Queenie Peavy Analysis
by Robert J. Burch

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Setting

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story takes place during the 1930s in Cotton Junction, a small town in Georgia. The farmers lead a spare, hardworking life typical of rural communities during the Great Depression. Cotton Junction's business district consists of little more than the courthouse, post office, drugstore, cafe, and dry goods store. Because the town was one that "General Sherman somehow missed" on his destructive Civil War march through the South, Cotton Junction still boasts many handsome houses with large white columns and wide front porches. On the outskirts of town stand farmhouses and ramshackle homes. Queenie says "one good puff from an angry wolf would splinter the two-room shack that she shares with her mother.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Burch's descriptions of everyday life in a small town during the Great Depression are simple and well drawn. The narrative is credible, the dialogue natural, and the characters down-to-earth. The author also engages the reader with his subtle use of humor. The understated wit in Queenie's thoughts and conversations provides entertainment as well as insight into her character. When, for example, Little Mother makes a particularly angelic statement, Queenie decides that "Little Mother not only wanted her friends to get along with each other but was now promoting good will and understanding for the whole world." Queenie's interactions with Dover and Avis are also important for their revelations of the soft side of her personality.

For the most part, Queenie Peavy is a straightforward narrative featuring a simple, episodic plot. One literary device that Burch employs is the use of song lyrics to reveal Queenie's moods. Queenie often sings with the Corry children, and her choice of songs "Foolish Questions" or "Work, for the Night is Coming"often reflects her current state of mind. Music also serves as the vehicle through which Queenie first achieves public recognition of her talents. She overcomes her inhibitions and sings at a school assembly, and the audience enjoys her performance so much that it asks her to sing an encore.

Although the book is relatively free of symbolism, Burch does set up a symbolic contrast between the accuracy of Queenie's rock-throwing and the haphazard manner in which she approaches other aspects of her life. An intelligent girl, Queenie is, nonetheless, inconsistent; constantly in trouble at school, she seems unable to control her behavior or to direct her actions toward positive ends. But by the end of the book, Queenie has begun to focus her "deadly aim" on long-term goals, taking a part-time job in a doctor's office and expressing a desire to become a doctor herself some day. In one of the book's final chapters, Queenie decides against throwing a rock at a church: "Finally she unclenched her fist and looked at the rugged stone that had almost broken a church window." She drops the rock to the ground, where "it resembled any other rock in the world except that its jagged edges reflected more sunlight."

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although Queenie Peavy examines subjects such as juvenile delinquency, parental indifference, malnutrition, and the cruelty of children to one another, the book is, on the whole, uncontroversial. One troubling point is Burch's reference to the Corrys as "negroes" rather than as blacks; although this term was more common in 1966, when the book was published, readers should be aware that it is now considered offensive.

Despite the novel's somewhat bleak subject matter, Burch melds realism and optimism convincingly to yield a surprisingly upbeat portrayal of an adolescent struggling against great emotional odds. Queenie lives a solitary life; her mother works all day, and her father has never appreciated his daughter. To shield herself against possible hurt, Queenie assumes the persona of a self-sufficient, tough youngster who "doesn't care" about the results of her actions. Burch mixes scenes of Queenie as troublemaker with scenes of her entertaining the Corry children or helping her mother with chores. Burch suggests...

(The entire section is 1,146 words.)