Social Concerns / Themes

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A Place to Come To, Warren's final novel, provides an apologia and a valedictory comment on his career. Abandoning the baroque plots and the complex narrative devices of his middle period, Warren here tells a relatively uncluttered tale of a Southern writer from an obscure Alabama town. Jed Tewksbury's autobiographical narrative describes his career from his humiliating origin as the son of a roistering "redneck" in Dugton, Alabama, through a career as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and then as a distinguished medievalist at a number of universities. Throughout the chronicle of Tewksbury's experience, however, Warren's focus is on his character's difficult effort to come to terms with his poor Southern background, and especially his father's status as a laughingstock in the undistinguished world of Dugton.

Clearly Tewksbury's drive toward intellectual success is motivated by his compulsion to put to rest the ghosts of his humble origin. Even Tewksbury's love affairs and failed marriage are dominated by his uneasy relationship with his widowed mother and his boyhood home, which he refuses to visit until his mother's death near the end of his career.

Warren's novel reflects the social theme of the struggle of the impoverished Southern white class — which is seldom at the center of Faulkner's work — to escape the stigma of poverty and social degradation and to find success in the prosperity of America in its post-World War II years. Even more significantly. Warren describes through Tewksbury the difficulty faced by the members of this rising class of poor whites in coming to terms with their own undistinguished origins. Aside from the social concerns of a class, the novel also reflects the struggles felt by many successful American writers in accepting themselves and their success. Warren's Jed Tewksbury is not only a mask for Warren himself, but a character whose saga recalls the tragic lives of other writers, especially Southern writers like Thomas Wolfe, and their bitter conflicts, even their inability to establish a satisfactory relationship with the places they once called home.

When Tewksbury finally makes his pilgrimage to Dugton, at the close of the novel, following his mother's death, he learns how foolish his fears of the past have been, since few even remember him or the notorious episode of his father's death in a drunken fall from a wagon. Moreover, he comes to realize that his greatest folly has been his failure to return to visit his mother, who, despite keeping up a correspondence with him, had been too proud to ask him to return to see her. Finally, Warren's protagonist is able to accept not only his place of origin but his father's life when he realizes that Buck Tewksbury's only real fault had been that "he was born out of phase. If he had been born in 1840, he would have been just ripe for sergeant in a troop of Alabama cavalry." His hero's final acceptance of his past and his place of origin provides a satisfying conclusion to one of Warren's best novels.

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