Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Cross Creek is a series of sketches in which Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings describes characters, daily life, and memorable events at Cross Creek during the decade and a half that she had spent there. Even though this book is autobiographical, it is not arranged chronologically. Instead, it is organized according to the subjects suggested in the chapter titles. Sometimes, a title is the name of a person, such as “The Widow Slater,” or of an event, such as “The Pound Party.” At other times, it is as vague but suggestive as “Our Daily Bread,” which turns out to be about food and cookery, one of the author’s passions. Near the end of the book, there are four chapters on the seasons, followed by “Hyacinth Drift,” which is an account of an almost mystical experience in nature, and then Rawlings’ conclusion, which discusses the relationship between human beings and their natural surroundings.

In many ways, Cross Creek has the quality of a travel book, in which a writer travels to an unfamiliar place, observes people who are considered foreign, and describes their way of life. There is much information in the work: Rawlings writes accurately of dwelling places, food, folkways, customs, and local flora and fauna. Furthermore, like a good travel writer, she adds human interest, recording conversations and local stories, as well as giving firsthand accounts of events as comical as her encounter with trespassing pigs and as dramatic as the struggle of orange growers against a killing frost.

Yet Rawlings differs from most travel writers because she did not merely visit Cross Creek; instead, she moved there to establish a home. Therefore, her discoveries have a personal significance as well as a general interest. Rather than merely observing a community, Rawlings learned to become a part of it.