Common Social Stance: Elizabeth Madox Roberts’ The Time of Man and Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2019

Common Social Stance: Elizabeth Madox Roberts’ The Time of Man and Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker

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Gisèle Sigal

Abstract

Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881-1941) and Harriette Arnow (1908-1986), two Kentucky novelists, wrote with consummate artistry about their native soil and the fate of its people. Both were motivated to write by a strong sense of communion with the land and an acute social conscience. In their time, The Time of Man (1926) and The Dollmaker (1954) were critically acclaimed best sellers. These classic novels offer a brilliant and moving yet unsentimental depiction of the Appalachian region and its population at the turn of the twentieth century, and in the early forties through the chronicle of the World War II migration of rural hill people to an urban city. More than an account or a mere record of Kentucky’s heritage, their regional perspective is explored with a universal touch. They transcend regional boundaries and depict the hardships faced by the main protagonists Ellen Chesser and Gertie Nevels who strive to keep their family unified - and display resilience - in a hostile environment. This paper will first attempt to examine common traits in The Time of Man and in The Dollmaker. Roberts and Arnow capture the reality of the nation’s past in their account of a Kentucky poor white family, and the novels can be considered as historical and sociological records of a bygone era. They are moving stories with characters endowed with human aspirations and plagued by economic frustrations, whose dilemmas are true to life. It will then explore symbolic perspectives: both Roberts and Arnow discard the tradition-minded traits for a humanitarian, individualistic treatment of the poor white. In their fiction, their acute observation of rural folk life, with its shift from innocence and simplicity to experience and complexity, mirrors a turbulent moment in time. Eventually, the last section will gain further insight into the writers’ lives that shape and enlighten their work. Indeed, both underappreciated novels underscore Roberts and Arnow’s central concern for social history through a poignant portrayal of rural life in fiction.
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hal-02326633 , version 1 (22-10-2019)

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  • HAL Id : hal-02326633 , version 1

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Gisèle Sigal. Common Social Stance: Elizabeth Madox Roberts’ The Time of Man and Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. 21st Annual International Elizabeth Madox Roberts Conference, Pr/Dr Harry Stoneback - SUNY - New Paltz, Apr 2019, Springfield, United States. ⟨hal-02326633⟩

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