The Emergence Of Appalachian Stereotypes In 19th Century Literature And Illustration

2139 words - 9 pages

In the world of Appalachia, stereotypes are abundant. There are stories told of mountaineers as lazy, bewildered, backward, and yet happy and complacent people. Mountain women are seen as diligent, strong, hard willed, and overall sturdy and weathered, bearing the burden of their male counterparts. These ideas of mountain life did not come out of thin air; they are the direct product of sensational nineteenth century media including print journalism and illustrative art that has continuously mislead and wrongfully represented the people of Appalachia. These stories, written and told by outsiders, served very little purpose to Appalachian natives other than means of humiliation and degradation. They served mostly to convince readers of the need for so-called civilized people and companies to take over the land and industry of the region, in particular the need for mineral rights, railroads, and logging as the mountain folk were wasting those valuable resources necessary for the common good.
While Appalachian stereotypes changed over time early images of the land and people are seen as very separate entities. The land being lush and the fertile while the people are shown as the crude and undeserving of such a beautiful home. These separate images would gradually fuse together as the arts industry gradually took over the changing social and economic landscape of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Appalachian Mountains in the nineteenth century landscapes are often depicted in a grand, glorious, and often spiritually uplifting form. The Hudson River School artists painting in the romantic style engages viewers to tell a story through naturally occurring images as well as interior knowledge of the times at hand.
In direct contrast to the nineteenth century romantic sublime idea of mountain landscape in Appalachia stories and images of the mountaineer or the southern highlanders were published in popular weekly and monthly magazines of the time. These proliferated the idea of unkempt and unruly natured people, pastoral, lazy and at the same time content to remain in a disparagingly hostile existence. These writers and illustrators were often men who traveled through the mountain regions and spent time with the people there (McNeil, 59). They were frequently invited to stay with families who were honored to have them as guests, and treated to every hospitality an Appalachian family could afford.
When James Lane Allen, who was a teacher in Lexington KY for twelve years, decided to change careers in 1885, traveled to New York to become a writer, while there he was told to “find a definite field and explore it for literacy materials.” (McNeal, 59) Deciding to return to Kentucky, Allen began publishing his works in magazines in 1886, his work primarily focusing on Kentucky as two distinct regions, the civilized Bluegrass Region and the rough Cumberland Mountains.
In James Lane Allen’s Through Cumberland Gap on Horseback, the mention is made to the...

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