Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"The South Devil" by Constance Fenimore Woolson (1880, in The Atlantic, included in Rodman the Keeper Southern Sketches)

Contains a good short bio and a list of her works.

"The South Devil" is set in Florida as are two other stories in Rodman the Keeper Southern Sketches.  The dominating  feature of this story, to me, was the portrait of a Florida swamp.  Themain characters   in the story are two step-brothers.  One is hard working, strong and sensible.  The other sickly, of little common sense, with chronic lung problems.  The sensible brother brought his brother to Florida in hopes the warm climate would be good for him.

The story begins with a beautiful description of a Florida Liveoak Hammock, an enclave carved out of the wilderness. In the Florida stories by Woolson I have read she does a wonderful job of creating a sense of history of Florida as the first part of what is now the USA settled by Europeans.  I don't have an exact time fix on the story but 1870 seems right.  Florida is a place in decay,  just the enviorment tears down people and buildings.

The pairing of the two brothers is interesting. There are interesting back stories on the two brothers, who are not really brothers, this is important for our understanding of the depth of goodness in the one brother.  There is an artic expedition that did not go well at all and a thwarted love.

Above all in the story is the swamp, almost surrealistically rendered as a place of very dark beauty where death can come at anytime from snakes, alligators, poisoness spiders and sheer exhaustion.  The weaker brother is fascinated by the swamp.  There is a very scary segment in which the strong brother has to go into the swamp to find his brother who has to be carried out.  They spend a night in the swamp, fending off water moccasins and praying for dawn. 

There are interesting developments and a staggering betrayal and a stunning revelation in "The South Devil".  The story is also a great resource for those into Florida history.  The characters of the two brothers are very interesting.  If there is a weakness in the story it is in the account of the love  interest.  

There are four  stories in Rodman  The Keeper Southern Sketches that I have not yet read.  I think I will read them next.  

I am pondering a post sort of treating the similarities and differences of Constance Fenimore Woolson with two other writers I love, Clarice Lispector and Iréne Nemirovsky. 

Mel u


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