Coal Mining in West Virginia: Storming Heaven, Denise Giardina

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Storming Heaven

In 1883, the first carload of coal was transported from Tazewell County, Virginia, on the Norfolk and Western Railway. The railroad opened a gateway to the untouched coal beds of West Virginia. Towns were created as the region was transformed from an agricultural to industrial economy.(West Virginia Mine Wars) The lure of good wages and housing made the coal mining appealing to West Virginians, but all good things come at a price. In the novel Storming Heaven, Denise Giardina gives us an inside look at what really happened to the small town of Annedel, West Virginia. Whether the four characters that tell the story are fictional or based in part on actual events that took place, it hits home considering where we live. The story is based on four different perspectives of four citizens struggling to survive under the reign of a powerful coal company. I am sure anyone from this area has had a family or knows of someone who has worked in the mines. If you sit down and talk to these older people who worked in the mines they all have compelling tales of events that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Although each character delivers their powerful and moving account, I would like to focus on one individual and his struggle to organize the miners. Rondal Lloyd struggled most of his life, he knew the coal mines first hand when he had to leave school to help his dad work in the mines to pay off debt to the company store. Unfortunately, this was common back in the times that this story is based upon. In West Virginia as far back as 1901 there are archives that have tried to set some sort of standards for child labor, but we must remember that these children grew up hard and fast. (West Virginia Mine War...

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...g to have a baby, and despite his situation Rondal ultimately becomes at peace with his life. In the end he dies, but he will rest on the mountain side where Carrie “walks past the cemetery where Rondal would at last have a place of his own.” (Giardina 290) This brings back a story that I read “How Much Land Does One Man Need”. In the end like everybody else Rondal will leave a legacy and it won’t be how much how owned but how much he loved and how much he gave of himself to others.

References

Giardina, Denise. Storming Heaven. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1988.

Print.

Norris, Ed. Personal Interview. 20 Mar 2014.

"West Virginia Mine Wars." West Virginia Division of Culture and History. West Virginia

Archives and History, 01 Jan 2014. Web. 23 Mar 2014.

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