Richard Ghormley Eberhart grew up on his family’s estate, Burr Oaks, in Austin, Minnesota. His early life was almost idyllic. His father, Alpha LaRue Eberhart, the son of a Methodist minister, typified the American Dream, having worked his way up from being a farmhand at the age of fourteen to becoming a business owner at the age of twenty-one. Working for the Hormel company, where he trained as a salesperson, he accumulated a fortune; by the time his son Richard was born, he had been able to buy Burr Oaks, an eighteen-room house on forty acres of land. Here the poet, his brother Dryden (b. 1902), and his sister Elizabeth (b. 1910) enjoyed financial security until the year following the poet’s graduation from high school, when tragedy struck both his mother and his father.
In 1921, a trusted member of the Hormel enterprise was found to have embezzled more than a million dollars from the company. As a result, the poet’s father lost his accumulated wealth. The more serious catastrophe, however, was the poet’s mother’s lung cancer, which caused excruciating pain from the fall of 1921 to her death on June 22, 1922. Eberhart, who was then eighteen, stayed out of college for a year to help take care of her. It was the most profound experience of the poet’s life, and it provided an impetus for his poetry and for his exploration of the meaning of suffering, what is real and unreal, the mystery of creation, and the place of the imagination in art....
(The entire section is 540 words.)