THE LIVE GOAT by Cecil Dawkins


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An impressive allegory set in a spectral mid-19th century wilderness which exposes and refracts freedom, corruption and the loss of innocence. Led by Alabian Eustace, father of the dead Eily, a group of Scottish settlers from Alabama moves through 500 miles of frontier to capture and return to ""justice"" one Isaac, a half-wit boy accused of her murder. Isaac, who greets them with joy, is roped, beaten and tortured. Then the journey ""homefree"" takes on a dream dimension when, through the swamps, woods, quicksand, rivers and rain, they confront cruelty and horror, feeling the weight of evil both in the threatening land and in themselves. Patient animals die, an Indian woman is raped, a slave is flogged, a tribe of alligators advance: early-on the group passed a hill of neat and waiting graves. But for Toliver, the philosopher, freedom lies beyond acceptance of evil in a common humanity. His final understanding comes from the ""free"" slave Lottie -- ""I was free before I became free."" Starved and ragged, the group returns to hang Isaac in spite of the preacher's wild warning: ""You ought to have left the live goat in the wilderness. He's your innocence."" Studded with symbolism (the young boy passes a hut where women are spinning) and sustained by a lyrical intensity, this is reciprocally demanding and rewarding.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row