by Catherine Marshall

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Christy is organized into two main groups of characters. The first group is comprised of the "foreigners," those people who have come to Cutter's Gap, Tennessee from the larger world in order to work with the mountain folk and raise their educational level, spiritual life and standard of living. The heroine of the novel, Christy Huddleston, is a nineteen-year-old who volunteers to teach school in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Alice Henderson is a Quaker missionary worker who supervises Christy's work and offers the practical and spiritual guidance the young and inexperienced teacher needs. David Grantland is a young minister who comes to Cutter's Gap and finds himself in conflict with the traditions and beliefs of the people he has come to serve. Although Dr. Neil MacNeil was born and raised in the mountains, he has had the opportunity to live in the world outside and to train as a medical doctor. MacNeil returns to the mountains to share his medical knowledge with the people of his birthplace. Although MacNeil identifies himself with the mountain culture, he seeks to bring the benefits of the modern society to his own people. MacNeil is sensitive to the uniqueness of his place within the mountain community. He is no less a representative of the world of advanced education than he is of the rich heritage into which he was born. MacNeil struggles to bring out the best of both worlds in himself and others.

Several families comprise the small world of Cutter's Gap. Among them are the McHones, the McTeagues, the Aliens, the Becks, and the Spencers. Christy is especially close to Fairlight Spencer, the first adult member of the community that she teaches to read. In return, Fairlight teaches Christy to appreciate the beauty of the natural wilderness and the folk wisdom and customs of the mountains. Fairlight's sudden death deeply affects Christy. Bird's Eye Taylor and his son Lundy exemplify the lawlessness and violence that had been unfortunate aspects of life in the Ozarks. It is in the life of Bird's Eye Taylor, however, that the ability of a human being's innately gentle instincts can be seen to overcome the temptation to join the violence of the society around him.

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