John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.) Paul Flowers - Essay

Paul Flowers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

John Ehle has created a readable novel ["Move Over, Mountain"] about a Southern Negro, and if he deserves no other encomium, he should be praised for a fresh approach to the Negro's big problem, and his splendid avoidance of the trite theme in which Uncle Tom's great-grandson always must be the victim of a latterday Simon Legree. Mr. Ehle turns a spotlight on human beings in their struggle through a world where natural selection is the rule. The fact that the central character and nearly all the rest are Negroes is incidental. It is a story of struggle, determination, peculiar moral convictions and strange loyalties….

Through travail, doubt, fear and frustration, Jordan moves to gain money and better position for his family; such obstructions as block his path are put there by others of his own race; in short, this is a success story in the familiar American tradition, and race has little to do with it beyond the frequently voiced theme of a promised land "up North."…

[It] is quite obvious that [Mr. Ehle] writes from a deep knowledge of his subject, and an understanding of technique rare in a first novelist. As we have said, he gives refreshing emphasis to a fact frequently ignored by "social problem" novelists—namely, that human problems in reality have little to do with geography or even race; that men, of whatever breed, who are tough and durable frequently triumph over adverse environments. No one will pity Jordan Cummings because he was a Negro. Readers will admire and respect him because he was a man.

Paul Flowers, "Jordan Cummings, Lord of Tin Top," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1957 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 21, 1957, p. 18.