Quotes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 475

It is almost impossible to pull quotes from Lee Smith’s Oral History because her narration is so beautifully woven together that to pull one part out would not do it justice. This being said, what follows could be considered patches from the tapestry, pieces whole enough to maintain the beauty...

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It is almost impossible to pull quotes from Lee Smith’s Oral History because her narration is so beautifully woven together that to pull one part out would not do it justice. This being said, what follows could be considered patches from the tapestry, pieces whole enough to maintain the beauty in her work, but small enough for our purpose.

Smith’s narration moves from a third-person point of view to a first-person point of view. With these first two quotes, we get to see how Smith’s third-person point of view shows Ora Mae’s reaction to Jennifer returning from the haunted house, as well as Jennifer’s thoughts as she makes her way down the path.

“But Jennifer is coming down the path now, thank God, stopping along the way to write things down in her notebook. Ora Mae feels old. She has a heaviness in her bosom like the end of the world, so she goes inside for a Rolaid.”

With that quote, the reader is given a weighted understanding of Ora Mae; she carries a great burden emotionally, and it shows. To contrast Ora Mae’s heaviness, Smith presents the reader with Jennifer almost skipping down the path, her mind only seeing the beauty of her surroundings:

“Jennifer picks her way down the mountain with beggar's-lice stuck to her jeans. All the weeds are so high and they grab at her. Jennifer thinks it is just beautiful in this holier, so peaceful, like being in a time machine. She can 't understand why her father never would let her come here when it is so plainly wonderful, when it was her real mother's home, after all.”

Smith shifts narration to a first-person point of view, and the reader gets to see Jennifer’s thoughts as she writes them down in her notebook. Smith crafts a style of writing that is somewhat amateurish, to show that Jennifer is a beginning writer. The inexperience of Jennifer’s writing can be seen in her use of “one” to avoid first-person pronouns and in her use of the cliché phrase “My Roots.”

“ . . . they seem to me symbolic of this whole enterprise which strikes me as silly, a fool's errand, even though my grandfather told me in such detail on the telephone about the rocking chair, the terrible banging noises and rushing winds and ghostly laughter that began every day at sundown, driving them at last from their home. One feels that the true benefits of this trip may derive not from what is recorded or not recorded by the tape now spinning in that empty room above me, but from my new knowledge of my heritage and a new appreciation of these colorful, interesting folk. My roots.”

Smith’s Oral History is an amazing novel that shows the skill and artistry of a profound writer.

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