Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

In this novel, four businessmen taking a weekend canoe trip down the untamed Cahulawassee River battle both nature and hill people in “kill-or-be-killed” situations. In lean prose, Dickey graphically details such incidents as a man being savagely sodomized at gunpoint, threats of castration, the sexual overtones of the death climb up a cliff, and the earthy epithets of men stalking and killing others.

The 1970 novel became popular with school-age readers after release of the highly successful 1972 film version, featuring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. However, in challenges occurring in Maryland and Virginia schools, the book was found “obscene.” In Drake, North Dakota, in the 1970’s, the book became part of a...

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lewis Medlock, Ed Gentry, Drew Ballinger, and Bobby Trippe decide to canoe a river in north Georgia before it is dammed. Lewis promises them an enjoyable time away from the pressures and routines of the city. The four men spend September 14 on the river and have the type of day that Lewis promised. The next morning Ed agrees to take Bobby in his canoe because Lewis is frustrated with Bobby’s ineptness and weakness.

Ed and Bobby stop to rest on the bank since they are tired and, ironically, are well ahead of Lewis and Drew. Two men step out of the woods, one of them trailing a shotgun by the barrel. The taller man seems to be toothless, and the shorter man has white stubble on his face and a stomach that falls through his overalls. In an attempt to pacify these mountain men, Ed tells them that he and Bobby are not government agents looking for a still and would even be interested in buying some moonshine from them if they have it. This comment seems to set something in motion for the mountain men, and they take Ed and Bobby at gunpoint deeper into the woods. The tall, lean man ties Ed to a tree with Ed’s own belt and then turns to Bobby. While the tall man holds the gun, the white-bearded man sodomizes Bobby. They turn then to Ed and decide that he will perform oral sex on the tall man. As they exchange the gun an arrow appears in the middle of the tall man’s chest. Lewis and Drew arrived upon the scene quietly, hearing Bobby’s screams, and Lewis had drawn his bow on the tall man and waited for an opportunity to let the arrow fly. The tall man dies, and the white-bearded man runs off into the woods and disappears. Drew wants to take the body to the sheriff, but Lewis wants to bury it in the woods because the area will be covered with water soon. The men vote with Ed because they think his way is the least complicated for their present and future lives. They bury the man and the shotgun deep in the...

(The entire section is 783 words.)