Ernest J. Gaines Long Fiction Analysis
Before it became fashionable, Ernest J. Gaines was one southern black writer who wrote about his native area. Although he has lived much of his life in California, he has never been able to write adequately about that region. He has tried to write two novels about the West but has failed to finish either of them. Thus, while he has physically left the South, he has never left emotionally. His ties remain with the South, and his works remain rooted there. When he first began reading seriously, Gaines gravitated toward those writers who wrote about the soil and the people who lived close to it, among them William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, and Ivan Turgenev. He was disappointed to discover that few black writers had dealt with the black rural southern experience. (Richard Wright had begun his career by doing so, and his work weakened as he moved further from the South.) Thus, Gaines began his career with the conscious desire to fill a void. He felt that no one had written fiction about his people.
This fact helps explain why his novels always concentrate on rural settings and on the “folk” who inhabit them. One of the great strengths of his work is voice; the sound of the voice telling the story is central to its meaning. Among his works, Of Love and Dust, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and all the stories in Bloodline are told in the first person by rural black characters. The voices of the storytellers,...
(The entire section is 4432 words.)
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