The Silent Appalachian

Wordless Mountaineers in Fiction, Film and Television

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About the Book

Appalachian literature is filled with silent or non-discursive characters. The reasons for their wordlessness vary. Some are mute or pretend to be, some choose not to speak or are silenced by grief, trauma or fear. Others mutter monosyllables, stutter, grunt and point, speak in tongues or idiosyncratic language. They capture the reader’s attention by what they don’t say.

About the Author(s)

Vicki Sigmon Collins teaches English at the University of South Carolina Aiken. She won the 2015 University Service Award and the 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award. Her work has appeared in MoonShine Review, Kakalak, and The Southern Poetry Anthology: North Carolina. She lives in Graniteville, South Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Vicki Sigmon Collins
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 228
Bibliographic Info: bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6768-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2754-0
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Preface 1

Introduction 5

Part I. Physical Affliction 15

1. Autistic Characters 16

Christopher “Stump” Hall • A Land More Kind Than Home by

Wiley Cash  16

Jaxon McKenzie • There Are No Words by Mary Calhoun Brown  21

Lonnie • Deliverance directed by John Boorman  24

Raymond Babbitt • Rain Man directed by Peter Guber and

Jon Peters  27

Aunt Jo • Creeker by Linda Scott Rosier  30

2. Characters with Congenital Hydrocephalous 33

Juney Hall • On Agate Hill by Lee Smith  33

Termite • Lark and Termite by Jane Anne Phillips  34

3. Characters Afflicted with Dyslalia (Apraxia or Aphasia) 37

Millie Floyd and Frankie and Verdie Pennybacker • Tales of Chinkapin Creek by Jean Ayer  37

Lonnie Spikes • Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio  38

Celestine • Refuge by Dot Jackson  39

4. The Mute 42

Henry and Melvin • Amy directed by Vincent McEveety  42

Holly • The Waltons directed by Earl Hammer  44

Mountie ­O’Teale • Christy directed by Tom Blomquist  45

Cletus Gentry • Signs in the Blood by Vicki Lane  48

Clive • Tragedy in Tin Can Holler by Rozetta Mowery  51

Herbert Mullens and Belton Light • Billy Creekmore by Tracey

Porter  53

Least • The Day of Small Things by Vicki Lane  55

Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins • “Hawkins’ Boy” by Charles Dodd White  57

Peter • The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere  59

5. Silenced by Stroke 63

Roy Luther • Where the Lilies Bloom by Vera and Bill Cleaver  63

Granny Took • On Agate Hill by Lee Smith  64

Louisa Mae Cardinal • Wish You Well by David Baldacci  65

Esther Walton • The Waltons directed by Earl Hammer  67

Vine’s Cherokee Father • A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House  68

Part II. Emotional Factors 71

 6. Characters Who Display Idioglossia and/or Cryptophasia 72

Nell • Nell directed by Michael Apted  72

Twins Frank and Delores • Nightwoods by Charles Frazier  74

 7. The Voice of Glossalia 78

Ginny Powell • The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan  78

The Primitive Baptist “Dunkers” • Wish You Well by David Baldacci  80

Adam, Blue and the Professor • Sunday’s Silence by Gina B. Nahai  81

Janet Hollar • Tear Down the Mountain: An Appalachian Love Story by Roger Alan Skipper  83

Preacher Clyde Freeman • The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels  85

Sarah Beth Childers • Shake Terribly the Earth by Sarah Beth

Childers  87

 8. A Stuttering Silence 90

Cole Freeman • The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels  90

 9. Silenced by Trauma or Grief 93

Jane Woodrow (Woody) Carmody • Tomorrow River by Lesley

Kagan  93

Mark and Maggie Underhill • The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by

Sharyn McCrumb  96

Sally Swanger • Cold Mountain directed by Anthony Minghella  99

Fia Forbes • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers  103

Vine Sullivan • A Parchment of Leaves by Robert Morgan  106

Nola Barrett • In a Dark Season by Vicki Lane  107

Spence Hall • On Agate Hill by Lee Smith  109

Evalina, Pan and Other “Guests” • Guests on Earth by Lee Smith  111

Nicky and Angela • The Deer Hunter directed by Michael Cimino  116

Sam Bledsoe • Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch  119

Pip • The Waltons directed by Earl Hammer  120

Emma • Breaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain  122

The Jesup Family • “Hell and Ohio” by Chris Holbrook  124

Amanda Cardinal • Wish You Well by David Baldacci  126

10. A Sacred Silence 129

Mary and Reverend William Thompson • The Circuit Rider by Corra

Mae White Harris  129

Uncle Edward • Tales of Chinkapin Creek by Jean Ayer  131

11. Silenced by Fear 133

Rose-Johnny • “Rose-Johnny” by Barbara Kingsolver  133

Wives and Daughters of Coal Miners • Truth Be Told: Perspectives on the Great West Virginia Mine War by Weiss Harris  136

Walter • The Cove by Ron Rash  138

Rachel Harmon, Mrs. Galloway and McIntyre • Serena by Ron Rash  141

Daleen Leigh • Sister of Silence by Daleen Berry  144

Chris Allen • Milton’s Child by Kit Thornton  146

Bea Todd • Appalachian Child: The Chronicles of an Abused Child and Her Journey to Survival by Bea Todd  150

Patience Murphy • The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman  153

The MacPherson Family • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain  154

Liz, Bean and Earl • The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls  156

Ruby Pickett and Iris Stevens • Secret City by Julia Watts  157

12. The Silence of Deference 161

Gertie Nevels • The Dollmaker by Harriette Simpson Arnow  161

The Women • Oral History by Lee Smith  167

Julie Richards • Gap Creek by Robert Morgan  169

Lonnie Sawyer ­O’Riley • Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bichof  171

13. A Legacy of Silence 174

Eugene Gant • Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe  174

The Follett Family • A Death in Family by James Agee  176

The Stargill Family • The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb  179

The Arnette Family • Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain  182

Part III. Social Hindrances 185

14. Silenced by Hardship 186

The Women • Spirit of the Mountains by Emma Bell Miles  186

Almeda, Amos and Jonah • Tales of Chinkapin Creek, Volume II by

Jane Ayer  188

The Walls Family • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls  190

Lydia Hawkins • Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank  192

15. A Shunning Silence 195

Mary • A Circuit Rider’s Wife by Corra Mae White Harris  195

16. The Silence of Ignorance and Poverty 197

Emma McClure • To Make My Bread by Grace Lumpkin  197

Tom Powell • The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan  200

Barle McCorkle • “Mother Yaws” by Tennessee Williams  200

Rinthy and the Nameless One • Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy  203

Joe • “The Lost Dog” by Chris Holbrook  205

The Lamb Family • Bloodroot by Amy Greene  206

Mary Ella • Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain  209

Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

“In this extensive collection of essays, Collins delves into the complex causes of, and reasons for, silent characters from an already silenced region. Her insightful analysis of these voiceless characters in Appalachian literature unveils important metaphors for power and powerlessness in literature and in Appalachian identity as a whole.”—Amanda Rachelle Warren, author of Ritual no.3: For the Exorcism of Ghosts; “The Silent Appalachians gives eloquent voice to a diverse set of non-verbal characters, at the same time bringing the reader to a deeper understanding of the authorial uses of the sounds of silence. Collins’ scholarly study focuses like a high beam flashlight on a small subset of characters, but the peripheral glow of that spotlight is unexpectedly far-reaching and illuminating.”—Vicki Lane, author of The Day of Small Things and the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries.