Essay about Peter Taylor's The Old Forest

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Peter Taylor's The Old Forest

Critics have continuously characterized Peter Taylor’s work, as a social critique of the South and how it shows “the effects of cultural inheritance on its people” (Bryant 66). In his story, “The Old Forest,” Taylor examines the regional history and social structures that shaped his own past and how breaking the architecture that has existed for generations is not easily accomplished. Although it takes place in 1937, with progressive girls and college students filling the city of Memphis with intellectualism and open sexuality, the social constructions of the past, most specifically the descendents of plantation owners and rich socialites, are not easily forgotten. Lines have been drawn between those
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Nat does not give these debutantes the attention that he so admiringly puts toward the city girls. Thus, Caroline is simply a beautiful girl who he found “remarkable…capable and handsome” (254). Among his passive descriptions of the woman he was to spend the rest of his life with, readers are shown a more progressive side to Caroline that Nat has not realized yet. He praises her for liking “any sort of individualism in men” (255) but fails to realize that this quality is similar to the city girls he finds so attractive. Caroline’s role in Nat’s life so far seems no more than an organized and boring relationship that he escapes from with his adventures with the Memphis demimondes.

Caroline, as expected, holds many qualities of the life expected of her by her parents and friends. When Nat is hurt, Caroline makes a “proper sick call” to his house and Nat presumes nothing more than for her to assure his presence for supper. Although there are hints of romance between them, Nat reveals to readers only a structured and scripted relationship between him and Caroline. Nat, however, also shows how much control Caroline has in their marriage, especially in her insistence that she manages the wedding and pushes him away for that memorable day only a week before their wedding because she has so much work to do. Throughout the story, she also holds the power to

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