Criticism of A Painted House
Some may say that John Gresham is more of a “legal thriller’ type author. However, he strayed from that specific style of genre in the social realism novel, A Painted House. In an interview with Jeff Azaleas, John Gresham is asked why he departed from the intense law novels, to Gresham answers by stating he “wanted to mix it up. ” The novel consists of stories from Graham’s childhood and his grandfather’s childhood.
Gresham states, “It’s an accumulation of old family stories, most of which are probably fictional anyway, that I’ve heard all my life” (Azaleas 108). John Gresham was inspired by his own life, as well as his grandfather’s, to write A Painted House (Gresham. Com). Luke Chandler, the main character and the narrator of the novel, is based on Gresham and his grandfather (Azaleas 108). John Graham’s vivid use of characterization throughout A Painted House is used to develop his theme, the foundation of family.
The novel A Painted House shows many examples of characterization. Gresham puts Eli Chandler (Pappy) in the category of farmers whom he describes as “hardworking men who embrace pessimism only when cussing the weather and crops” (Gresham 1). However, Luke sees in him the baseball player that he used to be, saying that his “large, callused hands” were assets to catching balls (Gresham 7). He is a very loving man, but he can also be stubborn at points. He and Lake’s father, Jesse Chandler, do not talk much about feelings, but basically just talk about farming.
At times Gresham portrays him as grumpy and selfish, but he receives great respect from other civilians of the small town of Black Oak, Arkansas (ciao. Co. UK). Pappy cares about everyone he loves. In A Painted House, Gresham uses flashback to depict World War when Pappy meets a girl, Isabel, a French woman who saved his life in the war. In memory of her, he names the Chandlers’ cow after her) (Gresham 20-21). Ruth Chandler, Grand, is also characterized in A Painted House. Grand has many similar characteristics as Lake’s grandfather. One similar characteristic of the two is their love and passion for farming.
She, along with Lake’s mother, works in the kitchen while the men harvest crops and farm outside. In A Painted House, other characters are being developed as well. Kathleen Chandler, Lake’s mother, for instance is described by the narrator as a “town girl. ” (Kathleen and Grand are the housekeepers of the Chandler farm). Luke goes on to describe her life as a small town girl and how different her life was compared to Lake’s father’s life. Unlike her husband, Kathleen grew up in a town, not a farm. Luke states that she went to cities such as Memphis multiple times before she met Jesse.
She desires to move into a city to stay away from the farm because she does not like farming (Gresham 21 She receives her wish at the end of the novel when the Chandler family leaves the arm life after a flood and move to an urban lifestyle. Lake’s mother does not want Luke to be a farmer, and she even makes a pact that when Luke matures, he will not become a farmer (13). John Graham’s uses vivid characterization to describe Lake’s father, Jesse Chandler, throughout the novel. Jesse is somewhat comparable to Pappy because they are both the caretakers and supporters of the Chandler home.
Jesse and Pappy both rented the house because they are not a wealthy family (Convoy). Jesses ambitious desire is to one day own his own land in order to aka care of his family (Gresham 23). Other important characters in A Painted House are the Mexicans whom the Chandler family employs. They are hired initially to help the Chandlers farm- both families’ personalities clash when they interact (Gresham. Com). (There is a very fierce rivalry between Cowboy, a Mexican, and Hank, a Spill, which leads to the climax of the story. ) The characterization that takes place with the Mexicans has much to do with racism and stereotypes (ciao. O. UK). Mothered good people,’ Pearl said… As if the Mexican spoke English and might be fended by something nice she said.” Gresham uses this quote to illustrate how people stereotyped the Mexicans in the rural South (Gresham 5). John Gresham also characterizes the Mexicans by describing them as quite small with very little English speaking skills. They take anything they get and do not complain. Luke refers to Cowboy, one of the Mexicans, as “mean and narrow- eyed” (15-18). In rural Arkansas, farmers need extra help along with the Mexicans to harvest the crops. The hill people are the answer.
The Spill family facilitates much of the work that is completed. Although they are crude, irresponsible, and lazy, they still get the job done that Pappy wants accomplished. In a conversation between Tally, a very attractive seventeen year-old of the Spill family, and Luke, Luke explains that Tally is “barefoot, and her dress was dirty and very tight. ” Tally explains to Luke their travels to Black Oak and describes Tot, a crippled twelve year old, and his disability (9). Gresham characterizes her other brother Hank as a large, overgrown teenager who is looking for trouble (28).
Hank and Cowboy get into an altercation towards the end of the evolve about Cowboy having sexual relations with Hank’s sister, Tally. This provides the climax of A Painted House. Luke Chandler is the main character and narrator of the story and is based on John Graham’s and his grandfather’s life as a child. In Graham’s interview with John Azaleas, Azaleas asks him if he had a difficult time trying to narrate a story as a seven-year-old boy. Gresham responds with, “The biggest challenge was to keep him as a seven-year-old. Think at times the kid’s a lot smarter than any seven-year-old would be. Pet stretching it, I kept asking myself owe much would a kid know and remember and see” (Azaleas 1 10). Within the novel, Luke Chandler becomes more adept with his surroundings, but he is still naive. When the family is listening to the news to discover if Risky, Luke?s uncle who is a soldier, is dead from the war, Grand begins to close her eyes, fold her hands together, and press her index fingers against her lips and wait for good news. In his child’s ignorance, Luke does not understand why she is doing this: she is praying (Gresham 30). Luke experiences events that no other child his age has or should Gresham. M). He witnesses Tally bathing in the lake, Lobby giving birth, and Cowboy killing Hank, but with each encounter he learns an abundance of life lessons which include his attraction to women, his decisions between right and wrong, and his opinion of love and hate. These morals convert him from “boy-hood” to “man-hood” (Brunette). At one point in the book, Luke begins to wonder what life would be like if he becomes a farmer. Gresham writes, “For a moment, hanging on to the trailer, I could almost understand why my father wanted to be a farmer” (Gresham 23).
These experiences Luke faces throughout A Painted House will forever have an effect on him. John Graham’s abrupt change in style Of writing made critics fall in love with A Painted House. Graham’s reason for changing his style from “legal thriller” to a “social realism” is simple: “I wanted to,” he says. He writes A Painted House to display his and his grandfather’s childhoods in a story form. John Gresham uses many different aspects to develop his characters individual traits. He does so to develop his theme of family foundation. Each character he presents to the readers is as descriptive as the other.