Who is the character Anita Stevens in the novel In Country?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Country is a bestselling 1985 novel by Bobbie Ann Stevens. While she was already known for Shiloh, a book of short stories, In Country provided her with national acclaim and a career as a writer.

Anita Stevens is the ex-girlfriend of Emmett Smith, a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. She still feels a bond with him, although he was the one to break it off:

Anita always laughed as if everything were a joke on herself. Sam remembered how Anita and Emmett used to laugh together... Irene had told Sam that Emmett broke up with Anita because he felt she was out of his class.

In conversation, it comes out that Anita had a bad first marriage:

"I had a fancy wedding," Anita said in a hollow voice... "The day I got married, I felt nothing. Then that night, Jeff just fell asleep. I cried and cried. This was the big night, and I was scared. And he just went to sleep."

This experience changed Anita's mindset, and she became more interested in people for their own sake, moving to a smaller town. While she seems a happy person on the surface, working as a nurse with Vietnam vets like Emmett, she has some trauma from the marriage and now cannot settle on a "normal" man:

"I'm dating a policeman from Benton... he's real macho, and he's getting possessive." She laughed. "When they start getting possessive, I have to get out. That's probably why I cared so much about Emmett. He was never like that. That made me possessive, I guess. I just had to have him."
(All Quotes: Mason, In Country, Google Books)

Anita's interest in Emmett lies in her appreciation of his simplicity; he feels no need to "own" her or make her an accessory to his own life, and she desires the straightforward love that he brought to their relationship. However, he broke it off because of his trauma, and his inability to fully commit.

Read the study guide:
In Country

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