Critical Context (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series)
Rich in Love, Josephine Humphreys’ second novel, was made into a film starring Albert Finney as Warren Odom in 1992. The novel is one of many by American women writers of late twentieth century South focusing on the confusions of growing into female adulthood, including Anne Tyler’s The Clock Winder (1972), Lee Smith’s Black Mountain Breakdown (1980), Gail Godwin’s The Finishing School (1984), Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country (1985), Fannie Flagg’s Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (1981), and Kaye Gibbons’ Ellen Foster (1987).
Increasingly, young heroines such as Humphreys’ Lucille Odom learn that they must turn away from the past in order to face the future. To their surprise, they find their inner resources sufficient to stand on their own and meet life’s challenges. Like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, they seek out adventure and relish the quest of their lives; however, they are more likely than their male counterparts to find their initial struggles are not with the world but with themselves, not outside but inside their homes. They must struggle to keep the weight of tradition, family, and love of others from holding them down, blocking their growth and self-knowledge. If they cling to the past, they may find themselves buried in it (as in Smith’s Black Mountain Breakdown). Heroines such as Lucille begin to search within to develop important self-knowledge before going forth to seek their fortunes in the world. While these young female protagonists discover no perfect answers and many loose ends, the tone of these novels is usually upbeat, as the heroines discover their inner resiliency and strength. They find themselves capable of meeting life’s challenges and facing an uncertain world.