Dr. Joyce Kinkead
Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.
Used by Permission.
Continued from previous page.
first love story involves Antonio Latour and Harriet Noel, who both have a
fondness for acting. Harriet
desires to be a great actress, so she gives up Tony for the stage.
When Tony learns that she is to be married to her stage manager,
Roy Donovan, who is worthless and sees his future wife as a money-maker,
he returns to Orchard Hill though he is a successful actor.
Harriet later discovers her husband's interest in her to be merely
economic and devotes herself entirely to her son, Pierre Donovan.
Harriet and Pierre continue to act on the stage after they are
deserted by the stage manager, but she brings him, while still a boy, back
to Orchard Hill where he can be reared in a wholesome, outdoors atmosphere
(Exit, p. 60). Upon
her death Tony serves as guardian until Pierre becomes twenty when he will
inherit money for his dramatic education.
Bruce Carey, Pierre's stepbrother and rival, also lives in Orchard
Hill since his father deserted him, too, and sent him to Harriet.
Bruce marries Ann Bevis, adored by both Bruce and Pierre, and works
in a bank as a clerk. The
couple live with her father, a bank teller, and take in Pierre, who works
as a soda jerk until he can go to New York.
Both Ann's father and Bruce try to convince Pierre to invest his
inheritance in a gold mine scheme in Nevada.
He almost agrees until Tony reads to him a play he wrote about what
might happen if Pierre takes that course.
"The Play," which covers about two-thirds of the novel,
is a story within a story, a rather artificial device.
In it, Bruce does convince Pierre to give him his tuition money and
then robs and accidentally kills the cashier at the bank, leaving the
blame on Ann's father. He
absconds to Nevada where he and Colorado Bill, actually Roy Donovan, try
to find a gold mine. Pierre, trying to help Ann and her father, goes after Bruce
in the desert and finds the two men just as Donovan shoots Bruce (Exit,
p. 259). Pierre is determined
to turn the older man over to the law, but when he finds out that he is
his true father, he lets him try to get away in the desert.
Both men eventually reach town where Donovan confesses and Pierre
In the main part of the novel, Pierre keeps his money after hearing
Tony's play, and he and Ann declare their love for each other though they
realize the futility of it. Pierre
leaves for New York where he will undoubtedly become a great actor, the
culmination of Tony and Harriet's desires.
The mother's presence is felt throughout the novel, for as she
explains before her death, "They will not ring down the curtain when
I speak my exit line and leave the stage . . . The audience will not
applaud. And the play will go
on. . . . You will see me standing in the wings watching you" (Exit,
The actors of Orchard Hill do not care about the respect from the
townspeople, which they do not have, because they are individualistic.
Tony Latour explains the actor's character:
A person's life and character are one and the same thing.
A man lives what he is--he is what he lives. And character, my dear, does not happen.
Character--that which a person really is--is the result of
certain combinations of what I call life forces.
Love, hate, ambition, avarice, idealism, materialism, selfishness,
generosity--all the elements which combine in different proportions to
form different characters are the elements or forces of which life is
made. And these forces in
various proportions enter into the making of each individual life always
through other lives. Whether
by heredity or environment, we are made--our characters are formed, our
individual lives are shaped by other lives, through which these life
forces play upon us. (Exit pp. 106-107)
characters who desire to become actors and actresses are scorned by the
"Orchard Hill standards of righteousness" (Exit, p. 24),
for an actor "ranked but little higher than a bartender, while an
actress was an unprincipled hussy" (Exit, p. 23).
When Tony and Harriet return years later, the townspeople gossip
about the couple's relationship and about Harriet's son, and the
townspeople serve as Christian censors in an entirely unchristian manner.
Although the novel includes betrayal, robberies, murder, and tragic
death, the main focus of the book is the development of Tony, Harriet, and
Pierre, the latter the hope of the two lovers, who plays many roles in
developing as a person. The
major role includes his refusal to yield to Bruce's request for money
although he has always in the past yielded to his elder stepbrother.
Wright's autobiography, To My Sons (1934), is the final book
which rests primarily on the theme of development of virtuous character.
In covering the first thirty years of his life, Wright presents the
lessons which life has taught him and which have influenced his moral and
spiritual development. He insists that an individual must work to make his life
significant, which he has done in rising from a poverty stricken
background to become a successful writer.
In the autobiography, he often preaches to his sons on how to
develop good character. As a
result, the book is very personal.
In all of these books, Wright focuses on the development of
virtuous character. His
message is subtle in some of the novels such as The Shepherd of the
Hills but in Their Yesterdays, Wright is too blunt.
When he mixes theme with a good story, the result is an interesting
novel which also carries his message to his audience. Their Yesterdays fails because he deletes the story.
To Wright virtuous character is a force on which this country must
depend for its own welfare. The desirable American is, for Wright, well developed
morally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.
Nature is influential on the development of character, and so the
country provides an atmosphere conducive to a person's growth.
In the earlier novels, the Ozarks provided that quality.
Later, he turned to the West as Eden for the American people.
Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.
Used by Permission.