Critics have continuously characterized Peter Taylor’s work, as a social critique of the South and how it shows “the effects of cultural inheritance on its people” (Bryant 66). In his story, “The Old Forest,” Taylor examines the regional history and social structures that shaped his own past and how breaking the architecture that has existed for generations is not easily accomplished. Although it takes place in 1937, with progressive girls and college students filling the city of Memphis with intellectualism and open sexuality, the social constructions of the past, most specifically the descendents of plantation owners and rich socialites, are not easily forgotten. Lines have been drawn between those residing in the progressive city and Nat Ramsey’s community of debutantes and patriarchal dominance. Nat’s fiancé, Caroline Braxley is unwillingly thrown into the conflict as Nat finds himself in a questionable situation with a city girl, Lee Ann. As Caroline struggles to secure her marriage to Nat, she is faced with obstacles of gender, social class, and her own emotions. Taylor exposes the essential truth behind Caroline of how she uses her knowledge of her expected roles to survive in a changing societal context. Caroline embodies a middle path through the conflicting generations and social movements that allows her to follow her desires and gain the future she wants without excluding herself from the values she has learned to accept.
Caroline Braxley does not have a significant role in the beginning of Nat’s narrative. Instead, she is background noise in his quest for individual knowledge and self-awareness in the changing Memphis community. Nat only refers to her as “the society girl I...
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...in English 9 (Fall 1987): 65-72.
Heldrich, Philip. “Collision and Revision in Peter Taylor’s ‘The Old Forest’.” Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South 38.2 (Winter 2000): 48-53.
Robinson, David M. “Engaging the Past: Peter Taylor’s ‘The Old Forest’.” Southern Literary Journal 22.2 (Spring 1990): 63-77.
Robison, James Curry. Peter Taylor: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988. 78, 89-95.
Shear, Walter. “Peter Taylor’s Fiction: The Encounter with the Other.” Southern Literary Journal 21.2 (Spring 1989): 41-46.
- -. “Women and History in Peter Taylor’s Short Stories.” Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South 33.1 (Fall 1994): 41-46.
Taylor, Peter. “The Old Forest.” Growing Up in the South: An Anthology of Modern Southern Literature. Ed. Jones, Suzanne W. New York: Penguin Group Inc., 2003. 247-314.
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