4th Block AP English III
14 November 2011
Criticism of A Painted House
Some may say that John Grisham is more of a “legal thriller” type author. However, he strayed from that specific style of genre in the social realism novel, A Painted House. In an interview with Jeff Zaleski, John Grisham is asked why he departed from the intense law novels, to Grisham answers by stating he “wanted to mix it up.” The novel consists of stories from Grisham’s childhood and his grandfather’s childhood. Grisham states, “It’s an accumulation of old family stories, most of which are probably fictional anyway, that I’ve heard all my life” (Zaleski 108). John Grisham was inspired by his own life, as well as his grandfather’s, to write A Painted House (jgrisham.com). Luke Chandler, the main character and the narrator of the novel, is based on Grisham and his grandfather (Zaleski 108). John Grisham’s vivid use of characterization throughout A Painted House is used to develop his theme, the foundation of family.
The novel A Painted House shows many examples of characterization. Grisham puts Eli Chandler (Pappy) in the category of farmers whom he describes as “hardworking men who embrace pessimism only when discussing the weather and crops” (Grisham 1). However, Luke sees in him the baseball player that he used to be, saying that his “large, callused hands” were assets to catching balls (Grisham 7). He is a very loving man, but he can also be stubborn at points. He and Luke’s father, Jesse Chandler, do not talk much about feelings, but basically just talk about farming. At times Grisham portrays him as grumpy and selfish, but he receives great respect from other civilians of the small town of Black Oak, Arkansas (ciao.co.uk). Pappy cares about everyone he loves. (In A Painted House, Grisham uses flashback to depict World War I when Pappy meets a girl, Isabel, a French woman who saved his life in the war. In memory of her, he names the Chandlers’ cow after her) (Grisham 20-21).
Ruth Chandler, Gran, is also characterized in A Painted House. Gran has many similar characteristics as Luke’s grandfather. One similar characteristic of the two is their love and passion for farming. She, along with Luke’s mother, works in the kitchen while the men harvest crops and farm outside.
In A Painted House, other characters are being developed as well. Kathleen Chandler, Luke’s mother, for instance is described by the narrator as a “town girl.” (Kathleen and Gran are the housekeepers of the Chandler farm). Luke goes on to describe her life as a small town girl and how different her life was compared to Luke’s father’s life. Unlike her husband, Kathleen grew up in a town, not a farm. Luke states that she went to cities such as Memphis multiple times before she met Jesse. She desires to move into a city to stay away from the farm because she does not like farming (Grisham 21). She receives her wish at the end of the novel when the Chandler family leaves the farm life after a flood and move to an urban lifestyle. Luke’s mother does not want Luke to be a farmer, and she even makes a pact that when Luke matures, he will not become a farmer (13).
John Grisham’s uses vivid characterization to describe Luke’s father, Jesse Chandler, throughout the novel. Jesse is somewhat comparable to Pappy because they are both the caretakers and supporters of the Chandler home. Jesse and Pappy both rented the house because they are not a wealthy family (Convoy). Jesse’s ambitious desire is to one day own his own land in order to take care of his family (Grisham 23).
Other important characters in A Painted House are the Mexicans whom the Chandler family employs. They are hired initially to help the Chandlers farm-both families’ personalities clash when they interact (jgrisham.com). (There is a very fierce rivalry between Cowboy, a Mexican, and Hank, a Spruill, which leads to the climax of the story.) The characterization that takes place with the...
Cited: Convoy, Tom. “A Land of Cotton, Not Soon Forgotten”. New York Times. (4/27/2003):
Dickey, Christopher. “No Lawyers Allowed”. New York Times Book Review.
Grisham, John. A Painted House. New York City, NY: Doubleday. 2001. Print.
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