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The title of Lee Smith’s novel The Devil’s Dream functions in various ways, including the following:
- It alludes to a famous country music song in a novel in which country music is strongly emphasized.
- It alludes to the opinions of Moses Bailey, a main character, who marries Kate Malone despite the fact that she comes from a music-playing family and Moses considers country music the sound of the devil. At one point for instance, Moses says to a son who is considering learning how to play the fiddle,
“The fiddle is a instrument of the Devil, and iffen you ever take it up you will have to leave home. Fer you won’t be my boy no more, you’ll be the Devil’s boy.”
- It alludes to the attitudes of many people besides Moses who, during the nineteenth century, also considered the fiddle to be “the devil’s box.”
- It alludes to Kate’s continuing love of country music despite her marriage to Moses.
- It alludes to a passage in the novel in which “The Devil’s Dream” is listed as one of the specific songs Kate knows.
- It alludes to the tension between religion and non-religious behavior, a tension that is a major theme of much of the novel.
- It is relevant to a novel in which show business, associated by some people with the devil, is a major focus.
- It alludes to the emphasis on eroticism that becomes more explicit in later sections of the book. Section four, for instance, opens with these words from a twentieth-century country song:
I've got a way with women,
And an ace or two up my sleeve,
I'm a five-card stud, baby,
I'm all the man you'll ever need.
- It alludes to the opinion of one of the characters (Katie) that country music need not be considered Satanic but might actually serve religious purposes.
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