Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430

Curiously, William Henry Hudson is not as famous for the two books (THE PURPLE LAND THAT ENGLAND LOST and FAR AWAY AND LONG AGO) that he wrote about an area that he knew well (the Pampas of Uruguay and Argentina), as for GREEN MANSIONS, a book written about an area that he did not know well (the Venezuelan jungle). Part of the true worth of THE PURPLE LAND (as it is commonly called) has thus escaped critics, who have not fully appreciated its worth as a sociohistorical documentary about an interesting part of the world during the embryonic decades of its history. Hudson knew and loved the pampa well. He had the unusual experience of being a talented Anglo-Saxon bred in the pampa during wild times. His powers of observation and description were notable, and readers are indebted to him for colorful vignettes of pampa life during the middle of the nineteenth century.

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Many social types of Uruguay are clearly drawn in the pages of THE PURPLE LAND. The confusion of the times is also mirrored, when a wild, loosely knit society was taking control of the rolling, green pampa of Uruguay, a place blessed with deep topsoil, green grass, and ample water. Armies of gaucho cavalry flying white pennants from their lance tips (the Blancos, or Whites) battled armies of gaucho cavalry flying red pennants from their lance tips (the Colorados, or Reds). They initiated the traditional struggle between these two political factions for dominance of the Republic of the Left Bank (Banda Oriental, or East Bank) of the Uruguay River. Richard Lamb’s adventures are therefore more meaningful than they may seem at first glance, for through them readers gain insights into the Uruguayan life of the times. Many rural types, customs, and above all the terrible political drawbacks of the times are depicted.

Lamb’s apparently aimless travels are also typical of the life of the times, and Hudson enriches his narrative with many details of sociology and natural science. Hudson is one of the great masters of sensuous prose. Perhaps the reason for this stylistic skill is the fact that he was a botanist, and the keenness of observation required in scientific writing is reflected in his choice of adjectives and verbs. The interesting and adventurous phases of life on the rolling pampa, with its purple tints at twilight, are also presented. Although Uruguayan literature had produced some of the best works from South America in the novel and poetry, this novel written by a foreigner occupies a position of merit in the letters of Uruguay.

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