What is achieved by telling the story of the Gastonia mill strike through so many points of view? Relate the novel's narrative structure to its overall theme and genre (historical fiction).

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Numerous novels have been inspired by the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. Wiley Cash's 2017 novel, The Last Ballad, is the most recent. It centers on one striking worker, Ella May Wiggins, and her unique role as a songwriter as well as an activist. The primary theme...

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Numerous novels have been inspired by the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. Wiley Cash's 2017 novel, The Last Ballad, is the most recent. It centers on one striking worker, Ella May Wiggins, and her unique role as a songwriter as well as an activist. The primary theme is the important role of labor activism in challenging the harsh working conditions in the southern textile mills.

The author also includes the perspectives of the mill owner and his wife. These provide balance and encourage the reader to see the complexity of the issues involved. Having his wife sympathize with the women workers' plight points to the theme of female solidarity as partly transcending class barriers.

In addition, Ella's granddaughter is featured. Her voice, speaking from the present, allows Cash both to provide updated information and especially to show the personal effects of the strike and its aftermath. The latter is consistent with his focus on the impact on individuals and families, not abstractions such as fairness or working conditions.

Historical fiction faces the challenge of presenting factual information in context without losing the personal dimension. The human factor is what brings dry facts to life and makes readers care about the issues. Cash largely avoids romanticized nostalgia. This novel in some ways resembles another successful effort that draws on multiple generations, Lee Smith's Oral History, set partly in the same period in Appalachia. Across the country in the Northwest, a moving family saga about logging and a strike's effects is Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, which does romanticize the hero's defiance and rugged individualism as a bygone American frontier trait.

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