Dr. Joyce Kinkead
on The Recreation of Brian Kent
Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.
Used by Permission.
Continued from previous page. . . .
he discovers her infidelity, he attempts suicide by drowning but is saved
by Auntie Sue, an elderly woman who lives in the Ozarks.
She is modeled after Wright's real Auntie Sue.
With the assistance of her companion, Judy Taylor, a crippled girl
abused by her alcoholic father, she
helps Brian to return to his former good character before his wife's
influence affected him.
After the school teacher rehabilitates the former thief through
hard work, he stays to help her. They
discuss river philosophy and she suggests that he write a book. He agrees after he explains that he failed when he tried to
write before. This time he
succeeds because he has learned the meaning of life with Auntie Sue's
help. To prepare the
manuscript for the publisher, Betty Jo, a friend of Auntie Sue's, comes to
serve as a typist. Brian and
his typist fall in love, but a barrier stands between them--Brian's wife.
Also, Judy Taylor declares her love for Brian and unsuccessfully
attempts to kill Betty Jo.
A group of tourists, which includes his wife, discovers Brian.
She has become a totally dissipated woman as a result of her
reckless, but wealthy life with her lover.
Fortunately, the wife drowns in the river in an opportune accident
though Brian attempts to save her, an action which demonstrates the height
of his moral character, since her death would free him to marry Betty Jo.
Brian and Betty Jo marry upon the arrival of her uncle and
guardian, the bank president from whom Brian stole the money.
Not recognizing the "recreated" Brian, the uncle lauds
him as the new genius whose book is so sensible.
Glad to find him so much changed, Betty Jo's guardian grants his
consent for the marriage, and the entire group is happy, including Judy,
who realizes that she can never have Brian.
She will try to become a better human being by following the
example set by Brian and Auntie Sue.
The novel lacks the dynamic plot of Wright's previous work, but as
one reviewer notes, "it will appeal to and delight hundreds of
thousands of its predestined audience just because its people are
impossible and its sentiment mawkish."
The nature of Wright's audience is described by another reviewer:
However, given on the part of the reader, an equal fervor for
truth, courage, forgiveness, and sobriety (and surely there is much to be
said for them all) "The Re-Creation of Brian Kent" will provide
all the other ingredients they like.
A lively plot with something doing all the time and a love story
revolving around sin forgiven and effort rewarded.
printing of 750,000 copies of the first edition reveals the popularity of
Focusing on the development of virtuous character, the novel
employs the imagery of the river to trace the moral, physical, and
spiritual rise of Brian Kent. The
river is constantly mentioned because of its proximity to Auntie Sue's
house. Upstream from the
house is "The Bend" with its lazy current, but as the stream
passes the cabin, it narrows and rushes into Elbow Rock which juts out
into the stream. After the
water hits this cliff, it turns a right angle and once again becomes
In the current by the log cabin is a small eddy which saves Brian
Kent in his stolen boat from the furious waters of the cliff (Brian
Kent, p. 51). Not
satisfied to let the imagery of the river stand by itself, Wright tells
the reader exactly what the river means:
She saw, now, that the river symbolized not only life as a whole,
with its many ever-changing conditions and currents, amid which the
individual must live;--the river symbolized, as truly, the individual
life, with its ever-changing moods and motives,--its ever-varying and
often-conflicting currents of instinct and training;--its infinite variety
of intellectual deeps and shallows,--its gentle places of spiritual
calm,--and its wild and turbulent rapids of dangerous passion. (Brian
Kent, p. 96)
As Brian discovers himself, he realizes the importance of the river
and compares its currents not with the life force, as Auntie Sue does, but
rather with people. The river
represents, then, the world (Brian Kent, p. 145).
Judy fails to see the river's beauty because she is a cynic despite
Auntie Sue's kindness toward her. She
is aware of the river's snags, quicksand, sunken rocks, cross currents,
and deceptive depths because she was taught the river's ways as a child so
that she could survive (Brian Kent, pp. 220-21).
She provides the pessimistic note in the novel.
Brian, in finding Auntie Sue, is past the snags in his life: wife, city, and ambition.
He finds the quiet current with Betty Jo, and it is fitting that
they begin their married life with a river journey (Brian Kent, p.
343). Brian develops
physically and spiritually, as well as morally, under the care of the
teacher. Through his physical labor, he becomes healthy and strong, an
asset when he fights the river to save his wife.
The river also represents a spiritual development since it begins
as a spring, travels its path, and finally merges with the ocean or
infinity. Auntie Sue decides
that she has seen enough of the river and prepares to meet the ocean, her
acceptance of her approaching death (Brian Kent, p. 111).
Auntie Sue symbolizes the boatman who guides souls, in this case
Brian Kent, down the river:
With artful suggestion and skilful [sic] question and subtle
argument, she stimulated his mind and fancy to lay hold of the truths and
beauties that life and nature offered.
But ever the rare old gentlewoman was his teacher revealing himself
to himself; guiding him to a fuller discovery and knowledge of his own
life and its meaning, which, indeed, is the true aim and end of all right
teaching. (Brian Kent, p. 139)
Although Brian is
Auntie Sue's success story, her eventual triumph in teaching Judy to see
the river as Brian Kent sees it is the more important of the two because
Judy is handicapped physically, morally, and spiritually. Brian Kent simply has to regain the character he has lost;
Judy has to develop her character since she never has been able to trust
anyone. At the novel's
conclusion, Judy, who has dealt with many snags, decides to follow the
current which has guided Brian, Betty Jo, and Auntie Sue.
Copyright 1979 by
Used by Permission.