Sod and Stubble: A Book Review Essay
John Ise wrote his nonfiction novel “Sod and Stubble” to depict the disappearing and declining prairie life of Western Kansas. Specifically, the novel is dedicated to his mother, the person who witnessed the changes that occurred in the almost arid region of Western Kansas. The image of the past is drawn from both reality and personal interpretations of his mother. The image of the future is based from the fears and anxiety of his immediate family. In a sense, this novel depicts history and social tragedy, utopia and reality.
Yet, in an almost unquenchable desire for hope, it is also dramatic and melancholic, although full of anxiety and mistrust of the future. Background The Western region of Kansas, prior to 1870, was a land of opportunity. Agricultural land was cheap, encouraging Americans from the eastern seaboard to settle in this area. There were also plenty of natural resources to exploit. Although amenities were difficult to procure, demand for luxury goods was non-existent. The settlers living in Western Kansas had a simple life; a life that was satisfying and non-materialistic.
It is worth mentioning that the “Old Kansas” became almost synonymous to the way of life of the “old settlers. ” Kansas, the land of the “old” became the byword of most people. For the Americans in the East, Kansas was a land of opportunity. After 1870, the United States began its industrialization program. Industries were drawn up. The Northern States were industrialized before 1860. The Southern States were programmed to be industrialized before the end of the Reconstruction Era.
Land in the west would be settled and turned into either agricultural lands or mining areas. As more and more settled to Western Kansas, the shape of the old society was slowly being changed. Summary The author systematically recorded the images of Western Kansas as described by his mother and his own sense experience. The book is a story of an intelligent and energetic girl, born to a German immigrant family. At the age of 17, this girl married a German farmer. The couple then decided to move their household to the plans of Western Kansas.
They had 12 children. Because the mother her children to be educated, she sent nine of them to college. The price though of education was never easy. Along the way, they had to face anxieties, disappointments, and failures. The couple had to work harder to feed their large family. The mother accepted multiple works in order to send her children to school. The social environment also was never always a friendly one. Work was generally abundant but the wages were very low.
A particular blue collar job would never single handedly feed a growing family. Expenses were scant but the relatively large number of children of the couple increased it twofold. Although the couple was surrounded with hardships, they were able to send their children to school. Nine of them finished college. For the couple, the happiness in their hearts could never be compared with the hardships they endured, for the former gave them the opportunity to forego the luxuries of life and the temptations of material living.