Paper Moon is an entertaining work with focal characters who are petty criminals. The novel is both cynical and optimistic in its humorous examination of human nature. Themes of loyalty and integrity are developed. Addie and Long Boy travel a Depression era landscape of corruption where few people are honest. The people whom they cheat are often trying to cheat others.
Yet, while Addie is quite willing to scheme with Long Boy, she ultimately displays a capacity for compassion and a sense of justice. The compassion is developed in part during their dealing with widows who are thrilled that their deceased husbands remembered them with the cheap Bibles that Addie and Long Boy broker.
A degree of Addie’s compassion, however, seems to be inherent. Although Major Lee suggests that Addie has no concept of right and wrong, actually she has a well-developed sense of the two concepts. She is pure not because she is devoid of conscience but because she is capable of exercising her intelligence and her kindness for others. Although she acts partially out of jealousy, Addie reveals Trixie Delight’s true nature to the lovestruck Long Boy. In breaking Trixie’s spell over Long Boy, she also makes it possible for Imogene to escape Trixie’s employment. Addie grows angry when she realizes that cotton buyers are offering Long Boy cheaper rates on the same samples for which they earlier paid more. It is amusing to Long Boy that she is mad about...
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Paper Moon, originally titled Addie Pray, was Joe David Brown’s final novel. It returns to the reflections about the rural South that began in Brown’s short stories and in his first novel Stars in My Crown (1946). Paper Moon was heralded upon its publication for the novel’s rousing style and humor. Addie Pray has been compared to the similar narrator-heroines of such works as Charles Portis’ True Grit (1968) and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) because of her precocious development.