In his novel, Saints at the River, Ron Rash develops the struggle to maintain the environment as well as spiritual peace. A young girl has drowned, and is now trapped, in the Tamassee River, bringing grief and sorrow to Oconee County. The father, Herb Kowalsky, is very troubled and tries to find help from anyone. This incident brings numerous diverse individuals together to support the Kowalsky family. One of the main supporters is a writer, Allen Hemphill, who felt great empathy toward the family. Although Allen and Herb are very different men, they display similar qualities throughout the novel. Some of their similar features include being outsiders from Oconee County, sufferers of family tragedy, and crusaders to bring Ruth’s body out of the river.
One of the general similarities between the two men is they are outsiders of Oconee County. Allen is originally from Columbia, South Carolina. When Allen was officially assigned this job, the manager editor assigned a photographer, Maggie Glenn, to the job as well. Because she was assigned to the job, she could help “‘… translate mountain speech into standard English for Hemphill’ ” (9). Allen Hemphill is ignorant about the land and the Tamassee River. With no knowledge about how powerful the river is, he had to be informed on how Ruth drowned in the river. Residents of Oconee County had to enlighten him about the hydraulic of the river and how dangerous it can be. Just like Allen, Herb was unfamiliar with the river. Herb is originally from Minnesota. In the novel it mentions Herb and his family were just taking a vacation to be closer as a family, when this tragedy occurred. The residents from Oconee County knew Herb was not from around here when he calls them ‘...
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...ell them all the emotional story about Ruth. When his wife talks about Ruth, it establishes an emotional attachment that the residents feel obligated to support to Kowalsky family and allowing the dam to be built.
The need for supporters was a constant struggle. Allen shows empathy toward the family, as is support is shown through his newspaper article. Allen and Herb may display different characteristics, but these men had something more in common. Both of these men were outsiders of Oconee County, suffers of family tragedy, and crusaders to bring Ruth’s body out of the river. Even though it is evident about Herb’s struggle for closure in putting his daughter to rest, Allen is also seeking closure as well. It is unfortunate that these two men do not know each other’s stories, because besides closure at the river, they each need a friend who stands on common ground.
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