(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story begins in the early 1960s in an isolated mountainous area near the Ohio River, where coal and steel are the major industries. The...

(The entire section is 309 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Hamilton's writing tends to be poetic and descriptive, detailing landscape, clothing, and facial expressions. As in all good writing, the...

(The entire section is 556 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

M.C. Higgins, the Great deals with three issues that parents or teachers may want to discuss with their children: pollution,...

(The entire section is 422 words.)


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Giovanni, Nikki. Review of M. C. Higgins, the Great. The New York Times Book Review, September 22, 1974, 8. Summarizes the plot in a breezy style and then settles down to an analysis of Hamilton’s appeal, which the reviewer attributes to her realism, her characterization, and her uniting “the forces of hope with the forces of dreams.” A brief but perceptive article.

Hamilton, Virginia. “The Mind of a Novel: The Heart of the Book.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 8 (Winter, 1983): 10-14. Discusses novels published after M. C. Higgins, the Great, emphasizing persistent themes in all of Hamilton’s works, such as the importance of place and family. Explains her use of language, nonverbal communication, and dialect. A lengthy section on the importance of Africa in her thought and fiction is especially valuable.

Hamilton, Virginia. “Writing the Source: In Other Words.” The Horn Book Magazine 14 (December, 1978): 609-619. Comments on the genesis of her works, emphasizing the importance of the revision process, where Hamilton believes she is at her most creative. Also discusses the various genres that appeal to her, and makes some interesting observations about her works’ relationship to black literature in general.

Scholl, Kathleen. “Black Traditions in M. C. Higgins, the Great.” Language Arts 17 (April, 1980): 420-424. Drawing on scholarly sources, this essay traces in detail the use of folklore, song, and myth in Hamilton’s novel. The author’s explanation of the setting in which folklore is shared and transmitted is particularly enlightening.

Vassallo, Carol. “A Miscellany: M. C. Higgins, the Great.” Children’s Literature: Annual of the Modern Language Association Seminar on Children’s Literature and the Children’s Literature Association 4 (1975): 194-195. Points out many excellences in the novel. Argues that the pole has several symbolic uses, including, in its swaying, a movement through time into the past, which is consistent with the fact that its base is sunk into the family graves. An interesting analysis.

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. M.C., Ben, and Lurhetta have taken a rabbit from one of M.C.'s traps when Lurhetta asks to visit Kill's Mound. They leave the rabbit, and...

(The entire section is 226 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Although much of M.C. Higgins, the Great is realistic and believable, there are supernatural elements as well—for example, M.C.'s...

(The entire section is 234 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Hamilton's first novel, Zeely, features a girl who, like M.C., must cope with the transition to adulthood. In The Planet of Junior...

(The entire section is 142 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Block, Ann, and Carolyn Riley, eds. Children's Literature Review. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research, 1976. Contains excerpts from...

(The entire section is 205 words.)