T(homas) S(igismund) Stribling CHARLES McD. PUCKETTE - Essay

CHARLES McD. PUCKETTE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Stribling's "Birthright" some years ago was a real contribution to Southern literature, chiefly in that it was the first attempt by a novelist to weave the story of an intelligent, educated negro into a tragic social fabric, and to discard the threadbare character of burlesque stage and fiction. That tale exhibited a passion for truth, an ardent intuitive sympathy which selected with sureness the really pitiable victim of circumstances as they are. Now [in "Teeftallow"] Mr. Stribling moves east in his native state of Tennessee and essays to tell a story which, set among the people of the villages in the foothills of the mountains, will reveal these strongly individualistic folk, their character and customs.

In a larger sense Mr. Stribling has shown a journalistic spirit in both his novels. The first touched a strong current interest in the poignant theme already indicated; the second follows hard upon the Dayton cause célèbre [the Scopes Monkey Trial] which stirred the curiosity of the world concerning Tennessee's people.

"Teeftallow" will strengthen Mr. Stribling's reputation. It confirms the opinion that he is a writer of acute perception…. Mr. Stribling discloses with real success the simplicity and directness of the minds of these people, the strong hold which established social and moral sanctions have upon their thought. "Arntown's" (Irontown's) swift punishment of Abner's and Nessie's wrongdoing, its pious condemnation of the infidel Belshue who marries her, the codes and philosophies with which these folk lard their talk, are set forth with a truth which goes deeper than the surface. And the story has vividness and power, an objective honesty and clarity.

The one respect in which Mr. Stribling has not paid his full debt to truth is his failure to show the kindliness and gentleness which is an inseparable part of the nature of these folk.

Charles McD. Puckette, "A Tale of Tennessee," in The Saturday Review of Literature, No. 36, April 3, 1926, p. 682.