Clyde Edgerton's depiction of a South in transition.

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Harris, Stuart
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Middle Tennessee State University
In each of his first five novels, Clyde Edgerton portrays a South in transition, the older generation looking back to a simpler day when people worked the land and the younger generation losing or having lost touch with these values. Edgerton treats a number of attributes of life in the South which critics often propose as characteristics of Southern distinctiveness. Among these are the importance of family and community, Southern food and cooking, a religion which is predominantly Protestant and evangelical, tension between races, and the important role of storytelling. For each of these attributes of Southern distinctiveness, Edgerton describes members of an older generation--or members of a younger generation who have completely adopted the sensibilities of their parents--who find traditional Southern ways to be a source of comfort and support. On the other hand, Edgerton provides a different set of characters who reject traditional Southern ways. They believe that the values of their parents are outmoded and are a source of repression.
In his complex portrayal of the elements of Southern distinctiveness, Edgerton reveals a deep-seated ambivalence about changes occurring in the South. Much of the charm and popularity of his work can be attributed to his careful depiction of traits of Southern distinctiveness. However, he also shows that change is inevitable; in fact, traditional Southern ways are an obstacle to be overcome by many of his characters. That the South is in transition is not an idea which is original with Clyde Edgerton. In fact, a resistance to change has been a characteristic of Southerners and Southern writers throughout the South's history. Edgerton's treatment of this theme places him within a rich tradition of Southern writers.