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)

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

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