Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
In M. C. Higgins, the Great, the title character, a tall, athletic, thoughtful black teenager who lives in the Cumberland Mountains, must come to terms with conflicting allegiances, to his father and the traditions of his family, on one hand, and to his mother and the younger children in the family, on the other. Faced with a threat to the family that is beyond his control, M. C. learns that being an adult means doing one’s limited best in an imperfect world.
Although M. C. Higgins, the Great moves chronologically, the author also moves backward and forward in time by tracing the thoughts of her characters. Thus the first chapter introduces the protagonist, M. C. Higgins, who has wakened to watch the sun rise over the mountains where he lives. There is great joy in his communion with nature; there is great pleasure in anticipating the future, when, according to his father, M. C. will own Sarah’s Mountain, where the family has lived for generations, where they have died and been laid to rest. As he looks around him, M. C. feels the same sense of attachment to the past that impels his father, Jones Higgins, to insist on remaining where his roots are. Yet, unlike his father, M. C. can face the possibility of a different life, far away from Sarah’s Mountain. M. C. cannot help wondering what the outside world is like. More immediately, he is afraid that the unstable spoil heap located higher on their mountain, which was left by...
(The entire section is 1014 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of M. C. Higgins, the Great Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
M.C. Higgins, the Great is a book about growing up, the period of changing from a child to an adult. In the space of a few days, M.C. Higgins learns about freedom, responsibility, and the strength of family ties. He falls in love but finds out that love is not always reciprocated, at least not as he wants it to be. He also comes to understand that his own prejudices and superstitions can hurt not only the people at whom they are directed but also himself. The novel is written in Hamilton's unique style, at once poetic and exciting, combining action with M.C.'s daydreams. Although many of the characters have a mythic, larger-than-life quality, they remain believable and moving.
The problems that M.C. faces will be familiar to most readers: the confusion of a first love, getting along with parents and siblings, learning to accept and like people who are different, and dealing with the ever-present threat of pollution in the modern world.
Hamilton tells a story in which the characters overcome some of their problems and learn to live with others. This realistic picture of life offers readers a good model to follow in making their own transitions to adulthood.
(The entire section is 206 words.)