Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A big celebration is held in Raintree County, Indiana, on July 4, 1892. The birthday of the nation is noted with the usual parades and fireworks, and everyone is excited that Indiana senator Garwood Jones is returning to his hometown to make a speech. Among those who greet the senator is his old friend and rival John Wickliff Shawnessy, who once opposed Jones for political office and lost. As Shawnessy experiences the events of the day, his mind wanders back to other times.
Shawnessy remembers growing up in Raintree County, the son of T. D. Shawnessy, a physician and preacher, and Ellen Shawnessy, a wise and gentle woman. John’s early life is haunted by the legend of the raintree, a magic tree with yellow flowers that is rumored to grow somewhere in the county. Most of the county is easy to travel over, so the most likely place for the fabulous raintree to be hidden is deep in a swamp at the end of a lake in the middle of the county. John vows that he will find the raintree some day. He also has another dream of writing a great epic that will encapsulate and explain not only Raintree County but also the American republic.
John’s adolescence is affected by three people. Jerusalem Webster Stiles, known as the Perfessor, establishes an academy that young Johnny Shawnessy attends, along with his friends Garwood Jones and Nell Gaither. The Perfessor is only a few years older than his students, and he has a cynical, worldly-wise attitude that...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)
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