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and Consuming in Garland's Main-Travelled Roads Prevalent critical consensus leaves Hamlin Garland a rather propagandistic and heavy-handed genteelist whose work is interesting only because of his incipient, though botched, exploration of naturalism.1 Even Donald Pizer, Garland's most prolific interpreter, begins his Hamlin Garland's Early Career and Warks apologizing for Garland's artistry: "Garland was one of those in the history of literature whose ideas ... are ultimately of more interest and worth than their literary achievements ."2 Yet Garland himself, while acknowledging a successful tale -- 'Bernard Duffey's attacks on Garland's gentility ("Hamlin Garland's 'Decline' From Realism," American Literature, 25 [1953], 69-74; The Chicago Renaissance in American Letters, 2nd ed. [1953; rpt. Lansing: Michigan State Univ. Press, 1956], Pp. 75-89) both began and still nicely subsume later comment. For Warren French, Garland typifies the "American opportunistic type" and offers only a "bundle of moralistic cliches" ("What Shall We Do With Hamlin Garland?" American Literary Realism 3 [1970], 284, 287); for Herbert Edwards, Garland's confusion between Art and a pulpit for the preaching of Henry George's Single Tax theories is the source of Garland's shortcomings ("Herne, Garland, and Henry George," American LiterattUre , 28 [1957], 359-67). See also, C. C. Waicutt, American Literary Naturalism, A Divided Stream (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1956), pp. 53-63; Jay ~artin, Harvests of Change: American Literature 1865-1914 (Englewood Cliffs, L: J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967), pp. 111, 124-32; Larzer Ziff, The American 1890's: The lfe and Times of A Lost Generation (New York: Viking, 1966), pp. 93-108. 2 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1960), p. 8. hi 4 Western American Literature stands based in "a powerful, sincere, emotional concept of life," also insists that "The secret of every lasting success in art" lies "in the acquired power to convey that concept to others."3 When B. O. Flower offered ethical rather than literary judgments of Main-Travelled Roads, Garland emphatically replied, in A Son of the Middle Border, that "my ideals were essentially literary.... My reform notions were subordinate to my desire to take honors as a novelist."4 Main-Travelled Roads, if flawed, is also an often curiously powerful book, and little, aside from Pizer's attention to the road image that superficially structures the stories and to the genre scenes that they all contain," has been done to explain this power. The most striking of the book's claims to literary honors lies in its formal success in embodying a logically consistent concept of life in a metaphor that deals with issues quite close to Garland's concerns in the late 1880's and early 1890's and that permeates the work, providing all six stories with intellectual as well as formal unity. Time and again, climactic action occurs in kitchens: our attention is constantly being focused on table manners. We also see flies eating cows, grasshoppers eating farms, mortgages eating men, rivers eating their beds. Bird songs become "delicious"; people "hunger" for art. Journeys begin and end with a concern for food. Grocers become land speculators; babies become dyspeptic from overfeeding . In Main-Travelled Roads, Garland consistently uses figures from the process of eating to present a crucial, though often obscured, moral choice: man may become either a consumer or a feeder, either a voracious destroyer of humanity and humaneness or a nurturer of these qualities. The thoughts that provide a "curious heartache and listlessness, a nerveless mood,"G for Howard McLane in "Up the Coult?' provide the basis for one side of that choice: What was it worth anyhow - success? Struggle, strife, trampling on someone else. His play crowding out some other poor fellow's 3Crumbling Idols: Twelve Essays on Art Dealing Chiefly With Literature, Painting , and the Drama, Jane Johnson, ed. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1960), p. 21. 4(New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1914), p. 412. 5"Introduction to Main-Travelled Roads" (Columbus, Ohio: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), pp. xiv, xvi. GMain-Travelied Roads, Donald Pizer, ed. (Columbus, Ohio: Bobbs~Merrill, 1970), p. 108. All further references to Main-Travelled Roads are from this edition and will be documented parenthetically. David W. Hiscoe hope...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 3-15
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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