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Essay about Impact of Geography in Richard Russo's Novels

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Richard Russo’s novels Empire Falls and Nobody’s Fool examine the relationships between individuals in a small town environment. In Empire Falls, Miles Roby and his family have stayed in Empire Falls for much of their life with no foreseeable change in the future. In Nobody’s Fool, Donald “Sully” Sullivan has lived in North Bath, NY since he was a child and seems to have deteriorated with the town. In both novels, the towns have declining economic prospects and the residents have little engagement with happenings outside their towns. The landlocked geography of Empire Falls, ME and North Bath, NY has a profound impact on each character's ability to evolve personally and intellectually.
Empire Falls is located several hours from a major metropolitan area and is depicted as very inclusive, to the extent that many residents are unfamiliar with the geography of the neighboring towns. The town is described as “pervaded by an atmosphere of resignation, depression, and decay” (Allen 259). The geography of Empire Falls inflicts an attitude of fatalism among its victims, causing isolationism and depression. One such victim is Miles Roby. In the beginning of the novel, Miles states, “no matter how well you planned something, God always planned better. If he was feeling stingy that day and didn’t want you to have some little thing you had your heart set on, then you weren’t going to get it and that was all there was to it” (Russo, Empire Falls 5000). Miles’ attitude is a recipe for laziness and failure, as it encourages diverting accountability for the state of progress from the able-bodied human to a higher power. Assuming Miles is referring to Christianity, Miles would be directed to seek God’s guidance for the plan rather than believing t...


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...5-56. Print.
Prager, Michael. "Run-of-the-Mill? Not Empire Falls." Boston Globe [Boston] 27 June 2001: D13. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 181. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 256-57. Print.
Prose, Francine. "Small-Town Smart Alecks." New York Times 20 June 1993: 1. Print.
Proulx, Annie E. "What It Takes to Endure the Lost, Stubborn Citizens of Richard Russo's Upstate New York." Chicago Tribune Books 30 May 1993: 1. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 181. Detroit: Gale, 1993. 235-36. Print.
Russo, Richard. Empire Falls. New York: Vintage, 2002. Print.
Russo, Richard. Nobody's Fool. New York: Vintage, 1994. Print.
Smith, Wendy. "Richard Russo: The Novelist Again Explores the Crucial Impact of Place on Individual Destinies." Publishers Weekly 7 June 1993: 43-44. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 181. Detroit: Gale, 1993. 237-40. Print.



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