restricted access Why Only Thomas Wolfe?: Some Questions And An Answer
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making people fear for their lives, then observing their reactions. There is no doubt that during the war he killed his share of men. In short, his years of education in warfare inured this superb fighter to death and destruction; he became hardened enough to stand anything. The trouble is that during peacetime this kind of character has its drawbacks. After the war, he and others like him returned to an area that had been a battleground , plundered by both sides. It had reverted to a frontier condition, or worse, for the war had sown division and distrust. About the only viable institution left was the extended family. Practically lawless, the area was governed by a few primitive codes that had survived the war, most In thinking of Emily Ann Smith and this issue of Appalachian Heritage appropriately dedicated to her, I, in imagination , am able to return to Berea and remember her efforts on my behalf. From upcountry South Carolina to central Kentucky is a long way and many years have elapsed since I made the last physical visit. Memories of Berea, though, are indelibly linked with Miss Smith and her courses in British Survey and Creative Writing. Under her guidance, I reluctantly enjoyed Chaucer (I am now a convert, Miss S.!) and, with less success because it required creative ability, attempted to write short stories. Like many of her students, hownotably "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." It was ruled by men who were strong enough to seize power and who had enough relatives to help them keep it (people like that also tended to collect a lot of friends). Under these conditions, feuds erupted. The feuds, of course.cause more devastation , hardened the primitive patterns, and delayed the society's recovery from the ravages of war. They did, however, teach people certain lessons. For one thing, people found that feuds were much easier to start than to stop. Another thing they learned is that nobody wins a feud. Finally, they learned the value of living in peace with their neighbors. ever, I learned to appreciate the creative efforts of others. Aside from working with Miss Smith, in fact, the most "delicious" experience I had at Berea was encountering the works of Faulkner and Wolfe. Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, because I was a mountain boy, also, made an immediate impression upon me. When I reread it—which I do at least once every five years—, it continues to stir my emotions, and, although no longer a boy or a mountaineer , I do, for a while, go home again. I have since learned that my experience is typical for many people, born in many areas of the country, for Wolfe was a great writer and the only one of literary stature Why Only Thomas Wolfe? Some Questions And An Answer by JACK W. WEAVER 86 yet to emerge from the Appalachians. Why, I wonder, is this sad fact also true? Have the mountains produced only one giant because of the lack of a usable, literary culture? Harvard and Oxford, with T. S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold, would insist upon this as the answer. As readers of this journal know, however, folk materials have always existed in the mountains , have been known in varying degrees to its people, and many of these people have been skillful story-tellers. Perhaps the lack of educational opportunities, in the formal sense, prevented some tall-tale tellers from also becoming writers. Still, many mountain people had books and a love of reading. Scarcely a community existed in which at least one person did not have some of the works of Shakespeare, Tennyson , Longfellow, Dickens, Scott, and, of course, Mark Twain. Could it be that the individuals steeped in folklore had little contact with those buried in books and, vice versa? Until recent years this was probably the case. Still, such communal separatism did not deter Hardy in southwest England, Yeats in western Ireland, or Faulkner in southern Mississippi. These, too, were largely self-educated men but they were also writers who made use of local materials. Can it be that the hard life of the mountains leaves no time...