Local-Color Regionalism in Tennessee's Partner

Topics: California Gold Rush, Fiction, Bret Harte Pages: 3 (719 words) Published: May 11, 2005
The literary movement of local-color regionalism in American literature is a very distinctive and interesting form of fiction writing that effectively combines regional characteristics, dialect, customs and humor. In Bret Harte's Tennessee's Partner, these characteristics helped the story jump off the page, allowing the reader to understand the "times" rather than just the characters. And, for that reason, I feel that this is an outstanding piece of work.

One of the most distinguishable characteristics of local-color regionalism writing is the usage of authentic dialect based on the story's setting. In Tennessee's Partner, Harte uses this tactic best when quoting the title character. For example, when Tennessee's Partner suddenly appears in court on behalf of his best friend, Tennessee, his words are carefully written based on how they sounded from his mouth – not on how they should be, grammatically speaking:

"…Tennessee, thar, has played it pretty rough and expensive-like on a stranger, and on this yer camp. And now, what's the fair thing?...Here's seventeen hundred dollars in coarse gold and a watch, -- it's about all my pile, – and call it square!"

Such talk effectively captures the typical conversation of the Old West and the Gold Rush and gives the reader a feeling of authenticity. Tennessee's speech is similar, though not nearly as rough. Although not one hand of poker was played throughout the entire story, Tennessee revealed, through his use of words in his everyday situations, that he most definitely knew his way around a saloon in the evenings. His most memorable dialogue was between the thieving Tennessee and his captor, Judge Lynch:

TENNESSEE: "What have you there? – I call."
LYNCH: "Two bowers and an ace."
TENNESSEE: "That takes me."

Another local-color characteristic that Harte used in Tennessee's Partner was the development of characters based on their setting. The reader never feels like he knows much at all about any of the...
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