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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 131

follow the violent and yet easy road of the dime-novelists, he confined himself to a plain tale of plain men and women, choosing for his scene, however, a backwoods district where true Hoosiers flourished at their most typical, rather than any of the more cultivated Indiana communities. His plot exists almost solely for the sake of the manners described, the backwoods sentiments and dialects, labors and amusements.
  These singularities had already been exposed by Bayard Rush Hall in The New Purchase (1855), and there was beginning to grow up a modest literature reporting “that curious poor-whitey race which is called ‘tar-heel’ in the northern Carolina, ‘sand-hiller’ in the southern, ‘corncracker’ in Kentucky, ‘Yahoo’ in Mississippi, and in California ‘Pike’ … the Hoosiers of the dark regions of Indiana and the Egyptians of southern Illinois”—a race, still not utterly extinct, which later observers think of as the “contemporary ancestors” of those modern Americans who have outgrown eighteenth-century conditions as the “poor whites” have not. All of Eggleston’s essential novels deal with this aspect of America, whatever the scene: Indiana in The Hoosier School-Master, The End of the World (1872), and Roxy (1878); Ohio in The Circuit Rider (1874); Illinois in The Graysons (1887); Minnesota in The Mystery of Metropolisville (1873). Light is thrown upon his aims in fiction by the fact that he subsequently aspired to write a “History of Life in the United States,” which he carried through two erudite, humane, and graceful volumes, neither of them, so abundant was his learning, able to bring the account beyond 1700. The Hoosier novels, simple in plot, clearcu



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