The term of ‘local colour fiction’ is associated with the writing style of American literature, between the period of the civil war ending, to the end of the nineteenth century. It originated in the southern states and often focused its plots not on single heroes in the novel, but rather using that main narrator to present the issues of different communities, districts and the likes. The texts which will be mentioned in the following work, demonstrate the southern local fiction at its best.
First, there is ‘A Yellow Dog’ by Bret Harte. This short story focuses on a yellow dog, who has no real owner, and tries to fit into the society of Rattlers Ridge. Right on the beginning we are told that a yellow dog in the south is degrading and considered a failure, and yet that camp, accepted the dog, however as we are told ‘no one ventured to exclusively claim him’. This actually puts on display the local traits of wanting only something what’s good, top quality and not different. The given dog, as mentioned above is an unknown breed, coming out of nowhere trying to fit in, is accepted but not really as no one ever decides to claim him. What is even more surprising, the dog is actually more tolerant than any of the mining camp’s inhabitants, as he always looks out for the drunk people, and actually prefers their company over anyone else, which is a complete reverse to how people operated in the south at that period of time. Bones the dog eventually is taken in by an important family in Sacramento, who takes him in simply because the way he looks would raise interest towards them, which for important and rich families was a very big priority.
Second, we have Desiree’s Baby by a feminist author from New Orleans, Kate Chopin. This novel lays heavy towards topics of racism and gender inequality. The story is about a woman named Desiree, who was adopted by a pair of what seem as nobilities, The Valmonde’s. She was a child with no background and out of nowhere, suspected to have Texan heritage. Despite being warned about this, the Valmonde’s took her in nonetheless and did not seem to care about it, until the girl grew up and became a love interest of a young nobleman Armand Aubigny. This is where the first signs of actual racism are shown, despite taking her in as her own, Mr. Valmonde warns Armand of her heritage and suggests reconsidering the decision about marrying her. The second and possibly most visible example of racism in the story, we see that Armand hates his wife for bearing a non white child to the world, and actually blames her for it. This is a strong example of local color fiction, since once again we happen to deal with the Southern attitude towards races, meaning the only acceptable colour for a human being is white, anything else belongs below the status of humanity. Feminism is a slightly less visible issue when Desiree confronts her husband instead of remaining quiet, like at that time, was expected of her. Those situations are authors ways of inputting her own sliver of hope for woman’s rights.
Lastly, we have fragments of the novel ‘Red Rock’ by Thomas Nelson Page. The novel is by far the best example of local colour fiction as it deals with the times during the civil war, times of slavery and perfectly resembles the mentality of the south at that time, including the author’s. The novel talks about a slave owning family living on a plantation, and their attitude is actually a reflection of what the Southern states thought and their view of the world. In their minds, black people wanted nothing more than to serve, and the civil war itself, regardless of who won, was just an episode that will not change a thing. However we are told that war is also the greatest disaster, as it inevitably changes the world, and always makes the rich poorer. We also see slavery compared to a divine law, and supposedly ‘based on the scriptures(…)’.
All in all the local colour fiction is a literary way of expressing the situations and issues of some societies almost always tied to the author and his region of life, as seen in paragraphs above.