Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country examines a few significant weeks in the life of Sam Hughes during the summer after her high school graduation. Irene, her mother was widowed when Sam’s father died in Vietnam only a few months after their marriage, but now she has remarried and moved to Lexington. Sam has elected to spend her last year of high school in her old home, living with her mother’s brother, Emmett. The two seem more like brother and sister than uncle and niece, partly because his role in the Vietnam War has left Emmett in a sort of extended adolescence, unable to decide what to do with his life. In fact, Sam seems the more mature of the two, even though at the time of the novel she too is uncertain where her life will take her. She thinks she might want to go to college, but she is not certain. She wonders about her future with her boyfriend Lonnie. She also longs to help Emmett cope with his problems, both physical and mental. Most of all, Sam wonders about the father she never knew and the war that took him from her; she senses that, in knowing him, she will somehow come to know herself. The novel becomes the story of Sam’s quest during these few weeks in the summer of 1984.

The novel opens with Sam, Emmett, and Mamaw (Sam’s grandmother) on the road to Washington, D.C., in Sam’s decrepit Volkswagen. She bought it used a few weeks before, but now they have had to stop in Maryland to have its failing clutch repaired. The center...

(The entire section is 514 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Vietnam Veterans' War Memorial. Published by Gale Cengage

The Vietnam War
As is usually the case when seeking the cause of any war, the roots of the Vietnam War can be traced...

(The entire section is 1037 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

The setting of most of In Country is the small Kentucky town of Hopewell. The importance of this is...

(The entire section is 956 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Country offers the possibility for much discussion concerning the aftermath of the Vietnam War upon the cultural and social...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1985: Mikhail Gorbachev became the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, marking the beginning of the end for the...

(The entire section is 295 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research the controversy that surrounded the building of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in 1982: Which groups objected to it? What was the...

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Mason draws upon the literature that has emerged from the Vietnam War to provide the circumstantial detail in her novel. For example, Mark...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Country is very much part of the same imaginative landscape that Mason first explored in Shiloh and Other Stones (1982). The...

(The entire section is 49 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Country was made into a successful 1989 film for Warner Brothers. It was directed by Norman Jewison and starred Emily Lloyd as Sam...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

In Country was adapted to a movie in 1989, currently available on videotape. Starring Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd. Directed by Norman...

(The entire section is 57 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The soldiers interviewed by Al Santoh for his 1981 book Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Thirty-Three Soldiers...

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Robert H. Bnnkmeyer, Jr., "Finding One's History: Bobbie Ann Mason and...

(The entire section is 1002 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Brinkmeyer, Robert H., Jr. “Finding One’s History: Bobbie Ann Mason and Contemporary Southern Literature.” Southern Literary Journal 19 (Spring, 1987): 22-33.

Flora, Joseph M. “Bobbie Ann Mason.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Price, Joanna. Understanding Bobbie Ann Mason. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Ryan, Maureen. “Stopping Places: Bobbie Ann Mason’s Short Stories.” In Women Writers of the Contemporary South, edited by Peggy...

(The entire section is 98 words.)