Jessamyn West Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207213-West.jpg Jessamyn West Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Best known for her first collection of short stories, The Friendly Persuasion, Jessamyn West also published eight novels during her long literary career, including Leafy Rivers (1967), set on the frontier in nineteenth century Ohio, and South of the Angels (1960), set, like many of her short stories, in Southern California. West also published an opera libretto based on the life of John James Audubon, A Mirror for the Sky (1948), and a collection of poems, The Secret Look: Poems (1974). Among her screenplays was that for the film Friendly Persuasion (1956), written in collaboration. Her autobiographical writings include an account of the production of that film, To See the Dream (1957); Hide and Seek: A Continuing Journey (1973), the story of her early life; The Woman Said Yes: Encounters with Life and Death—Memoirs (1976), dealing with her illness with tuberculosis and her sister’s sickness and suicide; and Double Discovery: A Journey (1980), a travel diary. She edited The Quaker Reader in 1962.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Ever since the publication of her first book, Jessamyn West has had a large and loyal following. Critics praise her craftsmanship: her clear prose, her vivid realization of the natural setting, her historical accuracy, her effective creation of characters who are complex human beings beneath their seemingly simple surface. Her accomplishments have been recognized by the Indiana Authors’ Day Award in 1957, the Thormod Monsen Award in 1958, and the Janet Kafka Prize in 1976, as well as by the awarding of honorary doctorates both in her native Midwest and in her longtime home, California. West’s works are divided between the midwestern frontier of her family’s past and the new frontier of twentieth century Southern California. The fact that her fiction is authentically regional does not limit her appeal, however, for her themes transcend local color, dealing as they do with survival as a moral and loving being in a difficult and dangerous world.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Barron, James. “Jessamyn West, Author of Stories About Quakers in Indiana, Dies.” The New York Times, February 24, 1984, p. B16. In this obituary of West, Barron briefly traces her personal and literary life and comments on her focus on Quakers.

Betts, Doris. “Skillful Styles from Two Storytellers.” Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1987. A review of Collected Stories of Jessamyn West; comments on her narrators as observers, her characters as eccentrics, and her animals as lovable.

Farmer, Ann Dahlstrom. Jessamyn West: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1998. A helpful tool for students of West. Includes an index.

Prescott, P.S. “The Massacre at Fall Creek.” Newsweek, April 14, 1975, 86. According to Prescott, the ingredients in a “good old-fashioned novel” combine suspense, violence, and villainy with sentiment. The Massacre at Fall Creek is a concrete example of this genre. Jessamyn West’s expertise, according to Prescott, extends not only to the “good old-fashioned novel” but also to other literary forms as well.

Shivers, Alfred S. Jessamyn West. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1992. This biography of Jessamyn West probes the religious influences of her Quaker beliefs on her literary endeavors, thus...

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