Sunday, October 9, 2011
History, mothering, and manhood in Mary Lee Settle's The Beulah Quintet.
History, mothering, and manhood in Mary Lee Settle's The Beulah Quintet. CRITICS SUCH AS BRIAN ROSENBERG (110) AND JANE GENTRY VANCE (222)note the gradual burgeoning of female power in The Beulah Quintet, (1)and they characterize the power shift as a positive phenomenon; I do notnecessarily disagree with such an assessment. One glaring problem in thescant available discussion of gender in the quintet, however, is thelack of attention afforded Settle's major male characters, becauseit is with these male characters that Settle (or, more appropriately,the narrative voice) most often sympathizes. Despite the quintet'sincreasing privileging of the feminine in terms of narration, Settlerepeatedly directs our attention toward the male characters and theirdeterioration. The increase in female power is directly proportional tothe decrease in male power, and Settle emphasizes the negative effectsof the power shift on characters of both sexes. That the subject of male gender construction should be overlookedin studies involving gender is not surprising. Despite a surge ofinterest in "masculinist studies" in the 1990s, as late as1996 Anne Goodwyn Jones argued that "gender essentialism--thebelief that gender differences are the result primarily of natural andbiological, not social or cultural forces--still holds its own eventoday" (42). Jones further notes the dearth of scholarship onSouthern manhood in general: "Even less has been done on thehistory of men and manhood in the twentieth-century South; the lastpages of Ted Ownby's Subduing Satan only begin to address thequestion" (48). Feminist theorists such as Jones herself have contributed much tothe study of constructions of womanhood in Southern literature, butrelatively little has changed in the past decade regarding the treatmentof gender construction and male characters. As masculinist theoristJudith Kegan Gardiner asserts, current feminist theories are ... being changed by the insights of masculinity studies. At present, feminist-inflected masculinity studies have reached consensus about some previously troubling issues. Chief among these is the initial insight that masculinity, too, is a gender and therefore that men as well as women have undergone historical and cultural processes of gender formation.... (11) The topic of male gender formation is one that Settle is oftenconcerned with; she acknowledges her "obsession" in aninterview with John Crane in 1990. During the interview, Crane mentionswhat he refers to as "the writer's burden," and heinquires of Settle, "What do you think of as being the first burdenthat you had to get off your chest and into print?" Settle respondsto the question at length: To recognize that is to recognize that we write the same book over and over. The first obsession is the last for me, and I have just finished what I hope is the final and deepest dive into it, what I hope to God is the last novel to take place in Beulah Land. It is called Charley Bland and it is the most profound study of the obsession yet. Part of it is the inherent quest for freedom, which has become genetic with Americans.... Then, too, and close to it, is the place of men of diffuse talents and good will, and what is asked of them by the world they live in. Death was asked of Johnny Church in the first volume, Prisons; too little was asked of Johnny McKarkle in The Killing Ground at the end.... There is a self-questioning in such men, sometimes a self-defeat. Am I needed? Have I a place where I can be used well? What does society ask of me that I can give? When it asks nothing, or too little, men die on the vine. Once they farmed and explored and led other men into a wilderness. In the modern world, they take up dangerous sports, do funny things, marry too often, drive too fast, take to drink, exploit women in a kind of sexual revenge ... know, maybe without knowing, that their fatal flaw is to acquiesce to small decencies, and find those glimpses they allow of themselves almost unbearable. It makes them dangerously good at war. But I have learned, in all this exploration of the kind of men I am drawn to, as Hardy was drawn to those great independent women in his Wessex, that they choose their own defeat, and it has been hard for me to face. (52-53) When Crane asks, "The woods and the city are full of them, butwould you say they are still in a minority compared to those who wishnot to be used well? Who wish just to be let alone?" (53), Settleclarifies: Oh, you mean the hollow men? (2) There is no wish with them. They work for insurance companies, vote Republican, belong to country clubs, question nothing, and die. Turgenev called them the rich, the happy, and the unjust. The unused and the unjust look the same, all too often. I'm writing about a few of them who are capable of having broken hearts. They are not cynics.... (53) As established earlier, The Beulah Quintet is a work very muchconcerned with history, and the novels collectively cover more thanthree hundred years and numerous generations of the same families.Readers view the history of the fictitious Beulah Valley through aseries of relationships--both familial and communal. With the additionof each novel, however, it becomes increasingly clear that Settle isacutely aware of the relationship between history and gender formation,and she is especially concerned with depicting the ways in which men andwomen consciously and even unconsciously shape each other. Despite themany restrictions imposed upon them because of their sex, Settle'swomen often prove powerful--they are the actual makers of history; theirsubtle or sometimes not-so-subtle manipulations of the male charactersshape their worlds. In her lengthy response to Crane's question, Settleacknowledges that her male characters are weakened by a "fatalflaw," and they are guilty of making poor choices, often choosing"their own defeat." Her Canona fiction is haunted by malecharacters who choose death, either actively or passively; for thesemen, death signifies a welcome release from the responsibility ofproviding for and protecting their demanding women. (3) Settle pointsout that although the male characters participate in the negativeshaping of the female gender, the male characters are in turn shaped bytheir creations--and the shaping is dangerous for both sexes. Readersand critics of literature in general have come to expect explanations(apologies, even) for the behavior of flawed female characters who makepoor choices as a result of their shaping by male expectations anddemands; we are accustomed to seeing women depicted as victims. We arenot accustomed to thinking about male behavior as socially constructed,and for that reason Settle's depiction of male-female dynamics inthe quintet is unsettling. Settle does not employ her female charactersas two-dimensional villains, as she acknowledges the many historicalforces that have made them into what they are. The author's focus,however, is on the ways in which upper-class male characters arenegatively shaped through female influence, and she examines the declinein male potency over the course of three hundred years. Settle'smale characters are destroyed, in essence, by what women have become, bywhat generations of their male ancestors have helped create. The quintetis filled with mothers who fail to nurture their sons during formativeyears--they fail to water the vine (to use Settle's language), orif they water the vine, they do so with tainted water, and the menwither and "die on the vine." The majority of thequintet's leading male characters die prematurely, and they leavewives and daughters who will shape the newest generation of men. Thequestion raised implicitly by the text(s) concerns when and ifcharacters of both sexes will become aware of their self-destructivebehavior. Prisons and O Beulah Land: Setting the Stage Cruel female characters abound in Settle's fiction, perhapsnone more than the figure of the inept mother. Distant, frail, anduntouchable, these women damage their offspring, particularly their malechildren, first through physical and emotional neglect and, later,through guilt. Although little time is spent exploring the theme in thefirst volume of the quintet, the novel sets a basic pattern that latervolumes will follow. In Prisons and in each subsequent text (though Iwill focus on O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, and The Killing Ground), a"lower" woman--deemed lower for a variety of reasons thatinclude questionable morality, race, and class--proves to be a bettermother, capable of acting as surrogate, loving and comforting childrennot hers. Of all the books in the quintet, Prisons contains the fewest femalecharacters. Johnny Church narrates the piece, and most of the bookconcerns his leaving home and joining the Parliamentary Army. The mostsignificant scenes concerning gender, however, appear in the earlyportion of the text, which provides background information aboutJohnny's upbringing. Johnny learns through the servant Charity thathis father married his mother for her bloodline and that there is nofondness between his parents. More importantly, there is littleaffection evident between Johnny and his mother. In Prisons, hecontrasts his mother with her nurturing sister, Nell; Johnny'sdescription of his pious mother as a soldier anticipates laterdescriptions of white mothers in subsequent books of the quintet. Hemuses, "I wish I could have loved her more.... but I feared herthin yellow hands, the bones bit in my flesh. I hated her sad voice andthe easy tears that seemed forever swimming in her eyes.... She was tobecome the sternest soldier of us all" (P27). Despite what we knowabout Johnny's rigid and selfish father, it remains difficult tosympathize with his mother, who is equally harsh in the treatment of herson. She finds motherhood distasteful, and Johnny, her only child, knowsit. Johnny refers to Aunt Nell, on the other hand, as "beautifuland like a fairy princess" (17), and he recalls being in love withher as a young boy (24). The younger Nell, who seems a foil for hersister, "mothers" her nephew, providing him with the attentionhe craves, attention that later turns sexual; she seduces Johnny andbears his child, whose descendant, Jonathan Lacey, will immigrate toAmerica. Although Johnny views Nell solely as a positive figure, she isin the quintet a precursor to the dangerous mother/lover figure depictedin O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, and The Killing Ground. In these latertexts, mothers do not become their sons' lovers in a physicalsense, but they tend to display an incestuous attitude toward their maleoffspring. (4) Each woman will serve as destructive force in herson's/sons' life/lives, and each son will die either literallyor figuratively as a result of his mother's influence. As its title indicates, the second book, O Beulah Land, begins withincredible optimism; the book title is a reference to Isaiah 62:4: Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. Notwithstanding the obvious perils of the eighteenth-centuryAmerican wilderness, Settle depicts what will become the Beulah Valleyas a kind of Eden, the "Adam and Eve" (Garrett 54) beingJeremiah Catlett and Hannah Bridewell, former indentured servant andprostitute, respectively. The second volume of the quintet, therefore,represents both the beginning and the end of innocence. Although thesecharacters (and the other eventual inhabitants of the valley in thisbook) are so badly flawed that viewing them as innocents is difficult,their attempt to start over in a new land, the Beulah Valley, untaintedby previous European settlers, invites such an interpretation. (5)Settle juxtaposes their naive optimism that they can help establish andparticipate in a society in which all members are equal despitedifferences in breeding and life experience with Sally Lacey'sdetermination to preserve a rigid Eastern class structure. Whether it isfeasible that they could have succeeded in their quest is uncertain, butthese first settlers never really have the opportunity to try. By theend of the book, Jeremiah and Hannah are dead, scalped by Indians, andSally Lacey appears primarily to blame. In O Beulah Land, set more than a century later than Prisons,Johnny Church's descendant, Jonathan Lacey, attempts to establishan egalitarian society when he founds Beulah. Lacey facilitates thetransplanting of other colonists in Beulah, welcoming honest,hardworking Scottish and Irish immigrants like the McKarkles, inaddition to the Catletts, squatters on his property. Lacey valuescharacter and stamina rather than pedigree, and he regards social statusas insignificant in the harsh frontier environment; through hisdisregard for social status, he echoes the sentiments of his ancestor,Johnny Church. Johnny Lacey works as hard as his lower-class friends andtreats them respectfully. When he brings his wife, Sally, to thehomestead, however, trouble begins, and Johnny later recognizes theseriousness of his mistake when he refers to "Poor little Sal"as "a mighty dangerous woman" (OBL 259). Sally Lacey disruptsthe harmony of the Beulah Valley upon her arrival, as she makes evidenther dislike of the other inhabitants and surveys her new home withdistaste. Furthermore, she introduces the institution of slavery to thevalley by transplanting her two black slaves there to act as householdservants. As will become evident in the next book, Know Nothing, Sal'sestablishing of slavery has greater consequences than any couldanticipate. "I always knowed we oughtn't to a brung nowomen" (OBL 231), Johnny's friend, Solomon McKarkle, statesafter he witnesses Sal's dismayed reaction to seeing her new housefor the first time; McKarkles's use of the term "women"here refers to women of a certain temperament and what that type ofwoman represents--exactly the form of oppression that the inhabitants ofthe valley have attempted to escape by moving west, a common Americanliterary theme. Despite his wife's perpetual abuse of his friends,Johnny tries to humor her. He accepts blame for her behavior and refersto his own shortsightedness in assuming that he could make his wifehappy on the frontier: "Ye can't help your ways and theycan't help theirs. Back East there might be time for lickin yourwounds with bein English-bred and high and mighty, but out herethere's no time" (238). Sally insists upon retaining herEastern habits, however, as is evident when Johnny forces her toentertain her female neighbors in her new home one evening. She dons herbest dress and ensures that her guests will feel uncomfortable when sheserves them hot chocolate in her finest cups and saucers. Johnnyeventually acknowledges the impossibility of achieving his goal when heasks, "What can we become out here? We may have brought thevirtues, but we've brought a cancer, too" (249). Johnnyappears to be referring to Sal (and, implicitly, to slavery) here, sinceshe poisons the pristine Beulah and ruins its promise for futuregenerations. The majority of information regarding Sal and her"mothering" skills comes near the novel's close, where wesee some similarities between Sally Lacey and Johnny Church'smother in Prisons. In O Beulah Land, however, Settle develops the ineptmother theme more explicitly as she will continue to do in later booksof the quintet. Settle juxtaposes the cold Sally Lacey with HannahCatlett, and she emphasizes Sal's distance from her children aswell as Hannah's closeness with her own, particularly youngEzekiel, who chooses to wear the buckskin pants she lovingly crafts forhis wedding rather than the secondhand Eastern clothing Sal attempts toforce upon him. Admittedly, Sal enjoys a closer relationship with son Perry thanshe does with daughter Sara (who is clearly her father'sdaughter)--but that relationship appears more toxic than healthy. Morethan anything else, Perry wants to gain favor with his mother bydisparaging his sister. In fact, Perry's desire to best Saraprecipitates her marriage to Ezekiel when he informs Sal that Sara andEzekiel are alone in the woods. Perry's delight when Sal beats Saradespite her innocence (6) foreshadows his later malevolent behavior.Clearly, there is a connection between Perry's behavior andSal's influence, and that behavior results in his banishment anddisinheritance. His involvement with rift-raft and subsequentparticipation in the killing of the Indians to take their animal skinsembarrasses Johnny Lacey to the point that he removes the young man fromhis will, and Ezekiel vows to kill him if he returns to the valley.Settle intimates that the murders incite the retaliatory Indian attackon the Beulah settlement at the end of the book, so Perry'sbehavior directly causes the deaths of Jeremiah and Hannah Catlett.Peregrine Lacey is, in effect, responsible for the murders of the Adamand Eve of Beulah. Settle contrasts Perry with his sister, Sara, who finds a surrogatemother of sorts in Sally's mulatto slave, Lyddy. Mthough theepisode is brief, we see the mutual love between the two as Lyddycomforts Sara following Sal's beating of her. Sara describes Lyddyas "soft and pretty" (OBL 312), and she informs her teacherand mentor Jarcey that both she and her father love Lyddy. Again, alower woman proves to be a better mother than does a woman of so-calledbreeding. In addition, Johnny's adulterous involvement with a lowerwoman sets the pattern for later male characters who love women whomthey could never marry, rather than the women society dictates that theymarry. (7) Although Nancy Carol Joyner views Sal as a "comic figure"because of her sense of superiority despite her own questionable socialbackground (38), the effects of Sal's destructive behaviorovershadow any comic relief she might provide. As Rosenberg points out,"Ironically, the mixing of classes here will produce more intenseclass consciousness, and Sally Lacey rather than Hannah Catlett willcome to seem the progenitor of later behavior and values" (82-83).(8) Sal's own undoing finally occurs when her daughter Sara marriesEzekiel Catlett, a member of the poorest family in the valley. Sara,like her father, retains none of the snobbery of Eastern influence, andshe truly loves her husband. After the wedding, one of the male guestsoverhears Sally complaining to Johnny about the inferiority of theircompany: "All them Cohees, common as dirt, entertained like theywas quality. To think a daughter of mine should fetch up with dirt suchas that" (OBL 321-22). Later in the evening, some of the men accostSally in an effort to teach her a lesson. After they physically subdueher and cut offher hair (an act that robs her of her femininity and herstatus), Sally is traumatized to the extent that she regresses into achildlike state, and she returns to the East with Johnny when he leavesthe valley to take his newly-won seat in the House of Burgesses.Nevertheless, Sally has irrevocably altered life in the Beulah Valley,and despite her obvious illness at the book's conclusion, "hereyes glittered, as if a light had been lit behind them again atlast" (353) as she leaves the valley. Although Sal initiallyappears to have been defeated here, as evident in her retreat from thevalley, it becomes clear by the next book that she has won the war, soto speak. Know Nothing. Praying against the Timid Demanding Knock While the first two books of the quintet are at least guardedlyoptimistic, the third is decidedly pessimistic, as the main characterappears doomed to failure from the beginning. Descendants of thesquatter Catletts from O Beulah Landare the principals here; they havepermanently established themselves in the valley in a mansion they havenamed "Beulah," a mansion built with profits from salt minedin the valley. Although complicated and eventually divisive politicalquestions plague the male characters throughout the text (this novelends in 1861 as the Civil War is beginning), political issues remain astrong undercurrent beneath the most significant conflict in the book,that between the sexes. Know Nothing is from the beginning a dark book; here we begin towitness Sal Lacey's lasting effect on the valley'sinhabitants. The novel opens in 1837 as Johnny Catlett is learning toswim: "Uncle Telemachus told about water and women, how they sank aman, weak soft, tears and water, rot and win. He said so. He said,'Ifn the river don't git ye, a woman will ...'"(KN5). The first lines set the tone for the rest of the work. Whileyoung Johnny is afraid of the water, he seems even more afraid of whatmight lurk beneath the water's surface--the enormous man-eatingcatfish the old slave Telemachus had warned him about. "A bigcatfish wait down in the dark, big ole nigger-belly layin in the mudcoolin that ole slick hide," he had warned,"and a great bigmouth open, Lord God almighty one-two feet across ... open real wide,sick of black meat, the big nigger-belly, she like a little bit of whitemeat fer a change" (5). Because we are thrust into the narrativewith no background information here, we are unsure of Telemachus'sexact purpose in relaying such a frightening and exaggerated piece ofinformation to the boy; given his previous statement, however, it seemsthat the catfish serves as a metaphor for female behavior in the book,since Johnny is in the end figuratively consumed by hungry women. Thecatfish might as easily serve as metaphor for the institution ofslavery, though, as the system has devoured black flesh, and theconsequence is that the system is now beginning to consume whites using"its big ugly mouth with its thick smooth lips" (6). Mostlikely, the two are bound together. Settle spends more time developing female characters in this bookthan in the previous two, and Melinda Lacey competes with Johnny Catlettfor our attention in earlier portions of the work. The rambunctious andrebellious Cousin Melinda is Johnny's female counterpart, and theirfriendship evolves toward a romantic relationship that never reallycomes to fruition because she marries another man and dies young. Thethird person narrative voice in Know Nothing favors Melinda Laceybecause of her rebellious nature, and she provides a refreshingcounterpoint to the other white women in the book. As George Garrettnotes, the other white women in this book "are turned intovariations not on the original model of Hannah, but much more on thelines of the poor deluded Sally Lacey" (59). An unruly femalefigure such as Melinda is out of place in the antebellum South, though,and the consequences of her eventual transgressions contribute in nosmall part to her premature death. (9) In the final book of the quintet,Settle reveals that the child conceived during Melinda's one sexualencounter with Johnny is Hannah McKarkle's grandmother. Other than Melinda Lacey, only two women are depictedsympathetically in the third volume of the quintet--and those women are,not surprisingly, slave women, female domestics who take care of whitechildren. Although they are never the primary characters in any part ofthe series, African American characters, females in particular, play asignificant role in the quintet. Settle juxtaposes the behavior of thesenurturing black women with that of their emotionally-distant whitemistresses. Perhaps more importantly, she writes African Americans intothe history of the Beulah Valley, while simultaneously highlighting theways in which the white characters are attempting to erase them fromthat family and regional history. (10) In Dirt and Desire, PatriciaYaeger takes up the frequent subject of black female domestic workersand white children in fiction by white Southerners: African American caretakers provided a bizarrely scaled map of white self-renewal that persisted into adult life.... [W]hite grown-ups maintained, deep into adult life, an infantile fantasy: the wish to be a miniature white child in the care of a gigantic black woman.... [T]he domestic worker, in her vast and enviable scale, becomes a generic ambience, a category of white narcissism and self-affection.... (142-43) Yaeger further comments on Welty's and Porter'sdepictions of black female domestics, stating that "these writersrestrict their exploration of black women's lives to textualmargins, to beseeching vignettes" (143-44). Although Johnny Catlettmight on the surface be viewed as an adult who longs for "the careof a gigantic black woman," his relationship with Minna is muchmore complex. He does not exhibit signs of "wish[ing] to be aminiature white child"; as a child, he longs for a mother'stouch, a comforting presence, and in later years he continues to need anonjudgmental, sympathetic ear. Minna is more of a mother to him than ishis biological mother, Leah. Settle's black women (most of whom aredepicted as neither gargantuan nor diminished) cannot be written off asatmospheric. Just as the slave Lyddy functions as mother figure to Sara in OBeulah Land, Minna takes on the role of mother to Johnny in KnowNothing. Minna is a significant presence from the very beginning of thebook, as Johnny can think of little else but swimming the river andmaking his way into the safety of Minna's "dear warmarms" (KN 7); the words "dark" and "safe" arejoined with Minna's name countless times over the course of thisnovel. After emerging from the water, Johnny runs immediately to her,and she praises him with maternal language. Minna's affection forthe white child is emphasized throughout the text, and her ability tocare for Johnny is contrasted with his real mother's clumsyattempts to interact with him. Later in the book, his mother Leahawkwardly pries him out of Minna's arms and "walk[s] back andforth with him, not holding him as Minna did, but clutching, as Sara hadclutched the puppy ..." (88). As he matures into a young man facedwith adult responsibilities, Johnny continues to need Minna'scomforting presence, despite his recognizing the inappropriateness ofhis attachment to her because of his age (239). In both O Beulah Land and Know Nothing, the female slave andsurrogate mother is mistress to the patriarch of the family; in this waySettle further develops the theme connecting mothering and sexuality.(11) As Lyddy comforted Johnny Lacey sexually and otherwise in O BeulahLand, Minna comforts Johnny Catlett's father Peregrine here, andthe two even share a daughter, Toey. The theme is further complicated bythe relationship between Toey and Johnny. Despite their knowledge thatthey are half brother and sister, Johnny Catlett has sexual relationswith Toey at Egeria Springs following the announcement of CousinMelinda's engagement to another man. Johnny hopes to speak withMinna after he hears the news--"he was ashamed that it was Minna hewanted, to listen and to nod until the sense of loss was gone andhimself soothed to strength again"--but Minna is busy helping dressthe ladies of the family (KN 239). Later that evening, after Johnnyassuages his grief by sleeping with Toey, whose skin is "drenchedin Melinda's Florida water" (243), Toey comments on theirblood connection and Johnny again thinks of Minna: "Minna, darkMinna, dark as the night, welcoming the other tears of his father, notonly his own: dark safe mountain where his father had lost himself, too,away from expectations, away from the thin, frail, breakabledemands" (243). (12) Significantly, like Lyddy, neither Minna nor Toey is depicted asmerely a sexual vessel for the white master's lust. Both Minna andToey are married to slave men, but we know little about the marriages;we do not know much more about the extramarital relations with the whitemale characters, either. Toey appears to want to sleep with Johnny,despite his warning that she should leave him alone in this instance(the only sexual encounter the two share), but Toey refuses, wanting tosoothe his pain as Minna has numerous times previously; the differenceis that Toey uses sex to console Johnny. When she hears Johnny'ssobs, she could feel her skin ... quivering ... with that physicalsympathy for the sorrow of men that made her stumble toward hisvoice.... forgetting everything, as startled into protective movement asan animal hearing its young cry.... Toey did not say a word, only held on to him against the darkness,against the questions, knowing with her body that a man was comforted,not with words and not with ways to live, but with moments andsurrender, as to a child sometimes. (KN 242) Toey's instinctive need to mother compels her to sleep with aman she knows to be her half brother. Immediately following the act,Johnny appears so disgusted by his behavior that he begins "toretch, long breathless dry gagging," and Toey exits,"exhausted, as if she were carrying a load on her back" (243).Toey appears to have taken on part of Johnny's burden through theencounter, but she simply returns to her duties as Melinda's slave,while Johnny departs for Kansas. Toey's burden is perhaps bestrepresented by the child that she will bear as a result of their union;the child will be its father's half-nephew. Although this entireseries of events clearly results from a number of specific choices madeby several different individuals, the inciting incident here isMelinda's decision to marry Crawford to ensure her own survival inthe antebellum South. Ultimately, Johnny remains unmarried and ismiserable for the rest of his short life, Melinda marries Crawford anddies young, thinking of Johnny until the moment of her death, and Toeybears the bodily consequences of it all. In Know Nothing, black women nurture and protect their whitemasters and take on their burdens, while upper-class white women tendmerely to make life-draining demands upon those men. Johnny witnessesthe effect that white women have on men of his class by carefullyobserving his father's relationship with his mother, Leah CutwrightCatlett, an outsider from Ohio. The two are at odds from the beginningof their marriage when Peregrine brings Leah down the river to his homeat Beulah; a devoutly religious woman, Leah disapproves of slavery, andshe views Southerners as bullies that never really allow outsiders in.(13) Despite his place as head of the household, Peregrine appears forthe most part to be ruled by women, as they (mother, wife, cousin, anddaughter) are in charge of things domestic; though he likens himself toGod, he imagines "how lonely God must be sometimes" (KN 65),and he feels "trapped in the master chair" (77-78). (14) AsElizabeth Fox-Genovese writes, "Modern sensibilities may view them[slaveholding women] as the oppressed victims of male dominance, but fewof them would have agreed, notwithstanding some bad moments"(192-93). Old by the age of forty-three, Peregrine is overwhelmed byresponsibility, and he seems to desire nothing more than quiet time,time alone and away from the demands of his women. Although he is mostconcerned with protecting his womenfolk from harm of any nature, heappears to be more in need of protection from them. After his fatherdies, Johnny notes that the women quickly sweep almost all traces ofPeregrine's presence from the house: "It had taken sixty-twoyears for Peregrine Catlett to die; it had taken a year for the women,with that power of survival [Johnny] did not see in men, to kill hismemory and his influence after his death" (304). The women can thenremember him as they wish, and they are able to omit details they chooseto forget. Like other women in the quintet, these women will continue toshape and drive their family history. The conclusion of the second portion of the book sounds anoptimistic note as Johnny contemplates striking out for westernterritory while watching an eagle soar and sail "free below himdown the wind currents of the gorge" (KN 244). As Rosenberg writes,Johnny "is so constrained by his role as a southerngentleman's son that he flees rather than violate its expectedcodes of behavior" (90). Only a few pages into the third section,however, Johnny attempts to escape his father's fate by leavinghome, but he manages to maintain the separation for a period of onlyseven years. Johnny heads west on his twentieth birthday and returnshome a failure just in time to witness his father's death. Althoughmother Leah greets him with the accusation that he "broke [his]father's heart" (KN 260) by leaving home secretly, the dyingPeregrine asks, "Oh, son, what in the hell did you come backfor?" (262). Johnny laments rather fatalistically that he"wasn't fitted for nothing. Men like us are only fit to giveorders" (263). The remainder of the novel is filled withNaturalistic overtones summarized nicely by the narrator: "Instincthad driven him back to Beulah like an animal as soon as he sensed thathe was needed. Instinct and sense, love and need--those had been taughtand demanded ..." (304). Johnny seems resigned to meeting hisfather's fate, and he appears to have become his father when headmits to wanting nothing more than to be left alone as he prays"against a timid demanding knock" (305) on his office door.Johnny inherits the burden that he attempted to escape through goingwest, and he becomes slave to those he must protect. Although he hopes to avoid being drawn into war at the end of thebook, "trying as so many had to speak for calm," Johnnyeventually succumbs to his women's demands and "drown[s] inopinion and let[s] himself be carried, doing what unconsciously theywanted him to do, a hollow careless civilized man ..." (KN325). Thebook comes full circle as the future Captain Johnny of the FincastleGreys recalls learning to swim: He remembered old Telemachus and the nigger-belly catfish. All his life he had been trying to swim away from that great mouth, that hungry jaw, never knowing that he would some day have the energy or even the desire for flight taken from him, and stop struggling, as they said a swimmer did when he was drowning, cease to care with his body. (326) There is further water imagery on the novel's concluding page,as "sweeping, pounding, never-ending rain" falls and Johnnyobserves the Confederate retreat at what appears to be the Battle ofPhilippi; the men "moved like slow flood water clogging thestreet" (334). (15) In the last lines of Know Nothing, Settleintimates that Johnny will soon die in battle, since "only themarks of his fingers ... on the dirty [window] sill" (334) remainwhen he attempts to "try to stop the running retreating mob"(334). Compelled by a sense of duty to protect his women's way oflife, Johnny knowingly drifts toward death. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown notesof men in the antebellum South, "honor itself was defective. Itsreliance on shame distorted human personality and individualism, forcingeven the good man ... to lose himself in the cacophony of thecrowd" (22). Clearly, Johnny's individualistic nature has beensquashed, and hope that he will regain it is gone when he conforms tohis women's wishes. "Born between things": The Scapegoat and the TransitionalMan More than anything else, The Scapegoat is a transitional piece thatprovides an immediate past for characters in the final volume of thequintet, The Killing Ground. In The Scapegoat, Settle introduces some ofthe characters through whom Hannah McKarkle collects information toreconstruct her own family history. There is no readily-discernibleevidence of the dangerous and/or incestuous mother/son relationshiphere, and the primary characters are female: Ann Eldridge, Althea, Lily,and Mary Rose Lacey are the book's most vividly-drawn characters.At the novel's forefront, however, is the fact that the femalecharacters are enjoying an increase in personal freedom and in power asmale potency continues to wane. The Scapegoat is set during a seventeen-hour period in 1912. As itbegins, the Civil War has been over for nearly half a century andcharacters in the Beulah Valley have become concerned with labor issues,since slavery has been abolished and labor is provided largely by poor,desperate immigrants; valley inhabitants derive their income from coalmines rather than from the salt mines as in Know Nothing. Although themost overt source of tension originates from the relationship betweenmine owners and mine workers, The Scapegoat is also concerned withgender issues. The miners' strike, Mother Jones's entranceinto the valley, and the subsequent murder of an Italian immigrant allserve as backdrop to Beverley Lacey's impending death and daughterLily's escape from her family; the death of the father and escapeof the daughter appear to represent much larger issues, as Settlefurther develops the theme of impotent Southern man and burgeoningfemale power evident in Know Nothing. Although the quintet's female characters have grown instrength with each novel, the overt shift of power in the last twonovels of the quintet is striking, and the ramifications of the shiftshould not be overlooked. When Roger Shattuck asks Settle about thematter: "Is there a feminist theme there?" Settle responds, Yes, but I didn't realize it until I had finished the whole series. These are deep waters. In many Southern men the inherited sense of responsibility to their families is too big for them. The loss of the Civil War did something to them, as if for 50 years, more even, they remained in a posture of apology to their wives. They lost the sense of escape. The women either got out or made demands on the men, dominated them.... In my last two books Lily and Hannah get out. (44) Settle appears not to have planned the shift in power, but theshift nevertheless happens. In The Scapegoat, the Lacey women dominatethe male characters. Settle's protagonists in the last two books,both women, are able to accomplish what generations of male protagonistshave been unable to achieve, and we see worked out in fiction whatcritics and historians have often noted. As Jones observes of thetwentieth-century South, "women saw continuity and expansion intheir roles ... [but] men saw primarily loss" (50). By the end ofthe book, Lily Lacey has escaped to attend college in the North, urgedonward by her mother, and she then travels to Europe to serve as a nurseduring World War I. Within a fairly large cast of male characters (some of whom we willagain meet in the final book of the quintet, The Killing Ground), themost fully developed male figure in The Scapegoat is Beverley Lacey,father to Althea, Lily, and Mary Rose. Beverley has much in common withPeregrine and Johnny of Know Nothing, as he is merely the familyfigurehead. Unlike Peregrine and Johnny, however, Beverley seemsparticularly effete, a fact underscored by his androgynous name. To befair, Beverley is ill--his lungs mined through inhalation of coal dust,the by-product of his family's livelihood--but his physicaldepletion appears to have resulted at least as much from a continueddecline in power suffered through the acquisition of an overbearing wifeand through recognition of impending financial disaster. Beverley is anexample of the type of man Settle describes in the above passage, and heacknowledges that he is a "mild" man (S36) who"ain't been on fire for a thing in my life, not even my owndeath. I'm cold, just cold. Born in the middle. Born betweenthings" (35-36). Beverley is the kind of man "to whom nothinghappens" (35), and he feels his life has been insignificant as hecompares himself with his father, a man who had "opened acoalfield, made money and lost money, made decisions, used all hismental and physical muscles, been to war" (35). Beverley spendsmuch time lamenting that his generation has been passed over by history,yet he has spent little time attempting to contribute anythingworthwhile to the world. He even fails to produce a male heir (thoughthere is little for him to will away to an heir), so his family linewill end. Beverley muses, "Things had been done for him, abackground prepared, the decisions all made, the worrying all taken careof by somebody else. His father had not let go of the reins until hedied ... and dumped it all in his lap. Even then Ann Eldridge had takenover" (36). The forty-two-year-old Beverley, born five years after the end ofthe Civil War, is precursor to the ruined men in the next volume of thequintet. The first three books chronicle a gradual decline in malevitality, but it is not until The Scapegoat that the primary malecharacter appears to be rendered ineffective through historicalcircumstances as Settle suggests of post-Civil War Southern men above.This is likewise a theme that will be treated in the last volume of thequintet: men who die as a result of historic depletion. In TheScapegoat, Beverley is ready to die; in fact, he appears to desireescape from his troubles through death, but he is certain that womenwill continue to plague him even after he is gone. Like Peregrine andJohnny Catlett in Know Nothing, he relishes solitude, and he praysagainst a woman's knock on his study door (S210). Although Ann Eldridge at times appears to be a weak character whoretires to her "sanctum sanctorum" to nurse a sick headache (atrait she shares with Leah Catlett in Know Nothing and with SallyMcKarkle in The Killing Ground), she uses infirmity as a means ofmanipulating other family members. Ann Eldridge is physically andmentally stronger than husband Beverley, and Beverley has allowed her toassume a leadership position within the marriage to the point that hehas lost any small measure of power he might once have enjoyed. AnnEldridge muses that "She had had to push him into too manydecisions for much to be left of the marriage she had once thought wasso grand" (S31), and he acknowledges that he has "been caredfor all [his] life. Seems to me there's always been some damnedwoman with wet eyes watching me and waiting for me to say it, whateverit is they want to hear" (37). Ann Eldridge feels little butdisgust for her husband toward what appears to be the end of his life. This segment of the quintet also continues the theme of the ineptmother, connecting Ann Eldridge with mothers from Know Nothing and TheKilling Ground. In The Scapegoat, Beverley Lacey has (like PeregrineCatlett in Know Nothing) married an outsider, Ann Eldridge, who is, inthe words of daughter Mary Rose, "plain people fromPittsburgh" (S6), "overeducated and underbred" (10). Sheis also similar to Hannah McKarkle's mother, Sally, in The KillingGround, the next book. Like Sally, she "hated being touched. Shealways had" (35). Ann Eldridge is not so dangerous as the othermothers are, however, because she is not so manipulative and does notcause her children obvious harm. Significantly, she is also the motherof three daughters, and she confides to Lily that she "never wanteda boy. Boys are a nuisance" (240). She admits, though, topreferring the ambitious, intelligent Lily over her other two daughters;she fails to devote adequate attention to the youngest, Mary Rose, andshe feels even further detached from Althea than she does from MaryRose. While aware of her own shortcomings, she desperately wants to helpLily and "guide her through the rough places ... [so that]she'll get someplace" (34). When Ann Eldridge learns that Lilyintends to leave the valley permanently, she verbally assaults herfavorite daughter and tries to prevent her departure through heapingguilt upon her and mentioning the sacrifices she and Beverley have madefor the girl. (16) But Ann Eldridge quickly overcomes her own grief overlosing Lily, as she helps her pack her belongings, gives her $200, andoffers advice about her travel plans and future activities. Ultimately,she supports Lily's escape, and despite her affinity with otherdangerous mothers, Ann Eldridge is handled a little more softly than areher counterparts. In the last lines of the book, Lily is on a trainheaded north, and she "dream[s], lulled by the train, of gettingoff at heaven or New York City, whichever she got to first" (278). Tainted Fruit: Ruined Manhood in The Killing Ground The Killing Ground is both the end and the beginning of The BeulahQuintet. The book is the final "installment" of the quintet,yet a character introduced here, Hannah McKarkle, is credited withhaving authored the series. Hannah is the novel's protagonist, asher predecessor Lily was in The Scapegoat, and like Lily, Hannah hasmanaged to escape physically from her family. The impetus forHannah's exploration and recovery of her family's lost historyis her brother Johnny's death, and although Hannah is theprotagonist of The Killing Ground, the book is concerned largely with anexploration of Johnny's relationship with their mother, Sally. Whathappens between mother and son in The Killing Ground is the culminationof three hundred years of family history; we have come full circle herein the last of the four volumes of the quintet set in America, at least,as Sally McKarkle bears a strong resemblance to her namesake, SallyLacey of O Beulah Land As Brian Rosenberg notes, "Sally BrandonNeill McKarkle is in many ways the most compelling character in thenovel and among the most frightening in the quintet" (129). Thesimilarities between the women emphasize the connection between past andpresent. In The Killing Ground, Hannah contemplates how her brother Johnnyevolved into the person he became and tries to determine the degree towhich he was responsible for his own behavior: "It wasn'tenough to find out that my brother had behaved like a son-of-a-bitch. Ohno. I had to find out why. I wanted to know how much of a man was whathad been done to him, how much was choice, [and] how much was imitationof some old way of living that had lost its force ..." (KG 148). AsHannah considers the implications of Johnny's death, she retraceshis entire life and reconsiders earlier incidents that did not seemunusual or abnormal at the time they occurred. Age and distance, inaddition to hindsight, facilitate Hannah's recognition of herbrother's limited choices. Hannah views Johnny as having beenvictimized by their mother; he has been, as have so many of the othermajor male characters in the quintet, shaped negatively by hismother's influence, and he is ruined as a result. It takes decades,however, for Hannah to realize the full significance of herbrother's destructive relationship with their mother. Near themiddle of the novel, Hannah recalls a conversation she had with Carlo,her lover, the night of Johnny's death. That night, Johnny had madeone of his habitual late-night telephone calls to Hannah, begging her toreturn to Canona because he needed her. Although Hannah refused to makethat particular journey from New York to West Virginia, she had in thepast often returned when she felt that he truly needed her. When Carloangrily, perhaps jealously, suggests that her relationship with Johnnyis incestuous, Hannah argues that she is merely loyal, that only anoutsider would make such an observation: Carlo "wasn't aSoutherner. I could have told him I had been trained like a dog toretrieve my brother from incest, its form the impotent seduction of themother" (196). (17) Sally McKarkle is the most fully-developed bad mother figure in theentire quintet; she is the epitome of the weak/strong, retiring/manipulative, untouchable/grasping mother who devours her maleoffspring. Sally's relationships with both her husband and her sonare influenced by her own history, particularly the loss of her father,and although she typically paints her own father as infallible hero, towhom her husband and son can never measure up, she admits the"truth" about him in a moment of uncharacteristic honesty whenshe tells Hannah that "He was a weakling" (KG 325). SallyMcKarkle's father and favorite parent, James Neill, committedsuicide because of financial difficulties when she was fourteen, soSally suffered from the unexpected loss of her father; she marriedMooney McKarkle, and he then assumed a fatherly role for her. Hannahnotes that her own "father replaced 'Papa,' and Johnny,the sexless, pure Chocolate Soldier, ha[d] been trained to replace themboth" (336-37). (18) As an adult, Hannah recognizes that herbrother Johnny had been made to play the part of son-lover and fatherfigure for their needy mother simultaneously. (19) Because of the lossof her father, Sally attempts to ensure (through various machinations)that she will always have a male protector, as she begins to shapeJohnny for the role when he is just a young boy. Her plan is ruined,however, when Johnny dies prematurely; she confides to Hannah that shehates men because they "Leave you high and dry. Just when you needthem the most" (326). Sally refers here specifically to her father,whose death seems to have caused her need for a male protector, but thesentiment is equally applicable to what she views as Johnny'sabandonment of her. At odds with both father and mother, Johnny McKarkle occupies anunenviable position in his family. His father, Mooney McKarkle, appearsto have been jealous of his son because of Johnny's superficialcloseness with Sally and for his being born into money, money thatMooney spent a lifetime accumulating. Hannah says of her father afterJohnny's death, "He has never liked Johnny. He has envied himfor reasons I don't know yet, his social envy a mild version ofJake Catlett's fury" (KG 313). At a young age, Johnny is"cast as a rake," and he attempts to win his mother'sapproval by "develop[ing] an insolent charm to please her and makeher smile and say he was like her father, that ghostly dandy,Mother's model of a gentleman" (184). Hannah refers to hermother as a "lost girl" "who had held [her] brotherJohnny in what he called durance vile. He had been caught in a lust forher presence and her notice--no matter what form it took--which hemistook for love. It was evasive flirtation" (130). Like herpredecessors who are biologically linked with their children yetemotionally disconnected from them, Sally uses her children and theirlove for her to satisfy her emotional needs. She never returns theiraffection, the inexplicable affection that unloved children feel fortheir parents. Despite his mother's interference, Johnny is until the age ofseventeen at least able to contemplate escaping her control--but hisfailure to act at a crucial moment alters his life's course. Whenhe fails to behave decisively out of devotion to his mother in thisinstance, he sacrifices what remains of himself to her, and he thenbecomes another impotent man who loses his selfhood to a woman; heforgets his youthful ambitions and his dreams. Although she was tooyoung to realize the significance of the event when it occurred, Hannahwas present for the moment that defined Johnny's life. As an adult,Hannah recalls Johnny's admiration for Douglas Bader, the legendaryRAF pilot, in the summer of 1941, as well as his secret intention toleave Princeton when he turned eighteen to join the Royal Canadian AirForce and serve in World War II. His melancholy and pessimism areevident in her recollection of his recitation of a portion of a Yeatspoem (20) to her: I know that I shall meet my fate Somewhere among the stars above; Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love. (KG 188) The juxtaposition of Johnny's worship of Douglas Bader withhis subsequent recitation of the Yeats poem is puzzling. He finishes thepoem weeping, head in arms, and Hannah is unable to hear the rest of thewords, so we do not see those in her recounting of events. The remainderof the poem, however, is significant: My country is Kiltartan cross, My countrymen Kiltartan's poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before, Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public man, nor cheering crowds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death. (ll. 5-16) Much time could be spent analyzing the full significance of theconnection between Yeats's speaker and Johnny McKarkle, but if heidentifies with the poem's speaker, he views his past and hisfuture as a "waste of breath," and he is not compelled to jointhe war out of sense of duty. Instead, he anticipates death and viewsflight, both literal and figurative, as a brief chance for happinessbefore death. "A lonely impulse of delight," joy in flying orin the journey itself, serves as sufficient motivation for the pilot andfor Johnny. Settle further complicates interpretation of the event'ssignificance, however, when Johnny and Hannah sing the poem to the tuneof "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," an act that invites usto compare Johnny's potential sacrifice with Christ's. Theirbehavior approaches blasphemy, yet their song might more appropriatelybe attributed to both characters' immaturity and the solemnity ofJohnny's confession to Hannah, coupled with the popularity of thehymn and its mournful tune. Shortly after he divulges his secret plan toHannah, their mother, Sally, extracts Johnny's promise not to jointhe Canadian RAF after pointing out the sacrifices that she and Mooneyhave made for him. Hannah overhears the conversation: "I want to exact a solemn promise from you, son," she wassaying. I couldn't hear Johnny answer. "I know what's on your mind," she went on. "Ialways know, son. Now, your father and I have made every sacrifice foryou to go to Princeton. We are not rich people...." (KG 189) Hannah states that she had "heard all about the sacrifices, so[she] didn't bother to listen any more" (190), an offhandcomment that anticipates her own future rebellion against her mother.Hannah notes Johnny's acquiescence, though, as well as his removingBader's picture from his bedroom wall and his sudden loss ofinterest in Yeats; she further chronicles the beginnings of his rakishbehavior, including his indulging in alcohol, his getting arrested forthe first time, and his debauching of Kitty Puss, (21) the girl hismother hoped he would marry. Rather than sacrificing himself to a causefor whatever the reason, he sacrifices himself to his mother. As FatherMcAndrew points out to Hannah after Johnny's death, however,"He chose it [his life]. Even in letting go, we choose" (316).Despite the negative shaping that Johnny receives from his mother,Settle depicts Johnny as having made the choice to let go. As sheacknowledges in her interview with Crane, men like Johnny "choosetheir own defeat, and it has been hard for me to face" (52-53). Itis likewise difficult for Hannah to face. At seventeen, Johnny McKarkle in many ways resembles the youngJohnny Catlett from Know Nothing. He recognizes the need forself-preservation through immediate escape, but unlike Catlett he failsto try; either he lacks courage or his sense of duty to his mother istoo strong. Catlett, at least, made the attempt, even if he did returnto his family years later; but McKarkle never even leaves home.McKarkle, unlike Catlett, is not pushed to participate in a war hedoesn't care about, but he is forbidden to participate in a war hewants to join. (22) After age seventeen, Johnny, for the most part, bends to hismother's wishes, although he rebels against her control ininsignificant ways. Hannah mentions that he works as a salesman ratherthan "'going into' insurance or banking" as men ofhis class are expected to do and she is aware of his frequenting theWayfaring Stranger and other dive bars where he mingles with lower-classpeople and with individuals of questionable reputation. Despite thesesmall rebellions, he continues to live in his parents' house untilhis death at age thirty-six, because "Any hint of his leaving her[Sally's] house, even his boyhood bed, brought on a siege ofbrokenhearted silence" (KG 170). Sally claims to want Johnny tomarry an appropriate girl whom she herself handpicks, yet shesimultaneously makes clear her desire to be the only significant womanin his life, since she does everything possible to keep him under herroof. Of his behavior, Hannah concludes, "Now I know that impotentrebellion is a form of slavery" (180). Though he never really appears "happy," Johnny McKarkleseems most comfortable and content when in the company of lower-classpeople, particularly when he is with one lower-class woman, ThelmaLeftwich, a cousin through marriage. He has been in love with Thelmasince age fourteen, but because Sally does not approve of the match,Johnny begins in his adolescence to lead a double life; publicly, hedates the girls his mother chooses for him, but he maintains a secretrelationship with Thelma until his death. He is forced to meet his truelove, his "sanctuary" as Hannah refers to her (KG 202), in theshadows of seedy bars and rented rooms. "Looking back," Hannahsays, "I see it as a first time that Johnny split his life into twoworlds to keep the peace, but he gave in so easily that he must havealready fallen into the habit" (201). Nearly two decades after hisdeath, Thelma is still single and angry, and she insists that Johnnywould still be alive if Sally had let them marry (43). (23) If Sallyknows Johnny as well as she claims to know him when he is seventeen,then she would necessarily know about his after-hours activities and hisongoing relationship with Thelma Leftwich. Although there is really notextual evidence to support such a claim, it seems reasonable to surmisethat she expects her son to reject each participant in her parade ofsuitable women. She prefers to let him lead a "secret,"miserable life and keep him close than to allow him any chance athappiness with Thelma. Sally McKarkle's desperation to keep Johnny under her roof isso strong that she becomes increasingly more complicit in hisself-destructive behavior. In addition to encouraging his sexualpromiscuity, she facilitates his alcohol abuse because inebriation makeshim more dependent on her. During her investigation of the night'sevents leading up to Johnny's death, Hannah discusses her brotherwith a police officer, Jack, Johnny's childhood playmate and theson of Delilah, the black maid in the McKarkle household. Jack revealshis lifelong hatred of Sally, and he tells Hannah that Sally"stopped me believing in God. If there was a God she would havedied when you and Johnny and poor little old Melinda were kids" (KG224). He further confides that he had often driven the drunken Johnnyhome and had been disgusted by Sally's behavior upon arrival: She liked Johnny's drinking like that. She liked it. That way he stayed guilty and he stayed home. When I'd take him home her face would melt with affection like butter and she'd take him over. It was obscene. If she could have carried him upstairs like a little baby she would have. Once she turned around under his shoulder and said, "You have to understand, Toey, gentlemen act like this sometimes." She didn't want no man. What she did want I don't know. Jesus, it was disgusting.... (224-25) While Johnny uses alcohol as a means to escape his problems, Sallycapitalizes on his weakness and uses his drinking to trap him further.Eventually, the results of Johnny's alcohol dependency lead to thedeath blow he receives in jail after he is incarcerated for his drunkenmisbehavior on a Saturday night. Had Johnny not died after being struck by Jake in the drunk tank,it seems likely that he would have eventually committed suicide as doeshis friend and mirror-image, Charlie Bland, years later. (24) LikeJohnny Catlett, both Johnny McKarlde and Charlie give up the strugglewhen they are so tired that they have lost the will to live. Jake'sfist serves, for McKarlde, the same purpose that the war did forCatlett--an end to a miserable life not his own. Jake even recallsJohnny's thanking him for the blow before he fell and hit the ironrack in the cell: "He said a real quiet thank you, and just sigheddown on the floor and hit that iron rack" (KG 270). Although writerGail Godwin interprets Johnny's final words as sarcasm (31), themanner in which he utters the words as recollected by Jake suggestssincerity. As Hannah notes, "At least his death saved him fromeither of the final corruptions; he had not become his oppressors or hisdisguises" (KG 306-07). In an act reminiscent of the women's post-death behavior inKnow Nothing, though more thoroughly fleshed out with details here,Sally cleans Johnny's room and returns it to the way it lookedfifteen years ago. She can remember her dead son as she wishes and shewants to remember him as a boy rather than as the man he was. She erasesfifteen years of Johnny's life by eliminating all of his personaltokens and photographs, including a hidden photo of Thelma, which shetears in half and throws in the wastebasket. The only photograph thatremains in the dead man's room is a 1930s portrait of herself thatshe had presented to him on his sixteenth birthday; it now"commands the room, dangerously lovable" (KG 322).Significantly, she hangs a sepia print of Michelangelo's Pieta"alone above the bed, the dawn-young face of the girl-mother gazingwithout sorrow or pain at the broken man in her lap" (322). Theonly other specific contents mentioned in the room are tin hussars and apostcard of a German mechanical organ--objects that are specificallyconnected with Sally's own father--and "Every object Johnnyhas outgrown or rejected has been returned" (322); rather thanthinking about her dead son on the evening after the funeral, Sallygrieves over her dead father. There is a direct parallel between thegirl-mother who shows no evidence of sorrow in the painting and SallyMcKarkle who shows no sorrow about her son's death; the specificmentioning of the Pieta invites comparison of Christ's sacrificefor all of mankind and what might be viewed as Johnny's willingsacrifice for his family. This comparison is amplified when consideredalongside his earlier singing of the Yeats poem to the tune of the hymn,"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." Johnny's sacrificeappears to have served no real purpose, though, because as Hannah notes,"She has already adjusted Johnny's room. Now she is ready toadjust me. Johnny has ceased to function for her; that function must befulfilled again. He is, like a machine, irreparably broken and must bereplaced, first by a nostalgia created in his room, and then by me"(324). Despite Hannah's knowledge that her mother is a masterfulmanipulator, she is unaware of exactly how powerful Sally's tacticscan be until near the end of the novel. Hannah does not fully appreciatethe strength and breadth of Sally's talent for coercion until afterJohnny's funeral when her mother attempts to force her to move backto Canona and literally replace Johnny at home. Hannah carefullyobserves her mother's "Protean" (KG 338) transitions intodifferent personas as she seamlessly moves from the role of woundedyoung girl to authoritative mother to guileless darky, and then toplayful confidante (325-39). Hannah refers to her as a"seducer" (323) and notes that in "her calculatedinnocence there is something as cold as evil" (336). Sally refusesto accept any response other than what she wants to hear, because she isunaccustomed to being defied. By the book's conclusion, Hannah comes to believe thatSally's destructive behavior toward her and her siblings is adirect result of Sally Lacey's contamination of the valley and itsinhabitants through slavery. She remarks of her mother and hermother's antics, that she is the descendant of slave owners, and she knows no other way tosurvive. No matter that the responsibility for great acres has shrunk toa suburban house on a suburban hillside, no matter that Johnny andMelinda and I are all that is left of ownership of people. She takesthis for granted and she has never in her life been asked to questionit. (KG 338-39) Although slavery officially ended more than a century ago, Hannahargues, the institution's consequences are still detectable in theBeulah Valley. Ultimately, through reconstructing her family history, Hannah haslearned from her male predecessors' mistakes. She perceives thepast, the present, and the future to be the result of a series ofchoices, and she does not view family members of either sex as merelyvictims of time and/or circumstance. Whereas many of her predecessorshave chosen poorly, she chooses poverty and social ostracism rather thansubmit to her cannibalistic mother's demands. Hannah chooses life.Sally disinherits Hannah when she refuses to move back home afterJohnny's death, so Hannah does not inherit any of her family'smoney or any of the legacy left by Sally Lacey--she is free from coalmoney and the land ruined by the coal mining industry. But she doesinherit the heirloom ruby ring from Aunt Althea. Hannah notes that thestone "had come full circle, from her [the first Hannah] to me nowthat there was no eldest son" (KG 84). With the inheriting of thering that has traditionally been passed down to the eldest son'swife, Hannah becomes, in a sense, the family's matriarch. Althoughshe will have no children of her own, she creates, gives birth to, thehistory of the Beulah Valley, and the history that she recovers throughthe writing of the quintet might help future generations make betterchoices. Hannah has grown stronger through acknowledging all of thepast; her complicated "genetic inheritance" has created in her"an ambiguity of steel" (340). Twenty years after leaving homedespite the consequences, Hannah is optimistic that the BeulahValley's next generation will also make better decisions. The result of Hannah's confrontation with history isoverwhelmingly positive. It is difficult not to compare her with afigure such as Faulkner's Quentin Compson who, unable to come toterms with the past, commits suicide. In The Beulah Quintet, thecharacters who are ignorant about the sins of their ancestors suffer orcreate suffering, while Hannah gains freedom by learning about anddocumenting those sins; the telling liberates. For this reason, RichardGray refers to Hannah's experiences in The Killing Groundas a"personal emancipation that is also a social one": And it is this "house of words," "her" book of homecoming, that enables her to salvage what is meaningful and motivating out of the past and then use it as a beacon for the future. It is an act of narrativity, really, as much as an act of journey that allows her to excavate "a thing deeper than the land"; to that extent, it is not return but the writing of it which leads eventually to her revival. (469) Hannah is rejuvenated through her telling about the past, andHannah's remaining close kinfolk in the valley, Uncle Ephraim andwife Rose (Pagano) McKarkle, have revitalized the McKarkle bloodlinethrough procreation. Uncle Ephraim has, unlike his nephew Johnny,married a "lower" woman, the Italian woman Johnny used andrejected years earlier. In a scene that recreates a scene from TheScapegoat (one of many such recreations in the quintet), Rose andEphraim make Hannah's 1960 escape from the valley possible byfacilitating the selling of Johnny's car after his death and givingHannah the $1,500 for airfare, anticipating her disinheritance (KG 360).(25) Prior to Hannah's exodus in 1960, Rose had informed her,"I'm pregnant as a bitch. God knows you need some Wop in thefamily" (KG 361). When considering the valley's future in1978, Hannah had darkly predicted that "Rose and Ephraim'ssons would be or would produce arrogant sons-of-bitches who would marrygirls who said 'Imagine!' They would, finally, become theirown oppressors, and that was what they had been led to believe theywanted" (146).When Hannah returns for Althea's funeral in1980, however, her opinion changes completely as she notes that theinfusion of new blood in the family has resulted in a new vitality andhas created "a new breed of child, maybe as mistaken as we hadbeen, but at least unafraid of the fathers" (382)--or the mothers.In the cemetery following Althea's funeral, Hannah witnesses"something [she] had not seen before, parents taking pride in theirchildren under the cold afternoon sun" (381-82). Hannah overhearsthe now nineteen-year-old Eddie McKarkle inform Rose, his mother, thathe will not attend Harvard Law School as she had hoped but will insteadgo to Morgantown. Rose does not object (382). Rose is a different kindof mother, and Eddie is a different kind of son. Because of theinteraction between parents and children at the cemetery, particularlythe interaction between Rose and Eddie, Hannah is hopeful that futuregenerations will enjoy a form of freedom from family expectations thatshe and others before her could not. Works Cited Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. Within the Plantation Household: Black andWhite Women of the Old South. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1988. Gardiner, Judith Kegan. Introduction. Masculinity Studies andFeminist Theory." New Directions. Ed. Judith Kegan Gardiner. NewYork: Columbia UP, 2002. 1-29. Garrett, George. Understanding Mary Lee Settle. Columbia: U ofSouth Carolina P, 1988. Godwin, Gail. "An Epic of West Virginia: The Killing Ground byMary Lee Settle." New Republic 16 June 1982: 30-32. Gray, Richard. Southern Aberrations." Writers of the AmericanSouth and the Problems of Regionalism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP,2000. Jones, Anne Goodwyn. "The Work of Gender in the SouthernRenaissance." Southern Writers and Their Worlds. Ed. ChristopherMorris and Steven G. Reinhardt. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 1996.41-56. Joyner, Nancy Carol. "Mary Lee Settle's Connections:Class and Clothes in the Beulah Quintet." Southern Quarterly 22.1(1983): 33-45. Morrison, Toni. "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: TheAfro-American Presence in American Literature." Within the Circle:An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the HarlemRenaissance to the Present. Ed. Angelyn Mitchell. Durham: Duke UP, 1994.368-98. Ownby, Ted. Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood inthe Rural South, 1865-1920. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1990. Rosenberg, Brian. Mary Lee Settle's Beulah Quintet." ThePrice of Freedom. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1991. Scott, Anne Firor. The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics,1830-1930. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1970. Settle, Mary Lee. "The Art of Fiction CXVI: Mary LeeSettle." Interview with John Crane. Paris Review 32 (Spring 1990):45-77. --. Charley Bland. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1989. --. The Killing Ground. 1982. Columbia: U of South Carolina P,1996. --. Know Nothing. 1960. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1996. --. O Beulah Land. 1956. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1996. --. Prisons. 1973. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1996. --. The Scapegoat. 1980. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1996. --. "A Talk with Mary Lee Settle." Interview with RogerShattuck. New York Times Book Review 26 Oct. 1980: 43-46. Vance, Jane Gentry. "Mary Lee Settle: 'Ambiguity ofSteel.'" American Women Writing Fiction: Memory, Identity,Family, Space. Ed. Mickey Pearlman. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1989.214-25. Wyatt-Brown. Bertram. Honor and Violence in the Old South. NewYork: Oxford UP, 1986. Yaeger, Patricia. Dirt and Desire." Reconstructing SouthernWomen's Writing 1930-1990. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Yeats, William Butler. "An Irish Airman foresees hisDeath." The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats." A New Edition.Ed. Richard J. Finneran. New York: Macmillan, 1989. 135. WENDY PEARCE MILLER University of North Carolina--Pembroke (1) The Beulah Quintet is comprised of the following five books:Prisons (1973), O Beulah Land (1956), Know Nothing (1960), The Scapegoat(1980), and The Falling Ground (1982). These books could and should beconsidered one work, a work whose setting spans two countries and threehundred years, while depicting numerous generations of characters over atotal of 1,621 pages. (My page count is taken from the 1996 editions ofthe books published by The University of South Carolina Press.) (2) Settle appears to be making a reference to T. S. Eliot's"The Hollow Men" (1925) here; it would be worthwhile to pursuean examination of that poem and The Waste Land (1922) alongside TheBeulah Quintet, particularly in terms of images of masculinity, waste,and renewal. (3) In this essay, I am concerned only with The Beulah Quintet. Anumber of Settle's other novels are set in Canona, however, andthose other novels could contribute much to a discussion of male gendershaping as depicted in Settle's work. (4) I refer here to Sally Lacey and Peregrine in O Beulah Land;Leah Catlett, Lewis, and Johnny in Know Nothing; and Sally McKarkle andJohnny in The Killing Ground. (5) Jeremiah's sins include adultery and murder. Jeremiah cameto the New World as an indentured servant, but he escaped from hismaster after his "New Light" conversion. He lives with and haschildren with Hannah Bridewell, a woman he never actually marries, bothbecause of the difficulty of finding a preacher in the wilderness andbecause he fears discovery. Jeremiah does not know that Hannah had beenimprisoned for theft in London and that she became a conscripted whoretraveling with Braddock's army following her deportation toVirginia. Hannah also bore an out-of-wedlock child conceived with SquireRaglan in prison, and she left the child with the Shawnee when sheescaped from them. She claims not to have feared for the child'ssafety, since "They're good to youngins" (OBL 196).Jeremiah later murders Squire Raglan when the Squire threatens hisfamily's well-being. Jeremiah and Hannah are the first whitesettlers in the Beulah Valley, where they relocate following theSquire's murder; after Hannah confesses to Jeremiah and repents allof her sins, they attempt a new beginning in the remote area, an areaJeremiah believes God has called them to inhabit. (6) Sal beats Ezekiel and Sara with a switch when she finds themfully clothed yet curled up together in the woods. "No daughter ofmine is a-goin to lay out in the woods like a filthy whore," shevows (OBL 292). (7) Settle does not depict Sally Lacey as mere villain. Readersfirst meet her when she is an immature sixteen-year-old girlcorresponding in "her thin, childish hand" (OBL 136) with herabsent twenty-one-year-old husband. Johnny is amused by her childishnesshere, but he regrets his inability to share with her his concern overfinancial matters. Sally is described as "the sixteen-year-oldstranger" (141) who is "flighty" (140), "neat"(141), "delicate" (141), "blond" (141), and"elusive" (141). As she matures, she appears solely concernedwith social status, and the qualities that probably drew Johnny to Salin younger years are qualities that he no longer finds appealing as heages. He instead admires the valley's lower-class women who arephysically robust and hardworking. Near the end of the book, heexpresses his admiration for his "stubborn" daughter who plansto remain in the valley with her husband and child despite the imminentIndian attack: "I'm damned proud of your vinegar," heconfides to Sara prior to his departure (351). (8) In the final book of the quintet, The Killing Ground, HannahMcKarkle muses that she "would, through the years, have a geneticinheritance more powerful than money; slave, slave owner, slave in turn.I would trace the tap of my mother's bare foot back to poor littlegenteel Sal who carried with her over the mountains, imitation of anoppressor she did not know, a camouflage ..." (KG340). As will bediscussed later, Sally McKarkle, Hannah's mother, is similar incharacter to Sally Lacey. Both are dangerous, but Hannah feelssympathetically toward the women, as she views both as products of theirenvironments. (9) Johnny is stunned by Melinda's engagement to CrawfordKregg at Egeria Springs, because her decision to marry Crawford is morethan a simple romantic betrayal; the act represents her recognition anddeliberate choice to play the coquette in order to avoid falling intothe role of spinster aunt that Aunt Annie had played for years. Anorphan and a poor relation of the Catletts, Melinda must marry and marrywell to ensure her own survival, and she chooses to conform toexpectations rather than risk missing perhaps her only opportunity formarriage. (10) In "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-AmericanPresence in American Literature," Toni Morrison asks,"'What intellectual feats had to be performed by the author orhis critic to erase me from a society seething with my presence, andwhat effect has that performance had on the work?' What are thestrategies of escape from knowledge? Of willful oblivion?" (378).Over the course of the quintet, Settle does the opposite of whatMorrison describes here through examining the ways in which history isselectively recorded. (11) Settle's fascination with the Electra complex istraceable through much of her fiction beginning with her first novel,The Love Eaters, published in 1955. (12) Elizabeth Fox-Genovese notes that slave women "knew thathe [the master] frequently exercised his power severely and might evenmake sexual demands that mocked the prevalent norms of gender relationsto which he claimed to subscribe" (192). During a discussion withJohnny, Peregrine Catlett differentiates between sacred love and lustand emphasizes the need to protect "the tender and the frail"white women from degradation (KN 111). He intimates that he might harbor"real affection" (112) for Minna, but he points out that whitemen acknowledge such feelings for black women and offspring at risk ofpublic censure. Both father and son are aware of their hypocrisy. (13) Although I will not discuss this here because I am concernedwith Johnny, there is a similarity between Sally Lacey of O Beulah Landand Leah Cutwright Catlett that should, at least, be mentioned. AsSally's influence over her preferred child, Perry, contributes tohis questionable moral character and disinheritance, Leah'sdevotion to her preferred mean-spirited child, Lewis, leads to hiseventual estrangement from the family. Leah's religious fervor"ruins" Lewis and prompts him to turn abolitionist preacher.His father will deed him hill land--a gesture with significantramifications in later novels. Leah plays a part in creating the riftbetween her sons, and as an adult Lewis will choose to fight for theNorth in the War. This dividing of the family anticipates the dividingof the state of Virginia and the North/South division of the countryduring the war. In the final book of the quintet, The Killing GroundHannah McKarkle notes that the family division in Know Nothing causesher brother Johnny's death; the dispossessed Lewis's grandson,Jake, kills Johnny. Johnny descended from Lewis's sister, Lydia,who had been the recipient of a better inheritance. (14) Historian Anne Firor Scott asserts that in the antebellumSouth, "the woman who had been so firmly put in her place, thehome, often showed unusual power within that restricted domain"(19). (15) Rosenberg notes the book's water imagery and writes thatthe river "represents the current of historical and culturalcircumstance into which each individual is placed, sometimes to becarried passively along, sometimes, like Johnny Church, to struggle,sometimes to drown" (87). (16) Ann Eldridge's speech is surprisingly similar to the onethat Sally McKarkle will make to son Johnny in The Killing Ground toprevent him from joining the Canadian RAF. (17) While Hannah and Johnny share a close sister-brother bond,there is no evidence of any sexual activity between them; the two areconfidants at odds with the other members of their family. Because Sallytakes no interest in Hannah, "the artistic one of the family,"the older Johnny is "left to bring [her] up" (KG 186). Hannahadores her older brother, who at times serves as a parental figure forher. As the two grow older, Hannah takes on a maternal role in therelationship, and Johnny calls upon her when he needs emotional support. (18) The deliberate choice of the word "chocolate"preceding the word "soldier" here is an interesting one.Chocolate (or cacao) is, of course, a substance easily processed, meltedand molded for the purpose of consumption--and Sally both molds anddevours Johnny. The image is complicated by the descriptors"sexless" and "pure," though, since Johnny isneither of those. (He is both of those things in relation to his mother,however, and Sally ignores his actual behavior with women.) As JohnnyCatlett was in Know Nothing figuratively devoured by a catfish whichrepresents both femininity and slavery (as the two merge in thatmetaphor), Johnny McKarkle is here the chocolate soldier figurativelydevoured by his mother, Sally McKarkle, the genetic and spiritualdescendant of Sally Lacey (the first slaveholder in Beulah); her familyhas consumed generations of African Americans through forced labor, andshe now consumes her son, who is "darkened" through thefamily's association with slavery. More could perhaps be made of Settle's use of the wordchocolate; in particular, scholars might want to consider theimplications of the origin of cacao (South America) and its importationto European nations in conjunction with the importation of another darkcommodity, Africans. As mentioned earlier in this essay, hot chocolateis associated with Sally Lacey in O Beulah Land and Sally is theindividual who introduces slavery to the valley. We might also considerthe fact that pure chocolate is typically too strong for humanconsumption and must be diluted with milk (which is, significantly,white) and other substances. I shall not explore these ideas furtherhere, since they are not immediately relevant to my purpose. (19) There are some noteworthy similarities between Johnny McKarkleand his uncle Dan Neill (Sally's brother). We meet Dan Neill in TheScapegoat ; between that novel and The Killing Ground he has marriedAlthea Lacey, one of the narrators of The Scapegoat and one ofHannah's most important sources of information in The KillingGround. Although Dan is not a major character, we know enough to surmisethat he was to a degree preyed upon by his mother, his sisters, and hisaunt after his father's death. His father, James Neill, committedsuicide because of his inability to pay his property taxes; he shothimself after observing his wife's visible grief following theadvertisement of his tax delinquency. Sensing the end, the women hadbegun to call for Dan even before his father shot himself: "Theletters, brutal with their self-centered sorrow and fear, followed him,whispered, whined, 'Dan, honey, come back, please come back. Weneed you'" (S71). Hannah muses that "Uncle Dan Neill hadbeen a shadow over them; he had haunted her mother, as her brotherJohnny still haunted her" (KG 75). Like Johnny, Dan Neill lives alife that is not his own. He, however, dies a slow death through alcoholabuse. (20) He recites the first four lines of William Butler Yeats's"An Irish Airman foresees his Death" (1919). He misquotes thesecond line of the poem, however: "stars" should instead read"clouds." (21) Decades after Johnny is dead, Kitty Puss claims that Johnnywould have married her if Sally had not interfered (KG 85). Given whatwe know about Johnny and his preferences in women, however, it does notseem likely that he would ever have married her. (22) Sally will not permit Johnny to join the RAF, but he laterjoins the US military and serves in Europe. He is released from theservice and returns home at twenty-one (KG 235). There are few detailsregarding the circumstances surrounding his US military service, but theexperience seems to have affected him profoundly, as he suffers fromnightmares (236) and "never talk[s] about the war" (242). (23) Johnny McKarkle is a serial womanizer who "dates"numerous women both from his own social class and from a lower class,including Rose Pagano, who eventually marries his uncle Ephraim. Heappears to date women from his own class merely to placate his mother,though, and the lower-class women, such as Thelma Leftwich and RosePagano, serve as refuge for him, much as Lyddy, Minna, and Toey servefor Johnny Lacey in O Beulah Land and Peregrine and Johnny Catlett inKnow Nothing. Unlike those slave women from whom we hear nothingregarding the relationships, however, Rose Pagano McKarkle recallsJohnny's use of her as a sexual object. She knows that he behaveddifferently with her than he would have with a girl from his own class,awaking within her an animal passion that he appreciated. Rose tellsHannah that Johnny had failed to defend her honor when another mancalled her "a Dago whore" and she observes that she was"the kind you people played with but you didn't marry"(KG 138). (24) Johnny is quite similar to Charlie Bland, a character in thisbook and the protagonist of another of Settle's books set inCanona, entitled Charley Bland (1989). (Settle spells thecharacter's name "Charlie" in The Killing Ground, but shechanges it to "Charley" in Charley Bland.) Although there isno connection between the events, Charlie commits suicide after Hannahhas returned to Canona to give a speech and to conduct further researchabout her family history and Johnny's death. When she learns aboutthe suicide, Hannah feels that she "had come back on her search forJohnny's death and been caught in a repetition" (KG 48). Manyof the women of her class who had been involved with her brother twentyyears ago have since been involved with Charlie Bland. Interestingly,Hannah herself had been involved with Charlie for a time until sherealized that "He had seduced [her] because he had been a model forJohnny.... "but she "saw in time that the real man behind therole Charlie played was Johnny" (87). When Crane asks Settle howCharley Bland connects with her other works, she replies, "It is, Ihope, the last unfinished business of Beulah Land.... It's aboutthe most basic triangle there is--the mother-son-woman" (74). (25) The moment recalls Rose's own father leaving the valleyon the train in The Scapegoat in 1912; Eduardo (Eddie) Pagano left witha used suit, a train ticket, and $100.
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