Returning to the Southern Tradition: Thomas Wolfe and the Southern Agrarians

Essay by skg62College, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Returning to the Southern Tradition:

Thomas Wolfe and the Southern Agrarians

Sachin Gupta

Capitalism has always and forever will be linked with the value of individualism. This individualistic philosophy provides people with opportunities of raising their income and thus achieving economic growth. Because individuals, according to capitalists, are given a wider range of business options, they are exposed to competition and therefore have to face challenges to stay in competition. This notion of striving to be the best is regarded by many as one of the greatest strengths of capitalism. A competitive market facilitates the production of a wide variety of goods and the formation of a wide range of services. Consequently, monopoly capitalists believe, consumers are happier in a capitalist economy because it is assumed that in this network hard work is rewarded. Some would argue, however, that capitalism does not epitomize hard work but greed, materialism, and corruption.

Specifically, Marxist supporters and sympathizers would contend that this exploitive economic system is merely an excuse for the rich to hastily oppress the poor. Far from being Marxists, the Southern Agrarians of Nashville, Tennessee expressed this anti-capitalist sentiment in their 1930 collection, I'll Take My Stand. Authored by twelve conservative whites in the post-antebellum South, this collection of biographical essays advocates the restoration of Agrarianism and condemns the progressive ideals of the North. Several of these prominent individuals include John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, and Frank Lawrence Owsley; they all studied at Vanderbilt University, produced literature in numerous genres, and shared and evaluated each other's pieces.

Having been published in the wake of the Great Depression, I'll Take My Stand attempts to denounce American industrialism. In the South, industrial capitalism appeared to make an enemy to tradition and friend to modern ideologies. In the "Introduction: A Statement...