They Stooped to Folly Virginius Littlepage lives a fantasy life with the town's loose woman while his own wife dies, almost unnoticed, before his eyes. The innocence of the wandering male has drastic consequences in The Sheltered Life, however; there Glasgow portrays a philandering man's corruption of an adolescent girl who reveres both him and his beautiful wife, Eva Birdsong. In the tragedy of Jenny Blair Archbald and Eva's husband, George, Glasgow has written her devastating commentary on a society that condones a double standard of behavior. Some critics argue that The Sheltered Life may be Glasgow 's best novel. It is certainly among her best. When she was past sixty, Glasgow wrote Vein of Iron--a novel she thought worthy to be compared with Barren Ground. In some ways it is a sequel to that masterpiece. The characteristic "vein" of strength that made Dorinda Oakley persevere in her chosen life is also evident in Ada Fincastle and her gentle father, John. Through the 30 years of the story, Glasgow traces the Scots-Presbyterian family (John is a former minister turned agnostic and philosopher) through a -209chronology of misfortunes. Ada becomes pregnant and bears a child long before the child's father, Ralph McBride, is free to marry her. Once married, Ralph persists in liaisons that keep the already poor family destitute and lead to serious accidents for him. Yet the center of the novel is not Ada so much as it is her father, who sacrifices his final days--and his life--traveling back to their early home so that when he dies there, the family will be saved burial expenses. Ada and John together image the "vein of iron": Ada represents loving with "a single heart"; John has moved past the personal to fulfillment in a spiritual sense. Between 1935, when Vein of Iron appeared (and sold over 100,000 copies in a single year), and 1945, when Glasgow died in her sleep after a heart attack, she wrote two more novels ( In This Our Life, 1941, which was filmed, and Beyond Defeat, not published until 1966); her autobiography ( The Woman Within, 1954, at her direction, not published until after her death); and the prefaces to those of her novels which were republished 37
during the late 1930s as the Virginia Edition. The prefaces appeared as A Certain Measure in 1943. Together, these books show her persistence in the face of increasing ill health (during some of these years, her doctors would allow her to work only fifteen minutes a day). And they also reveal her increasing recognition that her place in American letters was secure, that she had written well about important subjects, and that her fellow writers and critics ( Carl Van Doren, Stark Young, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, James Branch Cabell, Allen Tate, Howard Mumford Jones, and others) were willing to help her maintain her position as a best-selling author and--for her, more important--a respected author. In 1942 Glasgow won the Pulitzer Prize for In This Our Life. In earlier years she had been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and had received the Howells Medal for Fiction and a special award from the Saturday Review of Literature; she had also received several honorary doctorates from prestigious universities. Her books were nearly always on the best-seller lists, and The Romantic Comedians and They Stooped to Folly were book club selections. Despite a serious hearing impairment, which had plagued her from her twenties, she was able to travel, maintain friendships with writers and critics she admired, and live a strikingly independent and even unconventional life. As she wrote in an unpublished essay, "More than thirty years ago, I began my literary work as a rebel against conventions. I am still a rebel, but the conventions are different." She died on 21 November 1945. MAJOR THEMES Glasgow was the chronicler of the lives of Southern women as well as of social convention and individual manners in a large sense. Each of her novels tried to fit single characters into the matrix of either nineteenthcentury society or modern society, or the difficult transitional period as the first gave way to the -210 second. Although Glasgow was seldom dramatic, she did believe that fiction should instruct and that the conscience of the writer should inform the work. In her earliest novels Glasgow drew women's lives as unhappy. Their search for success as artists, singers, or writers often ended in defeat--at least partly because they had at some point given up their career for marriage of a highly traditional kind. In Glasgow's mid-career novels the women tended to question accepted social patterns. Gabriella in Life and Gabriella chose to divorce her husband and to support herself and her children, just as Corinna Page broke her engagement rather than give up her freedom. Dorinda Oakley managed a large farm, doing much of the work herself, and became a productive member of the larger community. By the time of her trilogy of manners-- The Romantic Comedians, They Stooped to Folly, and The Sheltered Life--Glasgow had learned to criticize the male characters whom she once made heroic, but her criticism is for the most part gentle and good-humored. Throughout her work, the miseducated woman was a constant character; but in her later writing, women were less afraid to make changes in their lives, even if those changes meant a loss of public approval. Woman against society is a continual Glasgow theme. Another pervasive theme is the power and beauty of nature. Glasgow's characters, male and female, fared best if they were in touch with the eternal pantheistic forces. Natural wisdom, the worship of the natural, is frequently set against formal religion, often to the detriment of the latter. Late in her career Glasgow reinforced the stances she had taken earlier in the portrayal of her women characters by choosing male characters who also defied convention. In Vein of Iron John Fincastle leaves the ministry to become a philosopher and an agnostic; in In This Our Life Ira Timberlake considers adultery. The personal choice, free from social coercion, was always the right choice. Another consistent theme in Glasgow's fiction is the abhorrence of cruelty. Characters who are purposely mean, self-centered, or hurtful to others are evil. Jason Greylock's infidelity is no worse than Mrs. Timberlake's selfishness, and Judge Archbald's misunderstanding is every bit as evil--for all its innocence-as Oliver Treadwell's divorcing Virginia. Sternly moral, Glasgow holds her characters to their responsibilities, demanding that they live as they know how best to do--never accepting the excuse of human weakness or social convention. The "world" that Glasgow creates is as complete and functioning as that of Faulkner or Balzac. Although she kept the settings of most of her novels within the South, and mostly within Virginia, she was less concerned with geographical reality than with the reality of her psychological portrayals. (This is not to say that she was careless about physical details; she often visited her "sites" so that description would be accurate.) She makes use of the common traits of her locations to build a base of social custom that her characters play against. For readers to understand the conventions that bind Virginia Pendleton Treadwell, they must understand some of Dinwiddie's traditions. For, finally, the heart of -211Glasgow's fiction is character, not locale, and as she said in Vein of Iron, "It is only in the heart that anything really happens." SURVEY OF CRITICISM Much early criticism of Glasgow's work was heavily influenced by a theme in her prefaces, that of her fiction as a "social history of Virginia." Seeking to become more important to the world of letters, Glasgow took a 38
lead from her friend and colleague James Branch Cabell, another Virginia writer, who saw her work as important social history. When Glasgow was writing these prefaces during the mid and late 1930s, she stressed that common perspective. It seems natural that many of the Southern critics of Glasgow's work would follow her emphasis. Louis D. Rubin, Jr., C. Hugh Holman, Stark Young, Allen Tate, and Julius Rowan Raper all identify Glasgow as a Southern writer, and they see the novels as segments of a comprehensive history. Frederick P. W. McDowell did an important service to Glasgow criticism in 1963, when he discussed her style ( Ellen Glasgow and the Ironic Art of Fiction), and Monique Parent Frazee , in Ellen Glasgow: Romanciиre ( 1962), gave the author broad coverage-from the perspective of social history as well as of craft, with some attention to Glasgow's interest in women's themes and characters. Blair Rouse edited Glasgow's letters in 1958; his study of her appeared in 1962 in the Twayne United States Authors Series. William W. Kelly's bibliography of Glasgow's work in 1964 provided scholars with a helpful tool, as did Carrington C. Tutwiler, Jr., with the book on Glasgow's library ( 1969). With the publication in 1972 of E. Stanly Godbold Jr. biography Ellen Glasgow and the Woman Within and the 1976 Centennial Essays, a strong collection of essays edited by M. Thomas Inge, Glasgow criticism came into its own. Those books were bracketed by two central studies by Julius Rowan Raper, Without Shelter: The Early Career of Ellen Glasgow ( 1971) and From the Sunken Garden: The Fiction of Ellen Glasgow, 1916-1945 ( 1980). Since 1974 Edgar E. MacDonald has provided a valuable service by editing the Ellen Glasgow Newsletter. Also appearing recently, with attention to Glasgow as a woman writer, are Anne Goodwyn Jones's study of seven Southern women writers ( Tomorrow Is Another Day, 1982); Barbro Ekman The End of a Legend: Ellen Glasgow's History of Southern Women ( 1979); Linda Welshimer Wagner Ellen Glasgow: Beyond Convention ( 1982); and Marcelle Thiйbaux Ellen Glasgow ( 1982). Such feminist critics as Annis Pratt, Elaine Showalter, and Elizabeth Ammons are also helping to prove the multidimensionality of Glasgow's fiction. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Ellen Glasgow The Descendant. New York: Harper, 1897. Phases of an Inferior Planet. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1898. -212 The Voice of the People. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1900. The Battle-Ground. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1902. The Deliverance. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1904. The Wheel of Life. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1906. The Ancient Law. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1908. The Romance of a Plain Man. New York: Macmillan, 1909. The Miller of Old Church. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1911. Virginia. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1913. Life and Gabriella. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1916. The Builders. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1919. One Man in His Time. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1922. The Shadowy Third and Other Stories. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1923. Barren Ground. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1925. The Romantic Comedians. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1926. They Stooped to Folly. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1929. The Sheltered Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1932. Vein of Iron. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1935. In This Our Life. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1941. A Certain Measure. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943. The Woman Within. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. The Letters of Ellen Glasgow. Ed. Blair Rouse. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958. The Collected Stories of Ellen Glasgow. Ed. Richard K. Meeker. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963. Beyond Defeat: An Epilogue to an Era. Ed. Luther Y. Gore. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1966. Studies of Ellen Glasgow Auchincloss Louis. Ellen Glasgow. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964. Cabell James Branch. As I Remember It. New York: McBride, 1955. Ekman Barbro. "The End of a Legend: Ellen Glasgow's History of Southern Women". Acta Universitatis Upsalensia, No. 37. Upsala, Sweden: Almgvist & Wiksell International, 1979. 39
Godbold E. Stanly Jr. Ellen Glasgow and the Woman Within. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972. Holman C. Hugh. Three Modes of Southern Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1966. Inge M. Thomas, ed. Ellen Glasgow: Centennial Essays. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976. Jones Anne Goodwyn. Tomorrow Is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South, 1859-1936.. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982. Kelly William W. Ellen Glasgow: A Bibliography. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1964. McDowell Frederick P. W. Ellen Glasgow and the Ironic Art of Fiction. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1963. Parent Monique Frazee. Ellen Glasgow: Romanciиre. Paris: A. B. Nizet, 1962. Raper Julius Rowan. From the Sunken Garden: The Fiction of Ellen Glasgow, 19161945. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. -213-----. Without Shelter: The Early Career of Ellen Glasgow. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971. Richards Marion K. Ellen Glasgow's Development as a Novelist. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. Rouse Blair. Ellen Glasgow. New York: Twayne, 1962. Rubin Louis D., Jr. No Place on Earth: Ellen Glasgow, James Branch Cabell, and Richmond-in-Virginia. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959. Thiйbaux Marcelle. Ellen Glasgow. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1982. Tutwiler Carrington C., Jr. A Catalogue of the Library of Ellen Glasgow. Charlottesville: Bibliographic Society of the University of Virginia, 1969. Wagner Linda Welshimer. Ellen Glasgow: Beyond Convention. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. -214 ..................................................................................................... VIRGINIA SPENCER CARR Carson McCullers (1917-1967) Although critics frequently describe Carson McCullers as a writer of the gothic and the grotesque, her most popular and acclaimed work is A Member of the Wedding, where those elements are minimal. Whether or not she is a major writer, critics still debate. Most agree, however, that her significant literary accomplishments add up to a major achievement, and that readers will continue to find her work timely. BIOGRAPHY Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith on 19 February 1917, in Columbus, Georgia, a mill town perched on the edge of the Chattahoochee River across from Phenix City, Alabama. Touted by her mother for her precocity and curried for genius, she was the daughter of Marguerite Waters Smith, a descendant of Irish settlers in South Carolina before the Revolutionary War, and her husband, Lamar, a small-town jeweler from Alabama. The first of three children, Lula Carson was recognized as a brooding, solitary child with a predilection for music, books, and games of make-believe. Reared on tales of her kinsmen who fought and died in the Civil War and the strong-willed women they left behind, she was both repelled and attracted by the paradoxes of life in the South. She dropped Lula from her name at thirteen and answered only to Carson (or "Sister," as she was known to the family) and announced that she would be a concert pianist, an obsession that gave way to writing. In her midteens she set down stories and plays in a Blue Chief notebook. Among these juvenile attempts were "The Faucet" and "The Fire of Life"--which she described as "thick with incest, lunacy, and murder," both imitative of the plays of her idol, Eugene O'Neill. She presented a number of such plays at home for family and friends. They were never published. The first short story she was proud enough to show -301 her parents was "Sucker," which she wrote in longhand, then laboriously typed on her new typewriter, a gift from her father when she was seventeen. "Sucker" remained unpublished until 1963. Encouraged by her mother and supported by funds from the sale of an heirloom diamond and emerald ring, she went alone to New York City in 1935, supposedly to study at Juilliard School of Music, but enrolled, instead, in creative writing classes with Dorothy Scarborough and Helen Rose Hull at Columbia University. After one semester, she returned to Columbus for the summer to write at home and worked briefly as a reporter on the local newspaper. In July she met a young soldier from Wetumpka, Alabama, who was stationed at nearby Ft. Benning, and they fell in love, a courtship promoted by her mother. Reeves McCullers also wanted to be a writer, and as soon as he could buy himself out of the Army joined Carson in New York City, where she returned in the fall to study at New York University with Sylvia Chatfield Bates. She studied at Columbia University, too, with Whit 40
Burnett, editor of Story magazine. In December 1936 Burnett chose "Wunderkind," a story Carson had written for Bates, and published it to launch their protйgйe. He also purchased a second story, "Like That," but failed to publish it. The tale appeared for the first time in The Mortgaged Heart, a posthumous collection edited by her sister, Margarita G. Smith, in 1971. The young writer was twenty when she married Reeves McCullers in fall 1937 in her parents' home at 1519 Starke Avenue. The marriage surprised almost everyone in Columbus who knew her, for she had always been shy, unpopular with her peers, eccentric in appearance, and often diffident; and they were impressed that her groom was handsome, athletic-looking, and personable. Reeves, twenty-four, took his bride to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked for eight months as a credit investigator, the only happy period of their marriage. Their plan was to alternate roles as writer and breadwinner, but it was soon apparent that Carson's creative life would always come first. She began work on "The Mute," her first novel (retitled after it was in galley proofs at the insistence of her editor as The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter), on her honeymoon and finished it after their move to Fayetteville, North Carolina, a town she thoroughly disliked. On the basis of an outline and six chapters, she had placed second in a literary contest sponsored by Houghton Mifflin as a means of discovering new talent and was awarded a contract and $500. While awaiting its publication on 4 June 1940, she dashed off a second novel in barely two months. "Army Post" (published in 1941 as Reflections in a Golden Eye) had as its fictional setting Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, located just outside Fayettevill and Ft. Benning, the post she had visited often while taking piano lessons from the wife of the commanding officer of the infantry school there. The 1940s were Carson McCullers's most productive years. Determined never again to live in the South, she and her husband moved to New York City practically on the eve of the publication of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Later, she admitted that she had to return South periodically to renew her "sense of horror." The novel received rave notices, and at twenty-three she was hailed a -302 "wunderkind" and declared the "publisher's find of the decade." Reveling in the critical acclaim by the nation's major reviewers and cashing in on her instant popularity, she told reporters that The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was subtle parable about facism, a gripping topic on the eve of World War II. Her marriage had begun to disintegrate before she left the South, and once in New York, she fell in love almost immediately with a beautiful, neurotic Swiss writer, Annemarie Clarec-Schwarzenbach, to whom she dedicated Reflections in a Golden Eye. Her love unrequited, she found solace in Louis Untermeyer at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, a relationship described by Untermeyer as "platonic with some not so platonic embraces." In the fall, separated from Reeves and desperately lonely (her Swiss friend had returned to Europe), she moved into a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights at 7 Middagh Street with George Davis and W. H. Auden. Soon there was an eccentric mйnage in the old Victorian house that included Gypsy Rose Lee, Paul Bowles, Richard Wright, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Oliver Smith, Golo Mann, Marc Blitzstein, and countless other kindred spirits who stayed for weeks or months at a time, all under the tutelage of Auden. Visitors agreed that it was the most extraordinary and electrically creative atmosphere of twentieth-century America. McCullers's several stays there were brief, but she insisted that the experience was the most important of her life. An essay published in Vogue in 1941, "Brooklyn Is My Neighborhood," provides keen insight into her abandonment of provincial Southern roots for what she saw as a more glamorous life in the urban North. Yet she returned South again and again to recuperate from the ill health that beset her in the North. Since 1939 McCullers had been struggling with a nebulous plot conceived during one such bout with illness and was anguishing to find the heart of the book, which she referred to as "The Bride and Her Brother," when she had an incisive moment of illumination while chasing a fire engine in her Brooklyn neighborhood with Gypsy Rose Lee. She caught her friend's arm and shouted for her to stop. "Frankie is in love with her brother and the bride and wants to become a member of the wedding," she exclaimed. Her book's focus had sharpened at last, but it went through countless drafts until its publication on 19 March 1946 as The Member of the Wedding, which she dedicated to Elizabeth Ames, executive director of Yaddo Artists Colony, a literary haven for McCullers many times. During this period she was supported, also, by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. When the writing went poorly, she worked on other things. Especially notable were "A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud," which was named an O. Henry Prize Story in 1942, and the novella, The Ballad of the Sad Cafй, which Louis Rubin hailed as one of the "most intense short stories of the twentieth century." Both tales are treatises on McCullers's concept of unrequited love. Considered her best work by many critics, The Member of the Wedding was more widely reviewed than the first two novels. Most of the criticism was positive, reviewers being taken by her brilliant style, more normal subject matter, -303- 41
and sensitive portraiture. Soon after its publication, she met Tennessee Williams. With his encouragement and nurturing--the beginning of a lifelong friendship-she adapted it for the stage despite a crippling stroke. It was directed in 1950 by Harold Clurman and won for her the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Donaldson Award, and the Gold Medal of the Theatre Club, as the best playwright of the year. A film version (with most of the original cast) reinforced the popularity of both the novel and the play. In 1950 Reflections in a Golden Eye was reissued by New Directions with a preface by Tennessee Williams, who called the book "one of the purest and most powerful of those works which are conceived in that Sense of the Awful which is the desperate black root of nearly all significant modern art." Williams's remarks triggered the beginning of serious McCullers criticism in contrast to occasional insightful reviewing. His insights were echoed often in the outpouring of critical writing that followed the 1951 publication of the omnibus volume of her work entitled The Ballad of the Sad Cafй and Other Works, a collection that won universal acclaim from the critics. At this point McCullers was on the crest of her popularity, having established herself as a formidable writer. Her works were being translated into many foreign languages. Meanwhile, in spring 1945, she remarried Reeves McCullers, who had returned to the Army in 1942, took a commission, and was a company commander of a U.S. Ranger outfit. He returned from World War II with three bronze stars, a silver star, and a purple heart, his combat injuries forcing him to accept a medical discharge with full Disability benefits. A born leader, Reeves felt stymied living in his wife's shadow, yet devoted himself to her care rather than pursuing his own creative outlets. They spent winter 1946-47 in Paris, where she was enthusiastically received, but both were flown home ill on stretchers in December 1947, Reeves suffering from delirium tremens and Carson from two additional strokes. Their eight-year second marriage was fraught with countless separations, reconciliations, and great heartache. Reeves often threatened suicide, begged Carson to join him in a double suicide, and finally killed himself on 19 November 1953 in a hotel room in Paris while she was visiting Lillian Smith in Clayton, Georgia, seeking solace and trying to decide if she should divorce him. To her, in a sense, he was already dead, yet she suffered trauma by the knowledge of his death ( Reeve's three siblings also committed suicide). Most critics thought that her later works did little to support the accolades earned by the omnibus volume. A second play, The Square Root of Wonderful, opened on Broadway in 1957, ran for 45 performances, and folded. Some thought its chief merit was its title. Those who knew her saw it as an incoherent and fragmented attempt to overcome the psychic scars of her life with Reeves and his suicide, and her grief over the death of her mother, on whom she had been inordinately dependent, in 1955. Despite pre-release publicity of her fifth novel (and final one) emphasizing her courage and relentless struggle against pitiable ill health, Clock Without Hands received harsh criticism and was a major disappointment to most review- -304ers. Irving Howe review in the New York Times faulted the book's weak structure (particularly its lack of symmetry between the Judge Malone and Jester Clane strands of the plot), its unreal portrait of the contemporary South, and the author's lack of "inner conviction and imaginative energy." Howe and other critics saw Clock Without Hands as evidence that McCullers's power as a writer had waned significantly. The New York Times quoted her as saying, "Sometimes I think God got me mixed up with Job. . . . But Job never cursed God, and neither have I. I carry on." On 15 August 1967, she suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Comatose for 47 days, she died on 29 September without regaining consciousness. She was fifty. MAJOR THEMES In her fiction as in her life, Carson McCullers--like Frankie Addams in The Member of the Wedding--sought repeatedly her "we of me." In 1957 she wrote: "I suppose my central theme is the theme of spiritual isolation. Certainly I have always felt alone." Beginning with The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, she posed the existential dilemma that beset all of her major characters. Repeatedly she adroitly exposed the confinement of the soul and the futility and ultimate betrayal of what she saw as the "human hymn" called hope. A predominantly pessimistic view of life and a sense of frustration about the South served as a compelling background to the introspective, taciturn quality of McCullers's fiction, which she peopled with characters whose amputated consciousnesses, irreversible physical deformities, and acute psychological dysfunctions rendered them spiritually autistic. When criticized for the freakishness and grotesqueness of her characters, McCullers replied: "One cannot explain accusations of morbidity. A writer can only say he writes from the seeds which flower later in the subconscious. Nature is not abnormal, only lifelessness is abnormal. Anything that pulses and moves and walks around the room, no matter what thing it is doing, is natural and human to the writer." Significantly, only McCullers's "androgyns" are allowed to attempt to break out of their spiritual confinement. Those characters whose sexuality is explicit are doomed to estrangement both from themselves and society. No matter how hard they seek genuine intercourse with others, their efforts are never rewarded. Such was man's plight and his destiny, thought McCullers. Throughout her career, it remained her central and controlling concern. In her fiction she laid bare 42
many poorly shaped plaintiffs who crave congenial communion with others. Yet in their attempt to connect, they form aberrant attachments that ultimately destroy them, or further entrap them. Although her stories and novels do not deal directly with physical imprisonment, her characters are "caught" both symbolically and literally in a variety of ways. Mick Kelly and Frankie Addams, her young protagonists in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding, are apt metaphors for expressing -305 such entrapment as each character attempts to create a whole new insular world. Mick, who fears she will become a freak because at thirteen she already is five feet, six inches tall, retreats to her "private" room of music and a hatbox of secrets (she keeps in it, among other things, an incongruously constructed homemade violin). John Singer, the deaf-mute to whom she attaches herself, also is a private room for Mick, for she believes that he shares her appreciation of music. Paradoxically, he cannot hear the music and cannot intellectually conceive any such notion. Entrapped, Mick quits school to go to work at Woolworth's to help support the family. She hopes vaguely that someday she may be able to buy her own piano. Her job and the impossibility of fulfilling her yearnings frustrate and embitter her. Unable to connect with Mick and unaware of her adoration, even, Singer is thwarted by the death of his chosen one, the fat Greek, Antonapoulos, whose cretinous mentality does not allow him to perceive Singer's devotion. Upon learning of his friend's death in a mental asylum, Singer can communicate with no one, not even the other deaf-mutes, and calmly puts a bullet through his head, his suicide understood by no one. Every character in the novel feels that he has been "left out on a limb"--his hopes and best intentions dashed, with no single person to blame, merely his caught condition of life. As Mick expressed it, "It was like she was cheated. Only nobody cheated her. So there was nobody to take it out on. However, just the same she had that feeling. Cheated." Klaus Mann wrote in his diary upon meeting McCullers, having just read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: "What astounding insight into the ultimate inconsolability and incurability of the human soul! . . . Uncannily versed in the secrets of all freaks and pariahs, she should be able to compose a revealing tale of exile." Most readers would agree that every book she wrote fit Mann's description. In The Member of the Wedding, Frankie Addams yearns to be included in a purpose, be it big or small, but meets an impasse at every turn. Like Mick, she fears that her rapid growth will turn her into a freak. Estranged from family, friends, the town, even trees and flowers, Frankie struggles to break from the confines of her kitchen, the backyard, and her ambivalent self. Her solution to the problem, which would allow her the membership she craves, is destined to fail. By falling in love with "the wedding" and the shattering of the unstable singular pronoun "I," which has plagued her, for the contiguous, unshakable plurality of "we," Frankie sees the configuration of her "we of me" in her brother and his bride. Similarly, her dream of becoming a "member of the whole world" remains a figment of her immature imagination. Of course, the bride and groom do not take her with them, and she is dragged in hysterics from the honeymoon car. Yet the book ends on an affirmative note. Frankie has evolved from the "F. Jasmine" of her fantasy world to France--her real name--and is seen embarking on a new life that promises membership in her own peer group. Mick, too, is seen at the end of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter grasping at a straw, unwilling to accept defeat: "Maybe she would get a chance soon. Else -306what the hell good had it all been--the way she felt about music and the plans she had made in the inside room? It had to be some good if anything made sense. And it was too and it was too and it was too and it was too. It was some good. All right! O.K.! Some good." Berenice Sadie Brown, like William Faulkner's Dilsey, accepts what she cannot change: "We all of us somehow caught. We born this way or that way and we don't know why. . . . Me is me, you is you, and he is he." Because Berenice is black, she tells Frankie that she is caught "worse than you is." A few other characters are seen in an affirmative stance, too, as is the cuckolded tramp in "A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud." In a tawdry cafй, he accosts a young newsboy, a stranger, and declares, "I love you." He is not a deviant attempting a homosexual encounter, but a man reconciled to his "science of love." Yet it is a sterile life, a safe life. Having loved a woman who deserted him, the tramp concluded that love is a ladder and that most men make the mistake of beginning at the top rung by loving a woman. After years of fruitless search, he developed a new strategy. He bought a goldfish and loved it, then "graduated to one thing and another. . . . I am a master, Son. I can love anything. . . . a bird . . . a traveler on the road. All strangers and all loved!" But he pales when the newsboy asks if he had fallen in love with a woman again. "No. . . . I go cautious. And I am not quite ready yet." Ironically, the old man is still isolated and lonely because of his science, not in spite of it. It has not only failed to warm his heart; it has also alienated any possible human recipient of love because of his monomania to explain it. Moreover, his tale is incomprehensible to the youngster. The embittered, stingy Leo who runs the cafй chooses not to enlighten the newsboy. McCullers seems to be saying that the child has to find his own way, existentially. She also explores the futility of love in The Ballad of the Sad Cafй. Here the archetypal pattern of love is presented in its clearest and simplest form. Each character is successively a lover and a beloved, each a slave and a 43
tyrant depending upon whether he loves or is being loved. In her often-quoted thesis of love from this novella, McCullers wrote: Love is a joint experience between two persons--but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world--a world intense and strange, complete in himself. . . . Most of us would rather love than be beloved. . . . And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain. -307 The theme of a fallible Creator who had "withdrawn His hand" too soon, in the words of Berenice Sadie Brown, is evident in Reflections in a Golden Eye. Through its pages parades the greatest assortment of freaks and half-people in all of McCullers's fiction. In this novel there are no psychologically sound people. All are seen as grotesque aberrations reflected in the golden, distorted eye of a ghastly green peacock. In fact, distorted vision is the malady that afflicts each of the grotesque creatures in this work. Each character is desperate to establish some substantial bond with another, yet his effort leads to death either by extinction or utter negation. The message here, as in her other works, is that human beings are not whole. It is as if a capricious Creator had suddenly become more interested in something--or someone--else than His creative task at hand. Rather than fashioning man in a mirror image of Himself who will behold Him with love and adoration, He becomes distracted by a love object already created and existing on a higher plane whom He, in turn, may worship and adore. The Maker of McCullers's world of blighted creatures seems to have erred once more in His creation of Sherman Pew, the handsome, blue-eyed, black youth in Clock Without Hands. A foundling abandoned in a church, Sherman has one black parent and one white parent, but does not know which. His mysterious parentage obsesses him, and he yearns to know his mother and to be acknowledged by her. But she had died while giving birth to him, and his quest for identity leads to a dead end, his loneliness acute in the drag of time. Throughout her career, McCullers developed and perfected a blueprint of the solitary soul, a poignant portrait of the twentieth-century human condition that reveals the disjunction between the isolated grotesque and the world in which he lives, and obliquely, between the hapless freak and his imperfect Creator. SURVEY OF CRITICISM McCullers's critical reputation presents a complicated and curious pattern. She was highly acclaimed for her first novel in 1940, yet her subsequent books were less well received. The stage version of The Member of the Wedding in 1950 solidified her popular success, but not her critical reputation. The publication of her omnibus volume earned her, along with the usual popular reviews, her first academic criticism. Notable are Dayton Kohler's and Oliver Evans's thematic studies that served as the impetus for the general consensus of McCullers's fiction. In the decade between the success of the omnibus edition and the failure of Clock Without Hands, academic critics continued to confirm the importance of McCullers's early achievement. During these years her work elicited a generally positive response in foreign language criticism; unfortunately, however, this writing is for the most part introductory, simplistic, and repetitive. Some of the more important American academic considerations include Frank Baldanza influential article, "Plato in Dixie" ( Georgia Review, Summer 1958), and Ihab Hassan's fine essay, "Carson McCullers: The Alchemy of Love and the Aes- -308 thetics of Pain," which appeared first in Modern Fiction Studies (Winter 1959). Portions of this essay have been reprinted at least eight times, indicating the importance of Hassan's view of McCullers's work. Her ensuing silence, caused by her prolonged, serious illnesses, somewhat weakened her critical reputation, which was not enhanced by the publication of her play, The Square Root of Wonderful, in 1957, and her novel, Clock Without Hands, in 1961. Since her death in 1967 and the posthumous publication of Carson McCullers: The Mortgaged Heart, criticism has treated her more favorably, comparing her with other important writers of the Southern Renascence. Notable in this barrage of critical articles from a social point of view is Leslie Fiedler influential study, "Love and Death in the American Novel" ( 1960). The 1960s marked the decade of critical retribution following the negative reception of Clock Without Hands. Alfred Kazin made judicious observations on McCullers in his article "Bright Book of Life: American Storytellers from Hemingway to Mailer." ( 1973). Another notable chapter on McCullers was Irving Malin's study of her gothic characteristics (in contrast to the gothic in works of Capote, Hawkes, Salinger, Purdy, and O'Connor) in New American Gothic ( 1962). Louise Gossett Violence in Recent Southern Fiction ( 1965) effectively contrasted McCullers's use of violence with O'Connor's. Mark Schorer's "McCullers and Capote: Basic Patterns" in The World 44
We Imagine ( 1968) examined the "lyrical and mythical transcendence of the social realities of McCullers' books," in the words of Margaret B. McDowell, whose full-length study Carson McCullers ( 1980) takes advantage of recent biographical and critical writings to provide a fine general introduction to the author. It is the most recent book on McCullers. Lawrence Graver Carson McCullers ( 1969), Dale Edmonds Carson McCullers ( 1969), and Richard Cook Carson McCullers ( 1975) are three succinct studies, each providing good basic biographical and critical material. The first book on McCullers was Oliver Evans Carson McCullers: Her Life and Work ( 1965), followed by an American edition, The Ballad of Carson McCullers ( 1966). Researched with the author's cooperation (yet somewhat unreliable in its biographical details), Evans's study is a fair and appreciative introduction to McCullers's life and major works. Earlier, Evans published several fine articles inviting a reevaluation of McCullers's reputation. Virginia Spencer Carr The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers ( 1975) is the only comprehensive biography to appear since the author's death. The introduction, "Some Words Before," is by Tennessee Williams. Several distinct strands of McCullers criticism have appeared since the posthumous The Mortgaged Heart. One is the feminists' acclaim of her muted but powerful rendition of her androgynous adolescents and their troubled lives. Among the notable articles in this vein are Patricia S. Box "Androgyny and the Musical Vision: A Study of Two Novels by Carson McCullers" ( Southern Quarterly, January 1978) and Margaret Bolsterli "'Bound' Characters in Por-" -309ter, Welty, and McCullers: The Pre-Revolutionary Status of Women in American Fiction" ( Bibliotheque Universelle et Revue de Geneve, 1978). Both articles deal with McCullers's female characters and their entrapment in the roles dictated by society. Claire Kahane "Gothic Mirrors and Feminine Identity" ( Centennial Review, 1980) provides a psychoanalytic and feministic perspective of androgyny in McCullers's writings, which Kahane claims "has become a core symbol for contemporary women." Other articles that consider the psychological and social realism in McCullers's works include Joseph R. Millichap fine study, "The Realistic Structure of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" ( TwentiethCentury Literature, January 1971), and Irving Buchen Freudian reading of her writing in "Carson McCullers: The Case of Convergence" ( Bucknell Review, Spring 1973). Another trend in McCullers criticism is her view of the South and the significant role it played in her fiction. Important in this context is Delma Eugene Presley "Carson McCullers and the South" ( Georgia Review, Spring 1974), which argues cogently that McCullers's genius was Southern in origin and that it declined when she cut herself off prematurely from her Southern roots. Important to the study of her short fiction is Robert Phillips "Freaking Out: The Short Stories of Carson McCullers" ( Southern Review, Winter 1978). Louis Rubin "Carson McCullers: The Aesthetic of Pain" ( Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1977) is also significant. Critical examinations of her short stories of note include Dale Edmonds "'Correspondence': A 'Forgotten' Carson McCullers Short Story" ( Studies in Short Fiction, Winter 1972), James Grinnell "Delving 'A Domestic Dilemma'" ( Studies in Short Fiction, Summer 1972), and Laurence Perrine's "Restoring 'A Domestic Dilemma'" ( Studies in Short Fiction, Winter 1974). Her short works are being anthologized increasingly. A number of graduate dissertations and festschrift articles in recent years confirm scholarly interest in McCullers, and foreign language criticism is increasing, too. Alicia Cervantes Leal "Los Elementos Grotescos en la Narrative de Carson McCullers" ( Kanina, 1980) and Marzenna Raczkowska "The Patterns of Love in Carson McCullers' Fiction" ( Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: An International Review of English Studies [ Poland], December 1980) are notable cases in point. Although article continues to beget article (an average of four per year in the past decade), there is a need to redefine the McCullers canon. Although gothic and grotesque elements pervade much of McCullers's fiction, the critics have repeated such studies to the point of distraction. It is time for new approaches, for more feminist and social studies of her work, for structuralist and semiotic readings, for connections with other literary and intellectual traditions, and for comparisons with other art forms. The renewed interest in women writers and the Southern Renascence promises continued developments in these directions. Overall, the body of McCullers criticism has improved since her death in 1967. -310BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Carson McCullers The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940. Reflections in a Golden Eye. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941. The Member of the Wedding. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946. The Ballad of the Sad Cafй and Other Works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951. The Member of the Wedding (Play). New York: New Directions, 1951. 45
The Square Root of Wonderful. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. Clock Without Hands. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. Sweet as a Pickle and Clean as a Pig (Poems). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964. The Mortgaged Heart, ed. Margarita G. Smith. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971. Studies of Carson McCullers Bixley George. "Carson McCullers: A Bibliographic Checklist." American Book Collector, n.s. 5 ( JanuaryFebruary 1984): 38-43. Carr Virginia Spencer. The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers. New York: Doubleday, 1975; London: Peter Owen, 1976; New York: Carroll & Graf, 1985 (paperback reprint.). Carr Virginia Spencer and Joseph R. Millichap. "Carson McCullers." American Women Writers: Fifteen Bibliographic Essays. Ed. Maurice Duke, Jackson R. Bryer, and M. Thomas Inge. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981, pp. 297-319. Cook Richard. Carson McCullers. New York: Ungar, 1975. Edmonds Dale. Carson McCullers. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1969. Evans Oliver. Carson McCullers: Her Life and Work. London: Peter Owen, 1965; American edition published in 1966 by Coward-McCann, retitled The Ballad of Carson McCullers. -----. "The Theme of Spiritual Isolation in Carson McCullers." New World Writing 1 ( April 1952): 297-310. Fiedler Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Stein and Day, 1960. Gossett Louise. Violence in Recent Southern Fiction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1965. Graver Lawrence. Carson McCullers. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. Kazin Alfred. "Bright Book of Life: American Novelists and Storytellers from Hemingway to Mailer." Contemporaries. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. Kiernan Robert F. Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976, pp. 95-169, 185-94. Kohler Dayton. "Carson McCullers: Variations on a Theme." College English 13 ( October 1951): 1-8. McDowell Margaret B. Carson McCullers. New York: Twayne, 1980. Malin Irving. New American Gothic. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962. Shapiro Adrian M., Jackson R. Bryer and Kathleen Field. Carson McCullers: A De-scriptive Listing and Annotated Bibliography of Criticism -311scriptive Listing and Annotated Bibliography of Criticism. New York: Garland, 1980. Schorer Mark. "McCullers and Capote: Basic Patterns." The World We Imagine. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968. Wikborg Eleanor. The Member of the Wedding: Aspects of Structure and Style. Gotenberg, Sweden: Acta Universitatus Gothoburgensis, 1975; paperback reprint, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1975. -312 .................................................................................................. DARDEN ASBURY PYRON Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) In Gone with the Wind Margaret Mummerlyn Mitchell provided the world the standard measure for a fictional South. She created scenes, characters, and language that live with uncommon vividness for a vast readership. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning work belongs almost as much to folklore and mythology as to literature. So does its author. Before her death at forty-eight in 1949, she had become the stuff of lore and legend. The Mitchell cult survives even as her novel remains among the most widely known fictions in history. BIOGRAPHY Born on 16 November 1900, Mitchell grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where her family had lived for four generations. Intensely active and physical as a child, she relished rough play and sports of every kind. School held fewer attractions. Although raised a Catholic, she attended public schools until she was twelve, and was graduated from a fashionable Finishing School, Washington Seminary, in 1918. She achieved only a mediocre academic record there, but she polished her reputation as a writer and rebel. The summer she completed high school, she accepted an engagement ring from a young army officer, Lt. Clifford Henry, a wealthy, serious-minded, poetryquoting, Harvard-educated, silk-stockinged New Yorker. Two months after their secret betrothal, he died in the final German offensive of the war. Mitchell enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, that fall, but she aborted her education after two terms to keep house for her father, widowed in January 1919. Spending the next three years as a Southern 46
flapper, she debuted in 1920-21. In these years, men and courtship filled her life. As she approached her twentythird birthday, with neither training, career, nor husband, she surrendered to the social pressure for marriage. -324Berrien Kinnard Upshaw personified the aggressive Southern male. Although he had established a reputation for instability, this did not deter his lady; his type even attracted her. They married in September 1922, and less than three months later, Upshaw deserted her. Returning in the spring, he beat her and dragged her to the bedroom for rape. The 1924 divorce was uncontested. This explosion of her private life liberated Mitchell's old ambition for a career in journalism. Her byline appeared for the first time on 22 December 1922, in the Atlanta Journal's Sunday "Magazine." Until she resigned in May 1926, she produced 130 verifiable articles, stories, and reviews. If a career satisfied old ambitions, the job dissatisfied her: the pay exploited, the misogyny galled, the literary limitations rankled, the inexorable deadlines pressured her relentlessly. The work whetted her ambitions even as it confined her. She reached a professional turning point at the same time she was redefining her private life. Her domestic considerations hinged on her second husband, John Marsh. He first entered her life in 1920-21 as the mercurial Upshaw's roommate. After working as a copy editor in Atlanta, he settled permanently by 1924 as an advertising subaltern. After Upshaw departed, Marsh pressed his suit again by tendering friendship and professional support to the novice journalist. Mitchell struggled with the decision to marry again. She disliked sexual intimacy and treasured her freedom, but she craved the security of a legitimizing male. The wedding date of 4 July 1925 suggested Mitchell's ambivalence and hopes for the union. Marsh did not disappoint her. Devoid of Upshaw's passion or Henry's poetry, he offered brotherly sympathy and dogged loyalty. Among Gone with the Wind's masculine archetypes, if the willowy Clifford Henry found a voice in Ashley Wilkes and "Red" Upshaw in the wife-raping Rhett, then John Marsh is reflected in the long-suffering Frank Kennedy. For all Marsh's indulgences, Mitchell returned her husband's loyalty measure for measure. In the spring of 1926, his promotion obviated the financial excuse for her employment. Feeling a dead end at work, she decided to honor her husband's ego and resign. The decision weighed heavily on her, and she floundered. Her social isolation grew; indeed, it formalized when a hurt ankle mysteriously failed to heal, and she took to bed. Confined to her room in the late fall and early winter of 1926, she began her novel. From late 1926 through 1929, Mitchell worked steadily on her epic, sometimes up to eighteen hours a day. A highly meticulous craftsman, she constantly drafted and redrafted. In one case--Frank Kennedy's death--and probably others, she created full-blown alternative versions. The original manuscript also contained additional scenes and episodes in chapters dropped from the final text. She said that only one section stood finally as she originally wrote it: the part beginning with Scarlett's return to Tara after Atlanta's destruction and ending with the protagonist's determination to shoulder her load. She essentially completed the work by 1930 when she was twentynine years old. It lacked only a first chapter and final polishing. In 1935 Mitchell submitted her manuscript for publication. That act is sym- -325bolically as well as practically important. On the one hand, publishing a novel was the logical conclusion towards which her life had tended. As early as age eighteen she documented her ambition to write professionally. Her whole career testifies to this purpose. She created plays and stories from the time she could hold a pencil, and she produced a novel when she was sixteen and a novella when she was twenty-one. On the other hand, contrary impulses pulled her in the opposite direction. She created her novel as a profoundly private, even intimate act, revealing the story to John Marsh alone and allowing only him access to her copy. By nature almost pathologically secretive, she had grown more insular in the 1930s. Closemouthed about her work and disguising her craftsmanship behind a giddy, belle-ish persona, Mitchell convinced most people of her lack of seriousness as a writer; paradoxically, this public attitude increased her motive to prove herself after all. Indeed, the casual comment of a friend that she lacked the requisite seriousness to produce a book precipitated the furious reaction to release her manuscript in 1935. In keeping with her ambivalence, she later wired the Macmillan editor to return her novel. Despite the chaos of the manuscript, the editor kept it; he liked it enormously. So did the world. Its sales and popularity had no precedent in literary history. The hoopla concentrated unequaled attention on the author. The fame overwhelmed Mitchell. Her response, however, was mixed. While she decried the disorder, she rejected structural changes in her life that might have reduced the attention. Indeed, her actions often generated the opposite effect. She insisted on her literary innocence and dismissed suggestions of her professional skill and ambitions; she repeated constantly that she was only a lucky housewife. Such claims fired the Mitchell legend. Attention flagged with American entry into World War II. Her voluminous correspondence fell off sharply, and she filled her time with dedicated war work. Protecting her copyrights, she committed great energy to legal battles. Physical illness, personal and familial, sapped her too. Always accident-prone and frequently ill, Mitchell suffered especially from back problems in the war years. Her father's health deteriorated steadily from the late 47
1930s until his death in 1944. Her husband's massive coronary soon after her father's death allowed her no relief. Tending Marsh as she did her father, she also wrangled bitterly with physicians about what constituted proper care. Rancor and bitterness also colored her politics, as she sulked privately about regional liberals, and encouraged the anticommunist columnist Westbrook Pegler. Threatened by fame, preoccupied with managing her estate, overwhelmed with personal and family illnesses, Mitchell never published anything after Gone with the Wind. She did, however, write. In truth, throughout her life she seems to have channeled more time and energy into personal correspondence than into writing fiction. From her adolescence she wrote incredible numbers of letters, often of remarkable length, ten to twenty typed pages being unexceptional. These constitute their own genre. Containing separate narratives and dialogue, they generally work like small short stories. They function as serial narratives from -326her own literary biography, cut, honed, and elaborated so as to delight and entertain. Other than these remarkable letters, she wrote nothing else. Near her fortyeighth birthday, the same age her mother died, Mitchell made a will. Within the year, on 11 August 1949, an automobile struck her as she walked from her apartment with John Marsh to see a movie, The Canterbury Tales. She died on 16 August. She left no children. To a remarkable degree, myth and folklore still surround Mitchell's life. Intellectual as well as practical explanations account for this phenomenon. For her friends and correspondents, she created a whole cabinet of conflicting personae. Maintaining such contrary images nurtured the Mitchell legend while she lived; it fostered a cult after her death. The numerous popular accounts of her life continue to blur the distinctions between fact and fiction. More practically, the destruction of her papers and manuscripts has complicated the problem, as has her family's limitation of access to her still vast archive. MAJOR THEMES Mitchell matured in the half-light world of regional romance when mythology and tradition exercised great power in the South. She responded naturally to the mythic and primitive, not least as embodied in the oral tradition. She grew up on regional oratory--of stump speeches and sermons. She listened well and cultivated a keen ear for the spoken word. She absorbed both the form and content of the tales repeated by her elders. She perpetuated the tradition. Even as a child, she won a reputation as a rare storyteller; as an adult, friends insisted that no one matched her ability as a talker and raconteur. The Mitchells had been one of the richest, best-placed, and politically important families in the city, especially in the generation of the author's baronial grandfather, Russell Crawford Mitchell, who died in 1905. Yet dour evangelicalism, or the family's residual Methodist piety perhaps, soured family ambitions, especially for Eugene M. Mitchell, the author's father, a narrow, humorless, highly conservative real estate lawyer. His wife remained Eugene Mitchell's one real passion, yet she reemphasized his alienation: he was a Spencerian, lapsed Methodist; May Belle Stephens was a devout Irish Catholic. Mrs. Mitchell's biting wit, aggressive intelligence, and daring personality contrasted with her husband's stodginess. With their religious differences, they represented opposites joined. As suggested in the otherwise eccentric decision to make Gone with the Wind's protagonists Irish, Catholic, and immigrants, the author's maternal line dominated her imagination. Mrs. Mitchell shaped her daughter's values and motives more directly and thoroughly still. Full of paradoxes herself, she provided her children the most contradictory models. She embodied the most austere ideal of ladyhood, yet she plunged into the woman's suffrage movement and the Catholic Layman's Association at the height of the Tom Watson era. She constantly -327goaded her offspring to excel, but as she allowed tenderness or approval with difficulty, she established the hardest goals, especially for her daughter. Psychologically, Mrs. Mitchell left a divided legacy. This problem, however, overlapped with cultural and political ones. If her mother goaded her to success even while rigidly defining proper feminine spheres, a regional patriarchal system did much the same thing. Holding women as the sacred essence of the Southern social order, it nevertheless denied them initiative and legitimacy on their own. This divided feminist consciousness consistently influenced both the form and content of Mitchell's art. Judging by her adolescent fiction, she wrestled with this divided consciousness by age fifteen at least. This feminist literary dilemma militated against a final definition of character. Mitchell met the problem by making a virtue of play, change, and disguise. She jested with the nature of reality in plays about plays, and she stretched the meaning of language itself as she built on double and even triple meanings of words. Her juvenilia offers telling biographical clues, too. In one surviving play, the protagonist, named "Margaret Mitchell," is the star; she is also the villain, paradoxically described as a "sanctified cherub." At the same time, this protagonist provides the dramatic action by fighting for the female part even while this "shero" represents the mute, abused, passive victim of the drama. Two published short stories from her high school days work similarly. Both revolve around 48
the destruction of homelife and domestic unity; in one, the loss means life and liberation; in the other, death and anomie for the female protagonists. Such antagonistic endings suggest Mitchell's personal ambivalence about home and family, men and society. Mitchell's epic spins the tale of Scarlett O'Hara, a Georgia belle during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Artfully combining various themes, plots, and subplots, it chiefly chronicles the heroine's frustrated pursuit of her aristocratic neighbor, Ashley Wilkes, and Rhett Butler's similarly blighted love for Scarlett herself. By this measure, frustration simmers at the novel's core, and along with it, misunderstanding, cross-purposes, and irony. Writing the last chapter first, Mitchell steered the whole narrative towards the unhappy ending. Indeed, it dominated her artistic conception. Thus, while she formally surrendered any influence over the film, she was adamant in private that David Selznick not brighten the ending. The novel relates to the plantation romance as developed between 1880 and World War I. Thus, for example, Ashley Wilkes reminisces in a letter from the front about the moon, magnolias, and happy darkies singing in the quarters. She used conventions and forms of "the gentle Confederate novel," too, as she called it, among them the noble patriarch, loyal slaves, strutting freedmen, and highly charged rape scenes. While drawing on the genre, Mitchell radically altered its meanings. Thus, Ashley Wilkes's nostalgia is his alone, not the narrator's; indeed, confining his prettiest sentiments to letters within the text (which the recipients also fail to understand) underlines their isolation from the narrative flow. Mitchell's use of the rape illustrates still more graphically her -328distance from the plantation romance. The old form hinged on the interracial rape. It symbolized the work's most essential themes and motives, such as the idealization of women's innocence and vulnerability, black men's evil, corrupting lust, and the white male's heroic, redemptive political action. By making the shantytown rapists white as well as black, Mitchell blasts these conventional usages. While white male redemption lacks any clear political frame at all, it misses heroism, too, as the Ku Kluxers blunder into an ambush and escape only through the semicomic intervention of the local madam and her house of ill repute. Much more critical to the dramatic narrative line, the rape scene between Rhett and Scarlett illuminates most starkly of all the radically different meaning Mitchell applied to the old convention. Here rape represents personal, psychological, and sexual confrontations for themselves and underlines the novel's ultimate theme of frustration and missed fortune. Mitchell's realism also grossly undercuts the old romanticism. Her insistent focus on the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie adds a whole new dimension to her work. Except for the Wilkeses, she skimped cavaliers and ladies for a rough and tumble mйlange of familyless hustlers, Irish immigrants, and frontier yokels made good. As she celebrated bourgeois values even in the antebellum South, Atlanta's centrality in the prewar and postwar sections is, then, thoroughly appropriate. In keeping with glorifying the yeomanry and diminishing the aristocracy, Mitchell also transformed the cavaliers' slave cohort. Black characters figure significantly in her novel; race does not. In such ways, Mitchell rewrote regional history along lines thoroughly compatible with her generation of fellow Southerners--W. J. Cash, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Frank Owlsley, and the host of other participants in the Southern cultural awakening of the interwar years. As with these, Mitchell was lured by the past, the old way, and tradition, but modernity pulled her too. No less than Faulkner or Cash, she adopted Freudian insights to understand her social order. If she liked escapist literature herself, she deeply appreciated the somber, pessimistic prose and poetry of the post-World War I years that described the darkness she would flee. She told old tales in a modern voice. This technique affirmed and denied simultaneously. It appealed to traditionalists on the one hand, while it attracted modernists on the other. Without resolving the contradictions, she unified them in a coherent, dramatic structure. That remains her most significant, if confusing and misapprehended, achievement. SURVEY OF CRITICISM When Gone with the Wind first appeared in 1936, reviewers lavished praise upon it. They compared it to the great novels of the nineteenth-century European tradition, especially those of Dickens, Tolstoy, and Thackeray. They especially praised Mitchell's ability to master a great dramatic structure and to weave many divergent characters and episodes into a tight narrative line. They admired, too, her talent of creating figures who lived and breathed in the imagination. Their -329chief criticism centered upon her language, a lack of elegance and style. Yet even the most favorable critics also singled out issues of sentimentality, melodrama, amorality or nihilism, and excessive focus upon women for condemnation. Although the tide ran overwhelmingly positive, a countercurrent did exist. Marxists anathematized the novel primarily on racial grounds. Leftist liberal opinion objected on other grounds--excessive Southernism, moral ambiguity, inadequate realism, and feminine biases. The novel's overwhelming popularity also galled many critics; Mitchell's apparent casualness about her talent and achievement aggravated the rancor. The film, however, marked the real watershed in critical opinion. The production itself solidified these various antipathies and sealed the book's fate for over a generation. The filmmaker David Selznick edited out Mitchell's yeomen and exaggerated the cavalier tradition (to Mitchell's own 49
vast amusement). In his effort to avoid the adverse politics greeting Birth of a Nation twenty years before, Selznick also heightened the roles of blacks and slaves in the movie. This, ironically, stepped backward towards a more romantic tradition of local color for the movie. He also excised Mitchell's pessimism and irony. By exaggerating the force of external evil and minimizing internal conflict in the characters or in the South itself, he effectively justified or even glorified the protagonist's most vicious, self-serving, antisocial actions. Even before the film appeared, readers had often focused on the work's romanticism; afterward, this bias held the field. Even among scholars, Gone with the Wind became the touchstone of the plantation romance. Thus identified with regional mythology and, by extension, racial chauvinism and reaction in general, the novel fell still further in critical estimation after World War II, especially as the South itself declined in social and political prestige. Between about 1940 and the late 1960s or early 1970s, the novel generated almost no critical opinion at all. Robert Drake's thoughtful essay in 1957 in the Georgia Review remained anomolous and isolated. Mitchell and her novel in these years belonged almost exclusively to journalists, popular writers, and occasional memorialists. Critical opinion reached its nadir between 1970 and 1973 in two profoundly negative evaluations by regional literary scholars, Floyd Watkins and James Boatwright. By that time, however, the tide had quietly turned. Although calculated for a popular audience, Finis Farr's 1965 biography benefited from access to Mitchell's vast manuscript collection, still held privately. It remains trustworthy for its objectives. With Perry Carlton Lentz and his incisive Vanderbilt dissertation, a new generation of graduate students in the late 1960s rediscovered the novel on their own and independently of each other. Their work broke new ground, even if their work went mostly unpublished. By the mid- 1970s, Gone with the Wind acquired new luster as a popular subject of "nonfiction," as two books on the film attracted new attention to the phenomenon. Simultaneously, well-known academics legitimized the novel for scholarly research. Like the Farr biography, Richard Harwell's 1976 edition of Mitchell's letters was both cause and effect. In 1977 the premier scholar of the -330 Southern literary Renascence, Louis D. Rubin, Jr., compared Mitchell and Faulkner. In 1976, then again in 1979, Leslie Fiedler also analyzed the novel. Although beginning her work much earlier, the historian Willie Lee Rose of the Johns Hopkins University also published her research in 1979. Younger scholars have tended to follow Rubin's lead towards a detailed analysis of the novel itself rather than fitting it more generally into American culture. Harold K. Schefski essay ( 1980) developed the comparisons of Tolstoy work with Gone with the Wind; Merlin G. Cheney's 1966 master's thesis compared Mitchell and Thackeray. Dawson Gaillard and Anne G. Jones offered the most useful, if contradictory, analyses of the fiction as a feminist work in 1974 and 1981. Their contradictory conclusions speak to a fundamental idea in the criticism that Perry Lentz noted as early as 1970 (and that John Peale Bishop had condemned in 1936): of a basic dualism within the epic. In this regard, Blanche Gelfant ( 1980) makes the very broadest claims for the novel by arguing that Mitchell's mysterious reconciliation of opposite desires offers a key to understanding all great literature. Similarly, Dieter Meindl ( 1981) argues that Gone with the Wind stands on its own artistic merits and that scholarly opinion distorted the work in the careless urge to fit it into the plantation romance; he linked the novel to the pessimism of the 1920s and the literary milieu of A Farewell to Arms (one of Mitchell's favorite novels). Evelyn Scott and Belle Rosenbaum had made similar observations in their 1936 and 1937 reviews, but critics failed to take their cue. The author herself has attracted almost no sustained scholarly inquiry except from Jones. If Farr remains limited but useful, Anne Edwards biography ( 1983) adds little new and actually distorts standard data in a novelistic rendering. Within this welter of inquiry, little cross-fertilization or cross-reference occurs. No center or focus has developed, much less a canon of criticism. Taken together, two anthologies impose some order on the field: Richard Harwell "Gone With the Wind" as Book and Film ( 1982) offers a critical miscellany of essays, reviews, prefaces, articles, memoirs, and scholarly critiques. Recasting: "Gone With the Wind" in American Culture, ed. Darden Asbury Pyron ( 1983), gathers thirteen essays under three headings. The first group presents the critical setting; the second group discusses the novel as art; the last group, the novel as history. If a scholarly center to this work solidifies, the novel, the author, and the Gone with the Wind phenomenon still lend themselves to sensationalism and exploitation. The fiftieth anniversary of the novel and film might encourage broader and deeper investigation; that anniversary might just as easily provide the occasion to stir the waters of Mitchell legend one more time. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind. New York: Macmillan, 1936. Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" Letters, 1936-1949. Ed. Richard Harwell. New York: Macmillan, 1976. 50
-331 A Dynamo Going to Waste: Letters to Allen Edel, 1919-21. Ed. Jane Bonner Peacock. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1985. Studies of Margaret Mitchell Adams John Donald. "A Fine Novel of the Civil War." New York Times Book Review, July 5, 1936, p. 1. Atlanta Historical Bulletin. Margaret Mitchell Memorial Issue, 9 ( May 1950). Atlanta Journal Magazine. Margaret Mitchell Memorial Issue, December 18, 1949. Baldwin Faith. "The Woman Who Wrote Gone with the Wind." Pictorial Review, March 1937, pp. 5, 69-71. Bargannier Earl. "The Myth of Moonlight and Magnolias." Louisiana Studies 15 (Spring 1976): 5-20. Bishop John Peale. "All War and No Peace." New Republic, July 15, 1936, p. 301. Boatwright James. "Reconsideration: Totin' de Werry Load." New Republic, 1 September 1973, pp. 29-32; see also Harwell, Book and Film, pp. 211-17. Chalfant Fran. "Mirror of Vanities and Virtues: A Reappraisal of Gone with the Wind." West Georgia College Review 4 ( 1971): 15-26. Cheney Merlin G. "Vanity Fair and Gone with the Wind: A Critical Comparison." M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966. Conrad Peter. "In Praise of Profligacy." Times Literary Supplement ( London), September 10, 1976, p. 1094. De Bernard Voto. "Fiction and the Everlasting If." Harper's Magazine 77 ( June 1938): 42-49. -----. "Fiction Fights the Civil War." Saturday Review, 18 December 1937, pp. 34, 15-16. Drake Robert Y. "Review." Resources for American Literary Study 7 (Spring 1977): 98-101. -----. "Tara Twenty Years After." Georgia Review 12 (Summer 1957): 142-50. Edwards Anne. Road to Tara. New Haven and New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983. Farr Finis. Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. New York: William Morrow, 1965. Fiedler Leslie. "Fiction of the Thirties." La Revue des Langes Vivant: U.S. Bicentennial Issue ( 1976): 93104. -----. "Inadvertent Epic: From Uncle Tom's Cabin to Roots." New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979. Fox-Genovese Elizabeth. "Scarlett O'Hara: The Southern Lady as New Woman." American Quarterly 33 (Fall 1981): 391-411. Gaillard Dawson. "Gone with the Wind as 'Bildungsroman' or Why Did Rhett Butler Really Leave Scarlett O'Hara?" Georgia Review 28 (Spring 1974): 9-28. Gelfant Blanche. "Gone with the Wind and the Impossibilities of Fiction." Southern Literary Journal 13 (Fall 1980): 3-31. Harwell Richard. "Gone with the Wind" as Book and Film. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1982. Jones Anne G. "Tomorrow Is Another Day": The Woman Writer in the South, 18591936. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. Jones Marian Elder. "'Me and My Book,' Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind." Georgia Review 16 ( 1962): 180-87. -332 Lentz Perry Carlton. "Our Missing Epic: A Study in the Novels about the American Civil War." Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1970. Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. Atlanta Public Library Memorial Publication, 1954. May Robert. "Gone with the Wind as Southern History: A Reappraisal." Southern Quarterly 17 (Fall 1978): 51-64. Miendl Dieter. "A Reappraisal of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind." Mississippi Quarterly 34 (Fall 1981): 414-34. Myrick Susan. White Columns in Hollywood. Ed. Richard Harwell. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1982. O'Brien Kenneth. "Race, Romance and the Southern Literary Tradition," in Pyron, Recasting, pp. 153-66. Pyron Darden Asbury. "Margaret Mitchell: 'First or Nothing.'" Southern Quarterly 20 (Spring 1982): 19-34. -----, ed. Recasting: "Gone with the Wind" in American Culture. Gainesville: University of Florida Presses, 1983. Ransom John Crowe. "Fiction Harvest." Southern Review 2 ( 1936-37): 407-08. Rose Willie Lee. Race and Region in American Historical Fiction. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979. Rosenbaum Belle. "Why Do They Read It?" Scribner's 99 ( 1937): 23-24, 69-70. Rouse Blair. "Gone with the Wind--But Not Forgotten." Southern Literary Journal 11 ( September 1978): 173-79. 51
Rubin Louis D., Jr. "Scarlett O'Hara and the Two Quentin Compsons." The South and Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha: The Actual and the Apocryphal. Ed. Evans Harrington and Anne J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977, pp. 16894. See also Pyron, Recasting, pp. 81-103. Schefski Harold K. "Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind and War and Peace." Southern Studies 19 ( 1980): 243-60. See also Harwell, Book and Film, pp. 22943. Scott Evelyn. "War Between the States." Nation, July 4, 1936. Shavin Norman and Martin Sharter. The Million Dollar Legends: Margaret Mitchell and "Gone with the Wind." Atlanta: Capricorn, 1974. Stern Jerome. "Gone with the Wind: The South as America." Southern Humanities Review 7 (Winter 1972): 5-12. Wade John Donald. "Romance Permitted." Virginia Quarterly Review 12 ( December 1936): 618-20. Watkins Floyd. "Gone with the Wind as Vulgar Literature." Southern Literary Journal 2 (Spring 1970): 86103. See also Harwell, Book and Film, pp. 198-210. -333 MARTHA STEPHENS Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) A writer who worked slowly and with great care for detail, often under very difficult circumstances, Flannery O'Connor is widely recognized as one of the great short-story writers of her time. She is a writer of rich comic gifts, but there is a fundamental high seriousness about everything she wrote. A fierce and uncompromising Christian belief informs her stories and her two novels. BIOGRAPHY Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on 25 March 1925 and lived there until she was twelve, when the family moved to Milledgeville. "Mary Flannery," as she was called at home, was the only child of Catholic parents of considerable social standing. In Savannah she was sent to Catholic grade schools, and then in Milledgevile to what she later described wryly as a "progressive high school," run by the local college; she had little regard for any of her early schooling and liked to say in later years that she was happy to have been blessed with "total non-retention." The move to Milledgeville came about when Mr. O'Connor fell ill with disseminated lupus. Milledgeville was Mrs. O'Connor's home and the home of her forebears on both sides of the family. The first Mass in Milledgeville had been said in her maternal grandfather's apartment in 1847, and her grandmother had later given the plot of ground for the church. Many relatives of Regina O'Connor's were still well-known citizens of the town and provided a rich--if for the author often comic--family setting for her life there, both as an adolescent and later as a writer and semi-invalid. When O'Connor was fifteen, her father died of his disease at age forty-four. After high school she enrolled in the local college, Georgia State College for Women (now a coeducational school called Georgia College). She liked college -334and worked as a cartoonist for the newspaper and during her last year as the editor of the literary magazine. (One of her linoleum-cut cartoons depicts two fish, one saying to the other, "You can go jump out of the lake.") Her interest in writing was taken seriously enough at the college for one of her teachers to help her get a fellowship to the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. This proved to be a profound stroke of good fortune for O'Connor and in fact launched her on a literary career of unusual smoothness. This in spite of the fact that her early work was not especially precocious; six rather mild and conventional short stories were submitted for her master's degree at Iowa--they can be read today in the Collected Stories brought out some years after her death. But the individuals she met at Iowa--for instance, Paul Engle, John Crowe Ransom, and Robie Macauley, and through them people like Andrew Lytle and Caroline Gordon--were in positions to help her win prizes and find publishers; become a guest at Yaddo Artists Colony, Saratoga Springs, New York; gain the attention of the best-known quarterlies; and be chosen for important grants and fellowships. In short, they were able to provide ready entry for her into a profession that has proved to be for most of its practitioners--even for William Faulkner--a notoriously resistant medium. Few writers have had less struggle to put their work before the public, and this was true in spite of the fact that her stories were of a special character, not of the kind ever likely to be widely popular or to make large profits. After Iowa, she spent nearly a year at Yaddo. There she met the not always mentally balanced Robert Lowell, and became involved in an incident in which he tried to have the Yaddo board dismiss the colony's director, Elizabeth Ames, for sponsoring a guest said to be a Communist. O'Connor, Lowell, and Elizabeth 52
Hardwick left Yaddo in protest, but most of their fellow artists in the New York area came to the rescue of Ames, and she kept her position. In 1949, during a five-month period in which she worked on her writing in New York, living in a YWCA on 134th Street, O'Connor met through Macauley a couple who would become lifelong friends and supporters of her work, Robert and Sally Fitzgerald. During that summer the Fitzgeralds bought a house in the Connecticut countryside, and O'Connor became a boarder in a room over their garage. She had published a story in the Sewanee Review about a character named Hazel Motes and now began writing a novel about Motes, a more than peculiar young man--a Christian malgrй lui, as she later styled him in a brief preface to this book--who gives up in the end his fierce, though often broadly comic, struggle for un-belief. She had been living with the Fitzgeralds for over a year and was typing out the first draft of Wise Blood when she noticed a heaviness in her arms. The ailment feared by the local doctor was rheumatic arthritis, but when O'Connor went home for Christmas, she became seriously ill on the train, and she spent that winter and spring in Emory Hospital in Atlanta, too ill even to write to friends. Her disease was not arthritis but the related disease that had killed her father, lupus--a degenerative and often crippling disease in which the body -335 forms antibodies to its own tissues and which can affect any part of the body. At the time her father had contracted it, "there was nothing for it but the undertaker," she later reported, but by her own time it was often controllable with steroids. The lupus, she wrote to Lowell, "comes and goes, when it comes I retire and when it goes, I venture forth. . . . I have enough energy to write with and as that is all I have any business doing anyhow, I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing. What you have to measure out, you come to observe closer, or so I tell myself. . . . I have bought me some peafowl and sit on the back steps a good deal studying them." Mrs. O'Connor had inherited a farm on the outskirts of Milledgeville, and when Flannery left the hospital, it was to this farm they had gone to live. O'Connor lived there until her death at thirtynine. Although there was at the time of its onset virtually no complaint in her letters about her illness, much later on O'Connor conceded to friends that she had felt severely frightened by these unlooked-for events, and had believed she would not be able to continue to live the life of a writer under her mother's commanding care in this town she had set out to escape. And yet as life on the farm took shape, she quickly set about to see Wise Blood through the press and then to compose some of her most successful stories, some of the best of them dark but very funny religious comedies about a domineering and self-righteous farm woman and her sullen daughter ("Circle in the Fire," for instance, and "Good Country People"). Nine of these stories were collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find in 1955. What may have seemed to many to be a life of strange reclusiveness, pain, and discontent was seen in fact to be something on the whole quite different from that when O'Connor's letters appeared in 1979--a large volume titled The Habit of Being, edited by Sally Fitzgerald. Mother and daughter, it became clear, were in certain ways extremely irritating to each other--Mrs. O'Connor was not in the least literary but nevertheless had opinions about everything and sometimes infuriated her daughter with her views about writing and especially about Flannery's own, which she did not really understand; but in other respects the two women were alike and compatible--both were determined, unsentimental women with none of the childlike feminity sometimes associated with Southern women of their class. A life that in the early years seemed much too circumscribed, and that seems to have brought O'Connor's native streak of contrariness and her powers of mockery to full perfection, came to seem to her more and more endurable and finally to be simply the right life for a person of her particular gifts and temperament. She had not really liked city life when she had been able to live it, and she also came to feel that a Southern writer did best to remain in the South. She even took to counseling the other young Southern writers she corresponded with to come back home where they "belonged" for the sake of their writing. With careful doctoring, her health stabilized after the first severe attack of the disease and was in what could almost be called remission for most of her life; -336 her worst problem was with the bones in her hips, and after 1955 she could get about only on crutches. Still, she was able to fly away on trips around the country to speak and to read her work--at first mostly at Catholic colleges, but as time went on, at many other schools as well. The farm also bore witness to a mounting stream of visitors. O'Connor was a more sociable person than she appeared to be in public, and she liked seeing both friends and passers-by at Andalusia. People who had read about her wrote and called and stopped in, and sometimes became friends. Literary and church friends came from all over and often stayed--the writer Caroline Gordon, for instance, an early friend and adviser who continued to read and critique in detail virtually all O'Connor stories as they were composed. The farm had a special attraction for many; unusual flocks of fowl had always been O'Connor's special interest. She had peafowl and peachickens, ducks and geese and swans--and of course her famous peacocks. She once gave her mother a burro as a birthday present. Their animals were in demand for Christmas pageants and 53
mangers, and schoolchildren, scout troops, and various church groups were continually being brought to them for country outings. As for O'Connor's writing, possibly the glummest years were the seven years she worked on The Violent Bear It Away. She never felt great confidence in this work. If there is a flaw in her career as a writer, it may well be the fact that she did not realize that she could achieve a reputation and carry out her intentions simply by writing short stories, but she did not have her own example before her as young writers do today; it is understandable that she would have felt that to be taken seriously as a writer she had to write novels, and she labored hard to write one that satisfied her. After The Violent Bear It Away, she worked off and on for several years on another large-scale piece, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, which never fully engaged her and was left unfinished when she died. The other aggravation she suffered was the persistent misunderstanding of her religious themes. Most readers thought that she was writing contemptuously about religious fanatics and could not grasp the fact that the sympathies of such a serious writer could lie with a half-crazy backwoods "prophet" like old Tarwater in The Violent Bear It Away. It seemed that no one could be counted on but other discriminating Catholics to know what she was actually expressing and that her work was really a study in faith and belief. Her closest literary friends and associates remained people who were also in the church and interested in the same religious questions she was. Much of her correspondence is taken up with dialogues with these friends about works in theology and religious thought, a literature in which O'Connor was widely read and in which she took almost a scholarly interest. It was, indeed, her special good fortune to live a life of unusual integration: she had her work and her religious life and the two were really one--she felt she had a mission to write stories that testified to her faith and instructed the faithless, and that is what she set out to do in story after story. It was discovered in the winter of 1964 that O'Connor, who had become weak -337- and anemic, might have to be operated on for a fibroid tumor, even though her doctor feared a reactivation of the lupus. By that spring it was no longer possible to delay; "if they don't make haste and get rid of it," O'Connor wrote, "they will have to remove me and leave it." The lupus was in fact reactivated by the operation, and there ensued a serious kidney infection. O'Connor was in and out of hospitals in Atlanta and Milledgeville all spring and summer; when she was at home she was permitted to move the few feet from bed to typewriter for only an hour at a time. Still, she went ahead with her plans for a new volume of short stories; she had wanted to revise certain of the already published stories she was including ("The Lame Shall Enter First," for instance, and "The Enduring Chill'), but she now decided not to attempt that task but to concentrate simply on bringing to satisfactory completion two new ones, "Parker's Back" and "Judgement Day." She continued her long-time habit of typing out copies and sending them to friends for comments. She had also written "Revelation" during the earlier part of this last year, and these last three stories are three of the best she ever wrote. The last two were finished just before her death. Her almost daily correspondence, already reduced to handwritten scrawls, ceased entirely six days before her death on 3 August 1964. Her new collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge, was published the following year to wide admiration and even, at last, almost uniform understanding of its religious themes. MAJOR THEMES The O'Connor short stories are widely respected today, perhaps especially among other writers, as models of the well-made story. O'Connor knew above all how to keep a story on track, how to make it dramatic from beginning to end and to make every detail count, and she said that to do this she just followed her nose like an old hound dog. There was no secret to her technique, she liked to say, but the secret of "taking pains." One of the reasons she was able to keep so firmly to her purposes in story after story was that unlike most of her contemporaries, she was never in doubt as to what her purposes were. She often said that for her the Eucharist was the center of existence and that what she saw in the world she saw in relation to that. Such firmness of belief is unusual in modern times and in some ways a considerable advantage for a writer; she knew almost from the beginning exactly what she wanted to tell. The doctrine of original sin was deep and instinctual with her, and she wanted to write about the fallen state of mankind--but also about the sudden appearance of grace in the lives of the prideful and forsaken. She once wrote to a friend: "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful," and it is possible to see virtually all her tales as tales about a painful descent of grace. These stories show us prideful, self-congratulatory individuals suddenly being brought low in some ironic way by such agents as escaped convicts or stray bulls or simply some -338 fundamental blow to their self-esteem. In "Revelation" a stout country wife who prides herself on her good disposition and likeability has a book thrown at her--and a terrible epithet--by a college girl enraged by her pieties. In "Good Country People" a smug, young female intellectual suffers a rude shock in an encounter with a much more knowing Bible salesman. In "The Artificial Nigger" an old countryman, proud of his knowledge of city ways, 54
takes his nephew on a visit to the city and is himself "burned clean" by a sudden insight into his own childlike ignorance. That many readers saw O'Connor's harrowing tales as simply malevolent always baffled her, but is perhaps no more than the measure of the distance in belief between herself and her non-Catholic readers. Her characters are generally so contemptible, so physically repugnant, and their comeuppance at the end of the stories described in so comic and seemingly unpitying a way, that many readers have found it hard to realize that their narrator also felt sympathy and affection for them, and that the usually violent--often fatal--visitation of grace she caused them to suffer was portrayed as something to be rejoiced in, as almost a gift from the Almighty. When a young reader asked why a certain character was made so "ugly," one of O'Connor's friends replied, "because Flannery loves her"; O'Connor found this exchange very pleasing. She naturally felt that no one could be exempted from the taint of evil and of original sin, and she did not except herself; the sullen and egoistical grown-up children in her stories do resemble the author herself in certain ways, and it will be remembered that when she set out to paint her self-portrait, she painted her face disfigured by the medicines she took and alongside the ugly staring head of a pheasant. Yet she was not completely without personal vanity and could complain that photographers made her look worse than she did. She said about the pictures made for the jacket of Wise Blood: "The one I sent [back to them] looked as if I had just bitten my grandmother and that this was one of my few pleasures. . . ." O'Connor liked action stories and was not much interested in the fluid interior forms that have engaged other modern writers; what she preferred was a highly colored plot where something climactic happened in the end, and she wanted everything to move toward this climactic action--usually a vivid and in some way disastrous event that causes a character finally to see himself as he really is or simply to realize the Lord's purpose for him. In her first novel, Wise Blood ( 1952), Hazel Motes tries desperately to prove to himself that he is not a Christian. He moves to the city and takes up with a prostitute and a whole gallery of cartoonlike nonbelievers. But he cannot seem to escape his fate as a preacher and is soon starting his own street-comer church, "The Church without Christ." He is portrayed as having had all along the supreme virtue of being able to act on his beliefs, and once he becomes convince--by a queer trail of events climaxed by the pushing of his old Essex off a cliff by a policeman--that there is a Jesus after all, he loses interest in all worldly pleasures and pursuits, enters into a life of contemplation, wears barbed -339 wire under his shirt, and in fact begins his penance by blinding himself with a bucket of lime, to the astonishment of his landlady. When she tells him that what he's doing isn't normal anymore, that people have quit doing it, he says simply, "They ain't quit doing it as long as I'm doing it." Hazel wanders away on a cold rainy night and is found in a ditch, casually beaten to death by policemen. As in her second novel as well, and many of her short stories, O'Connor abandons her blunt, unadorned style of narration at the very end of the story and allows Motes a moment of lyric pathos--and the landlady a moment of unmocked religious insight: "She had never observed his face more composed and she grabbed his hand and held it to her heart. . . . She sat staring with her eyes shut, into his eyes, and felt as if she had finally got to the beginning of something she couldn't begin, and she saw him moving farther and farther away, farther and farther into the darkness until he was the pin point of light." In spite of this final scene, Wise Blood was taken by most reviewers to be a comic parody of Southern fundamentalism. Perhaps the author's intentions strictly within the novel ought to have been clearer, but in any case her later statements about it leave no room whatever to doubt that in spite of the book's broad farce, she was deadly serious about the religious quest of Hazel Motes. "Let me assure you," she wrote to a friend, "that no one but a Catholic could have written Wise Blood even though it is a book about a kind of Protestant saint." She could have said very nearly the same thing about one of her best-known short stories, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," written not long after Wise Blood. It was one of her own favorites and the one she liked best to read aloud. An escaped convict and two companions waylay a vacationing family of five and lead them off two by two to the woods to be shot. The grandmother of the family is the last to die; she is suddenly shot by the Misfit as she reaches out to touch him, saying, "Why you're one of my own children!"--a line that has been interpreted in many different ways but which O'Connor herself said was the sign that the grandmother had realized her connection to all men and suddenly grown in grace in this last moment of her life. The Misfit the author saw as a man capable of a heroic life for either good or evil; she said that if he were ever able to believe that Jesus Christ did truly live and die for mankind, he would become a great man, in effect a saint. A Good Man Is Hard to Find contains at least four other stories that have continued over the years to interest readers and anthologists: the two stories mentioned above, "Good Country People" and "The Artificial Nigger"; as well as "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," a very funny story in a tall-tale style reminiscent of Mark Twain and Faulkner; "The River," a story about the drowning of a young boy trying to find Jesus in the river in which he had been baptized; and "A Circle in the Fire," possibly the masterpiece among O'Connor's short stories. In this very 55
carefully built-up tale, three youngsters from the city show up at a farm where one of them had once lived, bringing a reign of exquisite terror to the proud mistress of the estate. -340 The writing of her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, was a labor that was often frustrating. She said it was like "escaping from the penitentiary" to turn from time to time to a short story. This second novel has almost exactly the same narrative pattern as Wise Blood--a primitive true believer tries to throw off, in very dramatic and often comical ways, his Christian beliefs, but finally is unable to. In The Violent Bear It Away a boy who has grown up in the wilderness with a fanatical great-uncle tries to decide, on the day of the uncle's death, whether or not to accept the mantle of prophecy his uncle said would be his legacy. The great strength of the book is the long opening section set in the clearing called "Powderhead," where the boy remembers, on this fateful day, the dramatic scenes of his life there with his stormy old uncle. In the latter half of the book young Tarwater sets out to defy his uncle's charge by going to the city. He means to live with a younger uncle, Rayber, a school psychologist and nonbeliever despised by the old man, and a character O'Connor never really "got right," as she herself realized. Inevitably, the boy, too, comes to despise Rayber's life--in effect, its sterile secularism--and in the end returns to Powderhead and to the acceptance of his Christian destiny. In the posthumous volume Everything That Rises Must Converge, there is a group of stories O'Connor was not satisfied with and probably would not have included if she had lived to write more tales. There should perhaps now be issued a one-volume Selected Stories that would add to the eight best tales of A Good Man Is Hard to Find five equally good ones from Everything That Rises; the three last stories she wrote, noted above, as well as "Greenleaf" (another tale about a self-satisfied woman who runs a dairy-farm), and the title story, "Everything That Rises Must Converge," which describes a bizarre conflict on a city bus between a white woman of class and an angry black woman--the black woman wallops the white woman over the head with her pocketbook. This is such a deep shock to the white woman's sense of "who she is"--this unbearable contempt shown her by a lowly black person--that it leads to her collapse and death as she gets off the bus. This skillful tale is the only one O'Connor wrote about "that issue," as she called it, and for many readers it is one of her clearest and most successful stories. Still, O'Connor never very heartily endorsed the civil rights movement and rarely seemed to be able to find very much of dramatic interest in the lives of blacks other than willful resistance to taking good care of white people. But it must be understood that she was not interested in social reform of any kind--to one who believed so strongly in a transfigured life to come in which the last might well be first and the first last, it did not seem of any great importance to rearrange the social conditions of this life. She seemed to feel, almost like the Christians of medieval times, that in this unimportant earthly life people had their assigned, their predestined "places," and it was their duty to make the best of them. Again we note her wide divergence on these fundamental questions from other educated people of her own time; it is a profound difference in outlook that may continue to deny her the full emotional harmony with serious readers that might have gained her -341 an even more lasting place in the literary tradition of her country, a country which is not very Catholic after all, nor even deeply religious. She did not like being termed "a Catholic writer"--she felt that she expressed, not "the truth of the church," but simply "the truth," but for many readers there is a higher truth completely different from hers, the tragic truth that man is alone, knows nothing of a divine purpose for himself or of any saviour who lived and died for his redemption, and it remains to be seen what difference in the long run her stern and literalistic religious beliefs will make to the continuing assessment of her as an artist. SURVEY OF CRITICISM Book-length studies of O'Connor began to appear after her death, and in general it can be said that interest in her work has remained high. A number of critical volumes have been brought out by university presses, though few of these are of any real significance. An early monograph by Robert Drake ( Flannery O'Connor, 1966) remains a good short introduction. Another volume that appeared just after the writer's death, The Added Dimension (edited by Melvin J. Friedman and Lewis A. Lawson), is a useful tool for study of her work: it contains ten critical articles and well-chosen excerpts from her essays, speeches, and interviews, as well as a number of excellent bibliographies, including a comprehensive list of reviews for each of the four O'Connor volumes. In the light of the rather long public struggle for understanding of her work, reviews of her books in newspapers and magazines make particularly interesting reading. Certain parts of The Added Dimension have been superseded by a volume titled Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose ( 1969), edited by Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, a collection of the author's complete speeches, essays, and reviews. Students of her work in Milledgeville issue a journal called the Flannery O'Connor Bulletin; some of the critical pieces in this journal lean rather too much in the direction of the pious homily, but it has also published some interesting work on O'Connor's local sources. 56
The main caretakers of O'Connor's literary career have been Sally Fitzgerald and her ex-husband, Robert Fitzgerald. As has been noted, O'Connor lived with them for over a year when she was starting out as a writer and still writing Wise Blood and just before she became ill. They were the first people she went to visit when she could leave Milledgeville after she began to recover, and although they lived abroad for considerable periods during her lifetime, she never lost touch with them or ceased to be a close friend. They often read and commented on her manuscripts in draft form and worked to advance her career in every way they could. They are Catholics as she was ( Sally Fitzgerald is also a Southerner) and were no doubt among the first readers to understand what her work was saying. Robert Fitzgerald introduction to Everything That Rises Must Converge -342is an expressive commentary on her life and death, the best biographical piece presently available. The Fitzgeralds were the editors of Mystery and Manners, the nonfiction writings, and Sally Fitzgerald brought out, in 1979, a large volume of O'Connor letters, The Habit of Being. There turned out to be a great many more of these letters than had been known to exist, and Fitzgerald has told an interesting tale about the long labor of finding and editing them, and her difficult conjunction with Regina O'Connor, in an edition of the Radcliffe Bulletin for 1982. "As the contract was written the volume was to be in a sense a collaboration between the mother and myself. As it turned out, my collaborator interpreted this to mean that I would do the legwork, assemble the results, and she would disapprove of the outcome." Perhaps it was only to be expected that a book of letters published only twelve years after an author's death, and that death at so young an age, would contain many references to living people that would have to be pared-not only, in O'Connor's case, by her mother (with regard to Milledgeville friends and relatives), but also no doubt by Fitzgerald herself (with regard to the literary world of the East, for instance). Even so, this kind of editing seems to have done no great damage to the life-record the letters provide; they constitute a remarkably readable volume in themselves, a deep and very witty book always satisfyingly personal and expressive. Fitzgerald has been at work for some time on an O'Connor biography; as time goes on it will no doubt become less difficult to make public a full and accurate record. But in any case there is no reason to believe that the main contours of O'Connor's life, and a great deal of the detail, have not already been made available through the letters themselves and the detailed notes Fitzgerald sometimes attaches to them in The Habit of Being. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Flannery O'Connor Wise Blood. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955. The Violent Bear It Away. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960. Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965. Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. Ed. Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971. The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor. Ed. Sally Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1979. Studies of Flannery O'Connor Browning Preston M. Flannery O'Connor. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1974. -343Coles Robert. Flannery O'Connor's South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Drake Robert. Flannery O'Connor. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1966. Driskell Leon V. and John T. Brittain. The Eternal Crossroads. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1971. Eggenschwiler David. The Christian Humanism of Flannery O'Connor. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1972. Espirit 8 (Winter 1964). Special issue on O'Connor at the time of her death. Feeley Sister Kathleen. The Voice of the Peacock. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972. Fitzgerald Robert. Introduction to Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965. The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin. Biannual. Ed. Rosa Lee Walston. Milledgeville, Georgia. Friedman Melvin J. and Lewis A. Lawson, The Added Dimension: The Mind and Art of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Fordham University Press, 1966. Hayman Stanley Edgar. Flannery O'Connor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966. Hendin Josephine. The World of Flannery O'Connor. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969. Martin Carter. The True Country. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969. Orwell Miles. Invisible Parade. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1972. 57
Stephens Martha. The Question of Flannery O'Connor. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973. -344 .................................................................................................... JOAN GIVNER Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) Katherine Anne Porter reputation rests on her Collected Stories, rather than on the best-selling novel Ship of Fools that she labored 30 years to finish. In spite of her limited output, because of her style (personal as well as literary) she was an important influence on a younger generation of Southern writers such as Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, and Truman Capote. BIOGRAPHY Katherine Anne Porter was born on 15 May 1890 in Indian Creek, Texas, the fourth of five children of Mary Alice and Harrison Boone Porter, both Methodists. Her mother died before she was two, and the four surviving children were raised by Porter's grandmother in Kyle, Texas. The grandmother, Catherine Anne Porter, celebrated in Porter's fiction, died in 1901 and left the family emotionally and financially destitute, since the father seemed incapable from the time of his wife's death of caring for his family. The only effective education Porter had was a year or possibly two at the Thomas School, a private nonsectarian girls' school in San Antonio, which Porter persuaded her father to let her attend so that she could train to be an actress. Equipped with that training, she and her sister subsequently supported themselves by running a little class in elocution, singing, and dramatic arts in a rented room in Victoria, Texas. The necessity of earning a living was removed when Porter married shortly after her sixteenth birthday. Her first husband, John Henry Koontz, a railway clerk in Louisiana, was a member of a prominent ranching family from Inez, Texas. The Koontzes moved back from Louisiana to Houston and then to Corpus Christi, John Koontz having taken a job as a salesman for a wholesale grocery firm. Porter left Koontz in 1914 to go to Chicago to try to -356make a career for herself in the movies. The nine-year first marriage ended in divorce in 1915. The movie work proved too strenuous for Porter, who returned to Louisiana to support her sister during a collapsing marriage and a difficult childbirth. In order to help support the sister, Porter made herself a costume and performed a song and drama routine on the Lyceum circuit in small towns in Louisiana. Once the sister regained her health, Porter went off to start life anew in Dallas. She was almost immediately felled by tuberculosis and spent the next year in sanatoriums in Texas. In the Carlsbad Sanatorium she met Kitty Barry Crawford, a journalist who influenced her next choice of work. When she recovered her health, Porter worked first on the Fort Worth paper run by Crawford's husband and subsequently on the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The year in Denver was highly productive. Not only did Porter become a successful journalist, but her experiences (including near-death in the influenza epidemic of 1918) provided the material for "Pale Horse, Pale Rider." She left Denver for Greenwich Village, determined to write fiction. At first she supported herself by writing publicity copy for a movie company, but she also published some children's stories and did a ghost-written book, My Chinese Marriage. She left New York for Mexico in 1919 and arrived there in time to witness Obregon's inauguration as president. For the next six months, she did a variety of writing and teaching jobs and met the revolutionaries, artists, and bandits who provided material for her early stories. During the next years she traveled several times between New York and Mexico. In the mid-- 1920s she made a second brief marriage to Ernest Stock, an Englishman and aspiring artist. After the marriage ended, she returned to New York to work on the biography of Cotton Mather for which she had a contract with Horace Liveright. Under the pressure of work and an unhappy love affair, her health collapsed, and in 1929 friends raised money to send her to Bermuda. The five months there were highly productive; even though she did not finish the biography, she conceived some of her finest stories. In late 1929 she finished "Flowering Judas," which gave proof that she was an exceptional writer. The next year Harcourt, Brace published a limited edition of Flowering Judas and Other Stories. It was so successful that a second edition was published a few years later. In 1930 Porter returned to Mexico for her longest period of residence in that country. There she met Eugene Pressly and also spent a week on the movie set of Eisenstein Que Viva Mexico, a visit that resulted in the story "Hacienda." In the fall of 1931 she sailed with Pressly on the S.S. Werra from Veracruz to Bremerhaven in Germany, a voyage that provided the basis for Ship of Fools. Porter spent the next months in Berlin while Pressly went to a job at the American Embassy in Madrid. She left Berlin in early 1932 and visited Madrid and Paris and later settled in Basel to be near Pressly, who was working in Geneva. When he was posted to Paris, she returned 58
there, and the two were married in spring 1933. The next three years were relatively settled and productive ones in a life -357 that was usually neither. This security ended when the couple returned to the United States in 1936. After her arrival, Porter spent several weeks in an inn in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where the work of the past years culminated in completed versions of "Noon Wine," "Old Mortality," and a version of "Pale Horse, Pale Rider." Separated from Pressly, she moved to New Orleans where she met Albert Erskine. They were married in spring 1937, as Porter received her divorce from Pressly. The marriage to Erskine was unhappy almost from the first day, when during the marriage ceremony Erskine learned to his dismay that Porter was twenty years his senior. During the late 1930s marital difficulties and literary successes came together. With the publication of her second collection, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Porter was acclaimed by the critics and compared to Milton, Hawthorne, and Henry James. Yet her literary powers were waning. In the introduction to the Modern Library edition of Flowering Judas and Other Stories, she declared that she was not one of those who could flourish in the conditions of the past two decades. Nevertheless, she was describing her most productive period. At fifty, she was faced with financial insecurity, rootlessness, writing difficulties, and the sense that with the end of her fourth marriage, any hope of domestic happiness had gone forever. She spent some time at the artists' colony in Yaddo, New York, established a home for herself in nearby Saratoga Springs, got her divorce from Erskine, and tried to finish the many works for which she had signed contracts. In 1944 her final short story collection, The Leaning Tower, appeared, a disappointment to her publishers, who were hoping for a novel. Thereafter she departed for Hollywood, hoping that the substantial salary she could earn as a scriptwriter would put her on sounder financial footing. Never able to meet deadlines or work to order, she quit after thirteen weeks but remained in California. She did another stint as scriptwriter and then taught at Stanford, her first of many university positions. At the end of the decade she returned east and settled in New York, hoping to finish Ship of Fools. Soon, however, she was tempted away by teaching offers and the lure of a steady income. In the next decade she taught at the University of Michigan; at the University of Liege, where she had to resign because of ill-health; and at Washington and Lee University, besides doing other shorter stints in many universities. At the end of a decade of teaching, she settled in Washington, D.C., determined to finish her novel. Ship of Fools was triumphantly published in 1962, bringing her at seventy-two the financial security that had eluded her all her life. The novel was a best-seller and a successful movie, but this time critical acclaim was withheld. The novel was seen, on balance, to be a fundamentally flawed work. Nevertheless, in the next years her Collected Stories was published and awarded both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings was published when she was eighty. With her newly acquired fortune, her last years were fairly happy. She lived -358 first of all in a lavish house that she rented in Spring Valley and then in smaller, more convenient places in College Park, Maryland. The University of Maryland set up a Katherine Anne Porter Room, to be the main repository of her papers, books, and personal memorabilia, and she gained much satisfaction from making ceremonial visits there. She died after a series of strokes on 18 September 1980, at the age of ninety. MAJOR THEMES One important fact to be borne in mind in evaluating Porter's work is that her period of creativity was brief. She published a few scattered and somewhat uncharacteristic stories in the early 1920s, but it was not until 1928 that she mastered her mйtier and began to write her best fiction. By 1941 she had finished "The Leaning Tower" and was already struggling with the novel that became Ship of Fools. From this time on she published no new fiction and finished only a few stories already begun. Her creative life lasted, in effect, for little over twelve years. Linked to this fact, not surprisingly, is a second important one-that her basic theme changes very little throughout her work. She admitted as much herself in the Paris Review interview done by Barbara Thompson in 1963: It's astonishing how little I've changed: nothing in my point of view or way of feeling. I'm going back now to finish some of the great many short stories that I have begun and not been able to finish for one reason or another. Perhaps even Porter herself did not realize, and she certainly did not acknowledge, the first appearance of her theme. It occurs in the dramatic criticism she wrote in 1919 when she worked for the Rocky Mountain News and reviewed plays (often crude melodramas) performed in the local theaters. There she confessed to a long-standing fascination with villains. She declared that the real villain deserves some admiration because it takes imagination and courage to be villainous. Recognizing the positive qualities in villains, she transferred her attention to the virtuous, passive heroines. The shift of Porter's attention from the villain to the saintly heroine was not a temporary change of focus but a permanent one, and her attitude toward the virtuous heroine eventually formed the cornerstone of her moral philosophy. The main tenet of this philosophy is that the evildoers are not the most reprehensible people in the 59
world, because they at least have the courage of their convictions. Nor are they the most dangerous people, since they can be easily recognized. The people who really need to be watched are the so-called innocents who stand by and allow others to perpetrate evil. Porter was to express repeatedly the opinion that the innocent bystanders allow the activity of evildoers, not merely because of fear and indifference, but because they gain vicarious pleasure from seeing others perform the wicked deeds they themselves wish but fear to perform. -359She came eventually to see the passive, virtuous people as guilty of promoting evil even when they do not consciously do so. This theory about the relationship between saints and evildoers and their collusion in evil became her lifelong gospel, the subject of numerous informal talks, the message she preached from political platforms, and the basis of her interpretation of current events. After the publication of Ship of Fools, she gave this account of some of the events of the twentieth century: . . . the collusion in evil that allows creatures like Mussolini, or Hitler, or Huey Long or McCarthy--you can make your own list, petty and great,--to gain hold of things, who permits it? Oh, we're convinced we're not evil. We don't believe in that sort of thing, do we? And the strange thing is that if these agents of evil are all clowns, why do we put up with them? God knows, such men are evil, without sense--forces of pure ambition and will--but they enjoy our tacit consent. ( College English 24 Feb. 1963) The same theory informed all her fiction. An early, spare version of her theme appears in the short story "Magic." Here a maid, hoping to relax her mistress as she brushes her hair, tells a story of a villainous madam who cheats and bullies the prostitutes in a New Orleans brothel. The point of the story is that the madam's activity is made possible by those around her--the male clients, the police, and the cook--who do nothing. Not only are these people as guilty as the one who perpetrates the violence, but so too are the woman and the maid who relish the story. The woman sniffs scent (a detail suggesting her desire to hide unpleasant realities), stares at her blameless reflection in the mirror, and urges the storyteller to continue whenever she pauses. Lest there be any doubt about the equation of guilt between both madams and both maids, they resemble each other so closely as to invite confusion. When the storyteller describes the cook of the brothel, she might be describing herself: "she was a woman, colored like myself with much French blood all the same, like myself always among people who worked spells. But she had a very hard heart, she helped the madam in everything, she liked to watch all that happen" ( Collected Stories, p. 41). The theme of the story echoes Porter's words that the evil of our time is not an accident but a total consent. A fuller version of the theme appears in "Flowering Judas," which, like many of Porter's stories, has a triangular arrangement of characters, consisting of villain, victim, and "heroine." Braggioni, like all Porter's villains, is pure caricature and looms in the story like a grotesque Easter egg in shades of mauve and purple and yellow. A hideous creature with the eyes of a cat and the paunch of a pig, he embodies each of the seven deadly sins. The implication of the story is that if Braggioni is a self-serving, self-indulgent villain, he has not always been so. Once he was a young idealist in both politics and love. It is Laura and people like her who have caused him to change from idealist to opportunist, and the main focus of the story is upon her and upon her motivation. She neither loves nor opposes Braggioni, because she is basically -360indifferent to him as she is to most people. She has trained herself to remain uncommitted in her relationships with others and has developed a principle of rejection: ". . . . the very cells of her flesh reject knowledge and kinship in one monotonous word. No. No. No. She draws her strength from this one holy talismanic word which does not suffer her to be led into evil. Denying everything she may walk anywhere in safety, she looks at everything without amazement" ( Collected Stories, p. 197). It is the death of Eugenio in which she has conspired with Braggioni that causes her finally to become aware of her guilt, and then only in a dream. As she falls asleep, she receives a message from her own depths warning her of motives and the meaning of her acts. Porter's longest treatment of her theme is, of course, Ship of Fools. She described her intentions in the novel in a 1946 letter to Josephine Herbst. She said that her book was about the constant, endless collusion between good and evil. She said that she believed human beings to be capable of total evil but thought that no one had ever been totally good, and that gave the edge to evil. She intended not to present any solution, but simply to show the principle at work and to demonstrate that none of us had an alibi in the world. She said that her plan and conclusion had been worked out ten years before and that nothing had happened since to change her mind--indeed, everything confirmed her old opinion. Again, in the novel the villains are depicted in caricature. Herr Rieber is piglike; and the Zarzuela Company--a group of thieves, pimps, and prostitutes who stop at nothing--is described as a flock of crows or other quarreling, thieving birds. 60
The pivotal character who corresponds with Laura of "Flowering Judas" is Dr. Schumann. He is well qualified by his superior intelligence and by his professional training to be influential, but he has developed a detachment that distances him from the others. When he first appears in the novel, he is standing above the other characters, watching them come aboard. As he looks down from his elevated position, his interest is clinical, aloof. The hunchback stirs his interest as a case of extreme malformation; Jenny excites his disapproval as an immodest woman; and Mrs. Treadwell with her bruise arouses his worst, and as it turns out, totally unfounded suspicions. Typically, he soon loses interest, and it is apparent that his physical weakness of the heart is symptomatic of a corresponding spiritual weakness. He is a professional helper of mankind who gives help automatically but is incapable of love or involvement. When the Captain asks his advice on what to do about the Zarzuela Company, his reply, "Do nothing at all, " marks his kinship with Laura. Like her, he eventually experiences a moment when the implications of his acts become apparent, even to himself. "The Doctor suffered the psychic equivalent of a lightning stroke, which cleared away there and then his emotional fogs and vapors, and he faced his truth, nearly intolerable but the kind of pain he could deal with, something he recognized and accepted unconditionally" ( Ship of Fools, p. 373). The theme is made explicit in a discussion that takes place at the Captain's -361- table of the Vera. The guests are discussing the activities of the Spanish dancers, and Frau Rittersdorf expresses the opinion that they are "dangerous criminals." The Captain disagrees because "it requires a certain force of character to be really evil." (His remark has the special interest of being almost word for word what Katherine Anne Porter wrote in 1919 in her editorial on the villains of the Denver stage.) Dr. Schumann elaborates on the Captain's statement: I agree with the Captain, it takes a strong character to be really evil. Most of us are too slack, half-hearted or cowardly--luckily, I suppose. Our collusion with evil is only negative, consent by default you might say. I suppose in our hearts our sympathies are with the criminal because he really commits the deed we only dream of doing. ( Ship of Fools, p. 294) In the last years of her life, Porter completed a number of stories and essays that she had started earlier, among them an account of her participation in the movement protesting the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in Boston in 1927. Her publication of her essay, The Never Ending Wrong, 50 years after the event made it the work with the longest gestation period, twenty years longer than that of Ship of Fools. Reactions to the book were mixed. Others who were involved in the SaccoVanzetti case felt that the writers who flocked to Boston did so seeking grist for conversations in such gathering places of the literati as the round table of the Algonquin. One reviewer felt that the essay was an inconsequential work that told too little about the case and too much about how Porter felt on every occasion of human betrayal. Only Porter's friend Eudora Welty pointed out the close thematic link between the essay and the fiction. In fact, the theme of the essay is exactly that of the stories and the novel, the arrangement of characters in a triangle of villain, victim, and not-so-innocent hero/heroine, the same that appears in all her work. The villains have all the recognizable porcine, complacent traits of such other villains as Braggioni and Herr Rieber. They are Governor Fuller, Judge Thayer (who is reported to have said while playing golf, "Did you see what I did to those anarchistic bastards?"), and the Judges who presided over the trial of the picketers. Arrayed against these representatives of corrupt authority are all those who wish to help the victims and protest their unfair trial. On close inspection, however, they turn out like other of Porter's blameless people to be secretly allied with the villains and conspiring toward the same end. Chief among these are the Communists, represented by Rosa Baron. When Porter expressed the wish that the victims might be saved, she was astonished to hear Rosa Baron reply, "Why, what on earth good would they be to us alive?" And there are other protesters of dubious intention, notably the journalists who profit from the scenes of high emotion when the members of the victims' families appear. One journalist gloats that they arranged the whole show. The victims, of course, are -362 not saved, and they die, like Eugenio of "Flowering Judas" and Echegaray of Ship of Fools, with dignity and resignation, gazing steadfastly at death. Students of Porter's work have assumed that she is another writer whose philosophy developed out of her reaction to the rise of Nazism. The assumption is a logical one, for she had more reason than most writers to be affected by that phenomenon, since she witnessed it at first hand. The experiences in Mexico and Germany, however, did not produce new opinions so much as they confirmed and strengthened already existing ones. Porter's journalism shows that her philosophy was already shaped before she went to Mexico and that it developed out of her attempt to write criticism of contemporary theater. SURVEY OF CRITICISM The excesses of the early critics of Porter work are well indicated by two 1938 reviews of Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Paul Rosenfeld, writing for the Saturday Review of Literature, asserted that " Katherine Anne Porter moves 61
in the illustrious company headed by Hawthorne, Flaubert and Henry James." Glenway Wescott , writing for the Southern Review a piece entitled simply "Praise," compared "Noon Wine" to Milton Paradise Lost. This tendency to exaggerated praise never entirely disappeared. At the same time more astringent criticism began to appear. Lodwick Hartley's first essay on Porter appeared in the Sewanee Review in 1940. Over the years he proved the most balanced of Porter's critics, admiring her as an artist yet remaining fully aware of her limitations. The turning point in the critical assessment of Porter's work came after the publication of Ship of Fools. The early reviews of that novel were, for the most part, as adulatory as the early reviews of the stories had been. Mark Schorer, reviewing the book on the front page of the New York Time Book Review 1 April 1962, began by saying: This novel has been famous for years. It has been awaited through an entire literary generation. Publishers and foundations, like many once hopeful readers, long ago gave it up. Now it is suddenly, superbly, here. It would have been worth waiting for for another thirty years if one had had any hope of having them. It is our good fortune that it comes at last still in our time. It will endure, one hardly risks anything in saying, far beyond it, for many literary generations. He ended by saying that it should be compared not with the works of Sebastian Brandt or Richard Hughes but with George Eliot Middlemarch. Schorer's praises, echoed by other critics, were soon followed by equally immoderate attacks. The most devastating of these, "Ship of Fools: and the Critics" by Theodore Solotaroff , appeared in Commentary 24 October 1962. After attacking Porter's "fretful and trifling caricature of Jews that is a hallmark of genteel anti-Sem- -363itism," Solotaroff went on to show that the treatment of Lowenthal "is only one example of Miss Porter's compulsive tendency to simplify and close her characters and issues, to look down upon life from the perspective of towering arrogance, contempt, and disgust." ( Solotaroff review and Mark Schorer are reprinted in Katherine Anne Porter: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Penn Warren.) Not surprisingly, in view of the uniformly unpleasant portrayal of the German characters in the book, the reception in Germany was cold. English criticism was also unfavorable, causing Porter to comment that the old taste for blood sports was in full hue and cry. An anonymous reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement in November 1962, granted the book moments of great power and compassion but thought that the achievements were those of a great short-story writer. They glittered like passages of subtle, concentrated brushwork on a canvas too thinly composed. He thought the novel lacked a dramatic center and added: One cannot help wondering whether she knows enough--of German history, of the sources of modern antiSemitism, of European middle-class speech and values--or whether that knowledge has penetrated the exquisite but very special range of her feelings. One of the few favorable English reviews appeared in the Spectator in the same month. Sybille Bedford concluded that the Great American novel had appeared and that ironically it turned out to be a great universal novel. At the end of an otherwise approving review, she wondered if the book might have been even more stunning if it had been less bulky, and she also felt that the grotesque might have been done more lightly. "Did the only Jew on board have to be such an utter wretch?" she asked. She concluded that the most serious flaw in the novel was its static nature and the fact that the characters move on tramlines towards crescendos, showing no development, arriving at no crossroads and experiencing no turning points. The completion of the novel signaled the appearance of more ambitious critical studies of her entire oeuvre. They include theses, dissertations, pamphlets, collections of critical essays, and book-length studies. The first pamphlet was Harry John Mooney Jr. The Fiction and Criticism of Katherine Anne Porter ( 1957); a revised edition with a chapter on Ship of Fools was published in 1962. Ray B. West Jr. Katherine Anne Porter came in 1963, with a revised edition following in 1968 after Porter informed West that his statements about her Catholic girlhood were incorrect. Winfred S. Emmons's Katherine Anne Porter: The Regional Stories appeared in 1967. Of the early book-length studies the weakest are M. M. Liberman Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction ( 1971), a series of disconnected essays, described with some accuracy by one of the first reviewers as "an exercise in superficiality," and William L. Nance Katherine Anne Porter and the Art of Rejection ( 1964). Originally written as a doctoral dissertation, Nance's book suffers from a thesisridden approach. -364itism," Solotaroff went on to show that the treatment of Lowenthal "is only one example of Miss Porter's compulsive tendency to simplify and close her characters and issues, to look down upon life from the perspective of towering arrogance, contempt, and disgust." ( Solotaroff review and Mark Schorer are reprinted in Katherine Anne Porter: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robert Penn Warren.) 62
Not surprisingly, in view of the uniformly unpleasant portrayal of the German characters in the book, the reception in Germany was cold. English criticism was also unfavorable, causing Porter to comment that the old taste for blood sports was in full hue and cry. An anonymous reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement in November 1962, granted the book moments of great power and compassion but thought that the achievements were those of a great short-story writer. They glittered like passages of subtle, concentrated brushwork on a canvas too thinly composed. He thought the novel lacked a dramatic center and added: One cannot help wondering whether she knows enough--of German history, of the sources of modern antiSemitism, of European middle-class speech and values--or whether that knowledge has penetrated the exquisite but very special range of her feelings. One of the few favorable English reviews appeared in the Spectator in the same month. Sybille Bedford concluded that the Great American novel had appeared and that ironically it turned out to be a great universal novel. At the end of an otherwise approving review, she wondered if the book might have been even more stunning if it had been less bulky, and she also felt that the grotesque might have been done more lightly. "Did the only Jew on board have to be such an utter wretch?" she asked. She concluded that the most serious flaw in the novel was its static nature and the fact that the characters move on tramlines towards crescendos, showing no development, arriving at no crossroads and experiencing no turning points. The completion of the novel signaled the appearance of more ambitious critical studies of her entire oeuvre. They include theses, dissertations, pamphlets, collections of critical essays, and book-length studies. The first pamphlet was Harry John Mooney Jr. The Fiction and Criticism of Katherine Anne Porter ( 1957); a revised edition with a chapter on Ship of Fools was published in 1962. Ray B. West Jr. Katherine Anne Porter came in 1963, with a revised edition following in 1968 after Porter informed West that his statements about her Catholic girlhood were incorrect. Winfred S. Emmons's Katherine Anne Porter: The Regional Stories appeared in 1967. Of the early book-length studies the weakest are M. M. Liberman Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction ( 1971), a series of disconnected essays, described with some accuracy by one of the first reviewers as "an exercise in superficiality," and William L. Nance Katherine Anne Porter and the Art of Rejection ( 1964). Originally written as a doctoral dissertation, Nance's book suffers from a thesisridden approach. -364Hendrick is preparing a revised edition of his 1965 study, and it should provide an indispensable tool for students. Darlene Unrue Truth and Vision in Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction ( 1985) traces the controlling images in the fiction, based on a thorough study of Porter's essays, letters, and unpublished sources. It is to be hoped that these books will herald a new era in Porter studies. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Katherine Anne Porter Flowering Judas and Other Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1940. The Leaning Tower and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1944. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. New York: Modern Library, 1949. The Days Before. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952. Ship of Fools. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965. The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Delacorte Press, 1970. The Never-Ending Wrong. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977. Studies of Katherine Anne Porter DeMouy Jane Krause. Katherine Anne Porter's Women: The Eye of Her Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983. Emmons Winfred S. Katherine Anne Porter: The Regional Stories. Austin: SteckVaughn, 1967. Givner Joan. Katherine Anne Porter: A Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982. Hardy John Edwards. Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1973. Hartley Lodwick and George Core, eds. Katherine Anne Porter: A Critical Symposium. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969. Hendrick George. Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Twayne, 1965. Kiernan Robert F. Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976. Krishnamurthi M. G. Katherine Anne Porter: A Study. Mysore, India: Rao and Raghaven, 1971. Liberman M. M. Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1971. Mooney Harry John Jr. The Fiction and Criticism of Katherine Anne Porter. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1957; rev. ed., 1962. 63
Nance William L. Katherine Anne Porter and the Art of Rejection. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964. Unrue Darlene. Truth and Vision in Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985. Walsh Thomas. "Identifying a Sketch by Katherine Anne Porter." Journal of Modern Literature 7 ( 1979): 555 -61. -366Walsh Thomas. "Xochitl: Katherine Anne Porter's Changing Goddess." American Literature 52 ( 1980): 183 -93. Warren Robert Penn, ed. Katherine Anne Porter: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979. West Ray B., Jr. Katherine Anne Porter. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1963, 1968. -367EUGENE CURRENT-GARCIA William Sydney Porter [O. Henry] (1862-1910) William Sydney Porter, better known the world over by his pen name O. Henry, was already famous in New York before his first book was published in 1904; and though he lived only six more years after that event, his fame as America's premier short fiction writer doubled and redoubled as eight more volumes of his stories appeared before he died. These nine collections, however, contained only about half of the nearly 300 stories he had written for a variety of magazines and newspapers during his relatively brief career; the other half appeared in seven posthumous volumes published between 1910 and 1939. Yet notwithstanding the worldwide popularity that O. Henry's stories soon achieved and still enjoy, at his death few really knew who he was, and fewer still were aware of what he had been as Will Porter, the poor Southern youth who had become in his forties the darling spokesman for Manhattan's voiceless millions. And even now the paradox of O. Henry's appeal to a global reading public as opposed to the shadowy career of his alter ego is no less intriguing than it must have been 75 years ago. BIOGRAPHY Significant facts regarding Will Porter's life are well-known and can be quickly summarized, as they fill four distinct segments of his experience. But exactly how each of these segments affected the psyche of Porter the man and what each contributed, for better or worse, to the art of O. Henry the writer are not so readily assimilable. Porter was born near Greensboro, North Carolina, on 11 September 1862, the second son of Dr. Algernon Sidney and Mary Jane (Swaim) Porter. Will's initial readjustment to a problematic world began when he was three, when his mother died shortly after the birth of her third son. Coupled with the strain of overwork at the war's end in a defeated South, this private -368EUGENE CURRENT-GARCIA William Sydney Porter [O. Henry] (1862-1910) William Sydney Porter, better known the world over by his pen name O. Henry, was already famous in New York before his first book was published in 1904; and though he lived only six more years after that event, his fame as America's premier short fiction writer doubled and redoubled as eight more volumes of his stories appeared before he died. These nine collections, however, contained only about half of the nearly 300 stories he had written for a variety of magazines and newspapers during his relatively brief career; the other half appeared in seven posthumous volumes published between 1910 and 1939. Yet notwithstanding the worldwide popularity that O. Henry's stories soon achieved and still enjoy, at his death few really knew who he was, and fewer still were aware of what he had been as Will Porter, the poor Southern youth who had become in his forties the darling spokesman for Manhattan's voiceless millions. And even now the paradox of O. Henry's appeal to a global reading public as opposed to the shadowy career of his alter ego is no less intriguing than it must have been 75 years ago. BIOGRAPHY Significant facts regarding Will Porter's life are well-known and can be quickly summarized, as they fill four distinct segments of his experience. But exactly how each of these segments affected the psyche of Porter the man and what each contributed, for better or worse, to the art of O. Henry the writer are not so readily assimilable. Porter was born near Greensboro, North Carolina, on 11 September 1862, the second son of Dr. Algernon Sidney and Mary Jane (Swaim) Porter. Will's initial readjustment to a problematic world began when he was three, when his mother died shortly after the birth of her third son. Coupled with the strain of overwork at the war's end in a defeated South, this private -368- 64
loss devastated Will's father, "Dr. Al," the town's most popular physician; he gave up his home and his practice, moved into his widowed mother's house, and soon abandoned the discipline of his two little boys, Shirley and Will (the youngest, David, died in infancy), to his mother and his maiden sister, Evelina. The father of Will's earliest memories, wrote a family friend years later, "was a man who had already lost his grip." Still, Will Porter's childhood and youth were otherwise normal. His contacts with people and events in Greensboro furnished abundant resources that his fertile imagination later transformed into fiction. The two strongest influences shaping his mind and character at this stage were the formal schooling he received from his aunt, Miss Lina, and the apprenticeship he served in his Uncle Clark's pharmacy. Evelina inculcated in the young boy a passion for English and American literature and a desire to emulate the standard authors from Chaucer to Henry James, particularly in their rhetorical mastery of diction and imagery; she also encouraged his childish efforts to express himself in both verbal and pictorial forms. He developed these skills further during the three years he worked in his uncle's pharmacy, becoming a teenaged celebrity for his amusing cartoons while simultaneously absorbing enough knowledge of the pharmacopoeia to secure a state license to practice pharmacy and more than enough awareness of community attitudes and individual oddities in dress, mannerisms, and modes of speech to fashion a host of lifelike fictional characters and events. Such well-known stories as "A Municipal Report," "A Blackjack Bargainer," and "The Rose of Dixie" clearly reveal Porter's deftness in recapturing the essence of Old South nostalgia that permeated the Reconstruction era. At the age of twenty Porter blithely left Greensboro for Texas, where during the next fifteen years his awareness broadened and his responses to life's joys and sorrows deepened dramatically. Among the many new experiences he encountered in this totally different world, the most important ones that affected his personality and his professional career occurred first during the two years he spent as a guest at one of the great cattle ranches near the Mexican border, where his sensitive eyes and ears captured and recorded the distinctive cultural pecularities of Hispanic behavior and speech. Next, Porter's longer residence in Austin, which included four years' employment as a draughtsman in the Texas Land Office as well as his marriage to Athol Estes Roach in 1887 and the birth of their two children, extended his friendships and social contacts in the booming young capital. For him these were relatively happy years despite such personal misfortunes as the loss of a firstborn infant son and the anxiety over Athol's declining health after the birth of their daughter, Margaret, in 1889. Besides enjoying his work Porter was writing steadily; and when political exigencies wiped out the Land Office job in 1891, he soon obtained another as teller in the First National Bank, one that afforded him time--even during banking hours-to keep up his sketching and skit writing for three more years. But it was a job that brought disaster as well as local fame. For although Porter was apparently doing his work satisfactorily, toward the close of 1894 he was indicted on the -369 charge of having embezzled over $5,000 of the bank's funds. The money, presumably, had been borrowed surreptitiously to help meet the printing costs of his first publishing venture, the Rolling Stone, a weekly humor magazine he had begun in March and kept alive for a full year, largely with anecdotes and sketches of his own composition. These writings had again made Porter a local celebrity, but notwithstanding the generosity of his father-inlaw and the offers of other friends to rectify his defalcation, banking examiners in Washington ordered him to stand trial the following year. Having been obliged to leave the bank, Porter while awaiting trial took a feature-writing job on the Houston Post, where he again drew favorable attention to his humorous writings by conducting a daily column entitled "Some Postscripts." Here in embryo, as in the pieces he had written for the Rolling Stone, Porter incorporated many of the themes, plots, and situations that reappeared later, elaborated and polished, in some of O. Henry's most famous stories. But as the deadline approached for his trial in July 1896, Porter panicked; instead of returning to Austin he fled to New Orleans and from there to Honduras, where he stayed until the end of the year. His lonely sojourn there, like the earlier ones in New Orleans and Houston, provided abundant new material for his later fiction, hilarious tales of revolutionary escapades in the imaginary banana republic of Anchuria in Cabbages and Kings. But whatever plans he may have had for bringing Athol and little Margaret to live with him were doomed: in January Porter learned that Athol was dying, and with borrowed funds he returned home to face not only his trial but possibly the grimmest year of his life. Ironically, this was also the year that presaged Porter's future literary renown: in December the McClure Company accepted his first full-length story, "The Miracle of Lava Canyon." But Athol did not survive to share this good fortune; she died on 25 July, having firmly kept faith to the end in both her husband's innocence and his ultimate success. Out of deference to the family's plight the court had postponed the trial until February 1898; yet when it opened, Porter, although still protesting his innocence, had not prepared an adequate defense to counteract the evidence against him. He was convicted but given the lightest possible sentence the law permitted: a five-year term (which good behavior would cut to three years) to be served beginning in April at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. For Porter's pride, this was a bitter finale to his Texas experience, despite the auspicious foreshadowing 65
of future literary triumphs and the blessed support of the Roaches, who not only believed in him but also stood ready to care for Margaret during his absence. Porter then entered prison with two fixed ideas uppermost in mind: to blot out the past and, while guarding his anonymity, to develop and perfect his fictional techniques. Although he kept up a matter-of-fact correspondence with his mother-in-law, to spare his child's humiliation he concealed his whereabouts from her in a charmingly disguised series of letters. As a model prisoner he was admired for his helpfulness, wit, and quiet dignity, but he declined to expose in reportorial muckraking the inhumane prison conditions he knew of or heard -370 about from his fellow inmates. Instead, he stuck to his fiction, blotting out the bitterness of his prison experiences by the same process of transformation he had already applied and would later apply to so many other experiences. In this way, too, " O. Henry," the alter ego, was literally born during Porter's three-year stretch in prison. Although the precise origin of the pseudonym itself is still unknown, the fourteen stories written and published as O. Henry's during these years (beginning with "Georgia's Ruling" in 1900) were not the sole products of his incarceration. Many others published later--such as the Jeff Peters stories in The Gentle Grafter and those dealing with frontier outlawry, fraud, violence, and banditry in Heart of the West, Roads of Destiny, and still other volumes--came originally from yarns and anecdotes picked up from fellow prisoners. Many of these prisonoriented stories, including "A Retrieved Reformation," the most famous of all, develop what appears to be an artfully concealed autobiographical element that, Gerald Langford suggests, sets forth the same basic idea: "the vindication of a character who has in some way forfeited his claim to respectability or even integrity . . . and the plot invariably turns on the regeneration of an admitted delinquent, not on the vindication of a character who is blameless." However accurate this judgment may be, it shows how fully Porter's craftsmanship matured during his imprisonment. He entered the Ohio Penitentiary an amateur but emerged three years later as O. Henry, the professional literary artist. When Porter left prison in 1901, he had only nine more years to live, a period destined to bring him spectacular success as New York's O. Henry, the selfanointed Caliph of Bagdad-on-the-Subway. But they would also be years of anguish, loneliness, want, and guilt-ridden fear, as he strove vainly to elude the shadow of his past and to secure financial independence through exhausting literary effort. Before going to New York in the spring of 1902, Porter spent nearly a year in Pittsburgh, residing in modest hotel rooms and working for the Dispatch to support himself and Margaret, now a girl of twelve still living with her grandparents. He was also writing stories at a furious pace during these months, having published ten of them in Ainslee's and McClure's by the end of the year and, under various pseudonyms in other magazines, about five or six more shortly afterwards. At this point Porter was already earning about $150 a month, he told his friend Al Jennings; but always fearful of being recognized as an ex-convict in Pittsburgh, he was anxious to preserve his anonymity among New York's faceless masses, yet he also wished to write stories and have them published in that more exciting, more lucrative marketplace. In both literary and financial terms, his expectations were soon richly rewarded: he belonged to New York, fitting it snugly like a hand in a glove. By the end of 1902 the O. Henry byline had become more and more familiar as stories bearing the name appeared, sometimes simultaneously, in nearly a dozen monthly magazines. More than 25 were published that year, including such favorites as "A Retrieved Reformation," "Roads of Destiny," and "While the Auto Waits." Yet Porter had barely begun to exploit the manifold riches -371 that New York spread before him. As he prowled the city's crowded streets and glittering nightspots, excitedly savoring the varied color and texture of its life, the ever-shifting shapes of its human scene offered him a cornucopia of sights and sounds with which to delight a cosmopolitan audience, eager to see themselves mirrored in such sympathetic ambience. Thus Porter's big break came in the fall of 1903, when he signed a contract with the Sunday World to supply that newspaper with a story each week for $100 apiece. With its circulation of nearly half a million, the World now rewarded Porter with what he had always coveted: a prodigious number of faithful readers and, in his roseate view, an opulent income enabling him at last to live lavishly at 55 Irving Place near Gramercy Park. On that vantage ground, Robert H. Davis and Arthur B. Maurice noted, he could "establish himself in what he called 'the business of caliphing,' and . . . indulge in the vagaries and extravagances appropriate to the generous handed role." Given the sharp contrasts between such respectable places at one extreme as the Westminster Hotel, where Dickens had stayed, and bawdy houses, saloons, and honky-tonks like McGlory's and Tom Sharkey's at the other; and given, too, Porter's talent for appreciating such kaleidoscopic scenery, one can accept the avowal of Davis and Maurice that "from 1904 to 1907, O. Henry was Haroun [Al Rashid] in his golden prime." During the two years that Porter served the World, seldom missing his weekly deadline, he wrote for that newspaper 113 tales (syndicated throughout the United States) and 25 longer ones, which were published in such 66
monthly magazines as Everybody's, McClure's, and Munsey's. The demand for his stories from competing editors was now so great that he could not have met it, a friend exclaimed later, even if he had turned them out two at a time with both hands all day long. As a result, by 1905-6 Porter was making more money than ever, over $600 a month, and spending it faster than he made it. By this time he had also begun the new venture that would bring lasting fame to his memory and fabulous profits to the publishing firm of Doubleday and Company: that of having all his stories reissued in book collections. At Witter Bynner's suggestion, he and Bynner had cut and stitched, combined and restructured most of his Central American stories to produce a simulated novel, Cabbages and Kings, which McClure, Phillips and Company published in November 1904. The book sold well enough to justify the experiment: within two more years, following the publication of The Four Million in April 1906, the popularity of O. Henry's second book showed that his works would not soon be forgotten. A collection of 25 stories drawn mostly from the World's files, The Four Million contained such top favorites as "An Unfinished Story," "The Cop and the Anthem," "The Gift of the Magi," and "The Furnished Room." Each of these dramatized in a slightly different way Porter's assertion that the nameless "little people" comprising New York's four million souls were as well worth writing about as were the elite "400" in Ward McAllister's social register. This was a claim that not only won the hearts of the average New Yorker but also appealed to the democratic instincts of people everywhere. Accordingly, TheFour Million -372Four Million soon drew favorable reviews even from serious literary critics, who began comparing Porter to Maupassant and other eminent writers, indicating thereby that further volumes of his stories would be promptly noticed. They followed in an orderly procession during Porter's last years and after his death: in 1907-08, The Trimmed Lamp and The Voice of the City, adding 50 more New York stories in book form; and in the same period, Heart of the West and The Gentle Grafter, containing stories based primarily on Porter's experiences in Texas and in prison. Before he died three more volumes appeared: Roads of Destiny and Options in 1909 and Strictly Business, containing 22 more New York stories, in 1910. Later the same year came the first posthumous volume, Whirligigs, followed by Sixes and Sevens in 1911, Rolling Stones in 1912, Waifs and Strays in 1917, and O. Henryana in 1920. Most of these later volumes contained a mixture of overlooked New York stories along with other fugitive pieces reflecting earlier categories of Porter's experience. In 1939, finally, came the important collection of his Houston Post writings, O. Henry Encore, edited by Mary Sunlocks Harrell. By 1908 when The Voice of the City appeared, Porter had indeed become "Haroun in his golden prime." He had reached the pinnacle of his spectacular climb from penury and shame and was earning an income of about $14,000 for the 29 new stories he wrote that year. But it had been a costly climb, comparable in physical and emotional stress to the final stages of a Mt. Everest ascent. As early as 1905 the steady routine of churning out his stories day after day had begun to damage Porter's health; his ferocious pace slackened as the demand for his stories intensified, and his output began falling off perceptibly. Compared to the 120 new stories he produced in 1904-5, in 1906 he published nineteen and in 1907, only eleven. Moreover, having drifted into an ill-advised second marriage in November 1907, he needed money even more than before, and he drove himself mercilessly during the following year to earn it. Yet the $14,000 income was not enough to support the opulent life-style he was accustomed to, and his morale suffered all the more. From the start Porter had led a reclusive existence in New York, stealthily preserving his anonymity, making few friends among his magazine associates, and rarely extending his full confidence even to them. And though he obviously enjoyed casual contacts with waitresses, shopgirls, cancan dancers, and demimondaines whom he met in Broadway crowds and Bowery vaudeville houses, his relations with women above their social level remained stiff and awkward. Apart from Margaret and her aunt Nettie Roach, neither of whom he saw very often, Porter enjoyed easygoing friendships only with Anne Partlan, a young writer whom he met occasionally; with Mabel Wagnalls, a publisher's daughter; and with one or two others of his own class. Thus it was typical that in seeking another wife he proposed to Sara Lindsay Coleman, a spinster of thirty-seven from Greensboro with whom he had played as a child 25 years before. Their marriage was virtually predestined to fail. It was difficult enough for the couple to adjust to each other's fixed habits, and when Margaret also joined the family, -373 the strains imposed by increased demands on Porter's diminishing creative energy became unbearable. By summer 1909 the attempt to maintain a normal family life was abandoned: Sara returned to Asheville, North Carolina, for a long visit, Margaret was sent to another private school in New Jersey, and Porter reverted to his old bachelor habits at the Hotel Caledonia. As his health deteriorated during these final months, Porter grew morbidly dissatisfied with his stories and tried his hand at other forms of literary expression. He talked of doing a long, serious novel on the theme of the Old South versus the New and even drew sizable cash advances for writing it from Doubleday, Page and Company. But that work was never written. Instead, Porter worked with Franklin P. Adams on the musical comedy Lo!, based on 67
"He Also Serves," one of the last few stories he had written in 1908. Lo! folded even before reaching the New York stage, but its road tryouts brought Porter an offer from George Tyler, another theatrical producer, to subsidize a dramatic version of his much earlier tale, "A Retrieved Reformation." Had Porter followed through with this commitment during the long rest cure he undertook while visiting Sara in Asheville, he might have reaped the bonanza that he so desperately needed. But once again his aberrant behavior undid him: instead of writing the play Tyler wanted, he delayed and equivocated and finally sold the impatient producer the dramatic rights to the story for $500. It was promptly turned over to another writer, Paul Armstrong, who soon transformed "A Retrieved Reformation" into Alias Jimmy Valentine, one of the hits of the season, which earned Armstrong over $100,000 in royalties by the end of its first run. Porter had gone to North Carolina under the delusion that the "neurasthenia" that had baffled his New York physicians for over a year could be cured with hill climbing and fresh mountain air, as told in one of his most poignant posthumous tales, "Let Me Feel Your Pulse." But when he returned to New York and the Caledonia in March 1910, he was finished and doubtless knew it, despite the bravado that his creative faculties were unimpaired. Virtually an invalid during his final weeks, Porter could barely summon up energy enough to do any writing at all: he refused company, rarely emerged from his room, and kept himself alive mainly with whiskey until his collapse on the evening of 3 June. Among the last to see him still conscious were Anne Partlan and her physician, Dr. Charles Hancock, who took him to the Polyclinic Hospital. Two days later he died there from an advanced stage of cirrhosis of the liver, and after a brief funeral service at the Little Church Around the Comer, his body was taken to Asheville for burial. Porter's end, like his beginning, was fraught with sadness and irony. Owing thousands of dollars advanced to him by his publishers, friends, and relatives, he died a pauper, unknown, unrecognized, perhaps unmourned by all but his family and the handful of literary folk who attended his funeral service. Yet Porter had given pleasure to millions and had made the name "O. Henry" an indelible symbol in American life. -374MAJOR THEMES Embryonic forms of the typical O. Henry story--its plotting, characters, situations, and style--can be found in both the skits and anecdotes that Porter concocted for the Rolling Stone and in the 35 longer tales and sketches he composed for his column in the Houston Post. In these latter pieces, for example, one sees his facility for ringing changes on the familiar O. Henry themes of mistaken identity, false pretense, misplaced devotion, nobility in disguise, and the bitter irony of fate. Here, too, one finds such sentimental types as the sensitive tramp, the illstarred lovers, the starving artist, and the gentle grafter or con man. Thus, nearly two decades before New Yorkers rhapsodized over such stories as "The Enchanted Kiss," "While the Auto Waits," "The Caliph and the Cad," and "Mammon and the Archer," Porter had been shaping the basic structure of these stories. One of many examples showing how Porter Post offerings provided the germ for his well-known later ones is a slight four-page tale entitled "An Unknown Romance." Developing the theme of disparity between wealth and poverty through the device of mistaken identity, this early version concerns two wealthy young Americans who fall in love while vacationing in the Alps; as they mistake each other's peasant garb for the real thing, they discard the planned marriages of convenience arranged by their families, only to discover that they are destined for each other. Variations of the identical situation are worked out in "A Night in New Arabia" and "Lost on Dress Parade"; with roles reversed in "Transients in Arcadia" and "The Caliph and the Cad"; and again with a double reversal in "While the Auto Waits." The disguise or impostor motif, coupled with the idea that destiny, or fate, imposes inescapable roles on the individual, is a dominant theme that recurs in many forms throughout all of O. Henry's writing; its treatment, both serious and comic, can be seen in his earliest work. Regardless of whether O. Henry's protagonists are threadbare Southern ladies like Azalia Adair or impoverished shopgirls like Dulcie in "An Unfinished Story," Mexican desperados like the Cisco Kid or philanthropic New York caliphs like Carson Chalmers in "A Madison Square Arabian Night," a fundamental attitude toward the human predicament pervades the situations he prepares for all of them to confront. Life, he appears to suggest repeatedly, is an adventure that tests the individual's courage and integrity; its rigors cannot be evaded, nor can its rewards be taken for granted, for they are always subject to misdirection or revocation. Thus, the basic themes dramatized in his stories are much the same whether their settings are laid in New York, the Old South, or the raw West; four of them recur again and again, sometimes singly, but more often in combination and in varied forms. These major themes are (a) pretense and the reversal of fortune, (b) discovery and initiation through adventure, (c) contrast and adversity as stimuli to the imagination, and (d) the yearning for self-fulfillment in all human nature. -375The theme of pretense--an urge to pose for what one is not, if only for a few moments and notwithstanding the price exacted--is probably O. Henry's most persistent one, as variations of it appear in a great many stories from the first to the last few he left unfinished at his death. His ironic treatment of the theme dramatizes in some stories 68
the pathos of lost opportunities suffered by either men or women because of their bent toward one-upmanship; whereas in other stories the same treatment focuses on amusing situations in which profit rather than loss accrues to one or more of the characters involved. Thus, with his assortment of technical shifts and devices O. Henry could develop the pretense theme effectively in many different ways. In "The Social Triangle." for example, he employed ironic contrast to expose the pretentiousness of three different levels of New York society; and, changing his approach through several other contrivances, he juxtaposed the pretenses of different social levels as well as the effects of pretense among members of the same social class in at least a dozen other stories, such as "The Poet and the Peasant," "The Country of Elusion," and "Past One at Rooney's." In virtually all of them, his carefully crafted surprise ending cuts off further exploration of the particular problem displaying the theme. Although the two themes of pretense and discovery through adventure often unfold concurrently in O. Henry's stories, they are not invariably yoked together or mutually dependent. The idea of eagerly confronting the unknown, with or without the protective coloration of a disguise, seems to have excited O. Henry throughout his life, especially toward the end. The sort of adventurer he admired is his hero Rudolph Steiner in "The Green Door," eager to find "what might lie just around the next corner" and willing to pay the toll charged for following up a lead, even though aware that it may come high. There are many others like Steiner in O. Henry's stories, and not always men. They may be winsome adventurers like Katy Dempsey, heroine of an absurd but charming tale, "A Philistine in Bohemia"; or like Daisy, the ignorant little shopgirl whose daring in "Psyche and the Pskyscraper" shows that both awareness and simplicity are as essential as courage in pursuing an adventurous life. And their discoveries, like Big Jim's in "Dougherty's Eye-Opener," prove that the adventure itself need not be a sensational one, but merely the simplest departure from routine behavior to yield rich rewards. O. Henry's most poignant treatments of the adventure and discovery theme, however, occur in "The Venturers," published a few months before his death, and in the posthumous "Let Me Feel Your Pulse." Although both clearly express what C. Alphonso Smith, his first biographer, identified as his "revolt against the calculable," on a deeper level these two stories may also harbor a veiled commentary on the misgivings Porter felt toward his second marriage. True or not, they reveal unmistakably his deep-seated conviction, the result of painful experience, that one cannot escape one's destiny regardless of the road taken; that it is better, therefore, to accept willingly the chances that come than to try to manipulate one's fate. The essence of the adventurous life lies in confronting -376and accepting its proffered risks; for even though these may lead to sad ends, the ends themselves are unforeseen. Hence satisfaction can only be derived from the kind of race one runs. O. Henry's adventure theme is sometimes hard to distinguish from either or both of the other two themes that portray contrast or adversity and human yearning as stimuli toward imaginative or heroic action. The reason is that these latter are pervasive rather than pointedly specific; they appear in scattered passages, hints, and overtones, not as the predominant motif of entire stories; and one becomes aware of them in O. Henry's frequent use of contrasting viewpoints or attitudes as a standard device. He is reported to have said that every house in every street in New York "has a drama in it." To grasp what he meant by drama here, one need only consider two of the stories that still head the list of O. Henry favorites: "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Furnished Room." Representing the polar opposites of joy and despair in the lives of average New Yorkers, these two have not lost their original popular appeal because they dramatize, albeit tritely, what the world knows to be of fundamental value in ordinary family life. Unselfish love shared is repeatedly set forth as a criterion in O. Henry's fictional treatment of domestic affairs--not just among New Yorkers but also among many others in his Southern and Western stories. If such love is at hand, life can be a great adventure transcending all drabness; if absent, nothing else can take its place. Hence the warm glow of "The Gift" and the utter bleakness of "The Furnished Room." Because the many-faceted drama of New York's four million persons became the primary stimulus for O. Henry's imagination, the city as a unit can be seen as an objective correlative that vivifies his broadest theme. As the source of more than half of his total output of short fiction, Manhattan's masses dramatize the idea of oneness at the heart of things in human society. This is a typically romantic approach to life, a throwback to Whitman and Wordsworth, that tends to minimize or blur subtle distinctions between the good and bad, rich and poor, strong and weak, in order to focus attention on the ideal goals for which we all strive. Nevertheless, it is also an approach we cherish and cling to, and it explains O. Henry's hold on his vast reading public. His readers know that things seldom work out in the world of fact as they do in his world of the imagination, but at heart we would like to believe they might. We would like to believe that all brides are beautiful; that all bums and con men, even all millionaires, are alike redeemable. O. Henry's stories about fictive New Yorkers, Southerners, Westerners, and Latin Americans are thus part of a vast literature that has always fed this basic human hunger: "the search for those common traits and common impulses" whose ultimate theme, C. Alphonso Smith wisely concluded, "is your nature and mine." SURVEY OF CRITICISM During the decade following his death, O. Henry's works approached the zenith of their public acclaim from leading literary critics as well as the reading 69
-377public at large. By 1920 nearly five million copies of his books had been sold in the United States, many of them in sleek deluxe printings of allegedly complete editions. Many copies were also being sold abroad in other English-speaking countries, and foreign language translations of the stories were soon prepared to meet a growing demand for them in France, Russia, Scandinavia, and the Spanish-speaking countries. Thanks to such widespread acceptance both at home and abroad, O. Henry's image quickly overshadowed all others in the field of short fiction writing; thus, when an annual series of volumes containing the year's best stories was inaugurated in 1919, his name was the inevitable choice for its rifle. The O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories clearly implied that his works represented the highest standard of artistry in short story form. In America critical support for such an exalted reputation before 1920 came from several essayists whose formal discussions in the Bookman, Nation, North American Review, and other literary journals treated O. Henry's work with growing respect. The leading figure in this group was Porter's boyhood chum, Professor C. Alphonso Smith, whose O. Henry Biography, published in 1916, strengthened its subject's claim to rank among America's major authors. Smith's book was well received, but his high praise also evoked strong rebuttals from more fastidious academic critics such as F. L. Pattee and H. L. Mencken, who dismissed O. Henry's stories as specious journalization void of serious substance. Throughout the 1920s this adverse view gradually took hold. As the critical pendulum swung the other way, Mencken's puritanical sneer at O. Henry's "smoke-room and variety-show smartness" led to Sherwood Anderson's condemnation of his mechanized, "poison" plots; and this, in turn, to the apparent critical oblivion signalized in A. H. Quinn's haughty pronouncement that upon rereading the stories he could find scarcely a dozen in the entire canon that might be called "first rate." Thus, by the 1930s the falling off of O. Henry's reputation among literary critics in the United States became nearly as swift and precipitous as its original ascent. The "new" fiction, embodied in Anderson Winesburg, Ohio tales and in Hemingway In Our Time and Men Without Women, had gained so much respect that O. Henry's style of writing no longer seemed important enough to notice, even unfavorably. Scholarly interest in O. Henry during the next 30 years reflected this sharp decline in critical esteem. Throughout the entire United States in the 1930s scarcely a dozen master's theses were written about his work, and the only other important critical material (aside from a few bits of personal reminiscence) included several articles in the South Atlantic Quarterly and the Southwest Review. One other important essay in American Literature by P. S. Clarkson clarified the composition of O. Henry first book, and the same author's A Bibliography of William Sydney Porter, though incomplete, was perhaps the most significant piece of American scholarship devoted to him in the 1930s. But slight as such critical concern may seem, it was abundant compared with the almost total neglect that O. Henry's reputation suffered in the United States during the 1940s and most of the 1950s. Except for a few more theses, a single published -378public at large. By 1920 nearly five million copies of his books had been sold in the United States, many of them in sleek deluxe printings of allegedly complete editions. Many copies were also being sold abroad in other English-speaking countries, and foreign language translations of the stories were soon prepared to meet a growing demand for them in France, Russia, Scandinavia, and the Spanish-speaking countries. Thanks to such widespread acceptance both at home and abroad, O. Henry's image quickly overshadowed all others in the field of short fiction writing; thus, when an annual series of volumes containing the year's best stories was inaugurated in 1919, his name was the inevitable choice for its rifle. The O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories clearly implied that his works represented the highest standard of artistry in short story form. In America critical support for such an exalted reputation before 1920 came from several essayists whose formal discussions in the Bookman, Nation, North American Review, and other literary journals treated O. Henry's work with growing respect. The leading figure in this group was Porter's boyhood chum, Professor C. Alphonso Smith, whose O. Henry Biography, published in 1916, strengthened its subject's claim to rank among America's major authors. Smith's book was well received, but his high praise also evoked strong rebuttals from more fastidious academic critics such as F. L. Pattee and H. L. Mencken, who dismissed O. Henry's stories as specious journalization void of serious substance. Throughout the 1920s this adverse view gradually took hold. As the critical pendulum swung the other way, Mencken's puritanical sneer at O. Henry's "smoke-room and variety-show smartness" led to Sherwood Anderson's condemnation of his mechanized, "poison" plots; and this, in turn, to the apparent critical oblivion signalized in A. H. Quinn's haughty pronouncement that upon rereading the stories he could find scarcely a dozen in the entire canon that might be called "first rate." Thus, by the 1930s the falling off of O. Henry's reputation among literary critics in the United States became nearly as swift and precipitous as its original ascent. The "new" fiction, embodied in Anderson Winesburg, Ohio tales and in Hemingway In Our Time and Men Without Women, had 70
gained so much respect that O. Henry's style of writing no longer seemed important enough to notice, even unfavorably. Scholarly interest in O. Henry during the next 30 years reflected this sharp decline in critical esteem. Throughout the entire United States in the 1930s scarcely a dozen master's theses were written about his work, and the only other important critical material (aside from a few bits of personal reminiscence) included several articles in the South Atlantic Quarterly and the Southwest Review. One other important essay in American Literature by P. S. Clarkson clarified the composition of O. Henry first book, and the same author's A Bibliography of William Sydney Porter, though incomplete, was perhaps the most significant piece of American scholarship devoted to him in the 1930s. But slight as such critical concern may seem, it was abundant compared with the almost total neglect that O. Henry's reputation suffered in the United States during the 1940s and most of the 1950s. Except for a few more theses, a single published -378dissertation, and several articles that reexamined the facts of his embezzlement trial and the use of classical allusions in his stories, O. Henry was virtually dismissed as unworthy of any further serious consideration. "The world of O. Henry is an intellectual Sahara," concluded George F. Whicher in The Literature of the United States, ed. Arthur Hobson Quinn ( 1951); A Literary History of the United States, ed. Robert Spiller ( 1953), scarcely bothered to mention his name at all. Meanwhile, as in the past, foreign critics and literary scholars had been exhibiting a more perceptive awareness than their American counterparts of O. Henry's significant role in the art of short fiction. Just as it took a Baudelaire to reverse unfavorable American attitudes toward Poe in the 1850's, in 1919 another Frenchman, Raoul Narcy, displayed similar objectivity in summing up the important artistic qualities in O. Henry's fiction: its compactness, order, economy of specific detail, particularly its "abounding verve [and] . . . intelligence armed with irony," as well as its welcome avoidance of moral preachments. Equally objective and more comprehensive, "O. Henry; or, the Literary Trick," by the Italian scholar Cesare Paverse, was published originally in 1932, though not in an English translation until 1970. But 60 years ago perhaps the most thoroughgoing foreign of O. Henry's work was the Russian scholar B. M. Ejxenbaum "O. Henry and the Theory of the Short Story," published originally in 1925 but available in English only since 1968. Formalist critics such as Pavese and Ejxenbaum, who could appreciate the purely literary innovations of O. Henry's short fiction without becoming enmeshed in conventional attitudes toward his moral or social limitations, foreshadowed the more balanced assessment of his work that has characterized the criticism of a few American scholars since the 1960s. Seeing him as a regionalist whose inherent good humor and extraordinary command of assorted dialects and speech patterns enabled him to capture the intonations and imagery of many levels of American society with fidelity and grace, these scholars are more inclined than those of the 1930s to give O. Henry "his rightful place in American literature" as a minor classic who is here to stay. Millions of unpretentious readers here and abroad, of course, have known that all along. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by O. Henry Cabbages and Kings. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1904. The Four Million. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1906. Heart of the West. New York: McClure, 1907. The Trimmed Lamp, and Other Stories of the Four Million. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1907. The Gentle Grafter. New York: McClure, 1908. The Voice of the City: Further Stories of the Four Million. New York: McClure, 1908. -379- Options. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1909. Roads of Destiny. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909. Strictly Business: More Stories of the Four Million. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1910. Whirligigs. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1910. Sixes and Sevens. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1911. Rolling Stones. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1912. Waifs and Strays: Twelve Stories by O. Henry, Together with a representative selection of critical and biographical comment. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1917. O. Henryana. Seven Odds and Ends. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1920. Letters to Lithopolis, from O. Henry to Mabel Wagnalls. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1922. Postscripts by O. Henry. Ed. with introduction by Florence Stratton. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1923. O. Henry Encore: Stories and Illustrations by O. Henry, Usually Under the Name the Postman. Discovered and Edited by Mary Sunlocks Harrell. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1939. 71
Studies of O. Henry Arnett Ethel Stephens. O. Henry From Polecat Creek. Greensboro, N.C.: Piedmont Press, 1962. Brown Deming. "O. Henry in Russia." Russian Review 12 ( October 1953): 253-58. -----. Soviet Attitudes Toward American Writing. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1962, pp. 23038, passim. Clarkson Paul S. A Bibliography of William Sydney Porter (O. Henry). Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1938. -----. "A Decomposition of Cabbages and Kings." American Literature 7 ( May 1935): 195-202. Current-Garcia Eugene. O. Henry. New York: Twayne, 1965. Ejxenbaum B[oris] M[ixhailovich]. O. Henry and the Theory of the Short Story. Translated with notes and postscript by I. R. Titunik. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968. Gallegly Joseph. From Alamo Plaza to Jack Harris' s Saloon: O. Henry and the Southwest He Knew. The Hague: Mouton, 1970. Harris Richard C. William Sydney Porter (O. Henry): A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. Kercheville F. M. "O. Henry and Don Alfonso: Spanish in the Work of an American Writer." New Mexico Quarterly Review 1 ( November 1931): 367-88. Langford Gerald. Alias O. Henry: A Biography of William Sydney Porter. New York: Macmillan, 1957. Long E. Hudson. O. Henry: The Man and His Work. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949. -----. "O. Henry as a Regional Artist." Essays on American Literature in Honor of Jay B. Hubbell. Ed. Clarence Gohdes. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967, pp. 229-40. Millstein Gilbert. "O. Henry's New Yorkers--and Today's." New York Times Magazine ( 9 September 1962): 36-37, 132, 134, 135. -380Narcy Raoul. "'O. Henry' Through French Eyes." Littell's Living Age 303 ( 11 October 1919): 86-88. O'Connor Richard. O. Henry: The Legendary Life of William S. Porter. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970. Pattee F. L. "The Journalization of American Literature." Unpopular Review 7 (AprilJune 1917): 374-94. -----. "O. Henry and the Handbooks." The Development of the American Short Story. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1923, pp. 357-79. Pavese Cesare. "O. Henry; or, The Literary Trick." American Literature: Essays and Opinions. Ed. Edwin Fussell. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970, pp. 79-90. Sartin Howard. "Margaret and 'The Unknown Quantity.'" Southern Humanities Review 10 (Winter 1976): 118. Smith C. Alphonso. O. Henry Biography. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1916. Voss Arthur. "O. Henry." The American Short Story: A Critical Survey. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974, pp. 121-26, passim. -381 ........................................................................... JOHN J. HINDLE John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974) The literary reputations of most writers included in this volume rest on their achievements in a particular genre--poetry, drama, or fiction. Many have demonstrated considerable skill in more than one genre. But few have acquitted themselves so admirably in so many roles as John Crowe Ransom, and even fewer approach his rank in literary influence or leadership. As poet, critic, editor, and teacher, Ransom is arguably among the three or four most important literary figures in twentieth-century American letters. BIOGRAPHY Born in Pulaski, Tennessee, on 20 April 1888, John Crowe Ransom spent his childhood years in the small villages and towns of middle Tennessee where his father, a Methodist minister, held pastorships. Because his family moved so often, he was educated at home until age ten, when he first enrolled in public school in Nashville. In 1903, when he was fifteen, he was admitted to Vanderbilt University by special waiver, largely on the strength of his exceptional performance on the entrance examinations. His college education was interrupted at the end of his sophomore year by a two-year stint teaching secondary school, during which he saved money to complete his degree. Upon graduation from Vanderbilt in 1909, Ransom returned briefly to teaching before enrolling at Christ Church College, Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar, from 1910 to 1913. He earned a degree in humanities from Oxford, where his studies in the classics, philosophy, history, and literature were enriched by summer vacations in Europe. After finishing his Oxford studies, Ransom spent a 72
year teaching at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. In autumn 1914 he joined the English faculty at Vanderbilt, where he remained for nearly a quarter of a century, and where Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, Robert Penn -391 Warren, Andrew Lytle, Randall Jarrell, and Peter Taylor were among his students. As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, Ransom had been an active participant in a literary discussion group called the Calumet Club, and he had founded a similar group at Oxford known as the Hermit Crabs. Hence he was delighted upon returning to Vanderbilt to be invited to join a discussion group of faculty members and students where he could test the aesthetic theories he was then developing. His lack of formal postgraduate training in English literature led him to prepare carefully for his classes by reading extensively both primary and secondary sources. Out of this study came the foundations of the critical theories he would devote much of his life to exploring. The Vanderbilt group disbanded in 1917 when most of its members left to serve in World War I, but reunited in fall 1920, with many old members and some new ones. Ransom gradually became the recognized, though unofficial, intellectual leader of the group, and the discussions increasingly centered on the craft of poetry, in part owing to his growing interest in the form, and in part to the interests of two new members--Donald Davidson and Allen Tate. Ransom had published his first volume of poetry, Poems About God, in 1919, had studied the French Symbolists during his service tour in France, and had found matching enthusiasm for poetry in both Davidson and Tate. By 1922 the group had adopted a name--the Fugitives--and decided to publish a journal of poetry and ideas. During its three years of publication, Ransom contributed steadily to the Fugitive, including several essays that foreshadowed the concerns of his later aesthetic theories. Stimulated by the interchange the fugitive group provided, he experienced a spurt of creative activity, and over a three-year period wrote the best poetry of his career. He published his second and third volumes of poetry, Chills and Fever and Grace After Meat, in 1924. These poems were vastly superior in style and subject to his early verse, and led Tate to observe that Ransom had "suddenly" found his true poetic voice. By 1926, however, he had given up writing poetry to pursue the formal study of poetry as a unique art form. He was trying to arrive at a theory of aesthetics that would satisfactorily define the genre and identify the peculiar quality of poetry that distinguished it from all other modes of discourse. In 1926, while on a sabbatical in Colorado, Ransom worked hard on a book of theoretical criticism, under the working title The Third Moment, which he never published. He wanted to distinguish between the immediacy of sensory perception (the First Moment), the intellectual apprehension and manipulation of that perception (the Second Moment), and the effort to reconstitute the original experience through the union of image and idea in art (the Third Moment). Although the manuscript has not survived, a summary contained in a letter to Allen Tate demonstrates clearly that Ransom was building the foundation for much of his future critical theory. During this same period, he finished work on Two Gentlemen in Bonds, his fourth volume of poetry, which appeared early in 1927 to widespread critical acclaim. -392 About this time, Ransom and several of the former Fugitives became actively involved in defending Southern culture against attacks from leading Northern intellectuals, and against the inroads being made by what they saw as a godless (and artless) industrial capitalism. Partly to counter the notoriety resulting from the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee, and partly in response to the general attitudes of H. L. Mencken, who sneeringly described the South as the "Sahara of the Bozart," and of Mencken's followers, Ransom and the other Agrarians, as they came to be known, undertook a concerted campaign of lectures, debates, articles, editorials, and reviews in defense of their native region. Ransom wrote dozens of short and long newspaper and magazine articles and reviews defending Agrarian principles. To the Agrarian symposium I'll Take My Stand he contributed the "Introduction: A Statement of Principles" and the lead essay, "Reconstructed but Unregenerate." And his first book of prose, God Without Thunder: An Unorthodox Defense of Orthodoxy ( 1930), is concerned with many of the cultural and social issues underlying the Agrarian movement. This book, although roundly scoffed by critics and reviewers, in fact contains a discussion of myth that is crucial to a full understanding of Ransom's later work. During a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931-32, Ransom worked on an economic treatise entitled Land!, but after publishing two essays from the manuscript, abandoned it in 1932 as "nearly a total loss." Although political and economic matters dominated his public energies during the early 1930s, Ransom nonetheless continued to publish critical essays. The seminal article in terms of his later work was "Poetry: A Note in Ontology," which synthesized most of his thinking since his Oxford days on the uniqueness of poetry as a mode of discourse and cognition. By 1936, however, Ransom had decided he would "write no more economic essays," and turned his full attention to literature once again. Under the title The World's Body, in 1938 he published fifteen essays that had appeared over the previous five years. This collection coincided with his 1937 move from Vanderbilt to Kenyon 73
College, a move he made with the intention "to work at literature a little more single-mindedly than I have been doing." The proof of that intention was not long in coming, for almost as soon as he arrived at Kenyon, Ransom undertook to found and edit a quarterly review--on the eve of his fiftieth year. Over the next twenty years, as editor of the Kenyon Review from 1939 to 1959, Ransom established it as one of the leading literary journals in America and extended his influence widely as a leading man of letters. In 1941 he published The New Criticism, a book whose tide was misappropriated by a younger generation of students and scholars to declare their independence from traditional historical literary criticism. In fact, the book only explained further what for over 25 years had been Ransom's general critical approach: a focus more on the poem itself and less on its historical context. In the final essay, "Wanted: An Ontological Critic," Ransom once again developed -393 at length his aesthetic theory of poetry, and argued for a critical approach that focused on the special kind of knowledge poetry offers. In more than twenty critical essays published in the Kenyon Review and elsewhere over the next four years, he demonstrated by example how he believed an "ontological" critic should approach his task. In 1945 Ransom published Selected Poems, comprising 39 existing works, nearly all of them revised, and five new ones. As the proportion indicates, Ransom had not spent much time writing poetry since the mid-1920s; always a "tinkerer" with his verse, he revised his poetry with each new collection. Between 1945 and 1950 Ransom did little writing; his time was occupied teaching, editing the Review, and developing other projects in pursuit of his goal of promoting the humane study of letters in a culturally hostile world. In 1947 he founded the Kenyon School of English with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. With a dozen established critics and men of letters as fellows, the school exposed graduate students during summer terms to the best literary minds of the times. Although it was transferred to Indiana University in 1950 as the School of Letters, Ransom remained on its board until the program was terminated in 1972. From 1953 to 1958, in another program conceived under his leadership, the Kenyon Review Fellowships were established to provide promising new poets, fiction writers, and critics the freedom to pursue their craft free from financial concerns. The 1950s were the period of Ransom's greatest influence and active reputation. He routinely accepted twenty or more speaking engagements a year, and resumed an active writing schedule. He also received many tributes, including in 1951 the Bollingen Award in Poetry and the Russell Liones Award in Literature. He edited The Kenyon Critics that same year, and issued Poems and Essays in 1955. The most sigificant essays of this period were two articles on "The Concrete Universal" in 1954-55, in which he once again sought to define the uniqueness of poetry. Although he retired from his editorship in 1959, Ransom continued to write and lecture until his health prevented it. He edited a selection of Hardy's poetry in 1961, and was awarded an Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1962. He published his Selected Poems twice more, in 1963 and 1969. Although the 1963 collection received the National Book Award in poetry, the 1969 collection showed evidence of too much tinkering and revision. His final book of essays, Beating the Bushes, appeared in 1972. Ransom died on 30 July 1974 and was buried in Gambier, Ohio. MAJOR THEMES In criticism and in poetry, in theory and in practice, all of Ransom's major themes and arguments proceed from his fundamental view of man. Ransom saw modern man as hopelessly apart from but inescapably a part of the natural world, and he saw art, and poetry in particular, as the sole but partial means of recovering -394a sense of wholeness between man and his world. Although Ransom was not a religious man in the traditional sense of the term, the division between man and nature, and the function of myth and poetry in restoring man's integrity with the world's body, were major and continuing subjects in all his writings. At one time, Ransom believed, before man's excessive reliance on reason led him to place ultimate faith in the abstractions of science, there was harmony between the intellectual and sensory aspects of man's being. Man understood the limits and uses of both sensory experience and rational knowledge. But in modern times man's faith in his rational powers resulted in discontinuity between man and his "contingencies" (a favorite Ransom word). The result of this dissociation of sensibility was a hopeless confusion that left man unable to function in the modern world, torn between body and spirit, between head and heart, between the real and the ideal. Although Ransom was equally mistrustful of the Romantic exaltation of emotion and feeling, his sympathies lay more with sensibility than with reason, and he consistently favored the concrete particularity of the world over the intellectual abstractions of science. In his poetry, Ransom's dualistic view of man informs his explorations of the paradoxes, ironies, and ambiguities that result from the tension between reason and the senses, between human consciousness and the bodily existence that sustains it. Poems About God reveals the beginnings of these concerns in its satiric treatments of romantic idealism and in its rejection of abstractions and generalizations. But Ransom's subsequent reading of 74
the Symbolists and his participation in the Fugitive discussions sharpened both his technique and his themes. The poem that seems most clearly to mark this change in his poetic practice is "Necrological," which, when it was presented at a Fugitive meeting, caused Tate to remark that Ransom had found his poetic voice. "Necrological," like all Ransom's mature poems, is a work of great artifice, carefully contrived and balanced. "One has the sense," John Stewart observes, "of powerful internal forces precisely poised and counterpoised within the hard, crystalline style and structure." Indeed, in their richly allusive verbal surfaces and in their use of sympathetic yet detached observers as personae, Ransom's poems have great energy and tension. In tone they typically exhibit that energy in a tighty maintained ironic balance between mawkishness or sentimentality on the one hand, and excessive cleverness on the other. It is almost as if Ransom enjoyed the danger of writing so close to the edge of disaster. This tension in poetic form advances and mirrors Ransom's major themes. He is concerned with the transitoriness of all human endeavor in the face of death, repeatedly demonstrating in such poems as "Necrological" that while battles may be won, the war is already lost, that death subsumes all. Man often appears in Ransom's poetry as a foolish yet complex and sublime creature, foolish because of his belief in abstractions or in his own sufficiency, yet sublime nonetheless for his ability to dream. Ransom's concern--some would say preoccupation--with death often merged with another of his favorite themes, that of innocence and experience. In "Bells -395for John Whiteside's Daughter" Ransom contrasts the reality of a young girl's death with the image of her youthful liveliness to portray the theme of mortality. And in "Janet Waking" he turns that awareness around to a child's first apprehension of death and the irrecoverable loss of innocence that results. In his treatment of human love Ransom's concern with mortality often led him to portray love as an essentially destructive force. With an almost Romantic sense of fatalism, he saw death lurking precisely at the point of the most extraordinary human experience or accomplishment. Hence in "The Equilibrists," one of his best poems, the lovers are doomed forever to a "torture of equilibrium" in which they can neither consummate their passion nor still their desire. The culprit, as Ransom observes here and in "Vaunting Oak" and "April Lovers," is man's overly developed consciousness. He can be comfortable in neither the natural world nor his own human society. Ransom did not find in the ironic vision of his poetry a desirable state of being; he did insist, however, that man could not fully understand his condition and its contingencies except through poetry. Hence, while his poetry was devoted to capturing and communicating that condition, his criticism insisted that poetry represented a special order of knowledge. Poetry, he once wrote, was the means "by which we must know that which we have arranged that we shall not know otherwise." In one form or another, this definition of poetry informs all Ransom's criticism. It is possible, indeed desirable, to see the fundamental continuity of Ransom's critical thought from his earliest writings to his last. A major weakness in his aesthetic theory, however, is a somewhat distorted view of science. Science, in his view, pursued abstraction too assiduously, preferring that to the cluttered "contingency" of the real world. Ransom appeared not to allow for any but the most manipulative of motives on the part of scientific research. But however mistaken, this mistrust of abstraction, whether Platonic or scientific in character, sprang from and informed Ransom's fundamental view of modern man. His bias against abstraction comes through also in his notion of the "Third Moment," the moment when the artist or poet attempts to reconstitute an experience. Ransom believes that artistic reconstitution is inevitably adulterated by the play of memory (the Second Moment) in recording the experience (the First Moment). The purity of the original experience can never be recaptured; what art does in the Third Moment is to invest the intellectual record of an experience with something of its original sensory context. In doing so, art uses the concrete particularity of words, images, and events to suggest as far as possible the richness of the original experience and to convey its significance in a way no abstract statement can. This stress on the aesthetic function of poetry--indeed of all art--is at the core of Ransom's theory of poetics. In "Forms and Citizens" ( 1938) he notes that poetry is one of a series of humanizing disciplines he calls "aesthetic forms" or "play forms." Poetry restrains the artist's "natural" impulse to seize or acquire an object and induces in the poet the aesthetic impulse to explore its -396 significance in a formal way. Poetry forces the artist to "taste and enjoy" and experience instead of "gulp[ing] it down"; hence it is an indispensable civilizing influence on the scientific tendency toward abstraction. These ideas are given more detailed analysis in "Poetry: A Note in Ontology" ( 1934), where Ransom differentiates between three types of poetry: "physical poetry," which attempts to present "things in their thingness" and excludes ideas altogether; "Platonic poetry," which uses images solely to "decorate" ideas; and "metaphysical poetry," which fuses ideas and images into an inseparable whole that is superior in every respect to the partial knowledge provided by science. 75
In "Wanted: An Ontological Critic" ( 1941) Ransom again returns to the special nature of poetry, describing its unique union of "structure" and "texture": "We sum it up by saying that the poem is a loose logical structure with a good deal of local texture." In arguing for the essential ontological nature of poetry, Ransom goes beyond his earlier explorations of the function of poetry to analyze further the difference between "scientific symbols," which "are abstract and refer to abstract concepts," and "aesthetic icons," which "recall whole concrete objects." In his last major pronouncements on poetic theory, Ransom wrote in two essays entitled "The Concrete Universal" ( 1954-55) that he was unhappy with his former structure/texture formulation, and described a poem as an organism with three "speaking" parts: a head, which speaks in an intellectual language; the heart, which speaks in an affective language; and the feet, which speak in a rhythmical language. According to Ransom, the three voices all speak at once, although we are attentive to them in varying degrees of intensity. In the second essay, Ransom returns to Kant, his acknowledged mentor, for an explication of the essential continuity between Kant's view of poetry and his own lifelong view of poetry as a dynamically informing competition between ideas and images. SURVEY OF CRITICISM Over the past decade there has been a renewal of critical interest in the Fugitive and Agrarian movements, connected in part with the fiftieth anniversary of I'll Take My Stand. Ransom's leading role in both movements has received general recognition in recent scholarship, but the original accounts of these movements contain highly informative treatments of his activities and influence from 1920 to 1935. Louise Cowan The Fugitive Group ( 1959) is a definitive history that emphasizes Ransom's intellectual leadership, while John M. Bradbury The Fugitives: A Critical Account ( 1958) and John L. Stewart The Burden of Time ( 1965) concentrate on Ransom's writings and critical theories in relationship to those of other group members. Stewart's analysis also extends to include the Agrarian period in Ransom's career. The personal accounts and recollections of Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, and Robert Penn Warren, scattered throughout their letters and writings, provide -397 invaluable sources for studying Ransom's personality, his involvement with the Fugitives and the Agrarians, and the dynamics of these groups. But the fullest, most informative treatment of Ransom's life and work is Thomas Daniel Young authorized biography, Gentleman in a Dustcoat ( 1976). In addition to a detailed account of Ransom's life, Young's biography traces the essential continuity of Ransom's thought from his Oxford days to his death. This book and Young's many shorter studies of Ranson's life and writings constitute the most authoritative body of research and commentary on Ransom and his work. Most critical attention to Ransom's writings has focused on the poetry, with Robert Buffington careful study The Equilibrist ( 1967) having benefited from Karl F. Knight The Poetry of John Crowe Ransom ( 1964), the first book-length treatment of Ransom's poetic practices. Miller Williams The Poetry of John Crowe Ransom ( 1972) focuses on the poet's use of irony and ambiguity and studies Ransom's chief metaphors. Louis D. Rubin, Jr.'s account of Ransom poetic career in The Wary Fugitives ( 1978) concludes with an analysis of why Ransom ceased writing poetry. Vivienne Koch's story survey of Ransom's career tends to reduce his complex and often refractory themes to a simplistic few, whereas Isabel Gamble MacCaffrey argues convincingly that Ransom's poetry is a nearly perfect mirror of his time. In early and late studies of Ransom's poetry, Robert Penn Warren evaluates Ransom's poetic career and identifies Ransom's dualistic view of man as a recurrent theme that underlies many others. Ransom's critical writings have unfortunately received less attention than they deserve. William J. Handy Kant and the Southern New Critics ( 1963) explores Kant's influence on Ransom, Tate, and Brooks, and James E. Magner Jr. John Crowe Ransom: Critical Principles and Preoccupations ( 1971) analyzes the philosophical bases upon which Ransom's critical theories rest. The best analysis of Ransom's unique prose style is Marcia McDonald "The Function of Persona in Ransom's Prose." But apart from Young's studies, there have been too few efforts to measure the origins, development, and influence of the "New Criticism" and Ransom's work in laying its foundations, as well as his role as an editor and promoter of letters. It is a field that calls for new and original views, and one that promises rich rewards. The recent publication of Ransom's letters and essays, including many previously unavailable articles, should provoke further study in the work of this remarkable man of letters. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by John Crowe Ransom Poems About God. New York: Henry Holt, 1919. Chills and Fever. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924. Grace After Meat. London: Hogarth Press, 1924. -398 Two Gentlemen in Bonds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927. 76
God Without Thunder: An Unorthodox Defense of Orthodoxy. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1930. Topics for Freshman Writing: Twenty Topics for Writing with Appropriate Materials for Study. New York: Henry Holt, 1935. The World's Body. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938. The New Criticism. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1941. A College Primer of Writing. New York: Henry Holt, 1943. Selected Poems. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945; rev. 1963, 1969. The Kenyon Critics, ed. Cleveland: World, 1951. Poems and Essays. New York: Vintage Books, 1955. Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy, ed. New York: Macmillan, 1961. Beating the Bushes: Selected Essays 1941-1970. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1971. The Selected Essays of John Crowe Ransom. Ed. T. D. Young and John Hindle. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984. The Selected Letters of John Crowe Ransom. Ed. T. D. Young and George Core. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. Studies of John Crowe Ransom Bradbury John M. The Fugitives: A Critical Account. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1958. Buffington Robert. The Equilibrist: A Study of John Crowe Ransom's Poems, 19161963. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1967. Cowan Louise. The Fugitive Group: A Literary History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. Handy William J. Kant and the Southern New Critics. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963. Knight Karl F. The Poetry of John Crowe Ransom: A Study of Diction, Metaphor and Symbol. The Hague: Mouton, 1964. Koch Vivienne. "The Achievement of John Crowe Ransom." Sewanee Review 68 (Spring 1950): 227-61; reprinted in John Crowe Ransom: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, ed. Thomas Daniel Young, pp. 115-42. MacCaffrey Isabel Gamble. "Ceremonies of Bravery: John Crowe Ransom." South: Modern Southern Literature in Its Cultural Setting. Ed. Louis D. Rubin Jr., and Robert D. Jacobs. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961. McDonald Marcia. "The Function of Persona in Ransom's Prose." Mississippi Quarterly 30 (Winter 197677): 87-100. Magner James E., Jr. John Crowe Ransom: Critical Principles and Preoccupations. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. Parsons Thornton H. J ohn Crowe Ransom. New York: Twayne, 1969. Rubin Louis D., Jr. The Wary Fugitives: Four Poets and the South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978. Stewart John L. John Crowe Ransom. University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1962. -----. The Burden of Time. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Warren Robert Penn. "Notes on the Poetry of John Crowe Ransom on His Eightieth Birthday." Kenyon Review 30 ( 1968): 319-49. -399 -----. "John Crowe Ransom: A Study In Irony." Virginia Quarterly Review 40 ( January 1940): 93-112, in John Crowe Ransom: Critical Essays and A Bibliography, pp. 24-40. Williams Miller. The Poetry of John Crowe Ransom. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1972. Young Thomas Daniel. Gentlemen in a Dustcoat: A Biography of John Crowe Ransom. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976. -----. John Crowe Ransom. Southern Writers Series, No. 12. Austin, Texas: SteckVaughn, 1970. -----, ed. John Crowe Ransom: Critical Essays and A Bibliography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968. -400 ................................................................................................. MELVIN J. FRIEDMAN William Styron (1925- William Styron is probably the least parochial and least regional of major contemporary Southern writers. His broad and far-ranging sympathies make him an author of international scope and consequence, clearly of Nobel 77
laureate stature. His fiction and essays have confronted the most complex and controversial themes of our time, with no trace of compromise. BIOGRAPHY William Styron was born in Newport News, Virginia, on 11 June 1925, the only child of William Clark Styron (whose roots were in the upper South) and Pauline Margaret Abraham (a Pennsylvanian). He maintained an abiding love for the Virginia Tidewater, which he characterized years later in This Quiet Dust as possessing "a unique unspoiled loveliness" and as being "distinctly Southern, adumbrated by the memory of a tragic past." His early sense of place indelibly marks his mature writing. Styron was sent to Christchurch (an Episcopal boys' prep school near Urbanna, Virginia) in 1940, about a year after his mother's death. Following an unremarkable two years at Christchurch, characterized by what he later referred to as "my wretched grades," he entered Davidson College in North Carolina. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in the spring of 1943. His subsequent academic training, both during and after World War II, was at Duke University. Whereas his Marine Corps service proved rather uneventful--he was discharged in 1945 without seeing combat--his years at Duke were crucial in determining his career as a writer. There he studied with William Blackburn, serving a creative writing apprenticeship similar to that of many of his contemporaries--Flannery O'Connor, Robie Macauley, and W. D. Snodgrass. With encouragement from Black- -444 burn, he applied for a Rhodes scholarship in his senior year and reached the interview stage in Atlanta, only to be denied at that point. Styron graduated from Duke in 1947 and took a job at McGraw-Hill shortly thereafter. His six-month stint with this New York publisher, described with a fine satirical edge many years later in Sophie's Choice, was frustrating. During this period he also enrolled in Hiram Haydn's creative writing class at the New School for Social Research. Haydn served as mentor and editor during the next several years--which saw Styron's first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, pass through the presses at Bobbs-Merrill and receive acclaim from such reviewers as Malcolm Cowley, Howard Mumford Jones, Maxwell Geismar, and John W. Aldridge. Styron turned to this novel virtually full-time in fall 1947 and completed it by April 1951 after a number of early false starts. One of the most productive periods for his work in progress was spent at Valley Cottage, a village near Nyack, New York, at the home of Sigrid de Lima (the author of Carnival by the Sea, Oriane, Captain's Beach, and other novels, to whom he dedicated Lie Down in Darkness). Styron's stay at Valley Cottage perhaps stands to his career as Flannery O'Connor's residence at the Connecticut home of Sally and Robert Fitzgerald stands to hers. He was called back into the Marines following the completion of Lie Down in Darkness but was discharged after a few months, in time for the 10 September 1951 publication date of his first novel. Just as the negative McGraw-Hill experience offered him the substance for the first chapter of Sophie's Choice, so this frustrating, though abbreviated, second tour of duty supplied him with the basis for his novella The Long March and raw material for his current novel in progress, "The Way of the Warrior." For Lie Down in Darkness Styron received the Prix de Rome in 1952. He left for Europe in the spring of that year to begin his Wanderjahre, which brought him briefly to England and Denmark; then to Paris for an extended stay; and finally to Rome, where he settled into the American Academy in October. The months in Paris (a city he has returned to on numerous occasions) were especially productive: there in the summer he wrote The Long March "with miraculous ease" and was also involved in founding the Paris Review. The lengthy residence in Rome was less memorable from a literary standpoint; it was highlighted, however, by his marriage on 4 May 1953 to the poet Rose Burgunder, whom Styron had met earlier at Elliott Coleman's writing seminar at Johns Hopkins University. After a long stay in Ravello and travels about Italy, in October 1954 the Styrons settled in Roxbury, Connecticut, where they have lived ever since. Styron commented on the decision not to return to the South when he told Robert K. Morris: "I felt a far more cosmopolitan sense of direction, and I needed to get out of the South because it was no longer a deeply involved part of my psychic nature." By the time of the move to Connecticut after more than two years in Europe, Styron was into his third extended work of fiction, Set This House onFire -445 Fire. This novel took maximum advantage of a variety of settings its author felt close to: the Virginia Tidewater of his childhood, the France and Italy of his recent travels. Whereas Lie Down in Darkness profited immensely from Styron's reading of Faulkner, especially The Sound and the Fury, and of Robert Penn Warren All the King's Men (for the second-person voice of the opening pages), Set This House on Fire seemed much closer to the F. Scott Fitzgerald of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night. Styron's third novel was published on his seventh wedding anniversary, by Random House, the publisher that had brought out a paperback edition of The Long March in October 1956--three and a half years after its appearance in the first number of Discovery. Styron moved from Bobbs-Merrill to Random House, along with Hiram Haydn, and remained with Random House, which has been bringing out his work for the past three decades. 78
Set This House on Fire fared less well with the reviewers than Lie Down in Darkness did. Although Charles Fenton's lengthy review in the Autumn 1960 South Atlantic Quarterly was unsparing in its praise, other established critics found much to be unhappy and perplexed about. In France, however, following its appearance in MauriceEdgar Coindreau's elegant translation in February 1962, Set This House on Fire (La Proie des flammes) was roundly applauded and helped place Styron among an elite gathering of American writers who have been virtually canonized by the French. ( Flannery O'Connor commented on this in a letter dated 3 November 1962 in The Habit of Being: "M. Coindreau tells me that Styron book, Set This House on Fire, was a great success in France . . . and that the French think Styron is the greatest thing since Faulkner.") In the years following the publication of Set This House on Fire, Styron became something of an expert on the literature and historiography of slave revolts as he began his novel about the Nat Turner slave insurrection. During this period his nonfiction writing for magazines such as the New York Review of Books (he contributed to its inaugural issue in 1963), the New York Times Book Review, Harper's, and Esquire placed him in a Gallic tradition of engagement, a tradition that includes Sartre, Malraux, and Camus. Styron, like these older French contemporaries, was confronting in his essays the larger subjects: capital punishment, American Negro slavery, the Holocaust, and the military. He began to assume in these journalistic pieces a polemical stance that served him well in his next two novels. Although The Confessions of Nat Turner was not published until October 1967, Styron spoke about his novel in progress in the July 1963 Esquire ("Two Writers Talk It Over") in a conversation with James Jones. He discussed it in even more detail in the April 1965 Harper's ( "This Quiet Dust"). Sections of the novel were serialized in Partisan Review, Life, and Harper's. Word was out, surely, in advance of the appearance of Nat Turner that Styron was at work on an extended work of fiction about a slave insurrection--a rather daring enterprise during a period of so-called black power when whites were expected to avoid black subjects. The early reviews in the prestigious weeklies were overwhelmingly favorable: -446- C. Vann Woodward in the New Republic, Philip Rahv in the New York Review of Books, and George Steiner in the New Yorker, for example, proclaimed its virtues. Eventually, however, charges of historical inaccuracy and of lack of sympathy and understanding in portraying Nat Turner were hurled at Styron. On 4 July 1968 Benson Press published William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, a collection of ill-tempered essays accusing Styron, among other things, of having "a vile racist imagination" and of being "morally senile." Styron took on his critics in the Nation and the New York Review of Books in the next several years, as the polemical climate continued into the 1970s. The final judgment was doubtless rendered in Styron's favor when he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and the Howells Medal of the American Academy in 1970. His only play to date, In the Clap Shack, was put on by Yale Repertory Theatre in December 1972 and brought out as a book by Random House in 1973, also the year of publication of Rose Styron's collection of poems, Thieves' Afternoon, by Viking, and of Styron's screenplay collaboration with John Phillips, "Dead!," in the December Esquire. Styron's next large undertaking after The Confessions of Nat Turner was a novel, still unfinished, "The Way of the Warrior." Parts of it appeared in the September 1971 Esquire ( "Marriott, the Marine") and the May/June 1974 American Poetry Review ( "The Suicide Run"). He temporarily put this work aside for reasons he explained in his 1975 interview with James L. W. West III: "But there intervened, when I was fairly well along in the book-several hundred pages--together with a sense of confusion as to where I was going, there intervened this new vision which was so demanding: the novel that I'm now writing called Sophie's Choice." Sophie's Choice was published 11 June 1979, on Styron's fifty-fourth birthday. This novel flashes back and forth between fact and fable, blurring distinctions between the two, on the way to diagnosing the ills of a period in Western history that accommodated such atrocities as American Negro slavery and the Nazi concentration camps. Although there is much going on in this work, which reveals Styron's skills as an essay writer as well as a novelist, the central preoccupation is with the Holocaust. Styron seems to go beyond such Jewish writers as Elie Wiesel and Edward Lewis Wallant by making the phenomenon of the death camps "antihuman" rather than merely antiSemitic. There were rumblings here and there among Jews who felt that Styron was making an abstraction out of a concrete instance of the systematic attempt by the Nazis to annihilate the Jewish people. These voices, however, were not nearly as strident as those of the ten black writers who responded to Nat Turner; nor were those of a group of Polish American historians who questioned the authenticity of the Polish scenes in Sophie's Choice in the Spring 1983 number of Polish American Studies. The cinema version attracted a good deal of attention and earned an Academy Award for Meryl Streep. The New Yorker, which had dismissed the novel in its unsigned "Books Briefly Noted" ( 18 June 1979), was -447 unencouraging also about the film: Pauline Kael expressed contempt for the movie based on what she called "William Styron's Holocaust Gothic" ( 27 December 1982). 79
In 1982 Styron collected his essays and reviews in This Quiet Dust. Stretching back over three decades, these pieces systematically mirror the development of his literary talent as well as the maturing of his public and historical consciousness. The volume possesses a unity absent from other recent gatherings of nonfiction by novelists, such as John Updike Hugging the Shore and John Barth's The Friday Book. Styron is apparently again at work on "The Way of the Warrior" and continues to write occasional essays and reviews. He has always been a painfully slow worker, as he has reminded all of his interviewers since his 1954 Paris Review interview. But as he told West, he still maintains that "very comfortable relationship with No. 2 pencils and these yellow sheets." MAJOR THEMES Styron has consistently dealt with the larger themes, the more demanding subjects. Even in his novella The Long March, he was able to enlarge the possibilities of a forced march in the Marine Corps and turn it into a tragedy of almost Sophoclean dimensions. He achieved this effect partly through allusion: "In the morbid, comfortless light they were like classical Greek masks, made of chrome or tin, reflecting an almost theatrical disharmony . . ." (p. 29 ). The Bible, Greek tragedy, the plays of Shakespeare, Mozart's operas, the philosophy of Kierkegaard, and other central texts of Western culture enlarge the frame of Styron's novels and carry their experiences beyond the quotidian. The ordinary in all of his works is expanded by symbol, myth, and allusion. Styron's work is Southern, but not in the usual sense. In his interview with Robert K. Morris, he made the salient distinction: "I do not consider myself a southern writer in the sense that let us say, Eudora Welty might consider herself one. She is, and Flannery O'Connor is another, an almost perfect example of a fine 'regional' southern novelist. Basically, I guess, I am trying to make a distinction between southern regionalism (which can be a very strong, fine thrust in literature), and my own work, which is southern, but perhaps not regionally southern." Styron is most recognizably a Southern writer in Lie Down in Darkness. Although set in the Virginia Tidewater of Styron's early years, it offers echoes and reminders of other places and events. Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha cycle of novels immediately comes to mind. Reviewers and critics connected Peyton's funeral procession with the burial expedition in As I Lay Dying, Peyton's lasciviousness with Temple Drake in Sanctuary, and Peyton's suicide monologue with Quentin in The Sound and the Fury. Indeed, one might say that The Sound and the Fury stands to Lie Down in Darkness in somewhat the same way that The Odyssey stands to Joyce Ulysses, as offering a literary scaffolding. -448 Just as Joyce seemed to be acknowledging his lifelong fondness for Homer in using the Odyssey parallel, so Styron was staking out his position as a Southern writer when he persistently and creatively echoed The Sound and the Fury. Styron uses something akin to T. S. Eliot's "mythical method" in structuring Lie Down in Darkness. The scaffolding is more elaborate in Set This House on Fire. The narrator is a Virginian and the backdrop of the novel is Southern, but much of the action occurs in Europe. The theme of the ingenuous American abroad, which we associate with Mark Twain, Henry James, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, is one of several myths Styron explores. Echoes from The Great Gatsby are sounded intermittently through Styron's text. There are also echoes of Kierkegaard ("I was very nearly sick unto death"), of Sartre ("as for being and nothingness"), and of E. E. Cummings ("he moved through dooms of love, through griefs of joy"), among other writers. There is even something of a running parallel between Styron's text and Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus, which has been explained persuasively by another novelist who has skillfully cultivated myth, Michel Butor (in his preface, "Oedipus Americanus," to La Proie des flammes). Don Giovanni (which also threads its way through Leopold Bloom thoughts in Ulysses) and The Magic Flute are frequently invoked in this richly textured novel. The Confessions of Nat Turner more restrainedly contains literary references and echoes. Biblical quotations occur frequently in Nat's almost hymnal confession; they are drawn especially from the prophetic books of the Old Testament. They serve almost as subtexts as they enlarge the frame of Styron's narrative. Styron's novel is more than a historical rendering of a slave insurrection. It is "a meditation on history," as Styron calls it in his author's note, as well as an extended poetic statement about the possibilities of myth. A number of myths converge in Sophie's Choice. Most of this novel takes place in New York, "amid the Kingdom of the Jews," as the displaced Virginian, Stingo, refers to it. Although the here-and-now events occur in Jewish Brooklyn, Tidewater Virginia keeps intruding; more important than either of these settings is the Poland of Cracow, Warsaw, and especially of Auschwitz. Sophie's Choice begins as a typical Kьnstlerroman, with a young Southern writer at work on his first novel, but it expands into a vastly complicated meditation on evil, with American Negro slavery and particularly the Holocaust as touchstones. (In his July 1963 Esquire exchange with James Jones, Styron had already brought the two events together: "The plantation slave . . . was brutalized spiritually in a way that the only analogy is to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps who never revolted.") Sophie's Choice is surely Styron's most ambitious book, containing the seeds of the urban Jewish novel, with a nod to Philip Roth and Saul Bellow; the Southern novel, with frequent glances back at Faulkner and Thomas 80
Wolfe; and the European novel of ideas of the kind written by Thomas Mann and Andrй Malraux. Woven into the text are an elaborate series of documentary subtexts. -449 Styron, for example, culls from the formidable literature on the Holocaust bits and pieces from such works as George Steiner Language and Silence, Richard Rubenstein's The Cunning of History, and Rudolf Hoss Commandant of Auschwitz--which he reinforces at every turn with his own elegant commentary. The "mythical method" that operated on a small scale in Lie Down in Darkness, with its Faulknerian indulgences, swells to giant proportions in Sophie's Choice. Although Styron remains a Southern writer in his latest novel, he has eliminated any vestige of the regionalism that in his interview with Morris he attached to the works of Welty and O'Connor. His strongest ties here are with the European modernists such as Gide, Malraux, and Mann, especially with the way they secure everything in comfortably mythical terms. Violence is another compelling force in each of Styron's works. Lie Down in Darkness moves circularly toward its moment of violence, Peyton Loftis's suicide. The Long March, with its division into five parts, has the spareness of Greek tragedy and an atmosphere of impending doom. We are reminded at one point of man's being hopelessly "astray at mid-century in the never-endingness of war." Violence occurs early and late in this novella; it starts with a graphic description of the accidental and unnecessary death of eight Marine recruits ("what was left of eight dead boys lay strewn about the landscape. . . . ") and ends with a reference to Captain Mannix, whose "drawndown mouth was one of tortured and gigantic suffering." One of the last words describing Mannix is endured, a word that Faulkner used frequently. Set This House on Fire, with even more circularity than Lie Down in Darkness, moves toward violence, this time rape and murder. The landscape of violence has shifted from Virginia to Sambuco, Italy. Through a mockdetective twist-something readers have come to expect from contemporary French writers such as Alain RobbeGrillet and Michel Butor--Cass Kinsolving, the murderer of Mason Flagg, is granted absolution by the Italian policeman Luigi, who declares the death a suicide, and is permitted to return to his native South Carolina. Although Lie Down in Darkness and The Long March end in the falling apart of worlds, Set This House on Fire concludes with renewal and revitalization. Styron's third novel is his only tragicomedy. In The Confessions of Nat Turner Styron enters American history to confront violence. In choosing his approach to the Nat Turner slave insurrection, Styron took the moderate position expressed in Stanley M. Elkins Slavery, eschewing the extreme views of Herbert Aptheker American Negro Slave Revolts. As in Lie Down in Darkness and Set This House on Fire, we are led through complex occurrences before the actual violence is reached--this time by the first-person voice of Nat himself, which weaves in and out of psychological and historical events. The insurrection is described in considerable detail, with Nat's murder of Margaret Whitehead (the only murder he is able to commit) presented in all its grim and shocking immediacy: "She crumpled to earth, limp, a rag, and as she fell I stabbed her again in the same place, or near it, where pulsing blood -450 already encrimsoned the taffeta's blue." Violence is perhaps more graphically expressed here than in Styron's earlier fiction. In Sophie's Choice Styron explores the Holocaust, a subject he eloquently characterized in The Quiet Dust as "so incomprehensible and so awesomely central to our present-day consciousness." He counterpoints his study of this most sustained and horrifying occurrence of violence in the twentieth century with reminders of Nat Turner's insurrection. These two instances of destruction offer, in a sense, forewarnings of the death of two of the central characters of Styron's novel, Sophie Zawistowska and Nathan Landau, through a double suicide. Collective and individual violence are both on display in Sophie's Choice. Styron resembles his modernist forebears in the way he seems to delight in the suggestive possibilities of language, in the way that poetry mixes with prose-denying all classical distinctions between the two. His novels achieve much of their force and vitality through elaborate descriptions. His sense of place, often thought of as a special province of Southern writers, is everywhere apparent in his Baedeker-like appreciations of landscape: of the Virginia countryside in Lie Down in Darkness and The Confessions of Nat Turner; of the scenery of southern Italy in Set This House on Fire; of the angle shots of Poland in Sophie's Choice. In one brief section of Sophie's Choice (pp. 246-47), he brings Poland and the American South into compelling juxtaposition: Poland is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, soul-split country which in many ways . . . resembles or conjures up images of the American South--or at least the South of other, not-so-distant times. It is not alone that forlornly lovely, nostalgic landscape which creates the frequent likeness . . . but in the spirit of the nation, her indwellingly ravaged and melancholy heart, tormented into its shape like that of the Old South out of adversity, penury and defeat. Such passages, which abound in Styron's fiction, reveal a fondness for words equaled only by a very few of Styron's American contemporaries--John Hawkes and John Updike, for example. SURVEY OF CRITICISM 81
Probably the best starting point for the scholar approaching Styron criticism is the work of James L. W. West III. Styron speaks of him appreciatively as his bibliographer in his "Note to the Reader" at the start of This Quiet Dust. West performed this function admirably in his William Styron: A Descriptive Bibliography, "a full-dress bibliography," which "charts Styron's literary career from his high school and prep school years to the present." The book also contains a short, admiring preface by Styron. This bibliography is a model of its kind: thorough, accurate, imaginative, and intelligently arranged for easy use. -451West is also coeditor (with Arthur D. Casciato) of Critical Essays on William Styron, part of the distinguished, ongoing Critical Essays on American Literature series, under the general editorship of James Nagel. This volume offers an effective blend of biography, criticism, textual study, and literary reception. West's introduction, "William Styron in Mid-Career," is an admirably compressed biographical sketch, the best we have. The West-Casciato collection contains sections on all five of the author's extended works of fiction and his single play, as well as a concluding part entitled " Styronen France." Reviews mingle with lengthy critical essays. All but two of the sections contain statements by Styron himself. Important pieces by Roger Asselineau and Michel Butor appear here in English translation for the first time. The Achievement of William Styron, edited by Robert K. Morris and Irving Malin and now in its second edition, is also useful. As I noted in my review of the first edition, "The nine essays in the Morris-Malin collection are generally of high quality, with the most distinguished being the reprinted pieces of Louis Rubin and of Seymour Gross and Eileen Bender. . . . Among the new essays, Malin on The Long March and Morris' on In the Clap Shack are probably the best" ( Studies in American Fiction, Autumn 1978). The second edition expands the collection to twelve essays, the most impressive addition being Richard Pearce's "Sophie's Choices." Pearce is the author of one of the four pamphlets on Styron. His is No. 98 in the University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers series and offers a balanced, critically sound appraisal of the work through The Confessions of Nat Turner. The other three--written by Cooper R. Mackin, Robert H. Fossum, and Melvin J. Friedman--are also series books and concentrate on Styron's first four novels. Friedman's study, longer than the others, ventures outside of the American scene and offers a chapter on French relationships. Marc L. Ratner William Styron ( Twayne's United States Authors Series) is the longest sustained examination by a single critic. Individual chapters are devoted to each of the first four novels; these are framed by chapters with biographical and thematic orientations; and a final chapter, "Styron and the South," offers a useful context for the work. Ratner should consider bringing out a second edition of his valuable work. The second edition should add assessments of In the Clap Shack, Sophie's Choice, and This Quiet Dust. Three other books deal largely with The Confessions of Nat Turner. William Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner": A Critical Handbook, edited by Melvin J. Friedman and Irving Malin, and The Nat Turner Rebellion: The Historical Event and the Modern Controversy, edited by John B. Duff and Peter M. Mitchell , are casebooks that offer broad perspectives on the novel and its backgrounds, mainly through reprinted material. The contributions to William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, edited by John Henrik Clarke, have more than their share of anger and dissatisfaction, less than their share of literary analysis and considered judgment. Two book-length bibliographies of the criticism appeared in 1978. JacksonR. Bryer -452R. Bryer's William Styron: A Reference Guide is the work of perhaps the most accomplished bibliographer and editor of twentieth-century American literature. Bryer also supplied elaborate checklists of Styron material for both William Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner": A Critical Handbook and the two editions of The Achievement of William Styron. His introduction to William Styron: A Reference Guide is the best overview of the criticism. His annotations of the individual entries are models of compression and accuracy. Philip W. Leon's William Styron: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism uses a quite different format. It fortunately complements rather than duplicates Bryer's efforts. The style of the G. K. Hall reference guide virtually prohibits critical judgments from intruding on the annotations. Leon works under no such handicap, as he often ventures opinions, both positive and negative. Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction on two occasions offered issues with heavy concentrations of Styron criticism (Summer 1960 and Winter 1965-66). The first of these gatherings, which included Harold W. Schneider's bibliography (the first one published), seemed to launch the first wave of Styron commentary. All three of the essays in this Summer 1960 number expressed some disappointment with Set This House on Fire. Particularly scathing (and in large part unjustified) is Richard Foster's "An Orgy of Commerce: William Styron Set This House on Fire," which begins with this overblown sentence: "The spirit of Hollywood looms and hovers over this absurd book like some Unholy Ghost, giving it its vast Cineramic shape, its hectic vulgar supercoloration, its hollow belting loudness of tone, and its ethos of commercial self-excitation." Negative soundings resurfaced in different forms in response to Styron's subsequent work. Most often they took on nonliterary aspects, as when black writers and certain American historians expressed outrage at The Confessions of Nat Turner and when a group of Polish 82
American historians found fault with the Polish settings depicted and attitudes expressed in Sophie's Choice. Objections have also been raised to literary habits. Roy Arthur Swanson, in his "William Styron's Clown Show" (found in the Friedman-Malin Critical Handbook), quotes Richard Foster approvingly on his first page and proceeds to identify such things as "tired romantic prose." J. Mitchell Morse offers several pages on The Confessions of Nat Turner in his The Irrelevant English Teacher ( Temple University Press, 1972), concluding that "it is very sloppily written" and "has no place in any college course concerned with literature or with writing." But the critical commentary has been by all odds more positive than negative, especially when it has concentrated on aesthetic rather than political matters. Styron's work has indeed been praised by some of the most gifted critics of American literature, including Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Frederick J. Hoffman, Ihab Hassan, Malcolm Cowley, and Philip Rahv. Yet Styron remains a controversial writer in this country, while his French critics generally elevate him above any of his American contemporaries. A new collection of Styron criticism appeared in Delta in 1985, under the guest editorship of Andrй Bleikasten. This journal is the official organ of the -453 Centre d'Йtude et de Recherches sur les Йcrivains du Sud aux Йtats-Unis at l'Universitй Paul Valйry а Montpellier. This anthology of essays reinforces the high regard with which Styron is held in France. The French taught us how to appreciate Faulkner; perhaps they will accomplish the same with Faulkner's worthiest heir. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by William Styron Lie Down in Darkness. Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1951. The Long March. New York: Random House, 1956; Modern Library Paperback. Set This House on Fire. New York: Random House, 1960. The Confessions of Nat Turner. New York: Random House, 1967. "Marriott, the Marine." Esquire 76 ( September 1971): 101-104, 196, 198, 200, 202, 204, 207-208, 210. "Dead!" Esquire 80 ( December 1973): 161-168, 264, 266, 270, 274, 277-278, 280, 282, 286, 290; screenplay collaboration with John Phillips. In The Clap Shack. New York: Random House, 1973. "An Interview with William Styron," ed. Ben Forkner and Gilbert Schricke. Southern Review 10 (Fall 1974): 923-34. "The Suicide Run." The American Poetry Review 3 ( May/June 1974): 20-22. "Shadrach," Esquire 90 ( 21 November 1978): 85, 87, 88-90, 92-93, 95-96; Shadrach. Los Angeles: Sylvester and Orphanos, 1979 [limited signed edition]. "An Interview with William Styron," ed. Valarie M. Arms. Contemporary Literature 20 (Winter 1979): 1-12. Sophie's Choice. New York: Random House, 1979. This Quiet Dust. New York: Random House, 1982. Studies of William Styron Aldridge John W. "William Styron and the Derivative Imagination." Time to Murder and Create: The Contemporary Novel in Crisis. New York: McKay, 1966, pp. 3051. Baumbach Jonathan. "Paradise Lost: The Novels of William Styron." South Atlantic Quarterly 63 (Spring 1964): 207-17. Reprinted in The Landscape of Nightmare: Studies in the Contemporary American Novel. New York: New York University Press, 1965, pp. 123-37. Bryant Jerry H. "The Hopeful Stoicism of William Styron." South Atlantic Quarterly 62 (Autumn 1963): 539-50. Bryer Jackson R. with Mary Beth Hatem. William Styron: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978. Casciato Arthur D. and James L. W. West III, ed. Critical Essays on William Styron. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. Clarke John Henrik, ed. William Styron's "Nat Turner": Ten Black Writers Respond. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968. -454 Core George. "The Confessions of Nat Turner and the Burden of the Past." Southern Literary Journal 2 (Spring 1970): 117-34. Crane John Kenny. The Root of All Evil: The Thematic Unity of William Styron's Fiction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1984. Davis Robert Gorham. "Styron and the Students." Critique 3 (Summer 1960): 37-46. Duff John B. and Peter M. Mitchell, ed. The Nat Turner Rebellion: The Historical Event and the Modern Controversy. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Fossum Robert H. William Styron: A Critical Essay. Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1968. 83
Foster Richard. "An Orgy of Commerce: William Styron's Set This House on Fire." Critique 3 (Summer 1960): 59-70. Friedman Melvin J. "The 'French Face' of William Styron." International Fiction Review 10 (Winter 1983): 33-37. -----. William Styron. Popular Writers Series No. 3. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1974. Friedman Melvin J. and Irving Malin, ed. William Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner": A Critical Handbook. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1970. Friedman Melvin J. and August J. Nigro, ed. Configuration Critique de William Styron. Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1967. Galloway David D. The Absurd Hero in American Fiction: Updike, Styron, Bellow, Salinger. 2d rev. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981. Gossett Louise Y. "The Cost of Freedom: William Styron." Violence in Recent Southern Fiction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1965, pp. 117-31. Gray Richard. "Victims of History and Agents of Revolution: William Styron." The Literature of Memory: Modern Writers of the American South. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977, pp. 284305. Hoffman Frederick J. "William Styron: The Metaphysical Hurt." The Art of Southern Fiction: A Study of Some Modern Novelists. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967, pp. 144-61. Klotz Marvin. "The Triumph over Time: Narrative Form in William Faulkner and William Styron." Mississippi Quarterly 17 (Winter 1963-64): 9-20. Leon Philip W. William Styron: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978. Mackin Cooper R. William Styron. Southern Writers Series No. 7. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1969. Moore L. Hugh. "Robert Penn Warren, William Styron, and the Use of Greek Myth." Critique 8 (Winter 1965-66): 75-87. Morris Robert K. and Irving Malin, ed. The Achievement of William Styron. 2d ed. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981. O'Connell Shaun. "Expense of Spirit: The Vision of William Styron." Critique 8 (Winter 1965-66): 20-33. Pearce Richard. William Styron. University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers No. 98. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971. Ratner Marc L. William Styron. New York: Twayne, 1972. Robb Kenneth A. "William Styron's Don Juan." Critique 8 (Winter 1965-66): 34-46. Rubenstein Richard L. "The South Encounters the Holocaust: William Styron's Sophie's Choice." Michigan Quarterly Review 20 (Fall 1981): 425-42. Rubin Louis D., Jr. "William Styron: Notes on a Southern Writer in Our Time." TheFaraway Country: Writers of the Modern South -455 Faraway Country: Writers of the Modern South. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963, pp. 185-230. Stevenson David L. "Styron and the Fiction of the Fifties." Critique 3 (Summer 1960): 47-58. Tischler Nancy M., ed. "The Confessions of Nat Turner: A Symposium." Barat Review 6 ( 1971): 3-37. Urang Gunnar. "The Voices of Tragedy in the Novels of William Styron." Adversity and Grace: Studies in Recent American Literature. Ed. Nathan A. Scott Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968, pp. 183-209. West James L. W., Ill. "A Bibliographer's Interview with William Styron." Costerus, n.s., 4 ( 1975): 13-29. -----. William Styron: A Descriptive Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977. -456THOMAS DANIEL YOUNG Allen Tate (1899-1979) Allen Tate is assured of a place among the most significant writers of his generation. The author of twelve books of poetry, two biographies, eight books of essays, a novel, and a book of memoirs, and editor of more than a dozen other books, he excelled in each of these genres. Tate's primary concerns are those of his age: (1) the dissociation of sensibility, (2) the search for a sustaining and continuing tradition, (3) the opposition to materialistic positivism, and (4) the necessity of man's finding a meaningful relationship to a universe from which the gods have disappeared. BIOGRAPHY 84
Born on 19 November 1899 to John Orley and Eleanor Varnell Tate, in Winchester, Kentucky, Allen Tate believed until he was thirty, because his mother told him he was, that he was a Virginian. In his childhood Tate's family moved two or three times a year, "moving away from something my mother didn't like." His earliest memories are of residential hotels, watering places, and resorts visited yearly by his mother. In one of these places, Tate recalled years later, his mother told him: "Son, put that book down and go play with Henry. You are straining your mind and you know your mind isn't very strong." ( Tate's head was abnormally large and he refers to it ironically in several poems as if he were a water head.) Because his father early withdrew from social and economic activity, the responsibility of head of the family passed to Allen's older brother, Ben. Tate's early education was haphazard and irregular because his mother seldom stayed in one place long enough for him to complete a school year. In the twenty or so different schools he attended, for periods varying from a few weeks to a rare academic year, he was, he recalled later, always the "new boy. . . . I had to win -457 my masculine standing at every new school by fist fighting the bully. I don't think I ever won, for if my mind was weak, my physique was weaker." One of the few schools he attended for an entire year was the Tarbox School in Nashville, where he lived with his mother while his two older brothers attended Vanderbilt University. Years later when Tate enrolled in Vanderbilt he found that although the passage from Latin he was given to translate as part of the admissions requirements was taken from a longer passage he had memorized, he needed a tutor to pass required mathematics. Having no idea that he had any literary ambitions, he enrolled in Greek and Latin, as well as in the classes of some of the most respected faculty members: in English, Walter Clyde Curry and John Crowe Ransom; in philosophy, Herbert Charles Sanborn; in Greek, Herbert Cushing Tolman. For Curry and Ransom he wrote his first poetry. Later, as a member of the Fugitive group, he continued to write poetry and published his first criticism. Tate's first books to be published were biographies and poetry, which appeared after he moved to New York in the mid-1920s: Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier ( 1928) and Mr. Pope and Other Poems ( 1928). These were followed the next year by Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall. By this time he was earning his living by contributing reviews and essays to such journals as the Nation, the New Republic, and Hound and Horn. His first full-length critical essay, "Poetry and the Absolute," appeared in the Sewanee Review in 1927. In 1928 he received the first of two Guggenheim Fellowships, and before sailing to France, he contributed to Fugitives: An Anthology of Verse ( 1929), which included the first version of "Ode to the Confederate Dead." In 1930 he returned to Tennessee and moved into an antebellum farmhouse, where he could help plan I'll Take My Stand ( 1930), to which he contributed an essay, "Remarks on the Southern Religion. Although he taught briefly at Southwestern at Memphis, North Carolina Woman's College, Princeton, St. Johns, Vanderbilt, and other institutions, his chief academic appointment was to the University of Minnesota, where he served for more than twenty years. In spite of his academic appointments, he always considered himself primarily a man of letters. For his creative and critical work he received many awards, including the Bollingen Prize, the Medaglia d'Oro di Societa Italana di Dante Alighieri, the Fellowship Award of the Academy of American Poets, and membership in the American Academy of Poets and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was married to the novelist Caroline Gordon ( 1924-59), the poet Isabella Gardner ( 1959-66), and Helen Heinz ( 196679). With Caroline Gordon he had a daughter, Nancy, and with Helen Heinz three sons: John Allen, Michael Paul (who died in childhood), and Benjamin Lewis Bogan. Tate died in Nashville on 9 February 1979. MAJOR THEMES In November 1921 Tate was invited to join the Fugitive group, a small coterie of faculty, students, and townspeople meeting at the home of James M. Frank, -458 a local businessman, to discuss the writing of poetry and to criticize each other's verse. Tate's contributions to these meetings can hardly be overestimated. Although at this time he was not an accomplished poet and his verse was obviously that of an apprentice, he changed the nature and direction of the group's discussions. Rather than concentrating on Swinburne, Hardy, and the Imagists, who the most forward-thinking members of the group thought best represented modern techniques and attitudes in poetry, Tate introduced these young poets and wouldbe poets to the French Symbolists: Baudelaire, Valйry, Verlaine, Mallarmй, Remy de Gourmont, and Gerard de Nerval. Then he published a translation of Baudelaire's "Correspondences" in the December 1924 Fugitive, after explaining in the number for the previous April how Baudelaire assisted the modern poet's attempts to delineate his complex experiences by dressing up an idea out of one class of experience in the vocabulary of another. In this way the influence of the French on modern poetic theory and practice differed from that of both the English traditionalists and the Imagists. In his essay Tate had also, without mentioning the concept, prepared the group to receive Eliot's explanation of the same problem in his phrase "the objective correlative." 85
Although the poetry Tate wrote at Vanderbilt differs remarkably from his later verse, his associations with Ransom, Warren, and Davidson aided him in finding his subject--that is, contrasting a vital past with a purposeless present. Also, the intense criticism of his earliest poetic efforts by some of the most talented critics of the time profoundly influenced the search for his true poetic voice. Although he and Ransom disagreed on the nature and function of poetry--once their vastly differing opinions almost resulted in a permanent breach when Ransom reviewed unfavorably Eliot The West Land--these sometimes violent discussions assisted both men in establishing their permanent positions on basic critical matters. Ransom argued that Tate's poetry was "obscure" because it lacked essential "structure" and placed too much emphasis on "seemingly irrelevant texture." The reason for Tate's intentional obscurity, Ransom speculated, was to avoid falling into the "moral-beautiful compound." Tate chose a "subject nearest to his own humanity, a subject perhaps of terrifying import; but in treating it" he stopped "short of all moral or theoretical conclusions, and confuse[d] his detail to the point where it [left] no positive implications." Soon after Tate moved to New York in 1924, he began writing poetry markedly more finished than his earlier verse. On 2 September 1925 he published in the Nation "Mr. Pope," the title poem of his first collection three years later, Mr. Pope and Other Poems ( 1928). Along with allied subjects, the poem deals with the relations of the poet to society, not only Pope to the eighteenth century but any poet to any society. The sophisticated ladies in their sedans stare at the hideous shape of the poet: When Alexander Pope strolled in the city Strict was the glint of pearl and gold sedans. -459Ladies leaned out, more out of fear than pity; For Pope's tight back was rather a goat's than man's. Tate points out, however, that the poet's misshapen body is merely temporal, but the poet "who dribbled couplets like a snake" belongs to the permanent world of art. Pope's use of traditional form and meter gives the form and order to his verse that his body, like the work of the modern poets, is denied. A carefully controlled poem is permanent and important, different from the helplessly deformed creature who created it. Shortly after the publication of this poem, Tate began working on "The Ode to the Confederate Dead," which carried a more emphatic statement of his concerns than any other poem he wrote before the 1940s: dissociation of sensibility, search for traditions, and opposition to positivism. The poem, as Tate points out in "Narcissus as Narcissus" ( 1938), is about narcissism, the belief that man creates the world in the act of perceiving it. A man stops at the gate of a Confederate cemetery. The season is autumn and the falling leaves, blown by the wind, "sough the rumor of mortality." Despite the desolation around him, he can only surmise that the "inexhaustible bodies" that lie in the graves beyond the stone wall are not "harbingers of spring," the promise of new life, because they are not part of the endless cycle of nature. They exist, if at all, because their decaying bodies have fed "the grass . . . row after rich row." His thoughts turn to "ambitious November . . . with a zeal for every slab." November's only ambition, it would seem, is to destroy what April has produced. The decaying slabs stain "the uncomfortable angels that rot / On the slabs." As the man gazes transfixed, he is as impotent as those stone angels. Whatever ability to symbolize metaphysical reality they once possessed they have lost. The strophe ends with the man at the gate realizing that the stone wall really does separate him from the dead and what they represent. He is modern man who knows the grandeurs of the past but cannot participate in them. Like the blind crab, he has motion but no direction, energy but no purposeful world in which to use it. As the poet moves into the antistrophe, the mood naturally changes. He turns to a consideration of the heroism that once characterized, his mind tells him, an entire society. Although he knows of Stonewall Jackson, the hero who gave his life for a cause, and the many battles in which others have done the same-Antietam, Malvern Hill, and Bull Run--his sensibility is unchanged. All he can perceive is that "the leaves / Flying, plunge and expire." He is left locked within his narcissistic self, "Cursing only the leaves crying / Like an old man lost in a storm." He has lost his creative imagination. He is bound to immanence. Unlike the Romantic poets, he cannot experience a "spot of time" or transcend his natural surroundings through the song of a nightingale. He is "The hound bitch / Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar." Although the themes of "active faith" and "fragmentary chaos," as Hart Crane once characterized them, have struggled for ascendency throughout the poem, the winner is no longer in doubt: -460 We shall say only the leaves whispering In the improbable mist of nightfall That flies on multiple wing; Night is the beginning and the end And in between the ends of distraction Waits mute speculation, the patient curse 86
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps For his own image in the jungle pool, his victim. Modern man, even he who has "knowledge / Carried to the heart," can only wait for death, or if he is too impatient to await his natural turn, he can court it. Tate's essays of social and cultural criticism were of great significance to him as he struggled to find his own identity and place, as well as his function, in the modern world. Many of these essays were motivated by the same concerns that were the prime movers of the poetry appearing after 1928 and of his only novel, The Fathers ( 1938). In "Message from Abroad" ( 1929) he begins with an epigram from Traveller to America ( 1799): "Their faces are bony and sharp but very red. . . ." If these red-faced men are a part of his tradition, Tate can find no evidence of them in the expatriate society of the Left Bank; he is, therefore, very much aware of being an alien. Their feeling leads him to speculate on how a culture passes its traditions from one generation to another. He concludes that those cultures that have "poetry" and "statues" transmit naturally and easily their rites, rituals, ceremonies, myths, and manners. All cultural vestiges are lost, however, from those societies that do not have art. A few weeks after he finished this poem, he began writing another, which at this time he was calling "Picnic at Cassis." He sent the poem to John Peale Bishop, who suggested major changes--some of which Tate adopted-and assured Tate that it "is not one of your best poems. It is your best." He also encouraged Tate to change the tide to "The Mediterranean," for never "has the feeling of the Mediterranean from one of Northern blood . . . been so well expressed." That Tate wanted to retain this particular effect is indicated by his inclusion of some literal details of a picnic which he, Caroline Gordon, and perhaps fifteen others had attended with Ford Madox Ford: they had entered a small cove under perfect blue skies, where they ate "cocks boiled in wine and in great cauldrons a sumptuous bouillabaisse, a towering salad, a pile of cheese and fruit," all washed down with "61 bottles of wine." Ford remarked to Tate, according to Radcliffe Squires, "that it must have been in such a cove that Aeneas and his band had stopped to eat," a remark that sent Tate back to reread The Aeneid. That he wanted to expand on the remarks Ford had made is suggested by the fact that Tate supplied an epigraph from Book One of the epic. Venus is speaking to Jupiter, asking what has happened to Aeneas and his group. In translation her question is "What limit do you set to their pains, great king?" Or, as Tate has translated it: "What is the end of all this sorrow, great king?" -461 In the first stanza Tate suggests the three levels at which he wants the poem read. The first two lines are almost a direct statement of literal details: Where we went in the boat was a long bay A slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone-The reference to the bay as being a "slingshot wide" foreshadows later metaphorical meanings that will be imposed upon the poem. The third line, "Peaked margin of antiquity's delay," reminds the reader that he will be asked to recall the flight of Aeneas from the fallen Troy, a landless wanderer seeking a new home. The fourth line, "And we went there out of time's monotone," reminds us of the comparison between Aeneas and his companions with the modern revelers that will thread its way throughout the poem. In "The New Provincialism" ( 1945) Tate reminds us in the phrase "time's monotone" that modern man is limited in time if not in space. He is a prisoner of time because he believes the present moment is unique. "He cuts himself off from the past and without the friend of traditional wisdom approaches the simplest problems . . . as if nobody had ever heard of them before." The modern picnickers do not realize that they are as homeless as Aeneas and his companions were. They too are seeking spiritual roots that will provide a center and purpose to their lives. In the third stanza the poet reminds us of the Aeneas myth: "And we made feast and in our secret need / Devoured the very plates Aeneas bore." Our secret need, of course, is an awareness of our traditions, not only of our Grecian heritage encompassed by the Aeneas myth but of our spiritual background suggested by the myth of the slingshot with which David slew the enemy of Jehovah. But the westward movement of the modern world has carried us in a new direction, as our philosophy of acquisitive materialism has given us a new sense of values: What country shall we conquer, what fair land Unman our conquest and locate our blood? We've cracked the hemispheres with careless hand! Now, from the Gates of Hercules we flood Westward, westward till the barbarous brine Whelms us to the tired land where tasseling corn, Fat beans, grapes sweeter than muscadine Rot on the vine; in that land were we born. In our search for material splendor, we have squandered our opportunities and fouled our nest; we must change our direction; we must make our journey eastward and find the traditional values that gave force and direction to the lives of such heroes as Aeneas and David. Nothing in the poem is as clear as the reminder of the 87
lack of purpose and direction in the lives of modern men, but Tate's skillful use of image and metaphor to blend structure and texture makes -462it, in Radcliffe Squires's words, "the best of Tate's poems written before he was forty." The basic attitudes of this poem are altered slightly in some of the later poems and the essays of cultural criticism written in the late 1930s and 1940s. In "The New Provincialism" he defines regionalism as "that consciousness or that habit of men in a given locality which influences them to certain patterns of thought and conduct handed to them by their ancestors." In "What Is a Traditional Society?" ( 1936), a revision of an essay given as the Phi Beta Kappa address at the University of Virginia, he remarks that "here within the walls of Mr. Jefferson's university there is a special tradition of realism in thinking about the nature of tradition." A little later in the same essay he asks what does this tradition of realism mean and how does it differ from the general American society of the present: It means that in ages which suffer the decay of manners, religion, morals, codes, our indestructible vitality demands expression in violence and chaos; it means that men who have lost both the higher myth of religion and the lower myth of historical dramatization have lost the forms of human action: it means that they are no longer capable of defining human objectives. . . . [Such a man] is surrounded by the grandeurs of the past, but he does not participate in them; they do not sustain him. . . . Man in his plight lives in an untraditional society. For an untraditional society does not permit its members to pass to the next generation what it received from its immediate past. Tate employs this distinction between the traditional and the untraditional society in his only novel The Fathers ( 1938), except in this work he speaks of the "classical" or "traditional" and the "romantic" or "untraditional" hero. The Posey family has given up their land and moved into town where all semblance of family ties has disappeared. Like the other Poseys, George is oblivious to tradition. He believes that every human act is intended for his own personal consumption. Buchan, the classical hero, can objectify his personal experiences-even the loss of his wife and the participation of his sons in a disastrous war--because he "can participate in the grandeurs of the past." He is able "to form a definite concept of [his] human role," and he can "function in every level of life." R. K. Meiners believes "The Seasons of the Soul" is one of the most important poems of the twentieth century. In this poem, Tate is trying to present what one poet has called the "metaphysical present." The form of the poem is that of the dramatic monologue in which the speaker addresses each of the seasons. Because the seasons are personified, and even contain a part of the poet's (modern man's) personality (his wanton needs and fears), the mood of the poem is reverential. Each of the four sections--Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring--has six stanzas or 60 lines, and each section bears some resemblance to one of the four elements of ancient philosophy: summer--air; autumn--earth; winter-water; spring-fire. Its attention never wandering far from sin and salvation, the poem can best -463 be experienced if one recalls the scene when Dante and Virgil reach the seventh circle where the violent reside and the speaker is blind and imprisoned. (One is reminded of Tate's often-repeated observation that modern man has a "locked in sensibility.") The reader should remember, too, that Beatrice had brought Dante to salvation; in that way he can get the full impact of Tate's protagonist's pursuit of Santa Monica. With his imprisoned sensibility and his faith destroyed by positivism, the protagonist wants her to convince him that he is not dying into nothingness. The opening section (Summer), which traces the disintegration of the soul, opens with an epitaph from the Inferno: "Then I stretched forth my hand and pulled a twig from a large thorne and the trunk cried: 'Why do you tear me?'" This epigram sets the mood for the section, which is primarily concerned with man who is crippled by the imbalance between head and heart, and the poet's insistence that he must attain metaphysical (metaphorical) vision if he is to climb the stair toward salvation. To accomplish this feat he must regain the innocence of childhood and nature: Under the summer's blast The soul cannot endure Unless by sleight or fast It seize or deny its day To make the eye secure. Brothers-in-arms, remember The hot wind dries and draws With circular delay The flesh, ash from the ember, Into the summer's jaws. 88
The section ends with the poet's urging man to descend deeply into the inferno of self, for down there he finds, as Dante did, the wise centaur, the blend of human and animal. The second section opens with the protagonist's realizing he is "down a well," in an empty grave, in an endless corridor with no means of escape. (Tate alludes to a scene of the thirty-third canto of the Inferno, where Dante descends into a cistern to view those destroyed by their own kind.) The overall feeling engendered by the section is that of the nightmare in which one dreams of his inability, despite his constant efforts, to reach a longedfor destination. (Tate tells of a recurring dream he had in which he could not escape from his material self.) Section HI is dominated by images of water. Goddess sea-born and bright, Return into the sea Where eddying twilight Gathers upon your people-- -464The protagonist obviously is attempting to escape from his rational self, to plumb to the depth of instinctive subconsciousness. The burned land he is trying to escape is that of the first section, a land destroyed by war and filled with the corpses of the dead, and he attempts to escape first into the realm of naturalistic sexuality. The attempt to drown the conscious, rational self in sensuality is unsuccessful because the problem of the unfulfilled self is unassuaged. The poet moves, then, to the final section, Spring. The speaker remembers the pleasant land of his childhood and feels a faint stir of life and hope. Living in a time of turbulence and violence (the poem was written during World War II) and uncertain of his fate, the poet calls on the mother of silence: Speak, that we may hear; Listen, while we confess That we conceal our fear; Regard us, while the eye Discerns by sight or guess Whether, as sheep foregather Upon their crooked knees, We have begun to die; Whether your kindness, mother, Is mother of silences. She does not respond, and the speaker's doubts remain. His ordeal is that of modern man, a fear of the spiritual disintegration of the world. Few other modern poets have expressed as well as Tate the essential tone of their age. At his death he left unfinished a proposed poem of some length to be written in terza rima. The three parts of the poem he completed indicate that the poet's career was determinedly set in the direction indicated in Seasons of the Soul. Although literature is much the poorer because the poem was never finished, Tate wrote enough verse to convince us that few other writers have been as much concerned with the relationship of the artist to the traditions of the society that produced him. The literature of the Renascence, he warns us, is regional, but it is not local color. The Southern writer of the era he is writing about "takes the South as he knows it today or can find out about it in the past, and . . . sees it as a region with some special characteristics, but otherwise . . . offers it as an imaginative subject as it has been and will doubtless continue to be here and in other parts of the world." A man unaware of who he is and where he comes from, Tate concludes, is hardly human. SURVEY OF CRITICISM The authorized biography is being prepared by Robert Buffington. Until it is available the most reliable sources of information about Tate's personal life are Radcliffe Squires Allen Tate: A Literary Biography, Ferman Bishop AllenTate -465 Tate in the Twayne United States Authors Series, Louise Cowan The Fugitive Group (for the Fugitive period), and Rob Roy Purdy Fugitives' Reunion. The best available bibliography is Marshall Fallwell Allen Tate: A Bibliography. The most helpful book-length critical studies are Louis D. Rubin Jr. The Wary Fugitives; R. K. Meiner The Last Alternative: A Study of the Works of Allen Tate; and the previously mentioned books by Squires and Bishop. An illuminating insight into the regard Tate's contemporaries felt for him appears in Allen Tate and His Work, ed. Radcliffe Squires. Two monographs that give a perceptive insight into Tate's literary career are George Hemphill Allen Tate in the University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers and Melvin E. Bradford Rumor of Mortality. Both Arthur Mizener in "The Fathers and Realistic Fiction" and Thomas Daniel Young in The Past in the Present emphasize the relationship between Tate's social and cultural criticism and The Fathers. The only two books of Tate's voluminous literary correspondence that have been published are The Literary 89
Correspondence of Donald Davidson and Allen Tate, edited by John Tyree Fain and Thomas Daniel Young, and The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate, edited by Thomas Daniel Young and John Hindle. Tate's contributions to the Agrarian movement are presented in William C. Havard and Walter Sullivan , eds., A Band of Prophets ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981) and Thomas Daniel Young, Waking Their Neighbors Up: The Nashville Agrarians Reconsidered ( 1982). In the future it seems unlikely that Tate's career will attract as much attention as it has in the past. Fallwell lists more than 200 essays and dissertations. Only the most significant of these are listed in the selected checklist that follows this essay. Although there might be some attempt to balance the almost unrestrained adulation he has received in the past, it is certain that Tate has earned a secure and permanent place in Southern letters. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Allen Tate The Golden Mean and Other Poems, with Ridley Wills. Nashville: Privately printed, 1923. Mr. Pope and Other Poems. New York: Minton, Balch, 1928. Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier. New York: Minton, Balch, 1928. Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall. New York: Minton, Balch, 1929. Poems: 1928-1931. New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932. The Mediterranean and Other Poems. New York: Alcestis Press, 1936. Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Selected Poems. New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937. The Fathers. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938. Reissued as The Fathers and Other Fiction with introduction by Thomas Daniel Young. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977. -466 Reason in Madness, Critical Essays. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1941. On the Limits of Poetry, Selected Essays 1928-1948. New York: Swallow Press and William Morrow, 1948. Poems: 1922-1947. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948. The Hovering Fly and Other Essays. Cummington, Mass.: Cummington Press, 1949. Two Conceits for the Eye to Sing, If Possible. Cummington, Mass.: Cummington Press, 1950. The Forlorn Demon: Didactic and Critical Essays. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1953. The Man of Letters in the Modern World, Selected Essays: 1928-1955. New York: Meridian Books, 1955. Collected Essays. Denver: Alan Swallow, 1959. Poems. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960. Essays of Four Decades. New York: William Morrow, 1968. The Literary Correspondence of Donald Davidson and Allen Tate. Ed. John Tyree Fain and Thomas Daniel Young. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1974. Memoirs and Opinions. Chicago: Alan Swallow, 1976. Collected Poems, 1919-1976. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate. Ed . Thomas Daniel Young and John J. Hindle. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981. Studies of Allen Tate Beatty Richmond C. "Allen Tate as a Man of Letters." South Atlantic Quarterly 47 ( April 1948): 226-41. Bishop Ferman. Allen Tate. New York: Twayne, 1967. Blackmur R. P. "San Giovanni in Venere: Allen Tate as Man of Letters." Sewanee Review 67 (Autumn 1959): 614-31. Bradford Melvin E. Rumors of Mortality: An Introduction to Allen Tate. Dallas: Argus Academic Press, 1969. Brooks Cleanth. "Allen Tate." Poetry 66 ( September 1945): 324-29. Cowan Louise. The Fugitive Group: A Literary History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. -----. The Southern Critics. Irving, Texas: University of Dallas Press, 1972. Cowley Malcolm. "Two Winters with Hart Crane." Sewanee Review 67 (Autumn 1959): 547-56. Fallwell Marshall, ed. Allen Tate: A Bibliography. New York: David Lewis, 1969. Foster Richard. The New Romantics: A Reappraisal of the New Criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962. Havard William C. and Walter Sullivan. A Band of Prophets: The Vanderbilt Agrarians after Fifty Years. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982. Hemphill George. Allen Tate. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964. Kermode Frank. "Contemplation and Method." Sewanee Review 72 (Winter 1964): 124-31. -----. "The Dissociation of Sensibility." Kenyon Review 19 (Spring 1957): 169-94. 90
-----. "Old Orders Changing." Encounter 15 ( August 1960): 72-76. Meiners R. K. The Last Alternatives: A Study of the Works of Allen Tate. Denver: Alan Swallow, 1962. -467 Mizener Arthur. "The Fathers and Realistic Fiction." Accent 7 (Winter 1947): 101-9. Nemerov Howard. "The Current of the Frozen Stream: An Essay on the Poetry of Allen Tate." Furioso 3 ( February 1948): 50-61. Purdy Rob Roy, ed. Fugitives Reunion: Conversations at Vanderbilt, May 3-5, 1956. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1959. Ransom John Crowe. "In Amicitia." Sewanee Review 67 (Autumn 1959): 528-39. Rubin Louis D., Jr. The Wary Fugitives. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978. Schwartz Delmore. "The Poetry of Allen Tate." Southern Review 5 (Winter 1940): 419-38. Spears Monroe K. "The Criticism of Allen Tate." Sewanee Review 67 (Spring 1949): 317-34. Squires Radcliffe. Allen Tate: A Literary Biography. New York: Pegasus, 1971. -----, ed. Allen Tate and His Work. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972. Vivas Eliseo. "Allen Tate as Man of Letters." Sewanee Review 62 (Winter 1954): 13143. Young Thomas Daniel. The Past in the Present: Thematic Study of Modern Fiction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. -----. Waking Their Neighbors Up: The Nashville Agrarians Reconsidered. The Lamar Lectures 1980. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982. -468 ................................................................................................. JAMES H. JUSTUS Robert Penn Warren (1905- ) As a productive and influential writer, Robert Penn Warren for more than six decades has been a major figure in American letters. He began his career as a poet, one of the youngest members of the Fugitive group in the 1920s at Vanderbilt University, and he entered the 1980s with the often-repeated assertion that it is as poet that he wishes to be remembered; but in the intervening years Warren achieved distinction not only as a poet but also as a skillful practitioner of many modes--novel and short story, criticism, history, biography, journalism, pedagogy. As a man of letters, Warren ranks with the greatest twentieth-century American artists. Appropriately, in 1986 he was named U.S. Poet Laureate, the first to hold that honor. BIOGRAPHY Born, as he says, "at 7 a.m., April 24, 1905, in Guthrie, in southern Kentucky," Robert Penn Warren spent his youth in the small railroad town in Todd County near the Tennessee-Kentucky state line and, from 1911 to 1918, most of his summers at his maternal grandfather's place, a remote Trigg County farm. His early reading was encouraged by the examples of both his father, a businessman, merchant, and failed poet, and old Gabriel Penn, who had once ridden with Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Civil War and who delighted his grandson with recreations of battles and recitations of Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, and Scott. With few childhood companions, Warren grew up exploring on his own the rolling farmlands and woodlands, becoming able, according to one informant, to "outswim, outrun, outwalk anyone in Guthrie." In 1921 Warren graduated from high school in Clarksville, Tennessee, twelve miles from Guthrie, and because an eye accident prevented his going to Annapolis where he had received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, he entered Vanderbilt University. -505 Although he intended to study chemistry, he soon fell under the sway of Donald Davidson and John Crowe Ransom, English professors and poets, and his roommate Allen Tate, who persuaded Warren to join the Fugitives, a group of Vanderbilt poets and Nashville intellectuals who read and discussed each other's work. By the time Warren first published in the Fugitive in 1923, his apprenticeship had been under the aegis of the most rigorous communal criticism available anywhere in the 1920s. He graduated summa cum laude in 1925 and earned his M.A. at the University of California ( 1925-27), where he studied Elizabethan drama and seventeenthcentury poetry. He attended Yale University briefly ( 192728), and before going as a Rhodes scholar to New College, Oxford ( B. Litt., 1930), he contracted to write a biography of John Brown, which as John Brown: The Making of a Martyr ( 1929) became his first book. In this unorthodox biography and in "Prime Leaf" ( 1931), a novella based on the Black Patch tobacco wars in the Cumberland Valley in the early years of the century, Warren dealt with many of the themes, images, and character types that would recur, sometimes obsessively, in his mature work: the ambiguity of truth, the conflict between father and son, the dialectical battles between the idealist and the pragmatist, the power of the past, the painful path to self-knowledge. While at Oxford, Warren also wrote "The Briar Patch" as his contribution to I'll Take My Stand 91
( 1930), the symposium initiated by Davidson and Ransom, former Fugitives turned Agrarian polemicists. Warren's essay was a dutiful assessment of the place of the Negro in the Southern economy, a subject about which he knew little. Back in the United States, Warren married Emma Brescia in 1930 and spent the next decade teaching at Southern institutions: Southwestern University in Memphis ( 1930-31), Vanderbilt ( 1931-34), and Louisiana State University ( 1934-42), where with his old friend from Vanderbilt and Oxford, Cleanth Brooks, he helped to found the Southern Review ( 1935-42) and began collaborating on a series of pedagogical textbooks, the most influential of which, Understanding Poety ( 1938), revolutionized the teaching of literature in American classrooms. From this intensely productive period came Warren's first two volumes of poetry and his first published novel, Night Rider ( 1939), a reworking of "Prime Leaf." A Guggenheim Fellowship enabled him to go to Italy for the 1939-40 academic year where he began work on a verse play based on a Southern politician much like Huey Long of Louisiana; the figure of Willie Talos in "Proud Flesh" eventually became Willie Stark of All the King's Men ( 1946). By the time Warren accepted a professorship of English at the University of Minnesota ( 1942-50), he was firmly associated with the New Criticism and the name of Warren as practical critic, editor, and pedagogue was considerably more widespread than that of Warren as poet and novelist. But in this decade, while solidifying his reputation as an innovator in pedagogical approaches to literature with Understanding Fiction ( 1943) and Modern Rhetoric ( 1949--both coedited with Brooks-Warren published his second novel, At Heaven's Gate ( 1943), issued his first Selected Poems ( 1944), won a Pulitzer Prize for All the King'sMen -506Men ( 1946), and published his only volume of short stories, The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories ( 1947), and an elegant limited edition of his finest and most enduring piece of short fiction, Blackberry Winter ( 1946). During his year as consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress ( 1944-45), Katherine Anne Porter showed him an obscure bit of nineteenth-century Kentuckyana, The Confession of Jereboam O. Beauchamp, which eventually became the basis of his fourth and most ambitious novel, World Enough and Time ( 1950). Although Warren had become an important name in the literary world, he had not yet given up his earlier ambition to complete a satisfactory verse play, now titled All the King's Men, from among his several ongoing versions; the most successful was directed by Irwin Piscator in New York in 1948. His continued interest in play writing, though it proved to be his least comfortable mode, led him in 1950 to accept a position in the Yale Drama School. The move to New England marked a decisive phase in his life and career, just as had his earlier moves to Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. Although the experience in play writing produced nothing literarily more substantial than a reading version of All the King's Men: A Play ( 1960), his interest in the formal devices and distributed conflicts of drama can be seen in one of his greatest works, Brother to Dragons ( 1953; rev. 1979). This "Tale of Verse and Voices," which eludes generic classification, recounts the imagined effects on Thomas Jefferson of the brutal ax murder of a slave by his two nephews; when Warren finished with its ceremonial communal rite, unifying disparate needs and personalities, it had provided its author with a new sense of poetic release, out of which would come a freer lyric mood. In 1952, after he and his first wife of twenty years were divorced, Warren married the writer Eleanor Clark. Although he published two more novels in this decade, Band of Angels ( 1955) and The Cave ( 1959), the 1950s is memorable in his career primarily because he returned with renewed vigor to the writing of poetry, occasioned in part, as he has suggested, by the happiness of his personal life. Promises: Poems, 1954-1956 ( 1957) was to his lyric impulse what Brother to Dragons had been to his dramatic and dialectic impulse. The volume is a lyrical tribute to his past and his parents--a kind of poetic patrimony to his own children, Rosanna Phelps and Gabriel Penn, to whom it is dedicated. The primary texture of Warren's early verse is highly cerebral, in an idiom of clotted intensities, dignity, and metaphysical portentousness; the verse beginning with Promises moves away from the syntactical and stanzaic formalities and arcane diction that had made "Bearded Oaks" a favorite anthology piece of the 1940s into a looser, more variable, poetic line, with looping clauses and elliptical grammar, all in praise of the human animal and awe of the natural world in which he finds himself ambiguously placed. Promises, which earned Warren's second Pulitzer Prize as well as several other awards, was followed by You, Emperors, and Others ( 1960), which decisively confirmed poetry as his favorite and most congenial genre and which continued the more modulated and open form as his chosen poetic style. Especially after his second Selected Poems ( 1966), which received the Bollingen Prize, Incarnations ( 1968), and Audubon:A Vision -507A Vision ( 1969), Warren was frequently spoken of as America's greatest living poet. In addition to the steadily accruing volumes of poetry in his older years, Warren continued to be active as a general man of letters. His interest in the status of Southern blacks, growing from his personal evaluation of the effects of the 1954 Supreme Court decision against the South's two-track educational system in Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South ( 1956), culminated in Who Speaks for the Negro? ( 1965), an analysis of the leading 92
figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In 1970 Warren received the National Medal for Literature. For an anthology of American literature, edited with R. W. B. Lewis and Cleanth Brooks, he undertook an intensive reading and rereading of classic and not-so-classic American texts, a project out of which came not only American Literature: The Makers and the Making ( 1973) but, on his part, a series of distinguished revaluations of Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Theodore Dreiser. These separately published essays and books were Warren's most sustained acts of literary criticism since 1958, when he had assembled Selected Essays, a miscellany of his previous reviews and essays that included his famous analysis of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In 1974, under the auspices of the National Foundation for the Humanities, he was chosen to deliver the Jefferson Lecture, published as Democracy and Poetry ( 1975). Although in 1975 he retired from Yale, with which he had been associated for a quarter of a century, Warren continued as an active man of letters. When President Carter signed Joint Resolution 16 in 1978, returning citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy who died still disenfranchised in 1889, the ceremony that it provoked the following June in Todd County, Kentucky ( Davis's birthplace), also became a catalyst for Warren. His meditation, Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back ( 1980), built upon a lifetime of interest in the Civil War, is a brilliant evocation of that event, which Warren has called our only "felt" history, interweaving biography, philosophy, historical fact, family legend, autobiography, and cultural artifact. Warmer in tone and more subtly structured than The Legacy of the Civil War ( 1961), Jefferson Davis is one of Warren finest works. MAJOR THEMES Most of the aesthetic strengths in Warren's work derive from a constitutional unease in the comforts of single-minded ideologies. Many of his tragic characters are philosophical idealists who, when faced with the messy ruck of actuality, cannot endure the ambiguity of truth and the pragmatic approach to conduct. Nor do the scientific positivists in his work fare better: they frequently provide wit and cynical humor in their rhetorical battles with the idealists, but they tend to end their lives with suicide, whereas their opponents move on cautiously and painfully toward a moral integration. Expressions of naturalism thread their way -508 compulsively through the earliest work, culminating in "The Ballad of Billie Potts" and At Heaven's Gate, Warren's own versions of Eliotic despair and Poundian disgust over a broken world. Warren's early vision is a compound of naturalistic reductiveness and orthodox Christian--actually, Calvinistic--suspicion of human beneficence. Warren's most perdurable subject is the soul in conflict with itself, a dialectical movement that constitutes the drama of most of the fictive protagonists and the personal quests undertaken in much of the poetry beginning with Brother to Dragons. The course of salvation in Warren's works is never very straight; the price of integration of self for the spiritual drifter Jack Burden ( All the King's Men) and for the romantic monomaniac Jeremiah Beaumont ( World Enough and Time) is a trail of active evil even as they search for ways out of the dark wood. Ultimately, Warren's naturalism merges with a Christian view of man as fallen but redeemable. "What poetry most significantly celebrates," Warren once said, "is the capacity of man to face the deep, dark inwardness of his nature and fate." This declaration is reflected in the anguish of such fictional characters as Ashby Wyndham ( At Heaven's Gate) and Jed Tewksbury ( A Place to Come To) and in the personae of "Original Sin," Brother to Dragons, Audubon, and dozens of scattered lyrics and poetic suites. It is the governing premise behind Warren's efforts in his revaluations of American history ( The Legacy of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back), in his analyses of contemporary American society ( Who Speaks for the Negro?, Democracy and Poetry), and in his brilliant critical assessments of earlier American writers ( Homage to Theodore Dreiser, John Greenleaf Whittier's Poetry). Although Warren has always exercised his considerable knack for vivid portrayal of the world, perhaps most memorably in the political scenes of All the King's Men and World Enough and Time or in the quotidian details of the lives of poor whites, farmers, and blacks depicted in both his poetry and fiction, his real interest has always been the symbolic heightening of people, places, and things--of society generally--for essentially moral fables. One of the most compulsive of those is the son's rebellion against the father and the struggle to come to terms with him, a basic pattern enacted on many levels. The youthful difficulties with the biological parent are often linked to a rejection of the claims of the past in order to live in and by the present moment, but such a protagonist comes to learn that a rage to construct himself anew means alienation from others, not merely the father, and dissociation of the self. The bewildering pain of a floating identity unanchored to others drives him to another rage: to assert the primacy of a communal identity without which man is amorphous. The climax in the drama of the self comes with a recognition of the common frailty of man caught in webs of deceit, delusion, ignorance, and a murderous innocence demanding that an abstract ideal be translated into action at whatever cost. Hence, acknowledgement of universal imperfection leads the wandering son back to the father, at once the most actual and the most symbolic summation of community. The typical resolution is for the protagonist to see things as they are, to recognize -509- 93
that the world moves at its own pace and with its own purpose, that chaos and confusion are the human lot, and that father and son are alike bound to the commonality suggested by the phrase "the frail integument of flesh." This symbolic drama undergirds the varying narrative specificities of the fiction from Night Rider to A Place to Come To, and it lurks prominently in some of the major poems in the early volume Thirty-Six Poems, the pivotal Brother to Dragons, and through the more autobiographical volumes of the late 1970s. In the early fiction Warren's intertwined themes of alienation, the rejection of and reconciliation with the father, self-knowledge, regeneration, and the presumptive good of community all find their most effective expression through the means of a single device: the interpolated story. This technique for widening and deepening theme through the use of alternative points of view also becomes a visible, dramatized need for verbalization of error, confession, and, to use the language of Protestant fundamentalists, witnessing. From Night Rider to Band of Angels Warren creates a vernacular storyteller functioning like Coleridge's Mariner as the spiritually aware man attempting to galvanize quiescent protagonists to moral attention. After 1955 Warren drops such a narrative device, perhaps because the overall shape of his later novels, which is more emblematic than realistic, makes such a device superfluous. The Cave has no real protagonist and no authoritative point of view, and a spatial area becomes both the unifying structural element and the orienting thematic focus; Wilderness uses the geographical setting of the Civil War Battle of the Wilderness as both literal place and metaphysical spiritual state; both Flood and Meet Me in the Green Glen are stories of the buried life rendered through a talismanic place soon to be flooded by waters created by new dams; A Place to Come To is both a literal town in Alabama and the final spiritual place for a tattered sensibility. This later fiction subordinates the solidly rendered circumstantiality of the actual world to bold, if not always successful, manipulations of caricature and stereotype, of artifice and rhetoric, of episodes that are more ceremonial and ritualistic than realistic, and of the author's own voice as authority. The later personal voice, anticipated first in Brother to Dragons, in which "RPW" is both narrating voice and aggressive debater, bluntly affirms what the narratives enact: the necessity of all men to find a communal context, to acknowledge the linking of the innocent and the monstrous in order to heal the divided self. If one mode common to the Warren protagonist is the anguished search for the defining marks of his own uniqueness, another is the equally anguished drive to submerge that uniqueness, to temper individuality with community. Jack Burden is only the best known of these figures who proceed from a mechanistic view of people and things in their atomistic dispersion to a comprehensive vision of infinite and mutual responsibility. The emotional release that in the fiction comes from the acceptance of weakness as part of one's fate has its less mediated equivalents in the resolution of dozens of poems from Promises through Audubon, which, with different tonal effects, celebrate "joy," "heart-joy," "blessedness," "surprise," and "delight." In his later volumes-- -510 Now and Then ( 1978), Being There ( 1980), and Rumor Verified ( 1981)--Warren draws back from the customary habit of most aging poets to pontificate, to assert, to give "affirmative" visions that will justify the long labor of a high and passionate calling. While he still traces the contours of the difficult progress of the self to a position of joy or celebration, this aging poet never succumbs to the simplistic rounding-off that would make the earlier efforts less ambiguous, even in those poems that are blatantly nostalgic. For Warren, imaginative return is itself a kinetic act proceeding from a belief--or at least a hope---that to resee, re-play, re-construct, will be to understand. The best of these poems--"The Red-Tail Hawk and Pyre of Youth,""Convergences,"Recollection in Upper Ontario, From Long Before"--have as their actual subject the imagination's anarchic energy; here the poet names its sources and its manifestations in iconographic images that haunt and threaten the complacent daylight sensibility. Because of his general disinclination to find satisfaction in the settled definitions of Time, Self, Truth, Reality, the Word, joys are hard-earned. In his most recent, like his earliest volumes, Warren's poetry of the then as well as the now constitutes an Inquiry Into rather than a Disquisition Upon. SURVEY OF CRITICISM Despite his earliest work in poetry, Warren's Fugitive verse and his first two published volumes attracted scant readership and only modest critical praise. From the first it was Warren the novelist who attracted critical attention--primarily because Night Rider, At Heaven's Gate, and All the King's Men seemed to be at once vehicles for high-flown philosophical meditation and the raunchy exploitation of sex and violence. Many of the reviewers traced Warren's characteristic style and subject matter to Faulkner's versions of "southern gothic," but the more perceptive critics saw that both the fiction and the poetry reflected the despair and human fragmentation behind much Modernist writing; in 1944 his friend and mentor John Crowe Ransom believed that unrelieved naturalism marred even Warren's best work. The first acute assessment of Warren as artist came with Robert B. Heilman's often-reprinted review essay of All the King's Men ( "Melpomene as Wallflower," Sewanee Review 55 [Summer 1947], 15466) and Eric Bentley's examination of the first three novels ( "The Meaning of Robert Penn Warren's Novels," Kenyon Review 10 [Summer 1948], 407-24). Despite the remarkably productive years from the mid1940s to the mid- 1950s, in which Warren enjoyed great popular success and continued critical controversy, it was not until 1960 that this diversely talented writer received concentrated critical attention with a special number of 94
Modern Fiction Studies and the first book-length study to discuss and evaluate his work in its totality, Leonard Casper's Robert Penn Warren: The Dark and Bloody Ground. Casper's book, although it covered chronologically Warren's writing in all genres, was especially valuable for its sensitive focus on Warren as poet. In 1963 a special number of South Atlantic Quarterly featured fine separate essays on Warren in his varied -511roles ( William C. Havard on his historical writing, John Hicks on his criticism, Madison Jones on his fiction, and M. L. Rosenthal on his poetry). This growing recognition of Warren as master of many genres was reinforced by Charles H. Bohner's Twayne volume, Robert Penn Warren ( 1964; rev. 1981), which stressed the massive coherence of the work, and Paul West's graceful introduction in the University of Minnesota Pamphlets series, Robert Penn Warren ( 1964). Perhaps the most useful of the early collections of miscellaneous pieces was John L. Longley Jr. Robert Penn Warren: A Collection of Critical Essays ( 1965), arranged by theme and genre. The value of this volume, however, is now diminished because of two more recent anthologies of secondary materials: Neil Nakadate Robert Penn Warren: Critical Perspectives ( 1981) and William Bedford Clark's Critical Essays on Robert Penn Warren ( 1981). A readable but often factually inaccurate account by John L. Stewart, The Burden of Time: The Fugitives and Agrarians ( 1965), devoted two long chapters to Warren in the contexts of his earlier intellectual and aesthetic associations. But the most important early study of Warren is Victor H. Strandberg A Colder Fire: The Poetry of Robert Penn Warren ( 1965), a close study of the controlling imagery, the major themes, the influence of the Modernists (primarily Eliot), and the mythic continuities in the poetry through You, Emperors, and Others. Strandberg's second, totally different, book on Warren as poet, The Poetic Vision of Robert Penn Warren ( 1977), stresses the Jungian overtones of the theme of the undiscovered self and concentrates on "The Ballad of Billie Potts" as a crucial poem. While the admiration for Warren's poetry grew steadily, culminating in the enthusiastic reception of Audubon: A Vision, and respect for his penetrating social and historical analyses soared, in the 1960s the reception of Warren's fiction became cooler and more hostile with the publication of each successive novel. The common complaints continued to be, paradoxically, his unhealthy fascination for sexual melodrama and overly portentous rhetoric as a substitute for dramatized narrative action. Many critics attributed the failure of The Cave, Wilderness, and Flood to the New Critic in Warren, with his talent for analysis and his penchant for finding meaning in unlikely or minimal details of form and structure. Those who defended the fiction tended to stress not the aesthetic effects but the author's philosophical coherence. In his Robert Penn Warren and History: "The Big Myth We Live" ( 1970), L. Hugh Moore Jr., summarized the relationships between the author's view of history and his conception of man; and in Web of Being: The Novels of Robert Penn Warren ( 1975), Barnett Guttenberg investigated the compulsive presence of the fragmented self in Warren's work in terms of Heidegger's brand of existentialism. James H. Justus The Achievement of Robert Penn Warren ( 1981) is an attempt to place the entire career in perspective, although it is clear that for a writer whose vigorous production continues into his eightieth year, no satisfactory overall assessment will be possible for several years. Warren has declared he will write no autobiography, but his papers and other materials, most of them housed in the Beineke Library -512 of Yale University, with other relevant materials at the University of Kentucky, will provide the solid basis for a biography. A fine collection of interviews has been assembled by Floyd C. Watkins and John T. Hiers-Robert Penn Warren Talking: Interviews 1950-1978 ( 1980). The full range of critical evaluation of Warren can be seen in Neil Nakadate Robert Penn Warren: A Reference Guide ( 1977), a complete annotated listing of scholarship from 1925 to 1975; James A. Grimshaw Jr.'s Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-79 ( 1981), replaces all earlier piecemeal bibliographies and checklists. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Robert Penn Warren John Brown: The Making of a Martyr. New York: Payson & Clark, 1929. Thirty-Six Poems. New York: Alcestis Press, 1935. An Approach to Literature: A Collection of Prose and Verse with Analyses and Discussions, with Cleanth Brooks and John T. Purser. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Department of English, 1936; New York: F. S. Crofts, 1939; New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952, 1964; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall, 1975. Understanding Poetry: An Anthology for College Students, with Cleanth Brooks. New York: Henry Holt, 1938, 1950; New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960, 1976. Night Rider. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1939. Eleven Poems on the Same Theme. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1942. At Heaven's Gate. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943. Understanding Fiction, with Cleanth Brooks. New York: F. S. Crofts, 1943; New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts, 1959; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 95
Selected Poems, 1923-1943. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1944. All the King's Men. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946. Blackberry Winter. Cummington, Mass.: Cummington Press, 1946. The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1947. Modern Rhetoric, with Cleanth Brooks. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949; repr. as Fundamentals of Good Writing: A Handbook of Modern Rhetoric, with Cleanth Brooks . New York: Harcourt Brace, 1950. World Enough and Time: A Romantic Novel. New York: Random House, 1950. Brother to Dragons: A Tale in Verse and Voices. New York: Random House, 1953. Band of Angels. New York: Random House, 1955. Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South. New York: Random House, 1956. Promises: Poems, 1954-1956. New York: Random House, 1957. Remember the Alamo! New York: Random House, 1958. Selected Essays. New York: Random House, 1958. The Cave. New York: Random House, 1959. The Gods of Mount Olympus. New York: Random House, 1959. How Texas Won Her Freedom: The Story of Sam Houston & the Battle of San Jacinto. San Jacinto Monument, Tex.: Museum of History, 1959. All the King's Men: A Play. New York: Random House, 1960. -513The Scope of Fiction, with Cleanth Brooks. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960. You, Emperors, and Others: Poems 1957-1960. New York: Random House, 1960. The Legacy of the Civil War: Meditations on the Centennial. New York: Random House, 1961. Wilderness: A Tale of the Civil War. New York: Random House, 1961. Flood: A Romance of Our Time. New York: Random House, 1964. Who Speaks for the Negro? New York: Random House, 1965. Selected Poems: New and Old, 1923-1966. New York: Random House, 1966. Incarnations: Poems 1966-1968. New York: Random House, 1968. Audubon: A Vision. New York: Random House, 1969. Selected Poems of Herman Melville: A Reader's Edition. New York: Random House, 1970. Homage to Theodore Dreiser, August 27, 1871-December 28, 1945, on the Centennial of His Birth. New York: Random House, 1971. John Greenleaf Whittier's Poetry: An Appraisal and a Selection. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971. Meet Me in the Green Glen. New York: Random House, 1971. American Literature: The Makers and the Making, with R. W. B. Lewis and Cleanth Brooks. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973. Or Else--Poem/Poems, 1968-1974. New York: Random House, 1974. Democracy and Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975. Selected Poems: 1923-1975. New York: Random House, 1976. A Place to Come To. New York: Random House, 1977. Now and Then: Poems 1976-1978. New York: Random House, 1978. Being Here: Poetry 1977-1980. New York: Random House, 1980. Robert Penn Warren Talking: Interviews 1950-1978, ed. Floyd C. Watkins and John T. Hiers . New York: Random House, 1980. Rumor Verified: Poems 1979-1980. New York: Random House, 1981. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: A Poem. New York: Random House, 1983. Studies of Robert Penn Warren Bedient Calvin. In the Heart's Last Kingdom: Robert Penn Warren's Major Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984. Bohner Charles H. Robert Penn Warren. New York: Twayne, 1964; rev. ed., 1981. Bradbury John M. Renaissance in the South: A Critical History of the Literature, 19201960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963. Brooks Cleanth. The Hidden God: Studies in Hemingway, Faulkner, Yeats, Eliot, and Warren. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963, pp. 98-127. Casper Leonard. Robert Penn Warren: The Dark and Bloody Ground. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960. Chambers Robert H., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "All the King's Men": A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977. 96
Clark William Bedford, ed. Critical Essays on Robert Penn Warren. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. Cowan Louise. The Fugitive Group: A Literary History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. Edgar Walter B., ed, A Southern Renascence Man: Views of Robert Penn Warren by -514 Thomas L. Connelly, Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Madison Jones, Harold Bloom, and James Dickey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984. Gray Richard, ed. Robert Penn Warren: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall, 1980. Grimshaw James A., Jr. Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-79. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981. Guttenberg Barnett. Web of Being: The Novels of Robert Penn Warren. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1974. Huff Mary Nance. Robert Penn Warren: A Bibliography. New York: David Lewis, 1968. Justus James H. The Achievement of Robert Penn Warren. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. Light James F., ed. The Merrill Studies in "All the King's Men." Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1971. Longley John L., Jr. Robert Penn Warren. Austin, Tex.: Steck-Vaughn, 1969. -----, ed. Robert Penn Warren: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: New York University Press, 1965. Moore L. Hugh Jr. Robert Penn Warren and History: "The Big Myth We Live." The Hague: Mouton, 1970. Nakadate Neil. Robert Penn Warren: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977. -----, ed. Robert Penn Warren: Critical Perspectives. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981. Rubin Louis D., Jr. The Wary Fugitives: Four Poets and the South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978. Stewart John L. The Burden of Time: The Fugitives and Agrarians. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Strandberg Victor H. A Colder Fire: The Poetry of Robert Penn Warren. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1965. -----. The Poetic Vision of Robert Penn Warren. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977. Walker Marshall. Robert Penn Warren: A Vision Earned. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979. Watkins Floyd C. Then and Now: The Personal Past in the Poetry of Robert Penn Warren. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982. West Paul. Robert Penn Warren. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964. -515 JAMES A. JR. BRYANT Eudora Welty (1909- ) No one today hesitates to call Eudora Welty Mississippi's greatest living writer, and many would call her the greatest living Southern writer. The magnitude of her achievement stands second only to Faulkner's, but the quality of her work is uniquely her own. BIOGRAPHY Eudora Welty was born on 13 April 1909. She is a first-generation Mississippian. Her father, Christian Webb Welty, was a schoolteacher who came south from Ohio by way of West Virginia, where he met and married another teacher, Chestina Andrews. The two made their home in Jackson, Mississippi, where Christian was associated with the Lamar Life Insurance Company. In time he became its president and remained in that office until his death in 1931. The Weltys' first child, a son, died in infancy; but they brought up three others in Jackson-Eudora, Edward, and Walter. All three attended Jefferson Davis Grammar School, presided over by an austere Miss Lorena Duling, whom Welty has brought to life more than once, she confesses, "in my perhaps inordinate number of schoolteacher characters. " After that there was Central High for all three, and for Edward a career in architecture; for Walter, association with another insurance firm in Jackson. Both brothers have now died, as has Chestina Welty; Eudora Welty lives alone on Pinehurst Street in a brick and stucco house that her father built for them in 1925, just across from the Belhaven College campus. Her childhood in Jackson was a happy blend of the normal and the extraordinary. In addition to the usual school experiences, she had, like other children in small Southern cities, the annual holidays, weekly Sunday school with Bible stories and hymns, Sunday afternoon rides, circuses in season, political speakings, itinerant evangelists (especially Gypsy Smith), and the silent movies-- 97
-516Mary Pickford, Saturday westerns, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Blue, and the Keystone Kops. Books, however, were also essential in the Welty household, whether taken two at a time from the local Carnegie library or provided by the parents in an expanding collection at home. The latter included the works of such authors as Dickens, Scott, Mark Twain, and Ring Lardner as well as Stoddard's Lectures, the Victrola Book of the Opera, the Columbia Encyclopedia, Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, the Lincoln Library of Information, and later the Book of Knowledge and the Britannica. Welty recalls that on her sixth or seventh birthday her parents gave her a ten-volume set of Our Wonder World, volume 5 of which was Every Child's Story Book. She wore out this volume with reading, and it left its mark on much of her writing. Welty's undergraduate experience consisted of two years at Mississippi State College for Women and two at the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in English, began her formal study of literature, and decided to become a writer. When she graduated in 1929, Christian Welty advised her to learn in addition a profession that might be more marketable, so she studied advertising at the Columbia Business School for a year. The death of her father in 1931 brought her back to Jackson, where she remained for the next decade, serving as society correspondent for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, doing odd jobs at radio station WJDX, and from 1933 to 1936 working as Junior Publicity Agent for the Works Projects Administration. The last job required her to travel widely over the state, writing news stories, conducting interviews, and sometimes setting up information booths at county fairs. Along the way she indulged her interest in photography; a number of the pictures she took then were displayed subsequently in a "one-man show" given in 1936 by the Lugene Gallery, a small photography shop in New York. Thereafter she worked for a time writing copy and making photographs for the Mississippi Advertising Commission. In 1971 her photographs were published as One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression: A Snapshot Album. The year 1936 also marked the beginning of Welty's public career as a writer. Throughout her adventures in business she had continued to write, and she would spend two weeks a year in New York going from publisher to publisher, trying to place a collection of stories. Finally, a friend in Jackson suggested that she try John Rood at Manuscript. She did, and to her surprise and pleasure Rood accepted a story, "Death of a Travelling Salesman." Within the year she was sending stories to Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren at the Southern Review; in 1937 they published "A Memory" and "A Piece of News." In the same year Prairie Schooner published two more stories. Katherine Anne Porter was at Baton Rouge at the time; and it was she, Welty believes, who called her to the attention of Ford Madox Ford. In any event, Ford took an interest in the new writer and tried vigorously but unsuccessfully during his last years to find an English publisher for Welty's stories. Meanwhile, John Woodburn, an editor with Doubleday, Doran and Company, put her in touch with Diarmuid Russell, son of the Irish poet A. E., and in 1940 Russell officially became her agent. -517 Within a year he had placed stories in the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, and Harper's. After that, book publishers began to express interest, and in 1941 Doubleday published a collection of her stories entitled A Curtain of Green, with an introduction by Katherine Anne Porter. The 1940s were lucky years for Eudora Welty--to use a term that she herself frequently applies to her successes. Two of her stories received a first prize and one a second prize in the annual O. Henry Memorial contests. Two novels appeared: The Robber Bridegroom in 1942 and Delta Wedding, which was first serialized in the Atlantic Monthly, in 1946. A second collection of stories, The Wide Net, came out in 1943, and in 1949 a third, The Golden Apples, which some readers persist in calling a novel but which by any name contains some of her best work. The decade also brought a Guggenheim Fellowship for 194243 and a renewal in 1949-50, which enabled her to travel to Italy, France, and England. At the invitation of Robert Van Gelder she joined in 1942 the staff of the New York Times Book Review, and, under the pseudonym Michael Ravenna, turned out amazingly expert reviews of World War II battlefield reports. In 1944 she received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Before the war ended, however, she put Michael Ravenna aside and returned to Jackson, where, except for excursions to Europe, visits to New York, and trips to lecture engagements, she has remained ever since. The 1950s brought a widening of experiences for Welty and a widening of her recognition by others. Her third novel, The Ponder Heart, was published first in the New Yorker in 1953 and in book form the following year, when Random House also reprinted in its Modern Library Series her first two story collections as Selected Stories. During that decade she made two more trips to Europe, and on the second of these spent six weeks at Cambridge, where she had been invited to lecture. Some of her experiences abroad are reflected in the fourth collection of stories, The Bride of the Innisfallen, published in 1955. In addition to new pieces about Mississippi, it contains stories set in Italy, Ireland, and, imaginatively, on Circe Isle of Aeaea. For about ten years after 1955, however, no major work appeared. Smith College published three critical essays on fiction in 1962, the year in which she held a William Allan Neilson professorship there; and The Shoe Bird, a book for children, came out in 1964. She traveled during these years, lecturing and receiving honors, among them the William Dean Howells Medal of the Academy 98
of Arts and Letters, the Lucy Donnelly Fellowship Award from Bryn Mawr, an appointment as honorary consultant at the Library of Congress, and the Ingram Memorial Foundation Award in Literature. But these were also the years of Chestina Welty's terminal illness (she died in 1966), and for much of the time her daughter stood by, ministering, never away for long from Jackson, still writing but bringing less to completion. This devotion was a measure of the love and respect she felt for a woman whose presence and unselfish giving had enriched vastly the lives of her husband and children; and it eventually bore fruit in the novels of the 1970s, Losing Battles ( 1970) and The Optimist's Daughter ( 1972), most especially in -518 the latter, which is rich in details reflective of Welty's own life and that of her mother. For The Optimist's Daughter she received a Pulitzer Prize. Since 1972 Welty's publications have included The Eye of the Story: Selected Essays & Reviews, a gathering of most of her nonfiction pieces, including some written as early as 1942, the collection of her photographs, One Time, One Place, already mentioned, and an engaging book of reminiscence, One Writer's Beginnings ( 1984), part of which she gave to inaugurate the William E. Massey lectures series at Harvard. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich brought out The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty in 1980. In addition to the honors already mentioned, Welty has received a total of four O. Henry first prizes for stories, the Hollins Medal, the Creative Arts Medal for Fiction from Brandeis University, the Gold Medal for the Novel from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Medal for Literature, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has received honorary degrees from the University of the South at Sewanee, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University at St. Louis, Smith College, the University of Wisconsin, Western College for Women, Millsaps College, Yale University, and Harvard University. MAJOR THEMES Any general discussion of Eudora Welty's work should begin with a reference to Mississippi, which constitutes the locus for all but a fraction of it. Welty's Mississippi includes most of the state, the rich delta, the hill country, all in between, and in addition New Orleans, which Mississippians sometimes claim. From time to time critics have argued that such a clear geographical identification ought to make her a regionalist, yet she properly rejects that term as "condescending." Every writer needs to stand somewhere, she declares in her essay "Place in Fiction," but the point of view thus established is "an instrument, not an end in itself, that is, useful as a glass, and not as a mirror to reflect a dear and pensive face." In short, place performs the same function for Eudora Welty that it does for some of the writers she has praised--Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Anton Chekhov, and Katherine Anne Porter. By exploring place in her fiction, she brings reality within her grasp, and ours. "Human life is fiction's only theme," she writes near the end of her essay, and four variations on that theme are conspicuous in her work. Foremost among these is the relatedness of all human life, regardless of differences in place and time. Welty's implicit affirmation of such relatedness in her first novel, The Robber Bridegroom, justifies for some critics the mixture there of German fairy tale, Hellenic myth, and American frontier legend--a mixture many have found disturbing. In The Golden Apples, Welty's collection of seven related stories, the universal aspects of her theme are kept in better proportion. Most of its principal characters are committed, knowingly or unknowingly, to some quest analogous to the quest of Yeats's Aengus for "the silver apples of the moon, / -519The golden apples of the sun. " What they have glimpsed, however, is not some distant Hesperides, but the continuum underlying all apppearance whereby in varying ways all human beings reenact some part of the eternal human drama. One important recurring figure is King MacLain, an itinerant tea and spice salesman who has fathered legitimately a set of twins in the little town of Morgana, but like the Greek Zeus, continues to father others (at least spiritually) who inherit his restless quest for meaning. Loch Morrison, a Perseus figure, is among these. Capable of seeing through appearances, he does so magnificently one June afternoon when his rational inhibitors have been dulled by an attack of malaria and he sees a near-miraculous transformation of events in the vacant MacLain house next door. Another heir is Virgie Rainey, small-town musician and siren, who flees Morgana but dutifully returns to care for her dying mother. After the funeral she drives to a distant cemetery where the MacLains are buried, and there, hearing the sound of an October rain, she experiences an epiphany that links her to all of Morgana and the universe beyond it. A similar epiphany occurs in Losing Battles when Jack Renfro, after returning from prison to resume life with his bride Gloria, hesitates like Paris in Greek legend, uncertain whether to hold her as a gift from Juno (his mother), from Athena (their recently deceased schoolteacher and mentor), or from Aphrodite. He realizes he can take her only from the latter when he, with us, sees the revelation of goddess in his ninetyyear-old great-grandmother dancing in the moonlight on an uncleared picnic table. Other revelations of cosmic relatedness occur in the short stories: in Mrs. Larkin's frightening but strangely satisfying penetration of the curtain of green, in William Wallace's unplanned escape from time and care in "The Wide Net," in young Dewey's initiation into the mysteries in "Ladies in Spring," and in the transformation effected in the American girl of "The 99
Bride of the Innisfallen" by the appearance of a bride in white at the rail of the channel boat that has just brought her across the choppy Irish Sea. Such intimations of a redeeming coherence in the chaos of appearances that surround us permeate Welty's work; and though sometimes startling, they seldom require more credence than a skeptical reader is likely to give. A more obvious example of relatedness in Welty's work is the institution of family, her second major theme. Central to Delta Wedding and Losing Battles, it is conspicuous but secondary in The Golden Apples; it hovers at the periphery of both The Ponder Heart and The Optimist's Daughter. Family relationships as she depicts them are like those that characterize any living organism--continually in metamorphosis as members change status, reproduce, grow old, and die. But also they sometimes see, with varying responses, the introduction of alien members who are capable of producing radical change. Throughout Welty's work, however, change is the prerequisite for survival. For examaple, the persistence of the Fairchild family in Delta Wedding and of Granny Vaughn's clan in Losing Battles is the consequence of both groups' ability to accede gracefully to the unrelenting pressure to grow and change. In the first of these, the group survives because the wisdom of its senior members makes it possible for young -520Dabney Fairchild to surmount a general family reluctance to take in an outsider from the Mississippi hill country. In the later novel, the young people themselves discover the love--their wisdom--that enables them to save their marriage in spite of the more worldly wisdom, clannishness, and hidden family guilts and fears that seem destined to separate them. By saving their marriage, the young people ultimately insure their families' continued life. The moribund Ponder family, reduced to one spinster and an elderly impotent man who is mentally retarded, maintains a kind of twilight life because of the persisting love of its two frail survivors. By contrast, the families in The Golden Apples, the MacLains, the Raineys, and the Morrisons, are all unaware of their decay and die before our eyes, leaving only memory and fossil: and the dissolved family of Judge McKelva in The Optimist's Daughter leaves only memory, as the Judge's widowed daughter survives, a lonely, reluctant wanderer. Wanderers are everywhere in Welty's work, and her treatment of them constitues a third theme, that of alienation, or isolation, as Warren has termed it. We see alienation in an angry spinster who retires to her P.O. to escape from an intolerable family; in mad Clytie, who pursues the reflection in a rain barrel to her death; in Zeuslike King MacLain, Miss Eckhart, Loch Morrison, and Virgie Rainey in The Golden Apples; in the lonely young women in "The Bride of the Innisfallen" and "No Place for You, My Love"; in Miss Julia Mortimer of Losing Battles, whom we never see but who remains a pillar of unrelenting individualism even in death; and, as has been noted, in Laura McKelva of The Optimist's Daughter. These isolated characters and others like them may seem to stand in sharp contrast to such characters as Ellen Fairchild and Edna Earle Ponder, but they differ only as the poles of a polar magnet; they are complementary aspects of the principle of process in human relations, whether familial or societal. Both relatedness and isolation have their functions and their special insights. They are opposed precisely as the tragic and the comic are opposed, distinct but inseparable in any comprehensive perception of human life. The union of these two themes should and does mandate the emergence of a final theme, that of the dream. At least this is true in the work of any author whose portrayals can claim comprehensiveness; and so it is of Welty's work. There the dream takes a variety of forms: the fantasy of Ruby Fisher in "A Piece of News," the epiphany of Mrs. Larkin in "A Curtain of Green," the dreams of universal coherence that come to William Wallace Jamieson in "The Wide Net" and to Virgie Rainey in The Golden Apples, the whole of The Robber Bridegroom and such stories as "Ladies in Spring" and "Powerhouse," the waking dream of a vanished family life that comes to Laura McKelva during the storm on her last night in the old home at Mount Salus. In such dreams as these, the vividness of Welty's world becomes momentarily apparent. One might say, tangible as well, except that her world is always one and always tangible. The dream in her characters is merely an extension of human sensibility in its perennial effort to perceive a relationship with the world about it; and she never presumes to explain either the dreamer or the dream, the world or our perception -521of it. Writing of "No Place for You, My Love" and the disembodied shriek that occurs near the end, she calls the whole piece "a circumstantial, realistic story in which the reality was a mystery." That characterization could and should be applied to most of her writing. SURVEY OF CRITICISM The first significant criticism of Eudora Welty's work was Katherine Anne Porter's introductory essay to A Curtain of Green in 1941. Few young writers have been so fortunate. Porter, herself an established author at that time, praised Welty's eye and ear, her directness, her wit, her lack of sentimentality, and above all her "admirable objectivity." The short story, she noted, "is a special and difficult medium," and indirectly she advised the new author to avoid feeling compelled "to do the conventional thing" and attempt a novel. As Porter also noted, however, Welty had already begun writing novels, and her first, The Robber Bridegroom, appeared in 1942. 100
Wartime readers were only mildly interested in Welty's works, and critics did not agree. Alfred Kazin, writing in the Herald-Tribune, was warm in his praise, whereas John Peale Bishop, writing in the New Republic, was critical of her attempt to fuse European fairy tale with tall tales from the American frontier. Lionel Trilling in the Nation had misgivings about her playful tone and what he considered her obscurantism. Negative criticism persisted with the appearance of her second collection of stories, The Wide Net. Diana Trilling, writing for the Nation, found merit in the title story and in "Livvie" but declared the other pieces pretentious. Jean Stafford registered similar disapproval in the Partisan Review. Partly in response to Diana Trilling's strictures, Robert Penn Warren wrote a full-length essay for the Kenyon Review: he acknowledged Welty's relative immaturity as a writer but noted prophetically that The Wide Net gave evidence of an emerging new style, and he discussed the theme of separateness that continues to appear in much of Welty's most distinguished work, notably The Golden Apples and The Optimist's Daughter. Other sympathetic early critics were Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Spencer. The appearance of Delta Wedding in 1946 seemed at first to justify Katherine Anne Porter's previous warning: critics repeatedly disliked the novel's slow pace and what many viewed as a weak plot. Diana Trilling, again writing in the Nation, expressed an opinion that was to remain alive until well into the 1960s: Welty's works had accepted the South passively rather than subjecting it to the scrutiny it deserved. By contrast, John Crowe Ransom, in the Kenyon Review, praised highly her portrayal of a doomed way of life and compared her accomplishment to that of Virginia Woolf. The charge that she had taken too little notice of disturbances in her native South was not put to rest until she published the uncannily accurate portrayal of a racist killer, "Where Is The Voice Coming From?," in the New Yorker for 6 July 1963, and her essay "Must the Novelist Crusade?" in the Atlantic Monthly two years later. In 1949 The Golden Apples, a collection of linked stories that resembled a novel, was more warmly received. -522While critics such as Ray B. West felt that it represented a continuation of the decline that had begun with The Robber Bridegroom, far more--among them Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Granville Hicks, Harry Morris, and Herschel Brickell-praised it as a virtuoso performance; and Welty's stories began to appear in the better anthologies. The Ponder Heart, which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1953, was a popular success both in hard covers and in the 1956 stage version. And although The Bride of the Innisfallen was not widely popular, it greatly enhanced Welty's standing as a writer. By the time Allen Tate in "A Southern Mode of the Imagination" ( 1968) singled her out, with Stark Young, for comparison with Faulkner ("quite as gifted, though somewhat lower in magnitude and power"), both her respectability and her stature were assured. In 1962 Ruth M. Vande Kieft published the first book-length study of Welty's career and work. Her book, a Twayne volume, was designed to serve as an introduction, but it gave extended treatments of Delta Wedding, The Golden Apples, and The Bride of the Innisfallen, and also of several major aspects of Welty's work, among them the metaphysical dimension of her early stories, her use of comic modes, her use of the dream as a device, and her impressionism. Most of Vande Kieft's judgments have been sustained by subsequent criticism, and students continue to find her book valuable. In 1963 Louis D. Rubin, Jr., devoted a chapter of his The Faraway Country to Welty's handling of the Mississippi scene. Rubin noted there that, unlike Faulkner, Welty had presented a seemingly tranquil and orderly image of Southern small-town life, and thus she had been dealt with far too often as a mere regionalist. A careful reading of her major works, Rubin showed, revealed their universality. Welty's stature was further enhanced in the early 1960s by a third study, Alfred Appel A Season of Dreams: The Fiction of Eudora Welty ( 1965). Appel dealt with the entire body of Welty's fiction up to that point and treated at length such matters as the theme of isolation (previously noted by Warren), the Negro, Welty's fascination with the Natchez Trace, and the unification of The Golden Apples by recurring theme and symbol. Borrowed from Welty's early story "First Love," Appel's title suggests that he gave special attention to the frequency with which Welty's characters move into what appears to be a dream world, thereby releasing their fears and enriching their lives with enhanced perceptions. Two other book-length studies should be mentioned. The first is Michael Kreyling's Eudora Welty's Achievement of Order ( 1980). Kreyling takes into account earlier versions of several of the works, including The Optimist's Daughter, The Golden Apples, and an unpublished "Delta Cousins," which seems to be the germ from which Delta Wedding grew. The special value of Kreyling's book lies in its examination of the evolution of Welty's work, although it also contains a useful defense of The Robber Bridegroom and some memorable observations about Losing Battles. A more recent book by Albert J. Devlin, Eudora Welty's Chronicle ( 1983), attempts to reconstruct a Mississippi chronicle out of her first four books and thus to define the structure of her historical imagination. The attempt is justifiable, but the aspect Devlin examines is central -523 only to incidental pieces of her work. Another general introduction has appeared: Elizabeth Evans Eudora Welty ( 1981) in the Ungar Modern Literature Series, which supplements three previous introductions, Vande Kieft's already mentioned, and the ones by J. A. Bryant Jr. (Minnesota Pamphlet Series, 1977) and Neil Isaacs 101
(Steck-Vaughan Southern Writers Series, 1969). Journal articles and notes have appeared in astronomical numbers recently, but two collections, both sponsored by the University Press of Mississippi, are noteworthy: Eudora Welty: A Form of Thanks, edited by Ann J. Abadie and Louis Dollarhide ( 1979) and Peggy Whitman Prenshaw Eudora Welty: Critical Essays ( 1979), which in addition to essays by several authors already mentioned contains valuable pieces by such critics as C. E. Eisinger, J. E. Hardy, Warren French, Daniele Patavy-Souques, and R. B. Heilman. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Eudora Welty A Curtain of Green and Other Stories. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1941. The Robber Bridegroom. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1942. The Wide Net and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943. Delta Wedding. New York: Harcourt, Brance, 1946. The Golden Apples. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949. The Ponder Heart. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949. Selected Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1954. The Bride of the Innisfallen. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955. The Shoe Bird. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964. Losing Battles. New York: Random House, 1970. One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression: A Snapshot Album. New York: Random House, 1971. The Optimist's Daughter. New York: Random House, 1972. The Eye of the Story: Selected Essays and Reviews. New York: Random House, 1978. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. Conversations with Eudora Welty, ed. Peggy Whitman Prenshaw. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984. One Writer's Beginnings. Cambridge: Harvard, 1984. Studies of Eudora Welty Abadie Ann J. and Louis Dollarhide, ed. Eudora Welty: A Form of Thanks. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1979. Appel Alfred Jr. A Season of Dreams: The Fiction of Eudora Welty. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965. Bryant J. A., Jr. "Eudora Welty." Seven American Women Writers of the Twentieth Century: An Introduction. Ed. Maureen Howard. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. -524Devlin Albert J. Eudora Welty's Chronicle. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983. Evans Elizabeth. Eudora Welty. New York: Ungar, 1981. Isaacs Neil D. Eudora Welty. Austin, Texas: Steck-Vaughn, 1969. Kreyling Michael. Eudora Welty's Achievement of Order. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Prenshaw Peggy Whitman, ed. Eudora Welty: Critical Essays. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1979. Rubin Louis D., Jr. The Faraway Country: Writers of the Modern South. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963. Thompson Victor H. Eudora Welty: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976. Vande Ruth M. Kieft Eudora Welty. New York: Twayne, 1962. -525 NANCY M. TISCHLER Tennessee (Thomas Lanier) Williams (1911-1983) Few Southerners have been more publicly reviled and more richly rewarded than Tennessee Williams. He was perceived by many as an exploiter of the myth of Southern decadence, by conservative moralists as a force for sexual anarchy, and by many literary critics as a panderer to popular taste. He was nonetheless internationally acclaimed as the South's--and the country's--best playwright. He won two Rockefeller Fellowships, four New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, the Gold Medal for Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Medal of Honor for Literature from the National Arts Club, and two honorary doctorates. For all of his Bohemian life-style and nonconformist literary technique, by the end of his long and fruitful career, he had become one of America's most celebrated authors. BIOGRAPHY 102
Tennessee Williams was an intensely subjective artist who romanticized his own experiences. Names and events in his life took on the mythic quality of private symbols, frequently echoing through his works. He was inclined to see himself as a character whom he romanticized, and he enjoyed anecdotes that exaggerated experience for aesthetic ends. Williams was born on 29 March 1911, on Palm Sunday (the actual year was one he later varied according to his own convenience). He was named Thomas Lanier Williams III, for his paternal grandfather; the poet Sidney Lanier was one of his father's ancestors--as were Indian fighters of Tennessee. He later used this slender thread to justify the nickname he adopted. He also claimed that St. Francis Xavier's brother Valentine was one of his relatives. He often used -526 the name for himself and for his poetic characters, adopting it formally when he finally converted to Catholicism. His father was Cornelius Coffin Williams, a man who later served as the model for Stanley Kowalski and Big Daddy--a hard-drinking, loud-talking, pokerplaying man's man. His mother, Edwina Dakin Williams, was a prim, highstrung, puritanical Southern lady. He often pictured himself as an outrageous blend of these two American creatures, the Cavalier and the Puritan. His earliest youth was spent in an Episcopal manse in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where his German grandmother (Grand) and his charming liberal grandfather (the Reverend Edwin Dakin) doted on him. These two people were to form the emotional undergirding for much of his life. The grandfather, who at the end of his life lived with Williams, served as the model for the dying poet in Night of the Iguana. His happy life at the Rectory was broken at age six by an attack of diphtheria, which led the boy into a life of imagination and isolation. His hovering mother discouraged further rough play. And his consequent solitude led him into an intensified love of his sister Rose, his only playmate. In 1918 this cloistered existence was shattered by Cornelius Williams's promotion from traveling salesman to corporate executive of the International Shoe Company of St. Louis. The move into an urban apartment hastened the emotional disintegration of Rose, who retreated increasingly into her own private world. This tragedy is central to The Glass Menagerie and various short stories chronicling her retreat from reality. The loud presence of the father, the arrival of a new child, Dakin, and the general sense of alienation drove Williams into an intensified private life of books and writing. His adolescent creations--short stories and poems-won him a series of small awards. The alienation of these days made him intensely aware of his Southern speech and manner. His adolescence was highlighted by a tour of Europe with a group escorted by his grandfather. While in Europe, he became morbidly sensitive about his mortality and had a mystical experience in Cologne Cathedral. Throughout his life, he was concerned with the evanescence of human life and with the need for supernatural intervention. Although he never portrayed a pastor sympathetically and had little enthusiasm for organized religion, he made frequent references to the supernatural in his serious works, and he eventually converted to Roman Catholicism. College education was a checkered experience for Williams. The quest for a degree led him to the University of Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis, and finally the University of Iowa, from which he graduated in 1938. During this period, he experimented sexually with women and finally with men. He wrote his first plays, joined a theatrical group in St. Louis, and changed his name from Tom to Tennessee. By the time he left Iowa, he was a published poet, short-story writer, and dramatist, convinced of his homosexuality, determined to escape the International -527Shoe Company and to see the world. He went to New Orleans, where he came to know those outcasts who became central to his work. He traveled west and south during those vagabond years, but he never completely cut himself off from his family, although he never again lived with his mother or called St. Louis home. When he was twenty-six, he subtracted two years from his age, claiming that those years he worked at the shoe factory could not be considered living, and was thereby conveniently eligible for a contest for young playwrights. In 1940 he won a small cash prize for four one-act plays on the Depression, American Blues. The award also led him to a long and profitable relationship with an agent, Audrey Wood, who helped him to a Rockefeller grant, several opportunities to publish stories and short plays, a chance at Broadway, and a movie contract. The most crucial of these was the chance to see Battle of Angels produced by the Theatre Guild in Boston in autumn 1940. It failed and Williams was devastated. He continued to revise the play for the rest of his life, unable to accept it as a failure. He insisted that the audience's and the critics' violent reactions to the play taught him that he could not mix sex and religion, leading him next to a "safe" play about mothers-- The Glass Menagerie ( 1945). His life became an emotional roller coaster: plays were like children for him. Their very flaws encourged him to 103
love them even harder, to seek to reform them, to defend them in spite of their deficiencies, and to try again and again to find audiences who would love them as he did. In spite of some lukewarm receptions (of You Touched Me! in 1945 and Summer and Smoke in 1948), most of his early plays met with wide critical acclaim. At times, several of his plays were on Broadway at once. A Streetcar Named Desire ( 1947) was an even greater success than The Glass Menagerie. Later plays continued to increase his wealth and his reputation--notably Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ( 1955) and Night of the Iguana ( 1961). Other plays were treated more coolly by the critics: Camino Real ( 1953) opened to mixed reviews as did The Rose Tattoo ( 1951). Critics laughed at his first effort at longer fiction, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone ( 1951), although it was later successful as a film. His own life became a succession of searches for family and for home. He finally settled into a prolonged liaison with Frank Merlo and bought a home in Key West. His sister, who had been institutionalized and lobotomized, was settled in a comfortable sanatorium, and his grandfather lived the final years of his long life with Williams. Then some bad reviews and public attacks (such as those directed against Baby Doll) led him into a steadily darker mood. In the 1960s, his world seemed to collapse with the decline and death of Merlo. This was followed by a series of deaths of friends and associates, and then by a sense of loneliness and guilt and sorrow, which drove Williams into increasing reliance on drugs. Slapstick Tragedy ( 1966), which reflects this confusion, ran only four days. The Kingdomof Earth -528 of Earth ( 1968) was his last respectable Broadway failure. In his Memoirs ( 1975), Williams refers to the 1960s as his "stoned age." With the help of his brother Dakin, who pointed him to Roman Catholicism but also committed him to a mental institution in St. Louis for three months, he was revived. But he was furious at his mother and brother for this invasion of his life, held his agent equally responsible, cut his brother off from any substantial share in his will, his agent from his life, and renounced the church he had so recently joined. His final works were more coherent but diminished from his great creative period. A series of small failures marked his last years. Strange references to brutality, death threats, and disappearances occasionally surfaced in the press. He became, however, an increasingly public figure--appearing in his own plays, doing readings, and leading seminars at universities. He died on 25 February 1983, strangled on a bottle cap in a hotel room in New York City. He was buried, against his expressed desires, in St. Louis, next to his mother. He left the bulk of his vast estate to his sister Rose and to the University of the South, in a fund for young creative writers. MAJOR THEMES From the beginning of his long and illustrious career, Tennessee Williams wrote about the extreme situations of human life. Although one of his adolescent plays was about a fatal dinner party in ancient Egypt and another was about coal workers who found strength in union, Williams preferred to write about modern life as it is lived by solitary misfits. He was neither a historian nor a sociologist. He was a poet who celebrated the lyric antitheses of human existence--the tragic and comic moments, love and loss, ecstasy and death, communion and isolation, joy and pain. His early works tended to be more violent and more derivative than his mature efforts. They were often short stories and one-act plays that caught a mood or a relationship. The beginning of his testing and maturing came with his first recognized fulllength play, Battle of Angels. Williams found his subject and his voice in this story of the American South. He characterized the materialism of the middle class, their sterile orthodoxy and rigid conformity. Following the Freudian path suggested by D. H. Lawrence, he underscored the terrible frustration and the sexual envy leading to outbursts of brutality. Blacks, foreigners, and nonconformists became lightning rods in such an overcharged world. The play also introduces the mythic Williams hero--the vagabond poet. This secular saint of unfettered sexuality becomes the human sacrifice in the classic Williams apocalypse. Such heroes, however flawed, are inclined to acquire heroic stature as they are incinerated with blow torches, shredded by bloodhounds, castrated by Klansmen, or eaten by adolescents. Although Battle of Angels was not a success, Williams continued to love and -529 revise it, renaming it Something Wild in the Country and Orpheus Descending, and turning it into a film called The Fugitive Kind. Williams's penchant for revision makes neat categorization of periods impossible. Battle of Angels is the tragic side of a later comic show that he coauthored. You Touched Me! was based on a D. H. Lawrence short story. It, too, was a failure. Again the characters were stereotypes, the ideas too obvious, the plot too clumsy, the imagery too Freudian. Only in The Glass Menagerie did he find the style that was to mark his mature work. A simple autobiographical work that blended tragic insights with comic expression, the play is unpretentious, gently lyrical, and rich in characterization. It is the simple story of a failed dinner party. The people are recognizable and 104
powerfully conceived. Their gestures, voices, silences, clothing, imagery, petulance, laughter, manners, and concerns all blend in a fully theatrical experience. The framing device of the narrator allows the author to indulge in poetry and memory, giving a grandeur to people who would otherwise be simply sad and confused. More powerful, complex, immediate, and raw in its emotional impact is A Streetcar Named Desire, his second mature masterpiece. The characters are again perceived in their totality, their tragedy is again realistic, the conflicts are again totally believable. Williams found that the counterpoint of speech patterns between characters with conflicting backgrounds and needs highlighted their differences and their tragic absurdity. He found by language and gesture the means to demonstrate isolation and the terrible need to communicate. In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof he continued to explore this theme, again celebrating a forceful woman whose will to power makes her too aggressive for Southern taste. He also portrayed a latent homosexual, in this case a wounded ball player, who contrasts with Big Daddy, a materialistic masculine figure. The rich characterization of the loving, domineering father in this play was a triumphant breakthrough for the writer who had hated his own father for so many years. Other plays of this mature phase shared virtues with these. Although too mannered and precise, Summer and Smoke has a sensitively conceived character in its heroine. And the human dichotomy between spirit and flesh was to remain thematic throughout Williams's work. The Rose Tattoo was one of several efforts at comedy and the celebration of the flesh. His more sensual and happy figures are usually Mediterranean folks, often Sicilian in recognition of his delightfully sensual memories of life with Frank Merlo, or Mexican in a tribute to his early carefree life in Central America. The heavy use of rose imagery echoes through his work, a recognition of the centrality of human sexuality and love. Tragedy for Williams often results from the harnessing of Pan. He loves to see the goatman running wild. The later plays began to show signs of a more baroque style. The hero or heroine became more contorted psychologically, the background more grotesque, the action more confused, and the conclusion more violent. The Night of the Iguana combined the fecundity of the Central American rain -530- forest with the anguish of the trapped iguana. The characters also struggled for freedom and sought to communicate with one another in spite of being in solitary confinement. Williams's grandfather is reflected in this play--less as the defrocked minister who leads tours through God's world than as the aged poet who spends his last breath completing a sonnet. Sweet Bird of Youth is a tribute to Williams's beloved giants of the theatre. Over the years he saw many of these aging artists triumph over personal tragedy through their determination and their ultimate dedication to their art. As he grew older, he became increasingly committed to the combined power of art and hard work, regardless of personal circumstances. The sense of nastiness and the focus on mutilation that hover over these plays become more explicit in Suddenly Last Summer, the fictionalized account of his sister's lobotomization, which is curiously counterposed with his ambivalent account of his own homosexuality and exploitation of sexual partners. This play and its companion piece, "Something Unspoken," formed Garden District, Williams's final big production. Its failure marked the end of his significant contributions to New York theatre. Coincidental with his personal descent into drugs came an embracing of "experimental theatre." Most of these plays, which were impressionistic, expressionistic, symbolic, and usually brief, were commercial failures. He adopted Oriental dramatic forms, brought mysticism to his stage, tried static drama, and allowed large birds to become onstage characters. Some of these short works have a quality of apocalyptic laughter signaled by the title Slapstick Tragedy. Some have moments of self-revelation, as in Small Craft Warnings and In a Bar in Tokyo. Others have interesting characters or scenes, as in The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore and The Seven Descents of Myrtle. The play of this final group that Williams himself cherished most was Out Cry, his intense twocharacter play. He attributed this succession of failures to bad casting and bad directing. Some critics insist that the experimental plays never had appropriately sensitive productions. Others believe that the playwright's talent rested in a controlled ambivalence: rather than indulging his lyricism, he wrote better when restraining and parodying it; rather than confessing and lamenting his sexual sins, he was more effective in complex disguises. He was a repetitive playwright whose variations on a handful of themes were impressively complex. Surface simplicity hid remarkable profundity; the real world barely disguised the fantastic world beneath and beyond it. Williams's range of writing is impressive: poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, and plays; comedy and tragedy and mixtures; realistic, naturalistic, surrealistic, symbolic; psychological dramas, and slapstick tragedy. He was a writer who could speak to the educated and the uneducated alike of the absurd and the painful world in which helpless human creatures sought moments of comfort and compassion in the face of impending doom. And he could do it with enormous artistry. -531 105
SURVEY OF CRITICISM The best criticism of Tennessee Williams has been written by Tennessee Williams. A sensitive analyst of his own work, though a poor judge of it, he regularly wrote thoughtful essays for newspapers in anticipation of his plays' openings. Most of these appeared in the New York Times and have been collected in Where I Live: Selected Essays ( 1978). Like most writers, he has included among his public statements both private insights into and extravagant defenses of his flawed favorites. Interviews along the way have further enriched the materials close to the primary source. Exhaustive listings of these, most of which appear in popular magazines, are available in bibliographies. The Williams Collection at the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center at the Florida Keys Community College have a vast array of his unpublished materials, much of it early drafts of the finished products. The bulk of his papers was donated to Harvard University. Bibliographies that will provide a more detailed listing of primary documents are currently in preparation. Firsthand knowledge of the author has become available in a series of publications. Members of his own family have been among the most outspoken commentators. His mother wrote about her son from the perspective of a Southern lady in a biography entitled Remember Me to Tom ( 1963). More recently, his brother Dakin, with the help of Shepherd Mead, wrote Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography ( 1983). Letters have also surfaced--of particular note being the controversial exchange of letters with Donald Windham ( 1977), who coauthored the early dramatic adaptation of the D. H. Lawrence short story "You Touched Me." The best source of insights into Williams's life is his own Memoirs ( 1975), an apologia pro vita sua. A good source for current and interesting information is the Tennessee Williams Newsletter, which includes conversations, letters, and personal memories of Williams. Because each of Williams's major plays and numerous of his later minor ones became an important theatrical event, the most celebrated theatrical critics-Brooks Atkinson, John Gassner, Henry Hewes--wrote timely pieces about specific works and about the author. It was the defense of The Glass Menagerie by Claudia Cassidy that kept the play alive in Chicago and prepared the way for the triumphant entry into New York. These critics and many others have consistently included references to Williams in their writings about the American theatre in the twentieth century and are therefore a rich repository of commentary. In addition, Williams is regularly anthologized in textbooks and critical studies as a representative of certain trends in modern experience--existential or bohemian or decadent or mythic or violent. The best extended work on the philosophic thrust in Williams's work is Esther Merle Jackson The Broken World of Tennessee Williams ( 1965). The book-length assessments, which usually focus on his early work and the -532public information about his life, began to appear in 1961, when Benjamin Nelson and Nancy M. Tischler both wrote critical studies of Williams. Later studies of the same nature included Signi Falk book for the Twayne Series ( 1978) and Gerald Weales study in the Minnesota Series ( 1965). At the same time, Williams became a popular topic for scholarly articles. Collections of the more celebrated of these articles have been appearing recently. Twentieth Century Interpretations ( 1977) has a collection of Williams essays edited by Stephen Stanton, and a much larger collection has also appeared under the title Tennessee Williams: A Tribute ( 1977), edited by Jac Tharpe. This latter collection was followed by a smaller, more select edition under the title of Thirteen Essays ( 1980), also edited by Jac Tharpe. Other collections are still at press, clearly suggesting the vitality of Williams scholarship. One of the more interesting recent developments has been the proliferation of books and articles dealing with Williams's films. Maurice Yocawar study ( 1977) is especially sensitive, and others have followed, bringing new information. The growing interest in film criticism should produce a number of good books in this area. At this point, books on Williams are appearing too fast to chronicle. The enthusiasm for pictorial biographies has resulted in a delightful book by Richard F. Leavitt called The World of Tennessee Williams ( 1978). Rumors abound about potential works, including an authorized biography. Bibliographies have already been published in The Bulletin of Bibliography ( 1973), and others are now at press. It is an exciting time for Williams scholars and a fertile one. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Tennessee Williams The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone: A Novel. New York: New Directions, 1950. Baby Doll: A Screenplay. New York: New Directions, 1956. The Knightly Quest: A Novella and Four Short Stories. New York: New Directions, 1966. Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Plays. New York: New Directions, 1966. Hard Candy: A Book of Stories. New York: New Directions, 1967. One Arm and Other Stories. New York: New Directions, 1967. American Blues: Five Short Plays. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1968. 106
Dragon Country: A Book of Plays. New York: New Directions, 1970. The Theatre of Tennessee Williams. New York: New Directions, 1971-76. Volume 1: Battle of Angels ( 1940), The Glass Menagerie ( 1945), and A Streetcar Named Desire ( 1947). Volume 2: The Eccentricities of a Nightingale ( 1948), Summer and Smoke ( 1948), The Rose Tattoo ( 1951), and Camino Real ( 1953). Volume 3: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ( 1955), Orpheus Descending ( 1957). and Suddenly Last Summer ( 1958). -533Volume 4: Sweet Bird of Youth ( 1959), Period of Adjustment ( 1960), and The Night of the Iguana ( 1961). Volume 5: The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore ( 1964), Kingdom of Earth ( The Seven Descents of Myrtle, 1968), Small Craft Warnings ( 1972), and The TwoCharacter Play ( Out Cry, 1975). Memoirs. New York: Doubleday, 1975. Moise and the World of Reason: A Novel. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975. Tennessee Williams's Letters to Donald Windham: 1940-65. Ed. Donald Windham. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977. Where I Live: Selected Essays. Ed. Christine R. Day and Bob Woods. New York: New Directions, 1978. Studies of Tennessee Williams Donahue Francis. The Dramatic World of Tennessee Williams. New York: Ungar, 1964. Falk Signi. Tennessee Williams. 2d ed. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Hirsch Foster. A Portrait of the Artist: The Plays of Tennessee Williams. London: Kennikat Press, 1979. Jackson Esther Merle. The Broken World of Tennessee Williams. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965. Leavitt Richard F., ed. The World of Tennessee Williams. London: W. H. Arlen, 1978. Maxwell Gilbert. Tennessee Williams and His Friends. New York: World, 1965. Nelson Benjamin. Tennessee Williams: The Man and His Work. New York: Obolensky, 1961. Phillips Gene D. The Films of Tennessee Williams. Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press, 1980. Stanton Stephen, ed. Tennessee Williams: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall, 1977. Tharpe Jac, ed. Tennessee Williams: A Tribute. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977. -----. Tennessee Williams: Thirteen Essays. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1980. Tischler Nancy M. Tennessee Williams. Austin, Texas: Steck-Vaughn, 1969. -----. Tennessee Williams: Rebellious Puritan. New York: Citadel Press, 1965. Weales Gerald. Tennessee Williams. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1965. Williams Edwina Dakin. Remember Me to Tom. New York: Putnam's, 1963. Williams Dakin and Shepherd Mead. Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography. New York: Arbor House, 1983. Yocawar Maurice. Tennessee Williams and Film. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1977. -534 RICHARD S. KENNEDY Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) Thomas Wolfe was the first Southern novelist to transcend his region and become generally regarded as an "American" writer. His self-consciousness about his American identity, combined with his rhythmic, heightened prose, has brought about his recognition as the representative of the tradition of Melville and Whitman in the twentieth century. BIOGRAPHY Thomas Wolfe, the youngest in a family of seven children, was born 3 October 1900 in Asheville, a small city in western North Carolina near the Great Smoky Mountains. His mother, Julia Elizabeth Westall, was a native of that region; his father, William Oliver Wolfe, was a stonecutter from York Springs, Pennsylvania, who had wandered into the South after the Civil War and established a tombstone shop in Asheville. Wolfe's parents, brothers, and sisters, all appear as members of the Gant family in his autobiographical novel Look Homeward Angel. When Thomas was six years old, his mother established a boardinghouse in Asheville, "The Old Kentucky Home," and took him there to live with her. He grew up a lonely child feeling neglected by his mother and disturbed by the fact that the family was now divided between two household centers. Julia Wolfe's prosperity, however, made it possible for young Wolfe to become a day student at the North State Fitting School, Asheville's newly established preparatory school, where he was trained in Latin, Greek, and German. Here he experienced a new life in his study with a gifted teacher, Mrs. Margaret Roberts, the headmaster's 107
wife, whom he called "the Mother of my Spirit," for she introduced him to the masterpieces of English literature and awakened his love of poetry. After graduation at age sixteen, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina -535- at Chapel Hill, the first of the Wolfe children to benefit from higher education. During his college years, 1916-20, he concentrated in classics and English literature. In his Latin studies he became familiar with Cicero, Livy, Horace, Catullus, Tacitus, Plautus, and Terence, but he was more attracted by his Greek studies in Homer, Xenophon, Plato, Aeschylus, and Euripides. He was especially fortunate to study under the Renaissance scholar Edwin Greenlaw, who developed his taste for Spenser, Marlowe, Jonson, Milton, and Elizabethan drama. He participated fully in a variety of campus activities: he became a debater, editor of the college newspaper and of the campus humor magazine, and a playwright in the newly formed Carolina Playmakers under Frederick Koch. His one-act plays "The Return of Buck Gavin" and "The Third Night" were staged at the University in 1919. His interest in the drama led him to begin graduate study at Harvard in 1920, where he enrolled in Professor George Pierce Baker's English 47, a workshop for practice in play writing. During the next three years he developed a mature talent for literary expression and determined to become a professional writer. At the same time, he earned a master's degree in English, with seminars in Renaissance literature and the Romantic poets. Although he gained confidence in his ability as a writer, he felt very much an outsider at Harvard and during these years began a pattern of solitary existence to which he adhered for the rest of his life, a situation that he later described poignantly in his essay "God's Lonely Man" in The Hills Beyond. His hopes for success in the theater were founded on the fact that two of his plays were chosen by Baker for production by the 47 Workshop Players. The first was staged in 1921, "The Mountains," a one-act play about a young doctor who becomes drawn into a family feud against his will. The next year, Wolfe completed a full-length version of The Mountains and then went on to write Welcome to Our City, a play in ten scenes about a real-estate scheme that provoked a race riot in a small Southern city. When it was produced in spring 1923, many in the Cambridge audience judged that it was the best work ever done by a member of the Workshop. Professor Baker recommended it to the Theatre Guild for a New York production, and Wolfe had visions of a flourishing career in the theater. A problem arose, however, that was to be a recurring one throughout his life: Welcome to Our City was too long. When one of the Guild directors, Lawrence Langer, guaranteed Wolfe a Broadway production if he would cut the playing time by a half hour, Wolfe was unable to do so. His creative talent seemed to be for proliferation, and he lacked the critical perspective for revision. Wolfe's lengthy play was also refused by the Provincetown Playhouse and the Neighborhood Playhouse. Meanwhile, he had moved to New York to accept an instructorship in English at New York University, where during the next six years he taught freshman composition and introduction to literature. At the end of his first teaching year, he traveled to Europe and toured England, France, Switzerland, and Italy for nine months, writing travel sketches and -536working to complete a play that he had begun at Harvard, Mannerhouse, a historical piece about the decline of a plantation family during the Civil War and Reconstruction period. On the return voyage in 1926, he met and fell in love with Aline Bernstein, a New York theatrical designer and one of the board of directors of the Neighborhood Playhouse. Although Mrs. Bernstein was already married and nineteen years senior to Wolfe, this encounter began the most important relationship of Wolfe's life. Their love affair extended over the next five years. Discouraged that producers, including Mrs. Bernstein's own theatrical group, turned down Mannerhouse, he decided to try prose fiction, a much more suitable form than the drama for his desired fullness of expression. With the encouragement and financial backing of Mrs. Bernstein, Wolfe left teaching for a year and devoted his full energies to writing an autobiographical novel. After eighteen months of compelling himself to write daily, in Europe and in New York, Wolfe completed an intensely introspective, lyrical book about the childhood and youth of a young Southerner, Eugene Gant, and his search for identity. His book, entitled "O Lost," ran over 1,100 typewriten pages: again he had an outsize work that publishers found too long. Leaving the manuscript in Mrs. Bernstein's hands, Wolfe left New York and wandered aimlessly from one European city to another, trying to write a novel that would be more acceptable to publishers. Eventually, "O Lost" found its way to Maxwell Perkins, a sympathetic editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, who perceived the extraordinary talent displayed in Wolfe's novel and convinced him that it needed to be reduced in size so that it could be published in one volume. When Wolfe was unable to cut the work himself, Perkins went through it with him, cutting out over one-fifth of the material. The novel, retitled Look Homeward, Angel, was published in 1929, and Wolfe became recognized as one of the most promising novelists in the country. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1930, he traveled once more to Europe, working on a novel based on his love affair with Mrs. Bernstein yet reflecting the intensity of a young Southerner's response to the urban life of 108
the North. As his pages filled, he seemed unable to find a satisfactory structure, and his narrative plans kept shifting. After three years' work, he had a mountain of manuscript with several disjunctive narrative strands and scattered lyric paeans to the American scene. From time to time he published excerpts from his material as novellas or short stories in magazines: among the most important were "A Portrait of Bascom Hawke," which tied for first place in the Scribner short novel contest in 1932; "The Web of Earth," a monologue based on his mother's reminiscences of her early married years; "Death, the Proud Brother," a young man's account of four deaths he had witnessed in New York; and "No Door," four episodes showing the restless life of the artist. But the second novel was only an accumulation of fragments. Late in 1933 Wolfe turned in desperation to Perkins for help in organizing what he had written. When Perkins saw that all of Wolfe's work consisted of autobiographical fictional -537episodes, he urged him to revive the persona of Eugene Gant and pick up his story at the time he went North to Harvard. This simple suggestion solved Wolfe's narrative problem, and thereafter he and Perkins worked together recasting the episodes, as Wolfe wrote necessary material to fill in the gaps. At length, Wolfe completed Of Time and the River and also had in hand four additional books, either in outline or partially written, two of which would reach back to Eugene Gant's ancestors and the others carry him forward into the 1930s. Of Time and the River ( 1935) was a remarkable performance. Although it dealt with Eugene Gant's struggles to become a playwright, his bewilderment in New York City as a college instructor, and his wanderings in Europe as he tried to release his creative powers, Wolfe had widened his scope from a personal self-consciousness to include a national consciousness as well. This book plus the appearance of a volume of short stories and sketches, From Death to Morning ( 1935), established him as a distinctive figure in American literature. But his next publication, The Story of a Novel ( 1936), in which he gave an account of his difficulties in writing his book and of Perkins's help in getting it into shape, caused him trouble. A mean-spirited attack by critic Bernard De Voto charged that Wolfe was only able to offer autobiographical outpourings disguised as fiction and that he was helpless and incompetent without editorial assistance. Wolfe's paranoiac personality overreacted to these accusations. As a result, he set aside his six-volume scheme in order to write another novel about the latenineteenth-century era in the Appalachian region and about a young boy in the early twentieth century observing the transition from the earlier ways. As months went by, his new book began to include autobiographical sequences, and Wolfe also began taking material written earlier for the projected Eugene Gant volumes and adapting it to his new protagonist. Further, he quarreled with Perkins in order to break away from his seeming dependence on an editor and chose a new publisher. This meant that he abandoned his six-volume American saga and turned his energies to writing about a new alter ego, George Webber, for an ever-expanding novel that he eventually called The Web and the Rock. Its principal theme was to be that life does not turn out to be what we expect, a theme broad enough to include an enormous variety of his autobiographical episodes. Eventually, the book came to include everything he had accumulated over the past six years that could possibly fit into his narrative. When the first draft of this work was completed in May 1938, Wolfe left for the Northwest on a vacation trip, to which he added a sweep through eleven National Parks in the Rocky Mountain region. Upon his return to Seattle, he fell ill with pneumonia, a situation which led to the reopening of an old tubercular lesion in his lung. The tubercles were carried through his bloodstream to his brain, and Wolfe died after brain surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, 15 September 1938, just short of his thirty-eighth birthday. The manuscript of The Web and the Rock, over a million words long, was left in the hands of Edward Aswell, his editor at Harper & Brothers. During the next three years, Aswell fashioned three volumes from Wolfe's unfinished man- -538uscript, chiefly by cutting out extraneous material that Wolfe had written for previous projects. The Web and the Rock ( 1939) presented Webber's early years in a small Southern town, his college experiences at the state university, and his love affair with a beautiful stage designer in New York during the time of his writing an autobiographical novel. You Can't Go Home Again ( 1940) showed a more mature Webber developing a social conscience in the midst of the Great Depression and in his visit to Nazi Germany. The Hills Beyond ( 1941) told the story of Webber's maternal ancestors, the Joyners, in the Appalachian region and of the arrival of his father, John Webber, in their town of Libya Hill. Ten other excerpts from the manuscript were included in this volume as additional stories or sketches. MAJOR THEMES Because Wolfe's novels have an episodic quality, his first book, Look Homeward, Angel, which has a satisfying completeness, is generally regarded as his best achievement. The novel tells the story of Eugene Gant's growing up and his attempt to break free from his possessive mother and from the restrictions of provincial life in the South. But Eugene's development is seen within a naturalistic world of chance that shapes his destiny. "We are 109
the sum of all the moments of our lives," the narrator tells us, describing the evolving process of human life amidst determining forces: "Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years." But Wolfe's attitude is one of wonder at this "dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world." This sense of awe fades, however, when an individual life is seen as isolated, unable to communicate with anyone, lost and searching for meaning. To express this search, Wolfe employs a Platonic view of human life. Eugene has been brought from a bright world of spirit into this puzzling world of chance where he has lost his bearings and his sense of belonging. In a proem to the novel, the narrator expresses this view in a series of metaphors: "Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door." The door, stone, and leaf are symbols of a concealed entrance to the world of spirit and imagination. Thus the book presents a conflict between two kinds of reality. Eugene exists within the mundane life of his hometown, surrounded by the ongoing naturalistic world, but at the same time he yearns for something more, an ideal world of beauty and imagination, a world of spirit. This conflict is resolved at the end of the book in a scene in which Eugene talks to the ghost of his brother Ben. He is afforded a vision of the moments of the past in his own life and eventually a godlike vision of the far past--early civilizations and even prehistoric existence evolving over eons of time. When he tells Ben of his seeking for some ultimate answers to the secrets of life, he asks, in frustration, "Where is the world?" Ben replies, "Nowhere." "You are your world." Eugene then understands that he must accept the naturalistic world of chance in which he will continue to -539 live. But he realizes that the search for a world of spirit can be an inward search: "In the city of myself, upon the continent of my soul, I shall find the forgotten language, the lost world, a door where I may enter. . . ." In Of Time and the River, Eugene's quest continues as he strives to become a writer and to express what truths of life he has found in his experiences. But the new emphasis in this novel is American self-consciousness. The book is filled with incantations to the American earth, reactions to the ugliness of urban squalor, exultations over triumphs of modern technology, and yearnings of an American in Europe for his homeland. In The Story of a Novel Wolfe speaks directly and personally of his struggles to reach into his psyche for the shapes of memory and of his being overwhelmed by the multiplicity of American life. He believes that the American artist, compared to those of other nations, has more difficulty expressing his experience because of "the billion forms of America" and "the savage violence and dense complexity of all its swarming life." The Web and the Rock and You Can't Go Home Again restate Wolfe themes, but his humor and satire offer some counterpoint to George Webber's intense responses to the vigorous life of his hometown. Also scenes of violence emerge in The Web and the Rock, including the account of a sadistic butcher and his family; the lynching of a Negro who had gone berserk and shot several townspeople; Webber's vituperative quarrels with his mistress, Esther Jack; and Webbet's fight with a gang of Germans at the Oktoberfest in Munich. Wolfe's pondering over the problem of evil and the human propensity for violence gives a new thematic darkening to his work. In You Can't Go Home Again, his pondering develops into social criticism of the waste and heedlessness of the wealthy in New York and a compassion for the downtrodden and exploited lower classes. George Webber's experiences both in New York and Nazi Germany lead to a new awareness of the need for human brotherhood; a generally mature and responsible view of life has now replaced the romantic self-consciousness of the earlier novels. SURVEY OF CRITICISM Critics and reviewers, with the notable exception of Bernard De Voto, welcorned Wolfe's novels as they were published, although many pointed to his shortcomings: the episodic quality of his narrative, his tendency toward overstatement, and the excessive length of his novels. As time went on, however, his four novels, taken as a whole, came to be seen as a loosely shaped American epic in prose. Both Maxwell Geismar edition The Portable Thomas Wolfe ( 1946) and Herbert Muller Thomas Wolfe ( 1947), the first full-length critical study, helped to establish this view of the Gant-Webber cycle. Louis D. Rubin Jr., in Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth ( 1955), explored in detail Wolfe's debt to Wordsworth and the Romantic poets. Floyd Watkins in Thomas Wolfe's Characters: Portraits from Life ( 1957) examined -540 Wolfe's use of autobiographical material with perceptive comparisons of fictional characters and their reallife counterparts. Richard S. Kennedy in The Window of Memory: The Literary Career of Thomas Wolfe ( 1962) was the first critic to make use of the voluminous Wolfe papers at the Harvard Library. His study deals with the mind and art of Thomas Wolfe and traces the development of each of his works as revealed by Wolfe's diaries, notes, and manuscripts. Paschal Reeves in Thomas Wolfe's Albatross: Race and Nationality in America ( 1968) examines Wolfe's attitudes toward minority groups as revealed in his fiction. He demonstrates that Wolfe's racial and ethnic prejudices, common to small Southern communities, gradually wore away as his career developed. An important Wolfe symposium published as Thomas Wolfe and the Glass of Time, edited by Paschal Reeves ( 1971), explores 110
such topics as the question of genre, the use of symbol, the handling of point of view, and the expression of social criticism in Wolfe's work. Among more recent publications, three critical studies stand out above all others. Malcolm Cowley in "Thomas Wolfe: Homo Scribens" in A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation ( 1973) offers an illuminating treatment of Wolfe's creative process. C. Hugh Holman The Loneliness at the Core: Studies in Thomas Wolfe ( 1975) is a series of critical meditations on how to account for the value of Wolfe's work without being blind to his limitations. He considers such questions as Wolfe's use of autobiography, the problem of point of view, his developing mastery of the novella form, his contribution to the Southern Renascence, and his place in the epic tradition. Monique Decaux in La Crйation romanesque chez Thomas Wolfe ( 1977) presents the best psychological study of Wolfe and his work that has yet been published. A recent critical controversy should be mentioned. John Halberstadt in "The Making of Thomas Wolfe's Posthumous Novels" and in letters to magazines has attacked Wolfe's reputation by the assertion that Edward Aswell and not Thomas Wolfe was the real author of the three posthumous works published from the manuscript Wolfe left behind. Richard S. Kennedy in "The 'Wolfegate' Affair" refuted this charge. Neither of the full-scale biographies of Wolfe is critically valuable: Elizabeth Nowell's Thomas Wolfe ( 1960) and Andrew Turnbull Thomas Wolfe ( 1968). There are, however, three publications of Wolfe's own writings that have great biographical value and that are so richly annotated that every Wolfe commentator should be aware of them: The Letters of Thomas Wolfe, edited by Elizabeth Nowell ( 1956); The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe, edited by Richard S. Kennedy and Paschal Reeves ( 1970); and My Other Loneliness: The Selected Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein, edited by Suzanne Stutman ( 1983). Articles on Wolfe and his work appear regularly, especially since 1975 when the first of six annual Wolfe Fests was held at St. Mary's College, Raleigh, North Carolina. These occasions have been superseded by the annual meetings of the Thomas Wolfe Society (founded in 1979) in cities associated with Thomas Wolfe. The semiannual Thomas Wolfe Review has now become the best source -541 of biographical and critical articles on Wolfe. This kind of organized and institutionalized activity has brought about a resurgence of interest in his work and solidified his position as an important American writer. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929. From Death to Morning. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935. Of Time and the River. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935. The Story of a Novel. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. The Web and the Rock. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1939. You Can't Go Home Again. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940. The Hills Beyond. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941. "The Return of Buck Gavin" and "The Third Night," in Carolina Folk Plays, 1st, 2d, and 3d Series, ed. Frederick Koch. New York: Henry Holt, 1942. Mannerhouse: A Play in a Prologue and Three Acts. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948. A Western Journal: A Daily Log of the Great Parks Trip. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1951. The Letters of Thomas Wolfe. Ed. Elizabeth Nowell. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956. Thomas Wolfe's Purdue Speech: Writing and Living. Ed. William Braswell and Leslie A. Field . West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1964. Thomas Wolfe's Letters to his Mother. Ed. C. Hugh Holman and Sue Fields Ross. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968. The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe. Ed. Richard S. Kennedy and Paschal Reeves. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970. The Mountains. Ed. Pat M. Ryan. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970. Welcome to Our City, a Play in Ten Scenes. Ed. Richard S. Kennedy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983. My Other Loneliness: The Selected Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein. Ed. Suzanne Stutman. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983. Beyond Love and Loyalty: The Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Elizabeth Nowell. Ed. Richard S. Kennedy . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983. The Autobiography of an American Novelist. Ed. Leslie A. Field (reprints The Story of a Novel and Writing and Living). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983. Thomas Wolfe Interviewed, ed. Aldo P. Magi and Richard Walser. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. 111
Holding on for Heaven: The Cablegrams and Postcards of Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein. Ed. Suzanne Stutman. Akron, Ohio: Thomas Wolfe Society. Studies of Thomas Wolfe Collections of Essays Beebe Maurice and Leslie A. Field, eds. "Thomas Wolfe Special Number." Modern Fiction Studies 11 ( August 1965): 315-28. -542 Field Leslie A., ed. Thomas Wolfe: Three Decades of Criticism. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1968. Kennedy Richard S. Thomas Wolfe: A Harvard Perspective. Athens, Ohio: Croissant, 1983. Phillipson John S. Critical Essays on Thomas Wolfe. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985. Rubin Louis D., Jr. Thomas Wolfe: A Collection of Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973. Walser Richard. The Enigma of Thomas Wolfe. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953. Individual Studies Aswell Edward C. "Thomas Wolfe Did Not Kill Maxwell Perkins." Saturday Review of Literature 34, October 6, 1951, pp. 16-17, 44-46. Blackwelder James Ray. "Literary Allusions in Look Homeward, Angel: The Narrator's Perspective." Thomas Wolfe Review, 8 (Fall 1984): 14-25. Cargill Oscar. Thomas Wolfe at Washington Square. Ed. Thomas Clark Pollock and Oscar Cargill. New York: New York University Press, 1954. Cowley Malcolm. A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation. New York: Viking Press, 1973. Decaux Monique. La Crйation romanesque chez Thomas Wolfe. Etudes Anglaises 71. Paris: Didier, 1977. De Bernard Voto. "Genius Is Not Enough." Saturday Review of Literature 13 ( 25 April 1936): 3-4, 14-15. Evans Elizabeth. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1985. Field Leslie A. "A 'True Text' Experience: Thomas Wolfe and Posthumous Publication." Thomas Wolfe Review 6 (Fall 1982): 27-34. Flora Joseph M. "Thomas Wolfe at New York University: His Friendship with Vardis Fisher." Thomas Wolfe of North Carolina. Ed. H. G. Jones. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Society, 1982. Gould Elaine Westall. Look Behind You, Thomas Wolfe: Ghosts of a Common Tribal Heritage. Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1976. Gurko Leo. Thomas Wolfe: Beyond the Romantic Ego. New York: Crowell, 1975. Hagan John. "Structure, Theme, and Metaphor in Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel." American Literature 53 ( May 1981): 266-85. -----. "The Whole Passionate Enigma of Life: Thomas Wolfe on Nature and the Youthful Quest." Thomas Wolfe Review 7 (Spring 1983): 32-42. Halberstadt John. "The Making of Thomas Wolfe's Posthumous Novels." Yale Review 70 ( October 1980): 79-94. Holman C. Hugh. The Loneliness at the Core: Studies in Thomas Wolfe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975. Kennedy Richard S. The Window of Memory: The Literary Career of Thomas Wolfe. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962. -----. "Thomas Wolfe at New York University." Thomas Wolfe Review 5 (Fall 1981): 1-10. -----. "The 'Wolfegate Affair'." Harvard Magazine ( September 1981): 48-53, 62. -----. "Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel in The Literary Marketplace." Thomas Wolfe Review 6 (Fall 1982): 23-27. Klein Carole. "In Suffering, A Celebration: Aline Bernstein and Thomas Wolfe." Thomas Wolfe Newsletter 3 (Spring 1979): 2-7. -543 Kussy Bella. "The Vitalist Trend and Thomas Wolfe." Sewanee Review 50 ( July 1942): 306-24. Lanzinger Klaus. Die Epik im Amerikanischen Roman. Studien zur Sprache und Literatur Amerikas, 1. Frankfurt am Main: Diesterweg, 1965. Ledwig-Rowohlt H. M. "Thomas Wolfe in Berlin." American Scholar 22 (Spring 1953): 185-201. McElderry Bruce R., Jr. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Twayne, 1964. Muller Herbert J. Thomas Wolfe. New York: New Directions, 1947. Nowell Elizabeth. Thomas Wolfe: A Biography. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960. Perkins Maxwell. "Thomas Wolfe." Harvard Library Bulletin 1 (Autumn 1947): 26977. Phillipson John S. Thomas Wolfe: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977. 112
-----. "Thomas Wolfe: A Reference Guide Updated." Resources for the Study of American Literature 11 (Spring 1981): 37-80. -----. "Thomas Wolfe's 'Chicamauga': The Fact and the Fiction." Thomas Wolfe Review 6 (Fall 1982): 9-22. Raynolds Robert. Thomas Wolfe: Memoir of a Friendship. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965. Reeves Paschal. Thomas Wolfe's Albatross: Race and Nationality in America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1968. -----, ed. Thomas Wolfe and the Glass of Time. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1971. -----, ed. Thomas Wolfe: The Critical Reception. New York: David Lewis, 1974. Rothman Nathan. "Thomas Wolfe and James Joyce: A Study in Literary Influence." A Southern Vanguard. Ed. Allen Tate. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1947. Rubin Louis D., Jr. Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1955. -----. "In Search of the Country of Art: Thomas Wolfe's Of Time and the River." A Gallery of Southerners. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982. Skipp Francis E. "The Editing of Look Homeward, Angel." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 57 ( 1963): 1-13. Trotti John Boone. "Thomas Wolfe: The Presbyterian Connection." Journal of Presbyterian History 59 (Winter 1981): 517-48. Turnbull Andrew. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1968. Walser Richard. Thomas Wolfe, Undergraduate. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1977. -----. "Major Thomas Casey Westall." Thomas Wolfe Review 8 (Fall 1984): 1-10. -----. Thomas Wolfe's Pennsylvania. Athens, Ohio: Croissant, 1978. -----. The Wolfe Family in Raleigh. Raleigh, N.C.: Wolfe's Head Press, 1976. Watkins Floyd. Thomas Wolfe's Characters: Portraits from Life. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957. -----. "Thomas Wolfe and Asheville Again and Again and Again . . ." Southern Literary Journal 10 (Fall 1977): 31-55. Wheaton, Mabel Wolfe and Legette Blythe. Thomas Wolfe and His Family. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961. -544THADIOUS M. DAVIS Richard Wright (1908-1960) One of the most distinctive voices from the modern South belongs to Richard Wright. His works of fiction are unrelenting expressions of elemental humanity struggling for self-definition and self-actualization. A realist in his assessment of the pain and tragedy inherent in the lives of human beings trapped within a limiting environment, Wright was an American naturalist, but one who believed in the ultimate strength of individuals to transcend and transform the socioeconomic factors circumscribing their existences. While this belief evolved into his literary experimentation with existentialism, it also initiated his political interest in Communism during his later years. Because his powerful depictions of human beings emerged during his residency in Northern urban areas and because his last thirteen years were spent as an expatriate in France, Wright's career has not generally been associated with the South. The charged social consciousness characteristic of his fiction has resulted more frequently with his being defined as a protest writer; yet at the base of his conceptions of humanity and environment is an intrinsically Southern consciousness, shaped by what he termed "the shocks of Southern living" for black people and imprinted with the reality of racial oppression. His vocation, engendered out of this Southern sensibility and fueled by a concomitant need for an unfragmented life, allowed him to use words, as he said, "to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human." Throughout his career, Wright sought to express his vision of human identity and to extricate his characters, and society by extension, from oppressive racism. BIOGRAPHY Born 4 September 1908 on a Delta cotton plantation 25 miles east of Natchez, Mississippi, Richard Nathaniel Wright bore the given names of his grandfathers, -545Richard Wilson and Nathaniel Wright. His first name presaged the closeness throughout his childhood and youth to his maternal grandfather's family, rather than to his paternal relatives. His parents, Ella and Nathan Wright, had settled as sharecroppers in the town of Roxie shortly after their marriage in 1907. Ella Wilson, daughter of a large Natchez family of modest means, had been a country schoolteacher at the time of her marriage 113
to Nathan Wright, an illiterate tenant farmer. The marriage had taken place over the objections of Richard and Margaret Bolden Wilson, who had greater hopes for their daughter. In 1911, when deteriorating conditions on the farm and a second baby, yearold Leon Alan, strained their resources, Nathan and Ella Wright moved to the Wilson home in Natchez. There they depended upon the help of Margaret Wilson, a midwife and doctor's assistant. For a time, Nathan Wright became an itinerant day laborer before he found a job at a sawmill; however, he rarely had steady employment and none that allowed him to support his family adequately. The Wrights relocated in Memphis a short time later, so that Nathan would have greater opportunities to provide for his wife and sons. He found work as a night porter at a drugstore, but within two years the lure of the Memphis nightlife and the strain of supporting a family on low wages caused him to desert Ella and his boys. Before his departure in 1913, Nathan Wright had already abandoned most of his financial obligations and parental responsibilities to his wife, who was working as a cook. Ella Wright struggled to care for her sons; nonetheless, her long hours away from home meant that she had to entrust Alan's supervision to young Richard, and that both boys spent much of their time in the Memphis streets. In 1915 after she became ill, Ella placed Richard and Alan in an orphanage. A year later, she had recovered enough to work off her debt to the orphanage and to leave Memphis for Elaine, Arkansas, where she had been invited to live with her younger sister, Maggie. The move to Arkansas enabled Ella to stop over for the summer in Jackson, Mississippi, where her parents then lived in a large seven-room house, providing her sons with a clean, spacious environment in contrast to their Memphis surroundings. Initially, the family's settling in Elaine augured well for a stable future for Richard, whose early years had been marked by movement and change. His Aunt Maggie's husband, Silas Hoskins, was a prosperous landowner and saloon keeper. But Wright's early experiences proved to be paradigmatic; the happy stay in Elaine was shortlived, because a white mob killed his uncle and caused his mother and his aunt to flee Arkansas with the two boys. After a brief interlude in Jackson, the Wrights and Maggie Hoskins set out for West Helena, Arkansas, where Ella worked as a cook or domestic until she suffered a series of paralytic strokes and had to be returned to Jackson. During their mother's illness and convalescence, Alan went to live with Maggie in Detroit, and Richard was sent to an uncle in Greenwood, Mississippi, before he was allowed to return to his grandmother's house in Jackson. From 1919 to 1925 Richard Wright lived under the strict guardianship of his -546- grandmother, Margaret Wilson, an austere Seventh Day Adventist, who restored order to the remaining years of his childhod. Prior to his return to Jackson, Wright's education had been sporadic, even though his mother had first enrolled him at age seven in Memphis's Howard Institute and later had placed him in schools in Elaine and West Helena. During one of his earlier stays in Jackson, he had discovered the world of books from one of his grandmother's boarders, so that by the time he settled into regular attendance at school, he already loved to read. In 1920 he entered an Adventist school taught by his aunt, Addie Wilson, but the experience was traumatic, and the following fall he enrolled in the public Jim Hill School. He went from the fifth to the sixth grade in a few months, and quickly became a good student despite being behind his age group. Although his school years were not without problems, particularly those stemming from Margaret Wilson's religious discipline and her holding books suspect, these years provided a positive turning point toward dual ambitions: writing and migrating north. Wright began to write stories, and he found jobs to earn money for school books and supplies. He also formed friendships with other youths that he would draw upon in his later writings. As an eighth grader, he wrote his first longer story, "The Voodoo of Hell's Half-Acre," which was published in three installments in the 1924 Southern Register, a black weekly newspaper. Selected valedictorian of his ninth-grade class, he wrote and delivered the 1925 graduation address on the theme "The Attributes of Life." Wright's completion of the ninth grade at the Smith-Robinson School marked the end of his formal schooling. After a series of jobs, including delivery boy for a clothing store and bellhop for a hotel, he left his family and Mississippi for Memphis, where he hoped to earn enough money to move himself and his mother north to Chicago. He worked initially as a dishwasher at the same drugstore where his father had been a porter and later as a delivery boy for an optical company. Saving most of what he earned, he bought secondhand copies of American Mercury, Harper's, and Atlantic Monthly. He borrowed books from the public library with the assistance of a white coworker, as blacks were not allowed to check out books. During this period, Wright prepared to become a writer by reading; he used as his bibliography the authors and works cited by H. L. Mencken in his Book of Prefaces. A voracious reader, he discovered Flaubert, Gogol, Nietzsche, and Zola, as well as Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis, whose Main Street was the first serious novel Wright read. The American writers especially appealed to him because, as he remarked, they "seemed to feel that America could be shaped nearer the hearts of those who lived it." When Wright boarded an Illinois Central train in 1927, he was migrating to Chicago alone, although he had already managed to get his mother and brother to Memphis. He recalled later that at first Chicago "depressed and 114
dismayed me, mocked all my fantasies"; nevertheless, his ten years in the city were most productive in terms of his apprenticeship as a writer. While holding a sequence -547of jobs, as dishwasher, insurance salesman, porter, and postal clerk, he also wrote, all the while saving money to send for his mother, who along with his brother arrived in 1928. Wright's earliest works were poetry and stories encouraged by University of Chicago students whom he met in the John Reed Club. He joined the Communist Party in 1933, a time when the Party's expressed support was for oppressed peoples regardless of their race. The intellectual climate of the radical left inspired Wright to look for publishers; his poems "Rest for the Weary" and "A Red Love Note" appeared in Left Front, which named him coeditor in 1934, and one of his more effective poems, "I Have Seen Black Hands," was accepted by New Masses, which also published his first essay, "Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite, " in 1935. His poems, articles, and reviews soon began to appear regularly in New Masses, International Literature, and Partisan Review, where in 1935 his best-known poem, the antilynching "Between the World and Me," was published. At the same time, he also became affiliated with the Chicago Federal Negro Theater and the Federal Writers' Project, through which he cemented friendships with a number of other Southern 6migr6s and writers, including old friends from Jackson and poet Margaret Walker. Nonetheless, Chicago during the Depression continued the pattern of poverty and hunger that had been a part of life in the South. Wright, the sole wage earner for a family then expanded to include his grandmother Wilson, was frequently out of work. The Public Welfare Bureau assisted with food and temporary jobs as street cleaner and ditchdigger. Reading offered support to persist with his writing. Proust Remembrance of Things Past not only "awed" but also "crushed [him] with hopelessness," for, as he later related, "I wanted to write of the people in my environment with an equal thoroughness, and the burning example before my eyes made me feel that I never could." Yet he completed "Big Boy Leaves Home," a long story published in The New Caravan anthology; "Down by the Riverside. . . . . Long Black Song," "Fire and Cloud," all short stories; "Almos' A Man," a story excerpted from an unpublished early novel, "Tarbaby's Sunrise" (alternately titled "Tarbaby's Dawn"); and "Cesspool," a novel published after his death as Lawd Today. With the exception of "Big Boy," his short stories were not accepted by magazine editors, and both of his novels were rejected by New York publishers. Wright decided in 1937 to move to New York. He became Harlem editor of the Daily Worker, a Communist publication, and he worked on the post-Harlem Renaissance magazine, the New Challenge, with writer Dorothy West. Publishing success in New York City did not come easily. His manuscripts were repeatedly turned down. His break came in December 1937 when he won a $500 first prize in a contest sponsored by Story magazine for members of the Federal Writers' Project. With the prize for "Fire and Cloud" and the publicity resulting from its February 1938 publication in Story, he was able to obtain a contract from Harper & Brothers for his first book, Uncle Tom's Children: Four Novellas ( 1938), all set in the agrarian South and written during his Chicago period. From -548 that point to 1947, when he left New York for permanent residence in France, Wright achieved the major publications that were to earn him an international reputation. He also established his career-long relationship with the literary agent Paul Reynolds. Harper accepted and published Native Son ( 1940), Wright's novel treating the life of a black youth in Chicago. The firm pushed the work, which was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and sold 200,000 copies in three weeks. The success of Native Son insured Wright's position as a significant writer of the 1940s and as the best-known black writer to emerge from that period. Because the novel was a best-seller, Harper published in October 1940 Uncle Tom's Children: Five Long Stories, an expanded version that added "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," an autobiographical essay, and "Bright and Morning Star," a story first appearing in a 1938 issue of New Masses. In 1941 a stage adaptation of Native Son, written by Wright and playwright Paul Green, capitalized on the popularity of the novel; produced by John Houseman and directed by Orson Welles, the play augmented Wright's reputation so that by the end of 1941 when his first book of nonfiction, Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (with Edwin Rosskam), was published by Viking Press, he was the most acclaimed black writer in America. Married in 1939 to Dhimah Rose Meadman, Wright traveled with her to Mexico in 1940. There, with the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he worked on a novel in progress, "Little Sister," which treated black women and domestic workers and was later entitled "Black Hope." The extended stay in Mexico emphasized differences between Wright and his bride, differences that eventually led to their estrangement and divorce after they returned to New York. Wright traveled back to New York by way of Mississippi, where he saw his relatives and his father after a 25-year separation, but neither man could bridge the gulf that existed between them. Nevertheless, Wright seemed to be settling the ghosts of his past, for before his trip to Mexico, he had visited his mother and brother in Chicago and purchased a house for them. 115
In 1941 Wright married Ellen Poplar, daughter of Polish immigrants and a Communist Party worker with whom he would have two daughters, Julia (born in 1941) and Rachel (born in 1949). After his marriage he settled into a productive period of writing; he completed an existential fable, "The Man Who Lived Underground" ( 1942), which, probably because it departed from the naturalism of Native Son, failed to find a publisher until 1944, and he completed as well a number of the short stories that were to be published after his death in Eight Men ( 1961). He was also at work on his fictionalized autobiography, Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth ( 1945), another Book-of-the-Month Club bestseller and the last of his major books written in the United States. The Wrights moved to France in 1947 after first making an extended visit in 1946 as guests of the French government. Wright's early years in Paris were eventful. He met the African and West Indian writers, Lйopold Senghor, Alioune Diop, and Aimй Cйsaire, who started -549 the Negritude movement and with whom he founded the influential journal Prйsence Africaine. He sponsored the Gary Davis movement for peace and world citizenship and began the French-American Fellowship. In 1950 he starred as Bigger Thomas in a film version of Native Son, shot on location in Buenos Aires and Chicago by French director Pierre Chenal. During this period he officially resigned from the Communist Party, after having been estranged from it since 1944 when his essay "I Tried to Be a Communist" appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. The Outsider ( 1953), his first novel published after Native Son, was intended, as he explained, "to replace the set of Marxist assumptions which has in the past more or less guided the direction of my writings." Similar to "The Man Who Lived Underground" in its metaphysical and existential philosophy, The Outsider evidenced not only the influence of Dostoevsky apparent in the novella, but also that of Jean-Paul Sartre, whom Wright had come to know in Paris. A succession of nonfiction books followed The Outsider as Wright began to travel in Africa, Asia, and Europe and to record his responses to social and political conditions. After a visit to the Gold Coast, now Ghana, he wrote Black Power: A Report of Reactions in a Land of Pathos ( 1954). His 1955 trip to Indonesia to attend the Bandoeng Conference resulted in Bandoeng, 1.500.000.000 hommes ( 1955), published in English as The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference ( 1956). Another travel narrative, Pagan Spain ( 1957), stemmed from excursions in Spain during 1954 and 1955. A series of lectures delivered in Germany and Scandinavia in 1956 became the collection of essays, White Man, Listen! ( 1956). None of these books sold well in the States; undeterred, Wright remained an outspoken political observer. Although Wright became a prolific essayist, he did not abandon fiction. Savage Holiday ( 1954), his only novel with a white protagonist, was ignored in the United States, but considered seriously in France, where it appeared as Le Dieu de Mascarade. In 1958 Doubleday published The Long Dream, Wright's last novel and last book published before his death; The Long Dream and its sequel "Island of Hallucinations," which occupied Wright during his last years, returned to the American South for its black protagonist, Fishbelly, whose odyssey, like Wright's own, began in Mississippi in the first novel and continued in Europe in the second. His final two years were marked by frustration and tension. Critics in the United States attacked not only The Long Dream but also Wright himself for his long exile in France. The black expatriate community in Paris, which considered him its dean, fell into inner turmoil from suspicions of plots by American secret agents to discredit some of the writers, Wright in particular, for alleged anti-American sentiments. Paul Reynolds, his longterm literary agent who had trouble placing The Long Dream, had no success with "Island of Hallucinations." Wright, experiencing financial pressures from the poor sales of his recent books, faced an uncertain future. His mother's death in January 1959 added to his sorrow. British officials refused him permission to live in London, where -550 Julia was to attend Cambridge, but they granted his wife and both daughters visas. Alone in France, Wright suffered from amoebic dysentery, contracted in Africa. In his illness, he turned to writing haiku, and from a group of 4,000 poems, selected 800 for a haiku manuscript. The therapy of poetry, however, was not enough to offset the effects of his physical condition, of his malignment by the press, or of his disappointment when critics panned a New York stage version of The Long Dream. World Publishers's acceptance of Eight Men ( 1961) offered little consolation. His novel in progress, "A Father's Law," the study of intergenerational conflict, remained incomplete. On 26 November 1960 the fifty-two-year-old Wright, recovering from the flu, entered a clinic for a thorough examination and treatment of his recurrent intestinal problem. He died at the clinic of a heart attack on 28 November 1960. Characteristic of the treatment he had received during his last years, the press took two days to announce his "untimely death." Wright's body was cremated, and in a symbolic statement of the meaning of his life, his ashes and those of Black Boy were placed in Paris's Columbarium. MAJOR THEMES 116
The dominant thematic ideas and motifs in Wright's fiction emanate from his biography, particularly from his formative years in the American South with its life-threatening components of prejudice, bigotry, and brutality. That South, Wright believed, "could recognize but part of a man, could accept but a fragment of his personality, and the rest--the best and the deepest things of heart and mind--were tossed away in blind ignorance and hate." The damaging impact of the Southern world on the personality and humanity of blacks that he observed as a youth became analogous in his fiction to any powerful and destructive physical or psychological environment, whether the urban North, political institutions, or social configurations. Acutely conscious of such environments, Wright was equally aware of the dynamics of the self-determining personality. In his own life and writings he demonstrated the potential for self-actualization and self-realization despite social or material obstacles. The actual South and the South that became his metaphor for racial oppression were, as he said, so repressive that blacks existed "emotionally on the sheer, thin margin of . . . culture," and that for him, as well as for the majority of his fictional characters, "nothing short of life itself hung upon each of my actions and decisions, and I had grown used to change, to movement, to making adjustments." Poverty, hunger, racism, and oppression may all function as negative factors constricting one's destiny and limiting one's options, but Wright insisted that the individual has the capacity for self-determination and, as in his own case, for creativity. His personal response to adverse environmental conditions was flight from his native region and a search for a place more hospitable to individual development and creativity. He wrote of this flight and search as "taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see -551 if it could grow differently . . . and perhaps . . . bloom." His major themes often encompass a search for identity in temporal or spatial terms and an examination of experience in a linear or sequential progression. The meaning of identity or experience is accentuated by the reality of the human imperative to live fully yet also attenuated by environmental determinism. Wright's conviction, underlining all of his work, is "that the humble, fragile dignity of man, buttressed by a tough-souled pragmatism . . . can sufficiently sustain and nourish human life, can endow it with ample and durable meaning." Although there is great diversity in the subject of Wright works from Uncle Tom's Children to The Long Dream and Eight Men, there is a cluster of sustained themes: alienation, flight, becoming, rebellion, oppression, freedom, and selfactualization, all within the emotional nexus of fear, dread, pain, anger or rage, and, in a few instances such as The Outsider, despair. He uses black life and thought to signify the human condition, but his messages are not celebratory. He observes, for example, in an essay on his masterpiece Native Son, "How Bigger Was Born," "What made Bigger's social consciousness most complex was the fact that he was hovering unwanted between powerful America and his own stunted place in life--and I took upon myself the task of trying to make the reader feel this No Man's Land. The most that I could say of Bigger was that he felt the need for a whole life and acted out of that need. . . ." The statement might well be extended to most of his protagonists, who like Bigger Thomas are trapped by external circumstances but respond, often violently, to an internal need for wholeness even when they are unable to articulate their need or to translate it into a viable existence. Bigger ultimately recognizes, "what I killed for, I am." He asserts his own identity and the meaning of his life and actions, as well as his acceptance of responsibility for both as a way of defining who he is. Although he faces death, and will be executed for committing murder, Bigger comes fully into life in the last part of the novel, "Fate." In effect, he is on the brink of death when he recognizes what his life means. In "Fear," the first part of Native Son, a cornered rat that Bigger kills becomes an emblem for Bigger's existence in an urban ghetto controlled by and isolated from whites. A combination of realistic and naturalistic techniques reveals how he has been reduced to an animal state and his destiny truncated by powers beyond his control. His conclusion in "Fate" is that "a guy gets tired of being told what he can and can't do. . . . you get so you can't hope for nothing. . . . You ain't a man no more." He attributes his condition to whites: "They like God. . . . They don't even let you feel what you want to feel. . . . They kill you before you die." His violent acts, the killing of two women, seem inevitable given the overwhelming environmental and societal forces. In the midsection of the novel, "Flight," Bigger experiences freedom from external forces and feels control over his actions, so that by the end of Native Son, he defines himself in existential terms through actions: ". . . I killed. For a little while I was free. I was doing something. It was wrong, but I was feeling all right. . . . I been scared -552 and mad all my life and after I killed that first woman, I wasn't scared no more for a little while." Flight with its emphasis on an awful freedom outside of social constraints and responsibility reiterates one of the prominent themes in Wright's fiction, that of flight and escape from a painful social and experiential reality. In the earliest published fiction, the stories of Uncle Tom's Children, the agrarian South is the backdrop for the theme; however, in subsequent works, Native Son, "The Man Who Lived Underground," and The Outsider in particular, the urban North provides the spatial reality to which characters respond. Flight is psychological as well as literal in Wright's novels and also in his archetypal autobiographical work Black Boy and his most fully realized stories, "Big 117
Boy Leaves Home," "The Man Who Lived Underground," and "Almos' A Man." Big Boy is last seen heading north for a chance to live and escape a lynch mob ( "Big Boy Leaves Home"); Dave leaves the South to find "somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man" ( Almos' A Man); Richard extends himself in what he calls "full flight" that is actually a spiritual quest for "some redeeming meaning" ( Black Boy). Flight, whether voluntary or forced, becomes constructive movement forward in time and condition, even though the end result may be what "The Man Who Went to Chicago" discovers: that blacks were still "locked in the dark underworld of American life"; or the result may be physical annihilation as it is for Fred Daniels ( "The Man Who Lived Underground"): shot in a sewer and dehumanized to "a whirling object rushing alone in the darkness, veering, tossing, lost in the heart of the earth." In depicting hostile environments that simultaneously imprint personality and threaten to eradicate it, Wright develops the theme of becoming in tangent with that of flight. The process of becoming may, in fact, be Wright's major theme. Boys, youths, and men experience initiation into a society, though rites of passage are complicated by racism. Not only do they become "men," but they also become fully human or at least able to recognize what it means to be fully human in a world frequently inhumane. Their movement through states of contact with social forces is at once fearful and painful, but it has the resultant possibility of psychological growth and development. Their search is both for new values that will assert human dignity and for a new identity that will validate those values. The paradigm is clearly evident in Black Boy, and to a lesser extent in its continuation American Hunger, where movement toward artistic creativity is connected to cumulative levels of personal awareness about familial and cultural configurations and their effect upon the developing personality. As Richard, the protagonist, emerges from early childhood into young manhood, he overcomes fear, cruelty, and despair and establishes a mature faith in living in dignity to his maximum potential. The paradigm is not only evident in Black Boy and Wright's works of the 1940s, but it is also visible in The Long Dream. Rex "Fishbelly" Tucker is, like Richard, a Southern youth whose racial, sexual, social, and economic initiations occur between his fifth and eighteenth years, -553 which coincide with the period during and after World War II. Dominated by his father Tyree, an undertaker, and by his fear of the dark, Fishbelly has a difficult transition to young manhood, one dominated by dreams and nightmares animated by the powerful parental and racial controls over his life. Wright intended to follow Fishbelly's protracted becoming a man over the course of his mature expatriate years in "Island of Hallucinations," which would, as American Hunger does for Black Boy, continue the quest for a spiritual and spatial condition amenable to full self-realization. Older characters in Wright's canon realize themselves in a similar way, despite the fact that their becoming is often compressed into a shorter period of time. Silas of "The Long Black Song," Mann in "Down By the Riverside," and Taylor in "Fire and Cloud" are three such characters from Uncle Tom's Children, who, though well into their adult years, become men in an instant of recognizing their own humanity and strength. In his use of the theme of becoming, Wright is masterful in registering what he labeled "the most sensitive and volatile period" in an individual's life, the period during which the individual learns, acknowledges, and acts upon an inviolate humanity. Underscoring becoming as a thematic imperative in Wright's fiction is a recurrent concern with freedom and rebellion. Whereas a Taylor may state that "Freedom belongs t the strong!" and he, Sue ("Bright and Morning Star"), and the other protagonists in Uncle Tom's Children may rebel and face violence for their efforts, Cross Damon in The Outsider is the Wright character most closely associated with freedom and rebellion. Like Bigger, Cross accidentally becomes a social rebel, but unlike Bigger, who is inarticulate throughout most of Native Son, Cross is an intellectual able to formulate the words and concepts necessary for conveying his situation. The four books of the novel, "Dread," "Dream," "Descent," and "Despair," function as signs of Wright's theme and Cross's experience. When presumed dead in a train wreck, Cross walks away from his old life and its attendant problems; he has the freedom to shape for himself a new identity. His situation is a literal portrayal of one subtext in a number of Wright's other works such as Native Son, "The Man Who Lived Underground," "Man of All Work," and Black Boy; Wright presented that subtext in White Man, Listen! as "man stripped of the past and free for the future." Cross dramatizes the individual's responsibility for creating self, but he is an alienated modern man whose journey into identity is a descent into existentialism. He is similar to Camus's Meursault in his indifference to violence and to murder. Cross, however, renounces all authority or power over his existence; for example, he breaks with the Communist Party and political organizations when he realizes that their objective is control of the individual. At the end of a life as a social and moral outsider, Cross confesses, "it was . . . horrible"; "Because in my heart . . . I felt . . . I'm innocent. . . . That's what made the horror. . . ." Despite his intellectualism. Cross's life apparently is as filled with what Wright called "useless and reasonless suffering" as the lives of Jake Johnson, the physically repulsive and morally empty protagonist of Lawd Today, and of -554- 118
Erskine Fowler, the sexually repressed white killer in Savage Holiday. Jake demonstrates in a 24-hour day many of the negative aspects of black manhood; he is a liar, a cheat, a wife-beater who nonetheless feels persecuted. Presented in a naturalistic mode without authorial comment on the apparent determinism, Jake's life, like Bigger's, is comparable to an animal's. The section of the novel depicting his eight hours at work is entitled "Squirrel Cage," while his eight hours after work is "Rat's Alley," and throughout Lawd Today, he is presented much like a caged animal moving in a circular fashion without the possibility of change. The white Fowler, on the other hand, experiences freedom in an early retirement from his job with an insurance company; but without work to shape his existence, he becomes a rootless, guilt- and anxiety-ridden man who accidentally kills a child and brutally murders the child's mother. Freudian and Oedipal analogies abound in the novel. Neither Fowler nor Jake comes to understand his life, yet Wright suggests in juxtaposing the seemingly commonplace surface of their lives to their teeming interior realities the complexity of ordinary existence and the tragedy inherent in the indifferent modern world. In his fictional themes, Wright builds philosophically and dramatically "a bridge of words" that makes known a body of experience and meaning that is, he states, "bred in a harsh school of life," but "seek[s] to speak the language of the human heart." SURVEY OF CRITICISM In 1938 with the publication of Uncle Tom's Children, Wright broke onto the American literary scene as a writer who was not to be ignored, though one not always favored by critics. Reviews of his first collection of stories in leading newspapers and journals, such as the New York Evening Post, the New York Times Book Review, the Nation, New Masses, and Saturday Review of Literature, were quick to applaud the absence of stereotypes, the proletarian politics, and primarily the narrative style. From the beginning of his major publications, then, both black and white critics recognized the searing truth and aesthetic power of Wright's voice and vision. Sterling Brown, Granville Hicks, and Malcolm Cowley all recognized Wright's talent and predicted that more could be expected of him in the future. Critics on the left welcomed a new strong voice to their ranks, though a few like Alan Comer in the Daily Worker criticized his sparse use of social contexts; however, Zora Neale Hurston attacked both the Party politics and what she perceived as hatred in the stories. When Native Son appeared in 1940, Wright's reputation soared. He was compared to Dreiser, Dostoevsky, and Steinbeck; his analysis of social and psychological factors received enthusiastic endorsement. Widely reviewed in nearly all of the important journals of the time, Native Son shocked and moved critics who, though not unanimous in their praise of the novel's narrative voice and its antihero Bigger Thomas, recognized that Wright had the unique ability -555 to transform the debilitating racial landscape in American life into an uncompromising art. In fact, the reception of Native Son was phenomenal; no black writer before Wright had been the subject of as much extensive and favorable critical commentary. Although Black Boy in 1945 continued both the critical attention accorded Wright and his own attempt to make the obscured experience of blacks in America visible, that work marked the end of nearly wholesale endorsement of his work. The autobiographical book reiterated Wright's discipline and his craftsmanship, and by extension it made clear that the modern black writer was a serious artist; these two achievements helped to pave the way for a new generation of black novelists, in particular Ralph Ellison, Chester Himes, William Gardner Smith, Willard Motley, and James Baldwin. Nonetheless, at the time of his death in 1960, Wright had received little critical attention in the United States, and what existed was mainly adverse reactions to his work after Black Boy. His long absence from the country had alienated many of his American readers and critics, despite his being a fixture in French literary circles. The posthumous publication of his collection of stories, Eight Men, and of his first novel, Lawd Today, did not measurably affect his diminished literary reputation. By the end of the 1960s, however, the literary climate had appreciably improved for Afro-American writers with the onset of political and cultural activism. As blacks began to reassess their own traditions and to resurrect literary forebears, they rediscovered Wright and his importance. By the early 1970s, one aftermath of the civil rights movement and the new black renaissance was a considerable interest in Wright as a major writer, as a proponent of racial identity and opponent of racial oppression. From that point on, he has been the subject of numerable critical studies, revaluations, and biographies. Constance Webb Richard Wright: A Biography ( 1968) and John A. Williams's The Most Native of Sons: A Biography of Richard Wright ( 1970) helped to reinitiate the interest in Wright's life that had marked some of the early reviews of his works. Although both biographies have been superseded by French critic Michel Fabre The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright ( 1973), which provided access to more primary sources and biographical details, they still retain usefulness in the perspectives that they present on Wright as friend and fellow writer. Similarly, Edward Margolies Native Sons: A Critical Study of TwentiethCentury Negro American Authors ( 1968), with its long chapter "Richard Wright: Native Son and Three Kinds of Revolution" and his Art of Richard Wright ( 1969) were among the first book-length treatments of the Wright canon. Since Margolies's books, 119
numerous full studies of Wright's art have added to a rich and diverse body of criticism. Keneth Kinnamon The Emergence of Richard Wright: A Study in Literature and Society ( 1972), for example, is an extended analysis of Wright works up to Native Son in the contexts of culture and society; Addison Gayle's Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son ( 1980) treats Wright's career -556and analyzes the impact of his treatment during his Paris years on his writings and creativity. More recently, collections of criticism have made available the significant articles and reviews that have added to the assessment of Wright's achievements and reputation. Among these, John M. Reilly Richard Wright: The Critical Reception ( 1978) collects the major periodical reviews of Wright's works, and is especially useful in obtaining a historical overview of Wright studies, because it contains important reviews of his nonfiction work as well as of his less popular fiction. Yoshinobu Hakutani Critical Essays on Richard Wright ( 1982) is an edition of many of the more significant and ground-breaking early essays on Wright, both general essays on his life, career, and writings and specific essays on individual works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He makes accessible several classic essays in Wright studies: Blyden Jackson "Richard Wright: Black Boy from America's Black Belt and Urban Ghettos," James Baldwin "Many Thousands Gone," Irving Howe "Black Boys and Native Sons," and Ralph Ellison "Richard Wright's Blues," all of which make evident the singular place that Wright has in modern American literature. Hakutani's collection also brings together previously unpublished and contemporary studies of Wright, and in so doing illustrates the healthy state of Wright scholarship. Because Wright's work has retained meaning in a changed social and political environment and continues to bear the most rigorous critical analysis, it is apparent that one of the most remarkable canons in American literature will not be lost to future generations of students and scholars. His place has been secured both by his writings and by the vitality of critical interest in them. BIBLIOGRAPHY Works by Richard Wright Uncle Tom's Children: Four Novellas. New York: Harper, 1938. Native Son. New York: Harper, 1940. Uncle Tom's Children: Five Long Stories. New York: Harper, 1940. Native Son, the Biography of a Young American: A Play in Ten Scenes, with Paul Green. New York: Harper, 1941. Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States. New York: Viking Press, 1941. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth. New York: Harper, 1945. The Outsider. New York: Harper, 1953. Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos. New York: Harper, 1954. Savage Holiday. New York: Avon, 1954. The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. Cleveland and New York: World, 1956. Pagan Spain. New York: Harper, 1956. White Man, Listen! New York: Doubleday, 1957. -557The Long Dream. New York: Doubleday, 1958. Eight Men. Cleveland and New York: World, 1961. Lawd Today. New York: Walker, 1963. Studies of Richard Wright Agosta Lucien L. "Millennial Embrace: The Artistry of Conclusion in Richard Wright's 'Fire and Cloud.'" Studies in Short Fiction 18 (Spring 1981): 121-29. Bakish David. Richard Wright. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1973. Bone Robert. Richard Wright. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. Brignano Russell C. Richard Wright: An Introduction to the Man and His Works. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970. Bryant Earle V. "Sexual Initiation and Survival in Richard Wright's The Long Dream". Southern Quarterly 21 (Spring 1983): 57-66. Bryant Jerry H. "The Violence of Native Son." Southern Review 17 ( April 1981): 30319. Davis Charles T. and Michel Fabre. Richard Wright: A Primary Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. Fabre Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. New York: William Morrow, 1973. Gayle Addison. Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1980. Hakutani Yoshinobu, ed. Critical Essays on Richard Wright. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. Jackson Blyden. "Richard Wright in a Moment of Truth." Southern Literary Journal 3 (Spring 1971): 3-17. Kinnamon Keneth. The Emergence of Richard Wright: A Study in Literature and Society. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972. 120
Lee A. Robert. "Richard Wright's Inside Narratives." American Fiction: New Readings. Ed. Richard Gray. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1983, pp. 200-21. List Robert N. Dedalus in Harlem: The Joyce-Ellison Connection. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982. McCall Dan. The Example of Richard Wright. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969. McCluskey John Jr. "Two Steppin': Richard Wright's Encounter with Blue-Jazz." American Literature 55 ( October 1983): 332-44. Margolies Edward. The Art of Richard Wright. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969. -----. "Richard Wright: Native Son and Three Kinds of Revolution." Native Sons: A Critical Study of Twentieth-Century Negro American Authors. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1968, pp. 65-86. Mebane Mary E. "Black Folk of the American South: Two Portraits." The American South: Portrait of a Culture. Ed. Louis D. Rubin Jr. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980, pp. 86-100. Moore Jack B. "The View from the Broom Closet of the Regency Hyatt: Richard Wright as a Southern Writer." Literature at the Barricades: The American Writer in the 1930's. Ed. Ralph Bogardus and Fred Hobson. University: University of Alabama Press, 1982, pp. 126-43. -558Pudaloff Ross. "Celebrity as Identity: Richard Wright, Native Son, and Mass Culture." Studies in American Fiction 11 (Spring 1983): 3-18. Ray David and Robert Farnsworth, ed. Richard Wright: Impressions and Perspectives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973. Reilly John M., ed. Richard Wright: The Critical Reception. New York: Burt Franklin, 1978. Rubin Steven J. "Richard Wright and Albert Camus: The Literature of Revolt." International Fiction Review 8 (Spring 1981): 12-16. Stepto Robert B. "Literacy and Ascent: Richard Wright's Black Boy." From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979, pp. 128-62. Stern Frederick C. "Native Son as Play: A Reconsideration Based on a Revival." MELUS 8 (Spring 1981): 55-61. Tate Claudia C. "Christian Existentialism in Richard Wright's The Outsider." CLA Journal 25 ( June 1982): 371-95. Webb Constance. Richard Wright: A Biography. New York: Putnam, 1968. Williams John A. The Most Native of Sons: A Biography of Richard Wright. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970. -559- 121


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