By Sylvain Savoia
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Extra resources for Al'Togo
Her mother, and her extended family. In addition, the butter and eggs also provided a living for her former slave Molly, who in fact had initiated this dairy enterprise as a partnership with her then mistress in the second year of the war. Attending to cows and chickens, making butter and collecting eggs, selling these products to family members and friends in Camden, and after several years, assuming the care and raising of her sister Kate’s son, David Williams III, thus came to replace the daily wartime rounds of socializing, hospital work, recuperation from sickness, and diary-writing between the years 1861 and 1865.
Epic narrative is a woman’s story of war, conceived from the loser’s vantage point. And its middle-aged civilian author is its unlikely heroine. In Chesnut’s reworking, the destruction of Southern culture abides unredeemable, marking hers as an epic unique to the tradition that inspired it. Most significant are Chesnut’s use and transformation of two epic “type scenes,” the presence of mournful women on the walls and the voyage to the land of the dead. 1 The 1880s writer borrows the motifs of the journey to the underworld and the revelation of identity from Homer’s Odyssey and the theme of women on the walls from the Iliad, though characteristically, she makes all three topoi distinctively her own.
Indeed, the literary Chesnut’s commitment to creating an epic account of the Civil War was inspired, however unconsciously, by the book Stowe had conjured from her “feelings” about slavery (obviously underwritten by prodigious research). Put more simply, Stowe’s best seller was the incubus that drove Chesnut’s ambition; fanned by her own spark of Stowe-hating, the 1880s Chesnut’s imaginative fires fueled the creation of her literary narrative. 18 Chesnut’s book of the 1880s is as searching on the subject of divided houses and fractured national families as King Lear, her proof text by the winter of 1865.
Al'Togo by Sylvain Savoia