Bess Streeter Aldrich Criticism - Essay

Times Literary Supplement (review date 13 December 1928)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of A Lantern in Her Hand, by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Times Literary Supplement (13 December 1928): 992.

[In the following brief review of A Lantern in Her Hand, the critic notes the novel's “absorbing interest.”]

There is imaginative power in this story [A Lantern in Her Hand] of pioneering days in Iowa and Nebraska, and even the most homely and trivial happenings in the eighty years of Abbie Deal's life are so dramatically treated as to give the chronicle of her struggle against an adverse destiny an absorbing interest. Abbie herself is a memorable figure, with her sturdy loyalty and romantic longings, the heritage of her aristocratic Scotch and peasant Irish ancestors. Jolting in the covered wagon as it made its slow advance westward over the prairies from the little village of Chicago, the child Abbie listened avidly to her sister's oft-told tale of the lovely lady, Isabelle Anders-Mackenzie. All through her maidenhood the legend of Isabelle, made concrete in the shape of a string of pearls, a family heirloom, acted as a beacon to Abbie's thoughts of fame as singer, writer, or painter. When she was nineteen, just after the Civil War, Abbie refused a chance of going to New York and married Will Deal. The Deals took the trail westward from Cedar Falls to the young State of Nebraska, where Abbie reared her six children with indomitable courage through all the hard years of famine and drought, grasshopper plagues and snow, until the determination of the early settlers bore its fruit in rolling miles of rich cornland and wealthy cities.

Bess Streeter Aldrich (essay date December 1941)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Aldrich, Bess Streeter. “The Story Germ.” The Writer 54, no. 12 (December 1941): 355-7.

[In the following essay, Aldrich illustrates how to build character and a story line by describing how she created Miss Bishop.]

Several times in the past years your editor has asked me to contribute an article and each time I have been too busy, or thought I was, which is nearly the same thing. This morning another pleasant request has arrived and in the same mail a letter from a young woman with that old query: “Can you help a beginning writer? Where do you get your ideas? How can … ?” etc., etc. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is the hand of Fate, but the...

(The entire section is 1691 words.)

Bess Streeter Aldrich (essay date November 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Aldrich, Bess Streeter. “Working Backward.” Writer 63 (November 1950): 350-53.

[In the following essay, Aldrich uses her story “Journey into Christmas” to show how she builds a story and characters.]

A number of years ago I wrote an article for The Writer titled “The Story Germ.” Several young writers were kind enough to tell me it was helpful to them. In that article I stressed the point that plots for stories seldom come to one in their entirety, but that, given some small situation or dramatic moment or distinctive human trait, one can work out a story based on that little happening or emotional period or outstanding characteristic....

(The entire section is 2552 words.)

Abigail Ann Martin (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Martin, Abigail Ann. “Bess Streeter Aldrich.” In Bess Streeter Aldrich, pp. 5-41. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1992.

[In the following essay, Martin provides a critical discussion of Aldrich's major works.]

“Nebraska,” wrote Bess Streeter Aldrich, “is only the state of my adoption, but I am sure that I feel all the loyalty for it which the native-born bears … while I am not a native Nebraskan, the blood of the midwestern pioneer runs in my veins and I come rightly by my love for the Nebraska pioneer and admiration for the courage and fortitude which he displayed in the early days of the state's history …” (Introduction to The Rim of...

(The entire section is 11933 words.)

Carol Miles Petersen (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Petersen, Carol Miles. Introduction to The Collected Short Works 1907-1919, pp. vii-xiii. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

[In the following introduction to a collection of Aldrich's short works, Petersen gives a critical overview of Aldrich's writing.]

In describing how to write a short story, Bess Streeter Aldrich noted the author must “live the lives of his characters, crawling into their very skins. … He must be an actor. More than that, he must play all the parts.”1 In playing “all the parts,” Bess Streeter Aldrich brought to her readers the pleasure of well-written stories that reflect her own personality: her...

(The entire section is 3215 words.)