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Michael Johnson

Interpretation of Return to Hayneville

Class 1101, Mon and Wed 9:30 a.m.

December 1, 2010

Word count 874

In Gregory Orr’s essay, “Return to Hayneville”, published by The Virginia Quarterly Review, Orr revisited the place of his abduction by armed vigilantes in Alabama as a Civil Rights worker in 1965. Even though the events of this essay take place in 1965, for Orr it started with the death of his younger brother in a hunting accident when Orr was twelve. Holding the gun that killed his younger brother, Orr believed that if his life began at twelve with his brother’s death, then his end, “determined by the trajectory of that harsh beginning, could easily have taken place six years later” (125, 1). Orr visited the place that had hunted him as much of the death of his younger brother.

Gregory Orr at the tender age of sixteen, a senior in high school, became involved with the Civil Rights movement, in my opinion, to keep busy. Orr stated, “I felt confused and thrilled and purposeful all at the same time” (125, 2). Gregory Orr longed to be part of a group and to have meaning to his life. Working with the Civil Rights movement, Gregory Orr wanted to be a martyr to a cause as stated, “ I longed to be like them, to transcend my confusions and the agonies of my past and be taken up into some noble simplicity beyond change” (126, 2).

To jump ahead forty years, Gregory Orr from his adolescent misadventures in the Deep South, Gregory Orr is now a poet and a professor who spends most of his time reading his poems at various colleges and universities. To see how the town that held him captive looked, Gregory Orr, “decide to go back to Hayneville, the tiny town that has been so long lodge like a sliver in my memory” (126, 4). On his way to Hayneville, Gregory Orr tells his story to two colleagues but, “felt a quiet tension about this trip” and Orr stated, “ I’ll drive steadily toward Hayneville, as though the story and...
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