Beyond Dark Hills Essay - Critical Context

Jesse Stuart

Critical Context

American literature turned toward vernacular writing in the 1930’s, with a surge in “local color” short stories and novels. Collections of such works for college courses in American literature came to include selections from Marjorie Rawlings, Joel Chandler Harris, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Jesse Stuart. Each reflected the mores and customs of his or her corner of the United States; thus, regionalism explored the pluralism of Americans. Stuart’s biographer, H. Edward Richardson, best summarizes the meld of primitivism, local color, folklore, and regionalism found in Beyond Dark Hills:My reading of Beyond Dark Hills confirmed my growing impression that Stuart was more than a local colorist. He was a contemporary writer of greater substance to my age than Hamlin Garland or Bret Harte had been to theirs. Here at last, under the charm of his regionalism and the uneven and sometimes impromptu quality of his work, were the deeps of archetypal and mythopoeic patterns: the earth as mother, father, provider; water images unfolding the evolution of primordial man; an abundance of folklore, myths, and tall tales; recurring allegories and symbols from the racial unconscious of mankind; fears and fantasies, mysticism and superstition emerging in nature images; and man in conflict with his own kind.

Unquestionably, Beyond Dark Hills presaged the lifetime writing of the “Poet of the Hills,” who through poetry, short story, biography,...

(The entire section is 536 words.)