Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111207108-Rawlings.jpg Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Although she is best known for one novel, The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings produced three other full-length novels and two novellas, the award-winning Jacob’s Ladder and the undistinguished Mountain Prelude, which was serialized in 1947 in The Saturday Evening Post but never appeared in book form. She also wrote numerous shorter pieces for periodicals, beginning with a series of sketches about life in Cross Creek, Florida, which were printed in Scribner’s Magazine under the title “Cracker Chidlings.” During her lifetime, Rawlings brought out only one book-length volume of short stories, When the Whippoorwill (1940). However, virtually all of the short fiction that she published in magazines was collected in Rodger L. Tarr’s edition of Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1994). Rawlings was also the author of a notable autobiographical work, Cross Creek (1942), and an anecdotal cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery (1942). A children’s book, The Secret River, was published posthumously in 1955. The author’s versatility is evident in The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Reader (1956), edited by Julia Scribner Bigham. Selected Letters of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1983) was edited by Gordon E. Bigelow and Laura V. Monti.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

During the 1930’s and the 1940’s, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s fiction was popular with the general public and acclaimed by critics. Her novella Jacob’s Ladder placed second in the 1931 Scribner Prize Contest, and two of her short stories, “Gal Young Un” in 1933 and “Black Secret” in 1946, won O. Henry Awards. Her first published novel, South Moon Under, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, as was The Yearling, which brought Rawlings a national reputation, a motion-picture contract, membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the 1939 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Her autobiography Cross Creek was also a best seller and a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

After her death, however, Rawlings was remembered either as a local colorist or as the author of two books for children, The Secret River, which in 1956 was selected as a Newbery Honor Book, and The Yearling, which in 1963 won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. The classification of The Yearling as a children’s book was ironic, since Rawlings had written it with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) in mind, intending to appeal at least as much to adults as to children.

The ongoing efforts of a few scholars to call attention to a writer they felt had been both inappropriately classified and unjustly neglected, along with the new emphasis on the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, resulted in the 1980’s and the 1990’s in an upsurge of interest in Rawlings, her novels, her short stories, and her compelling autobiography. Rawlings is now valued for not only her precision in describing a vanished way of life but also her lyrical prose, her mystical feelings about nature, and her insistence that there are truly noble people who spend their lives in poverty and obscurity.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Acton, Patricia Nassif. Invasion of Privacy: The Cross Creek Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1988. A dramatic account of the legal battle between Rawlings and Zelma Cason. Includes notes, index, and illustrations.

Bellman, Samuel I. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. New York: Twayne, 1974. Stresses the analysis of Rawlings’s works. Has copious notes, bibliography, and index.

Morris, Rhonda. “Engendering Fictions: Rawlings and a Female Tradition of Southern Writing.” The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature 7 (1996): 27-39. Argues that though Rawlings used the male voice in order to be “taken seriously” by the establishment, her works reveal a feminist perspective. Well documented.

Parker, Idella, and Mary Keating. Idella: Marjorie Rawlings’ “Perfect Maid.” Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992. The employee described by Rawlings in Cross Creek as the “perfect maid” recalls her life with Rawlings and comments on the author’s feelings about race. Includes photographs and index.

Silverthorne, Elizabeth. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Sojourner at Cross Creek. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook, 1988. The standard biography, based on a close study of the author’s papers, her unpublished works, and numerous interviews. Includes helpful list of reviews, illustrations, and index.

Tarr, Rodger L. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996. Lists all of Rawlings’s publications but contains very few secondary sources. Includes useful information about her film involvements.