The novel’s title refers to the cry of the psalmist, “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” My Heart and My Flesh follows the story of Theodosia Bell in her journey toward self-discovery and fulfillment as she grows from childhood to adulthood in the fictional Kentucky town of Anneville. The trials through which she passes and the tragedies that befall her, leading to her final recovery and spiritual rebirth, form the core of the novel.
The first significant event that Theodosia must endure is the shattering of her complacent notions about her own superiority. Reared in a wealthy, privileged, and respectable family, she is devastated when she learns from her grandfather’s secret papers that two mulatto girls in the town, Americy and Lethe, whom she has always despised, are in fact her half sisters and that Stiggins, the idiot stable boy, is her half brother. As she attempts to come to terms with this knowledge, Theodosia moves haltingly and uncomprehendingly toward a measure of acceptance and love, without ever fully achieving either. Yet when she notices, to her amazement, that Stiggins possesses the elegant “fiddle hand” that she, who prides herself on her ability with the violin, lacks, the absurdity of her former notion of superiority becomes painfully apparent.
Many of the other events which shape Theodosia’s life are deaths. Her handsome and charming suitor Conway Brooke dies in his burning home, and her grief becomes more acute when Minnie Harter, a local girl and former neighbor of Conway, gives...
(The entire section is 640 words.)