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South Moon Under Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although Rawlings's chief motive in writing South Moon Under seems to have been to show what the scrub crackers were like, and especially to celebrate the qualities for which she deeply admired them, and a secondary motive may well have been to depict the landscape itself, she was after all writing a novel, not a travelogue. The title South Moon Under suggests what is the most carefully and explicitly articulated theme of the book. As one of the characters explains, south-moon-under is one of the four daily cardinal positions of the moon. Deer tend to feed or sleep, readers are told, in harmony with the lunar movements. If animals are controlled by forces they cannot understand or influence or even be aware of, so too it may be with men. As the character Lantry says, "You got the say so fur, and then you got no say at all." At the climax of the novel (which occurs at south-moon-under) the protagonist, Lantry's grandson Lant (who was born under a full moon), thinks, "Forces beyond his control, beyond his sight and hearing, took him in their vast senseless hands when they were ready. The whole earth must move as the sun and moon and an obscure law directed — even the earth, planet-ridden and tormented." Rawlings's characters do what they do because of where they live, because of ancestral fears, and because of nameless, unknown urgings symbolized by the moon.