Saturday, June 1, 2019
James Stills River of Earth: A Neglected American Masterpiece Essay
James Stills River of Earth A Neglected American Masterpiece James Stills River of Earth is a fresh rough life in Appalachia just before the Depression. Furthermore it is a novel about the struggles of the mountain people since the settlement of their region. However great it may be at depicting Appalachias mountain people and culture, though, Stills novel has remained mostly invisible compared to other novels of the period which depict poor white southern life, much(prenominal) as John Steinbecks Grapes of Wrath and Erskine Caldwells Gods Little Acre (Olson 87). As scholar Ted Olson notes, there are several reasons for this neglect. First of all, Stills novel has been labeled as regional and then not as universal in its concerns and subject matters. And in 1940 when it was first published the American people were running low on desire to embroider through more regional novels even Faulkner was hardly read at this time (Olsen 92). In addition, we were at a period as a body p olitic when people were coming off a decade of extreme poverty and did not want to hear or read about more poverty. Still, in many ways it is hard to explain the longterm success of Grapes of Wrath and the longterm fadeout of River of Earth. To begin, Steinbecks novel, which tells the story of the plight of a poor white family in Oklahoma during the Depression, is no less regional than Stills chronicle of poor white life in eastern Kentucky . Yet somehow Grapes of Wrath escaped the regional stereotype and went on to become an American classic. Ironically, though, when the two novels were released, Stills grabbed more critical acclaim (Olsen 89). Though Grapes of Wrath did earn some rave reviews and was called the great American book by... ...people anywhere. And refreshingly, Stills characters do not spend all their time trying to rise above their poverty. Instead they love their mountain world and take pleasure in the petite but important things in life like a simple meal or a go od laugh. They are not weighed down by the glittery world or overindulgent trappings of Jay Gatsby. Maybe thats the real reason most Americans couldnt handle the book then and now. Instead of presenting them with the excesses of a gilded age, it told them about a people content to enjoy a great spiritual wealth even if their economic conditions were supposed to make them poor. Works Cited Cadle, Dean. Man on Troublesome. The Yale Review 57 (December 1967) 236-255. Olsen, Ted. This Mighty River of Earth Reclaiming James Stills American Masterpiece. Journal of Appalachian Studies 1.1 (Fall 1995) 87-98.