Spoon River Anthology
The Spoon River Anthology, written by Edgar Lee Masters in 1915, was a unique piece of work in both style and structure. There are over two hundred “stories” told by the dead people who once lived in the town of Spoon River. The lives and dreams of these people are written as poems. The poetry itself is an excellent example of early modernist style.
Since there are many people from many different backgrounds, and even different generations, (There are examples of Old English spellings and hints of people being from different decades), there are varied stories and themes present throughout the Anthology. A lot of the book revolves around the concept of the American dream and ethic, as well as the puritan ethic. Religion is a topic, and so is war, and of course, death.
The way the book is written is very unique. At times, the poems are very dark and angry, while people simply wishing to pass advice on to the living narrate other poems. Each character and poem has it’s own tone and theme. The people “interact,” and refer to one another*. Some characters tell of their experiences with death, and the afterlife, while others tell of events that took place while they were still alive. Some died happy, but a lot of the poems are bitter.
The ghost of Lucinda Matlock presents one of the overall themes. The woman tells the story of her hard but full life. Then she expresses her anger toward the living generations’ petty woes. She states that “Life is too strong for you— it takes life to love life.” Lucinda’s character is based on Edgar Lee Master’s grandmother of the same name, who is buried in the cemetery that inspired the author.
Another thematic poem is that of Yee Bow. Yee Bow was an Asian man who worshipped Confucius. The people of Spoon River tried to convert him, but he was faithful. One day, without warning, the clergyman’s son hit and killed Yee Bow. Yee was grief-stricken, knowing that his progeny could not worship him while he lie in Spoon River.
Cooney Potter is my favorite character. He tells how he acquired a small piece of land from his father, and...