A death in the family Essays

2012 Words9 Pages
James Agee's A Death in the Family is a posthumous novel based on the largely complete manuscript that the author left upon his death in 1955. Agee had been working on the novel for many years, and portions of the work had already appeared in The Partisan Review, The Cambridge Review, The New Yorker, and Harper's Bazaar.
Published in 1957, the novel was edited by David McDowell. Several lengthy passages, part of Agee's manuscript whose position in the chronology was not identified by the author, were placed in italics by the editor, whose decision it was to place them at the conclusion of Parts I and II. These dream-like sequences suggest the influence of James Joyce, especially of Ulysses, on Agee's writing.
It was also McDowell's
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While Jay visits LaFollette, Rufus goes shopping with his great-aunt, Hannah Lynch, and picks out a colorful checked hat that even his indulgent aunt believes to be too rakish. The hat is an indication of Rufus's subconscious rebellion against his mother's social pretensions and of his desire to establish a closer connection with his father. Since it is also a hat that Hannah and his mother might connect with Negroes, its choice also foreshadows Rufus's later curiosity concerning racial differences and his confusion over the origin of his own name, which older boys suggest is a name for blacks.
In the italicized dream-like sequence at the end of Part I, Agee presents Rufus's early childhood memories beginning with infancy. Rufus wakes on a summer night and hears voices of all the adults in his extended family. At first he feels security and peace, but he is soon troubled by the darkness and by the fear of impending calamity. After Rufus screams, his father comes to his bedside and sings to him. Shifting to Jay's point of view, the passage reveals his guilt over his excessive drinking as well as the warmth of his love for his family. In the same passage Rufus's mother, pregnant with the child who will be his sister Catherine, also sings to Rufus, and then his parents sing together in a harmony that Rufus

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