Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Mining Ways

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The Mining Ways

In The Mountain, the Miner and the Lord, Harry M. Caudill does an absolutely profoundly superb job of describing life as it truly was for most coal miners whether they were white or black. To begin with coal country, located mostly within Kentucky and West Virginia, is simply over impoverished and cannot be described in any other manner. The coal mining areas were the poorest most underdeveloped areas to begin with and, as far as the U.S. goes, still are today. Life has never been easy, overindulgent, or flamboyant for the people in this area. Caudill does a perfect job of pushing this idea forth and describing the emotions of one man in particular so that we may know, as a new and unknowledgeable generation, what life really was like for some persons of the hardest working generation to thus far grace our country.

I believe the reality Caudill creates with his images is beyond compare. Throughout this short story there are many passages that take me straight to the rugged and beautiful coal mining country of Kentucky, and even beyond that to the poor desolate company towns during the unarguably most desperate time of this century. Caudill’s passage “Now as he trudged along the rain-drenched street in the last light of the dying day Sam sagged beneath a new burden. As he turned and mounted the three wooden steps to his door he carried the only food he possessed a wedge of cheese and a five-cent box of soda crackers. The fire in the grate had dimmed to a mere handful of glowing coals that responded slowly when he knocked out the aches and added lumps of fresh fuel.” I believe is one of his best and tells the life story of a mining man quite well (4). First of all it seems as if the small towns as a whole have the general character of being gloomy, depressing, and wet, and Caudill makes this evident with his description of the muddy street. Living conditions were inevitably poor, with most miners living in small wooden dwellings that were barely more than shacks. One can easily imagine a tiny and drafty all wood structure roofed with black tar paper and drenched with sooty rain. As one nears the end of the passage one sees what is clearly the worst part of being a miner during the depression. Unhappiness is abound and unavoidable, but our character Sam does a wonderful job of trying. He has next to nothing to eat and barely has a source of heat. Warmth and nourishment are two of life’s blessings that we often take for granted, but Sam did not. The best part about this is that Caudill makes all of this perfectly visible and even somewhat tangible to his audience.

Caudill does a wonderful job with both ethos and pathos, however logos is not very necessary. Caudill grew up in this very area and was actually a personal acquaintance of Sam Hawkins. The story in itself is a very emotional one, but when added to Caudill’s perfectly concise descriptions the reader finds himself in Kentucky. I do not know if any one person could have done a more accurate job of portraying the life of Sam Hawkins than Caudill, as he did through his imagery, pathos, and ethos.

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