What is the function of the title of Lee Smith’s novel The Devil’s Dream ?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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