The Rapture Of Canaan Essay, Research Paper
Analyze the Regional Aspects
In regional novels, using the right tools of language to create a sense of environment is
essential, and in The Rapture of Canaan, Sheri Reynolds does this extremely well. While
she weaves the story of a young girl growing up in a secluded religious community
somewhere in the rural south, Reynolds is forced to describe and create an extremely
convincing and obvious surrounding for Ninah and her God-fearing family. With the right
combination of language tools, the author would be able to do this. And she does, with a
magical potion of regional dialect, the pace of the novel, and the construction of amazingly
Southern dialect is normally very pronounced, but in this novel, the dialect has the
potential to make or break the story. Reynolds handles it well, by making the characters
relatively articulate, for such moderate educations as they received. The Southern
expressions and cliches are wonderfully outnumbered by Biblical quotes from Grandpa
Herman, and lessons from the church’s own private gospel. Grandpa constantly quotes
himself, through his writings in their bible, such as “He who romps through another man’s
field and tramples the plants of his labor shall reseed and keep those plants until they bring
forth the equal value and shall pay fifty dollars to The Church of Fire and Brimstone as
penance.” The bond that his followers feel is made apparent when the members of the
community constantly quote him as well. To completely understand the feeling of
togetherness and family that is present in this community, the reader first must understand
the sacred vinculum that they feel to both their leader and their church. Through effective
dialect, the reader can begin to see the atmosphere that exists in this small and secular
Reynolds also uses the pace of the novel to mirror the pace of these people’s lives.
In a place where one would imagine time would creep by, the days fly by, especially to
Ninah, just like the pages of the book do. The Rapture is filled with events and stories
that create an extremely fast pace, and as each sentence and paragraph flows into the next
the drawn out adolescence of Ninah seems to be over with as soon as it starts, with
hundreds of memories, triumphs and tragedies happening along the way. So, the reader is
introduced into a wider spectrum of knowledge into the lives of these people.
Finally, Reynolds uses very strong characters to create a sense of the region that
this novel takes place in. The beliefs and preaching of Grandpa Herman show the reader
outright how he is very different from the average American, even different from most
Southerners, who are often believed to be peculiar. And the way that the people of the
community believe unconditionally what he says is the kind of behavior that is often found
in cults. This shows the extremely secluded and different this community really is.
Without question, one would sleep in a dark and wet grave as penance for mild sins.
Ninah feels that it is her own private duty to prevent herself from sinning–at least those
sins that Grandpa defines. She goes to great, and outrageously extreme measures to
prevent her feelings, which at most times are perfectly normal. But Reynolds makes it
clear from the beginning that normality is something that is not known in the Church of
Fire and Brimstone.
Through great writing and an extremely successful use of the tools of language,
specifically those discussed here, Reynolds creates a fantastic regional novel. The reader
is drawn in to this particular region, and the many lives of those who are involved there.
Without good writing, this story would be a failure because the reader would not be able
to grasp the attitudes and feelings of the characters. This is the most important thing in a
successful novel–when the reader cries when the characters do, and question decisions
made by the characters, as well as feeling themselves drawn into the rapture that occurs in
this particular novel. Thanks to Reynolds, we as readers are able to joyfully experience
this region and community of unusual people, each of whom will change the way you
think about life. Without a good author, would that have been able to happen?