Arna Bontemps Short Fiction Analysis
The Old South, Arna Bontemps’s collection of short stories, contains fourteen selections, the first of which is an important essay, “Why I Returned,” an account of his early life in Louisiana and California and his later life in Alabama and Tennessee. All of the selections are set in the South of the 1930’s (a time when this region was yet unchanged and thus “old”) or concern characters from the South. Some of the stories are also autobiographical—“The Cure,” “Three Pennies for Luck,” “Saturday Night”—and some are sharply satirical portraits of influential white women: a wealthy patron of young black musicians in “A Woman with a Mission” and a principal of a black boarding school in “Heathens at Home.” The titles of these latter stories are self-explanatory.
Bontemps was brought up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, for which his father had abandoned the Creoles’ traditional Catholicism. The boarding school and college Bontemps attended as well as the academy where he taught in Alabama were sponsored by the Adventists. Though Bontemps did not remain active in this church, he was deeply religious all his life. Several of his stories thus have religious settings and themes, including “Let the Church Roll On,” a study of a black congregation’s lively charismatic church service. Bontemps was early influenced by music since his father and other relatives had been blues and jazz musicians in Louisiana....
(The entire section is 1393 words.)
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