A story that attempts to capture -- for Australia- the sense of a frontier opening up, that Conrad Richter succeeded in...

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THE TREE OF MAN

A story that attempts to capture -- for Australia- the sense of a frontier opening up, that Conrad Richter succeeded in doing for an American background in the trilogy that began with The Trees (1940). There is much to be commended in the universality of concept, the basic human values, the inherent drama of life in the raw. But for me the characters remained conceptions rather than fulfillments:- Stan Parker, throughout his life span was the inarticulate, awkward, sensitive youth growing into manhood and old age, virtually unchanged; Amy, the orphan girl he took as his wife, was never convincingly the frustrated lusty woman he has made her, despite her yearnings and ultimate fall; the neighbors except for the dissolute Irish irish O'Dowds, and the Quigleys,- Bub who was a child all his life, and his protective sister Doll, who killed him to save him the danger of being left, alone,- remain shadowy background -- a sort of Greek chorus. The events move slowly across the stage, against flood and fire and drought, against poverty, relative security and disintegration. The community itself comes alive only in disaster- and even then the women remain observers, not participants- a far cray from Richter's creation. With the next generation growing up, only the Parker children emerge:- Thelma, who marries above her station, and returns at intervals, to hover over her parents, but never really to share; Ray, who escaped to become a wastrel, a villain, guarded by his mother, finally rejected. It is a strange story, redeemed by compassion, but rarely allowing the reader full participation in its oddly detached emotional values. The style is erratic, uneven, occasionally derivative from the early Faulkner. I found it difficult reading, despite the stark simplicity of the basic story.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1955

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1955