Bailey White Essay Research Paper Adventures on

Bailey White Essay, Research Paper Adventures on the Way Back Home, and Quite a Year for Plums, author Bailey White offers readers an inviting refuge from our increasingly fast-paced society.

Bailey White Essay, Research Paper

Adventures on the Way Back Home, and Quite a Year for Plums, author Bailey White

offers readers an inviting refuge from our increasingly fast-paced society.

Using humor, White transports the reader to the rural South, where the setting,

the way of life, and the characters the reader meets contrast strikingly with

life in the typical Northern city. Bailey White?s South has a warm and

hospitable atmosphere, a pleasant alternative to cold, bustling, Northern

metropolitan centers. As a cousin of the Whites puts it when she calls from

Philadelphia to announce she?ll be visiting overnight, ??I?ve heard so

much about Southern hospitality. Now I will be able to experience it for

myself?? (Mama, 48). The language in Bailey White?s writings also

delights, especially her characters? manner of speaking, which contains many

curious Southern expressions. My friends certainly would not say

?persnickety? (Sleeping, 125), ?doodlebugs? (Sleeping, 9), ?junkets?

(Mama, 60), describe a club as a ?tough juke joint? (Mama, 3), or say,

??She sho? ain?t gon? ride no ferry here?? (Mama, 62)! Located in

South Georgia, in the backwoods, White?s characters are allowed to do what

they please without judgment from neighboring yuppies glaring down from their

balconies. The village ??is a place where they are kind to one another and

indulgent of eccentricities? (Publishers Weekly, 30 March 1998). The result is

?endearing true stories about rural South Georgia? (Publishers Weekly, 1

March 1993) on subjects as quirky as bathtubs and Porsches on porches, backyard

camping, and road-kill suppers. After remodeling their bathroom Bailey and Mama

find that their bathtub won’t fit in it anymore. Instead of installing a shower,

they leave the bathtub on the porch. Bailey explains that ?with the

midsummer’s afternoon breeze blowing through the high pine woods and the

fragrance of the lilies, it’s a lovely spot for a leisurely bath? (Mama, 25).

Joining the bathtub on the porch is a 1958 Model 356 Speedster in original

condition, because the driver refused to ??just park it out behind the

garden with those two tractors and that thing that might have been a

lawnmower?? (Mama, 21). When inspired, Mama can (and does) go camping in the

wilderness. Bailey, however, doesn’t have to worry about her aging mother alone

on a trip: their backyard is wilderness enough for camping. ?At night I could

see a tiny glow from her fire. And just at dawn, if I went out to the edge of

the pasture and listened very carefully I could barely hear her singing ?Meet

Me in St. Louis?? (Mama, 38). Mama, whether camping or not, can get

fast-food for dinner, Southern-style: road kill. White and Mama have ?feasted

not only doves, turkeys, and quail, but robins, squirrels, and, only once, a

possum,? but Bailey draws the line at snakes, even when her mom protests

??But it was still wiggling when I got there…Let’s try it just this once.

I have a white sauce with dill and mustard?? (Mama, 39). Despite the gourmet

sauce, Bailey refuses to eat any animal her mom brings in without

documentation–the model and tag number of the car that struck it–to assure her

of a recent kill. While chronicling small-town culture, White manages to make me

laugh out loud, which is quite a feat for an author. The comical scenes from the

small town of Thomasville will not only produce laughter, but a longing to move

to such a quaint village. Instead of going into the Instant Care Facility, a

modern walk-in medical clinic, one can, as Mama did, take advice from

??surgeons, I’d say, from the amount of blood and brains on those white

coats,?? who were actually butchers on their cigarette break (Mama, 23). The

provincial aspects of life in Thomasville are evident in Plums, in the extent of

interest and pride community members exhibit when Roger appears in a photograph

in the April edition of the Agrisearch magazine. At the Pastime Restaurant the

waitresses tape up Roger’s picture next to the ?In Case of Choking? poster,

Meade makes a mat for his picture out of construction paper left from her

schoolteaching days, Hilma transposes Roger?s image onto two color photos for

an artistic effect, Eula puts the magazine photo on her refrigerator, and others

prop it up on their windowsills (Plums, 4). The detail in Bailey White?s

stories come from her own experiences living in Thomasville, especially in her

first two books, Mama and Sleeping, which are both autobiographical. ?In my

own town I know the story of every missing body part: an ear in an auto

accident, a middle finger in a miscalculation at a table saw, a thumb in a freak

accident involving a white horse and a Chrysler coupe? (Sleeping, 5). Since

White?s books are set in the rural South, nature is a part of everyday life.

(What a contrast to everyday life in our Northern city, which typically finds us

driving down treeless, paved streets, dashing from home to work to the

supermarket!) The primary concerns of the characters in White?s writings are

not bills and work, but include plants and domestic animals. ?[White?s]

vignettes illuminate?the immense satisfaction that can be derived from an

appreciation of nature? (Publishers Weekly, 17 April 1995). In Plums nearly

all of the characters? jobs relate to nature. Roger is a plant pathologist;

Tom and Gawain are foresters; Lewis is an ornithologist; and Della paints native

birds (ix). The rest of the characters frequently garden, all own Peterson Field

Guide?s (160), and are vehemently opposed to environmentally unfriendly

techniques like slash-and-burning (158-9). Southerners are known for their slow

speech, their Southern drawl (especially slow compared to fast-talking New

Yorkers). In White?s books the way of life is also slowed-down, with little

pressure and plenty of time to pursue activities important to the characters.

Critics notice the slow pace, saying, ?nothing much happens [in Plums]?

(Publishers Weekly, 30 March 1998), ?the characters don?t do a lot [in

Plums]? (Friedman), and ?Sleeping at the Starlite Motel celebrates the

value?of lives that proceed at their own pace? (Fichtner). Doing ?nothing

much? is the life the characters have chosen, though; they like the slower

pace. Mama loves to ?sit in her reclining chair all day, reading the UFO

newsletter, listening to the radio, and drawing conclusions? (Mama, 41).

Bailey loves to garden; she put five years into creating a wildflower meadow, a

time-consuming process because, as the ?more responsible plant

catalogues?admitted, ?we have not been able to develop a mixture suitable

for Zone 9?? (Mama, 160-5). Bailey, ?in the thrall of that good old rural

community spirit,? also has the time to make a ?noble gesture,? becoming a

volunteer fireman (Mama, 177). Besides indulging their own interests and whims,

White?s characters take the time to care for others. Mama campaigned for

Vernon Bryan, working ?harder and harder? as election time grew closer:

?She drove her old pickup truck into town every day to man campaign

headquarters, and she spent hours studying voter registration lists and calling

on the phone to urge people to vote. She volunteered for everything? (Mama,

139-140). Mama also taught Luther, whose jam caused Bailey to rush over to the

sink and wash her mouth out, the fundamentals of cooking, beginning with ?Jams

and Jellies,? moving on to ?Pickles and Preserves,? then to ?Biscuits

and Pastry,? and finally ?Sauces, Marinades, Shellfish, and Game?. Soufflйs?.

Desserts? (Mama, 151-155). Bailey took time to listen to old Mrs. Bierce with

the wandering eye, and to visit Mrs. Helgert, tolerating her frequent

interjections of ?Hot? Honey! That was a hot night? (Sleeping, 38-41). Meade

and Hilma looked after Roger?s house when his childhood horse Squeaky died.

??He must be relieved of all the little household chores–laundry, the

preparation of meals, housecleaning tasks. He should come home at night to a

bright clean home, a supper warm on the back of the stove, and his bed turned

down,?? said Meade, outlining her elaborate plan to take care of Roger

(Plums, 148). The activities the characters choose in their free time

demonstrate the importance of relationships. In Plums, ?a charming story of

human relations? (Haddock), ?White?s 14 or so characters are introduced

and identified as they would be in any small town in the South: by their family

relationships to others in the rural Georgia community? (Publishers Weekly, 30

March 1998), thus showing the weight of family. In Sleeping, after Great Aunt El

disappears twice and complains of elephants and ghosts, Bailey and Mama become

concerned about her and decide it?s ?time to get someone to look after

her? (47). Reminding Bailey that ??Blood is thicker than water,?? Mama

succeeds in bringing El?s nephew Ralph down to stay with her (49). Unlike our

male-dominated society, strong women dominate White?s world. The women are

independent, with no need for marriage. They handle everything themselves, even

if it means crawling under the house in ?high-topped boots laced up tight, a

turtleneck shirt, and a ski mask? (to protect oneself from spiders, of course)

to move the telephone jack (Mama, 34). All of the characters in White?s books

are unmarried, which appears to be all right with the women, but the

not-so-strong men express a longing to be married. As Dean Routhe repeatedly

said, ?Men need wives? (Plums, 211). Ever since Ethel left Roger ?the

women in town have worried about Roger?. Hilma and Meade discuss him at their

weekly readings. Eula frets over his welfare–not to mention his appetite?

(Haddock). Within one year after Ethel left Roger, Ethel has two men lusting

after her while another woman has left Roger. The characters in White?s books,

peculiar but delightful, working-class but educated, and understanding and

accepting of themselves and each other, present a refreshing contrast to the

conforming, pretentious sophisticates who inhabit our Northern cities. At the

head of the long list of quirky characters is Mama, who attracts ornithologists

(Mama, 12), who then use Bailey?s 102 degree feverish body to incubate wild

turkey eggs. Other memorable characters include the obsessed typographer who

feels personally called to save vanishing typefaces, Louise, who thinks letters

and string will entice creatures from outer space, the hippie fruit tree man

with the jujube trees, and homeless Elmer who can only talk to horses. Modern

society is in the Information Age, in which technology demands more and more of

us. The average workweek is 49 hours, and many so-called successful lawyers,

doctors, and businessmen frequently work ten, twenty, or even thirty hours more.

Even to reach the hiring stage takes a competitive drive and long hours

studying. It is not surprising, then, when Bailey says, ?Over the generations

my family has metastasized from that hill to lower spots all over the county.

Once members of the leisure class, we are now farmers, carpenters, teachers, and

mechanics? (Mama, 54). Bailey?s Aunt Eleanor recalls, after a minor plumbing

disaster of her own, how great-uncle Melville ? ?Shot right through the

ceiling medallion?and landed in the tomato aspic?? (Sleeping, 9). Bailey

admits, ?There?s no denying that our family fortune frittered away, the big

house sold. We are probably not up to a second-floor plumbing disaster involving

chandeliers and crown moldings? (Sleeping, 10), which is what Aunt Eleanor

says shows style, class, and breeding. Although not up to showy plumbing

disasters, White?s characters are educated. Hilma and Meade have a 50-year

ritual of reading together every Thursday of every May (Plums, 17). On summer

picnics Lucy would read Pride and Prejudice aloud. Mama reads The Naked Lunch

and decides she?s ??tired. I?m tired of breathing the essence of a sheep

fold; I?m tired of teaching babies to knit; I?m tired of being set upon by

crazed Christians one minute and unbridled libertines the next? (Mama, 38).

?Two of the characters [in Plums] are retired schoolteachers to whom the

classics of literature are daily companions; in fact, most of the characters, no

matter how humble, quote lines from famous poetry or prose and are knowledgeable

about plants, flowers, birds and animals? (Publishers Weekly, 30 March 1998).

White?s characters are also neither pretentious nor materialistic. When Aunt

Eleanor is sulking over the modest plumbing disaster Bailey buys her a $60 watch

and a linen skirt, and tells her that nowadays people judge not by plumbing

calamities but by clothes, cars, and vacations (Sleeping, 10). Aunt Eleanor,

however, is not impressed: ??I guess I?m just old-fashioned??

(Sleeping, 10). When Meade and Hilma call on a new family, the women brags about

her eagle statues–??exact replicas of a certain castle in England?they

were not cheap?? (Plums, 156). Later Meade brings up a house she

particularly liked, explaining, ?No pretension there? (Plums, 159). The key

to White?s stories is her characters’ wisdom: understanding that timeworn

truths are worth paying heed to. When prissy Aunt Eleanor comes over for dinner,

she praises the bird. ??The quail are delicious?I haven?t found a single

piece of shot. How do you manage it?? ?Intersection of 93 and Baggs Road,?

recites Mama. ?Green late model pickup, Florida tag. Have another one. And

some rice, El?? (Mama, 40). White?s stories ?offer us snatches of humor

in the largest sense, written with an?often self-mocking compassion? (Trachtman).

White opens up for her readers a different world, one without many of the

annoying traits of modern society: dull, gray scenery, traffic, impersonal

contact, alarms, cell phones, male-dominance, uniformity, pretension, conflict,

materialism, censorship, isolation, and superficial relationships. She reminds

us of a life that, in most places, has ceased to exist and invites us to return

to its comforts in the pages of her books.