Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill. Buchan family plantation in Virginia’s Fairfax County. Because author Allen Tate sees people and place as interconnected, his narrator, Lacy Buchan, explains how his father identifies his family as the “Buchans of Fairfax County” to underscore their roots and generational connection to the land. In contrast to magnificent opulence of many antebellum romances, the Buchan family home is depicted more as genteel farmhouse than mansion. From its peeling paint to its tobacco-depleted soil, Pleasant Hill’s elegant shabbiness reflects the Buchan family’s gradual decline in the face of modern mercantile society, which is represented by Lacy Buchan’s brother-in-law George Posey. Tate locates the plantation near the first Battle of Manassas (also known as the Battle of Bull Run)—which is dramatized at the novel’s end—to make it a microcosm of the causes of the Civil War and its long-lasting political, social, and moral effects.

To Tate, slavery is a symptom rather than root of the conflict. Lacy’s father owns some twenty slaves but refuses to sell them, even though his failing fortunes can no longer maintain them. In contrast to this ideal of the Southern paterfamilias, the merchant George Posey sells his own half-brother, Yellow Jim, in order to buy a fancy horse. However, Tate is no simple apologist for slavery. He lays bare the Old South’s delusions of grandeur by juxtaposing a neighboring plantation’s “Tournament of Chivalry” with a pathetic scene of slaves who have been “sold down the river.” He also critiques the casual brutality attendant upon the...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Carpenter, Lynette. “The Battle Within: The Beleaguered Consciousness in Allen Tate’s The Fathers.” Southern Literary Journal 8, no. 2 (Spring, 1976): 3-23. Asserts Lacy Buchan is the central character in Tate’s novel and his confused narration is representative of the book’s theme: the ambiguity of experience and memory.

Holman, C. Hugh. “The Fathers and the Historical Imagination.” In Literary Romanticism in America, edited by William L. Andrews. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. This renowned critic provides a useful review of earlier criticism of The Fathers. Discusses the work as a Bildungsroman that reviews a family’s events through a historical viewpoint.

Law, Richard. “ ‘Active Faith’ and Ritual in The Fathers.” American Literature 55 (October, 1983): 345-366. Posits that part of the novel’s greatness lies in its questioning its own thesis: the value of tradition and community. Asserts that it is not a tract, although it represents Agrarianism.

Mizener, Arthur. “The Fathers and Realistic Fiction.” Accent 7 (Winter, 1947): 101-109. Reprinted in Sewanee Review 67 (Autumn, 1959): 604-613. Says that Tate’s book is “A novel Gone with the Wind ought to have been,” and that it presents a contrast of public and private life.

Young, Thomas Daniel. “Allen Tate’s Double Focus: The Past in the Present.” Mississippi Quarterly 30 (Fall, 1977): 517-525. This respected scholar asserts that The Fathers shows the likelihood that the antebellum South would have destroyed itself even if the Civil War had not occurred. Quotes Tate extensively.