A World Within Herself : The Southern Mountain Woman in the Novels of Harriette Simpson Arnow
Ballew, Janice v.
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The thesis concerns itself with major female characters in the four novels of Harriette Arnow. The women, all built upon the prototype of the Southern mountain woman, possess the same qualities, though a definite pattern of refinement in construction can be followed from the first novel through the latest, reflecting both Arnow's development as a novelist and the various phases of the Southern mountain pioneer prototype. The methods used in the thesis consisted of analysis of primary materials to note the pattern of development of characters, supported by analysis and definition of the prototype from secondary materials dealing with Southern Appalachian regionalism, geographical, sociological, and literary, from the early eighteenth century to the present. Arnow's South Central Kentucky background has strongly influenced her work, letting the greater portion of it be set in that area and, giving all of it the hardy, Pelagianistic philosophy of the once-pioneering southern mountaineer. Her novels have as their central figures women who are personifications of this mountaineer philosophy, strong-willed, independent, imaginative, and agrarian, they achieve their stature in the novels because they understand the implications of their circumstances and because they question those circumstances that can be changed. As Arnow has completed each novel, the central figure pattern has undergone another phase in the process of evolution. Louisa, the central figure in Mountain Path is less refined and less complex than Suse of Hunter's Horn. Gertie of The Dollmaker is more refined than Suse. The process of evolution has its culmination in Susie of The Weedkiller's Daughter, who, though Arnow has moved her from the hills to the suburbs, is still Louisa and Suse in quiet perception and Suse and Gertie in independence and in affinity with the land. The evolution and the order of the novels parallels the pioneer experience. Louisa goes into a new territory but retreats, Suse and Gertie struggle with the territory to make it liveable. Susie manages to reach the point of establishing a settlement that is in peaceful co-existence with the surroundings.
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