Mark Harris Nancy Groberg - Essay

Nancy Groberg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It is very much to Mr. Harris's credit that, in writing ["Trumpet to the World," a story] of a Negro educated and loved by a white woman, persecuted in the army as well as in civilian life, he avoids the bitterness, the emotionalism, and the loss of perspective which mark so many of the books which attempt to deal with the plight of the American Negro. Mr. Harris never loses his perspective; his Willie Jim never loses his perspective; and what emerges is a fine and sensitive study of a very strong character, of his relationships with other human beings, his attitudes, his misfortunes, his triumphs. (p. 13)

Probably the most outstanding feature of Mr. Harris's novel, however, is his ability to combine a profound sympathy for the group and the problems of the group with a genuine insight into the individual mind and emotion, never losing sight of either. As a result, there is an excellent balance between the strong, carefully examined characters and the more numerous, almost anonymous ones who wander through his story. Willie Jim is startling, is clear, is the individual—his story alone is important—but at the same time he is the chorus, pronouncing and reiterating his hard-learned democratic lesson….

Mr. Harris is clear-headed and sincere, writes beautifully, and directs his energies toward problems which, sadly enough, cannot ever in our time have too much literary attention. (p. 14)

Nancy Groberg, "An Unembittered Race Novel," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1946 by Saturday Review; copyright renewed © 1973 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXIX, No. 16, April 20, 1946, pp. 13-14.