Now and Then: Naive Narrators and Natural Resource Industry in Appalachian Literature

The first person point of view of the young and naïve is often overlooked when it comes to telling stories of great importance and is rarely utilized in works intended for more mature audiences. Children are very observant and while they often do not have the ability to analyze their experiences as an adult would, their point of view can often be the most valuable. The first person perspective of a child can give immense insight and sincerity to stories that would otherwise seem trite or illegitimate. Much of Appalachian literature is written from a perspective that comes from experience in order to impart some truth about the region to its readers. That being said, Appalachian literature, with its focus on truth and place, can only benefit from the first person perspective of a child. Luckily, Harriette Arnow in her short story¸ “Marigolds and Mules,” James Still in his novel, River of Earth, and Robert Gipe in his illustrated novel Trampoline, utilize such a perspective. I will argue how these authors use their naive narrators to give a seemingly more accurate portrayal of Appalachia and how such points of view make their stories more impactful and seemingly more realistic. Most importantly, I will also argue how through the eyes of the young and naïve, whose narratives are deceptively blunt and without the jaded cynicism of an adult, Still, Arnow, and Gipe reveal the destructive effects of the natural resource industries in their stories and how they impact the environment and the people of Appalachia.