Critical Context (Masterplots II: African American Literature)

Hurry Home perhaps suffers from being Wideman’s second novel, a step in a writer’s career that often proves difficult. Scholars who have written on Wideman generally find little to say about Hurry Home and, even worse, betray uncertainty even about what is happening in the novel. The reservations about Hurry Home should be seen in the light of two facts. First, it is the work of a young man who has just enjoyed an intensely literary education (Wideman was a Rhodes scholar). Second, its author is still searching for his own voice and subject matter, both of which he found, very successfully, in The Homewood Trilogy (1985).

It could be claimed that the techniques of the great modernists in which Wideman is so well versed were not appropriate for him but represented a phase that he had to work through until he had put these literary fathers behind him. That is why Hurry Home is so clearly an apprentice work, with bits and pieces of his education sticking out in the narrative without being assimilated. It is significant that his first novel, A Glance Away (1967), features a central character much like Eliot’s Prufrock, who is alluded to half a dozen times in Hurry Home, but that his third novel, The Lynchers (1973), is told more straightforwardly and with far less literary allusion. From then on, even though he reverts to stream-of-consciousness narrative in Hiding Place (1981), Wideman seems to have arrived at a mature style that serves his thematic purposes well.