Much like Katherine Anne Porter’s Miranda stories and Caroline Gordon’s and Eudora Welty’s writings about the coming-of-age of young women in pastoral yet treacherous settings in the South, Reynolds Price’s first novel explores the slow loss of innocence and the weariness of experience that accompanies such loss. Rosacoke Mustian is one of a long literary line of young Southern women, including Janie in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982), Mary Faith Rapple in Valerie Sayers’s Due East (1987), Hulga/Joy in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” (1955), and Temple Drake in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary (1931). All these characters must come to terms not only with the mysteries of sex and love but also with the meaning of life in places where their identities are dictated largely by family and culture. Although Rosacoke has mastered the role of dutiful daughter and provides some measure of stability to a family that is otherwise quite fragmented, she yearns to feel the powerful shudders of desire that accompany the loss of sexual innocence and to transform herself into a strong woman who controls her sexual and personal destiny. Rosacoke is dead certain that she can accomplish this by giving herself to Wesley Beavers, a young man she has been seeing on and off for eight years.
It is a proof of Price’s great skill as a writer...
(The entire section is 1265 words.)
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