Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Delta Wedding discloses its subject in its title: It is a re-creation of a plantation family wedding in the Mississippi Delta in 1923. As such, it celebrates a mostly lost way of living in and interrelating within a complex society and family. The novel is unusual in both focus and structure. Sidestepping the usual fictional progression from definition of conflict to resolution, it instead brings to life a pivotal event in the life of a family, showing how this changes both individuals and group. By making the entire family central, it alters the customary frame of reference in fiction. Its focus is quite different from the common view of a male hero demonstrating his character by taking resolute action. In this work, even though the social context is the dominant-male model typical of the Deep South, the strong lines of force emanate from the women—most emphatically, sometimes, at the very moment of making a man the apparent center of their lives.

The novel opens and closes with Laura McRaven, beginning with her motherless condition and ending with her invitation to join the Fairchild family. Otherwise, however, she plays little part in the major events of the story; although she is present for most of them, she remains on the sidelines. Overtly, there seems little reason for her inclusion. Yet that is the point. She is there because she is part of the family; this family is mostly about inclusiveness. The pattern plays itself out in several...

(The entire section is 485 words.)