Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 431

As one of America’s early literary Realists, Edward Eggleston was part of a movement to counter the excesses of bucolic Romanticism with “truth-telling” about the bleakness of agrarian life, the bitter—and often petty—rivalries of small-town life, and the very real hatreds and resentments found in class conflicts. Influenced by the French critic Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, Eggleston—like such contemporaries as Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells—followed the dictum “he writes best who writes about what he knows best.” Thus, in THE HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER, Eggleston based his novel upon the experiences—with which he was intimately familiar—of his brother George, a teacher in his early years and later a noted journalist, biographer, historian, and novelist in his own right. Eggleston also made a special effort, in all of his work, to capture accurately and reflect the peculiar speech and behavior patterns of the people he depicted.

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A direct offshoot of this particular version of Realism was Eggleston’s regionalism, for in writing of what he knew best, he wrote of his native Indiana whose residents were called Hoosiers. The Hoosiers who people the novel are dour, small-town folk preoccupied with the facade of respectability. Accordingly, since pauperism is construed as a major social transgression, Pete Jones’s attempt to have the Pearsons declared indigent so that Shocky Thomson could be indentured is a deliberate expression of the region’s value system, as is Matilda White’s refusal of shelter to Shocky’s “pauperized” mother, who is subsequently aided by Nancy Sawyer and other members of Miss Sawyer’s church.

Eggleston, however, softened the rigid mores of the region with his own...

(The entire section contains 431 words.)

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