Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Although Walter D. Edmonds had published several short stories, ROME HAUL was his first novel, and it was quite successful with readers and critics. In an opening note, Edmonds describes the fun he had in writing it and how easily the writing progressed; however, he does not discuss the great amount of research he had done in preparation for this book.

There is a native tang and sharpness to this novel, which reclaims a segment of the American past in its picture of life along the Erie Canal. The book is vivid in its painstaking detail. The description of a flock of geese becomes more than description for pictorial effect; it becomes a symbol of the passing of a season and a passing of a way of life. There is poignancy and passion in the lives of people like Dan and Molly, Mrs. Gurget and Sol, and even Gentleman Joe Calash, who lived on the big ditch before the railroads destroyed its free, picturesque life.

Edmonds was already somewhat familiar with canal life, for he had lived in a small town on the Black Canal, and canal life had always fascinated him. When he left the area to go to Harvard, his memories of the canal remained with him. To authenticate his account of the Erie Canal, he scrupulously studied records, listened to canal legends, and talked to the boatmen. This careful and thorough research is reflected in the realistic and minute detail of scene and action in ROME HAUL. This is one of the strongest points of...

(The entire section is 414 words.)