Die Königs Erläuterung Spezial zu Tom Franklin: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter in englischer Sprache ist eine verlässliche und bewährte Textanalyse und Interpretationshilfe für Schüler und weiterführende Informationsquelle für Lehrer und andere Interessierte: verständlich, übersichtlich und prägnant. Info: Abiturthema in Baden-Württemberg. In einem Band bieten dir die Königs Erläuterungen alles, was du zur Vorbereitung auf Referat, Klausur, Abitur oder Matura benötigst. Das spart dir lästiges Recherchieren und kostet weniger Zeit zur Vorbereitung. Alle wichtigen Infos zur Interpretation... - von der ausführlichen Inhaltsangabe über Aufbau, Personenkonstellation, Stil und Sprache bis zu Interpretationsansätzen - Abituraufgaben mit Musterlösungen ... sowohl kurz als auch ausführlich ... - Die Schnellübersicht fasst alle wesentlichen Infos zu Werk und Autor und Analyse zusammen. - Die Kapitelzusammenfassungen zeigen dir das Wichtigste eines Kapitels im Überblick - ideal auch zum Wiederholen. ... und klar strukturiert ... - Ein zweifarbiges Layout hilft dir Wesentliches einfacher und schneller zu erfassen. - Die Randspalte mit Schlüsselbegriffen ermöglichen dir eine bessere Orientierung. - Klar strukturierte Schaubilder verdeutlichen dir wichtige Sachverhalte auf einen Blick.
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KÖNIGS ERLÄUTERUNGEN SPEZIAL
Textanalyse und Interpretation zu
CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER
Analyse | Interpretation in englischer Sprache
Zitierte Ausgaben: Franklin, Tom: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2017. Note: All page references are to the Klett English Edition of the novel (ISBN 978-3-12-579900-4) and refer to the page and line numbers: for example, 191.25 is line 25 on page 191.
Über den Autor dieser Erläuterung: Patrick Charles wurde 1973 in Bournemouth, Südengland, geboren und studierte englische Literatur an der Universität von Newcastle. 1993 zog er nach Berlin, wo er eine Ausbildung zum Buchhändler machte und zehn Jahre lang als Buchhändler arbeitete. Seit 2004 ist er als freiberuflicher Autor von Schulbüchern und Lernhilfen und als Übersetzer im Kulturbereich tätig. Er lebt mit seiner Familie in Berlin.
1. Auflage 2018
© 2018 by C. Bange Verlag, 96142 Hollfeld Alle Rechte vorbehalten! Titelabbildung: Old pump station on Route 66 © forcdan/fotolia.com
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1. FOREWORD – AT A GLANCE
2. Tom Franklin: LIFE & WORKS
2.2 Contemporary Background
Class and social status
2.3 Notes on other works
3. ANALYSES AND INTERPRETATIONS
3.1 Origins and sources
Suspense and foreshadowing
Crime fiction and collateral damage
3.4 Characters: Constellations & Characteristics
Ina Jean Ott
Memory, the past and secrets
Guilt, responsibility and betrayal
Race: Identity and taboos
Horror and monsters – outsiders
3.6 Style and Language
Vivid similes and symbolic imagery
Symbols: The mask and the cabin
Agatha Christie and the whodunit
Raymond Chandler and noir
How Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter fits in
4. CRITICAL RECEPTION
The American South
6. SAMPLE EXAM QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Edition used for this study guide
About the author
Useful Links by Wikipedia
This study guide to Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is designed to provide an easy-to-use overview of the structure, context, themes and characters of the novel. Here is a quick rundown of the most important points.
Part 2 takes a brief look at Tom Franklin and his career.
Franklin was born in Alabama in 1963. His career as a writer has been defined by the region of the country in which he was born and has always lived.
Crooked Letter is a crime thriller about two boyhood friends who are in fact half-brothers. Franklin ist closely associated with the American South.
Part 3 offers analyses and interpretations of the novel.
Crooked Letter – Origins and sources
Franklin is a Southern writer: all his published works have been concerned with the history and culture of the American South. CrookedLetter was published in 2010 and was his third and to date most successful novel.
Two young boys, Larry and Silas, become friends despite social and family pressure (Larry is white, Silas black) in rural Mississippi in the late 1970s. A girl they are both connected to, Cindy Walker, disappears, feared dead, and suspicion falls on Larry. Twenty-five years later, Larry is an outcast in the area, and Silas is now a police officer, investigating the disappearance of a local girl, Tina Rutherford. Larry is again a suspect, even after he is found shot and badly wounded in his own home. Silas investigates the crime and is forced to re-examine his own history, and to acknowledge the secrets he has been keeping about Cindy. He had been with her on the night she disappeared and he could have saved Larry from the suspicion which destroyed his family and his life. While investigating the past, Silas also discovers that he and Larry are half-brothers. Silas is badly injured in a showdown with the man who shot Larry and killed Tina. After Silas has confessed about the events of 1982, he and Larry can begin to mend their friendship.
The novel is concerned with events from the past and their effect on, and reflection in, events occurring in the present day. The narrative takes place in the two time periods, with some chapters taking place entirely in the past, and characters often slipping into long memories which reveal the secrets and events of 25 years ago.
The arrangement of the characters in Crooked Letter is a little more complex than in a less chronologically complex novel.
Larry is an outcast and a loner who comes from a local family.
Silas investigates the crimes in the novel and has to acknowledge his guilt for having ruined Larry’s life.
Larry’s father had an affair with Alice Jones, and Silas is his son.
Larry’s mother is the last of the earlier generation still alive.
Silas mother, a beautiful, strong-willed and hard woman.
Wallace kills Tina Rutherford and shoots Larry.
Silas’ girlfriend at the time she disappears.
There are many other characters in the novel.
The themes in this novel are deeply interconnected: Memory, the past and secrets– Guilt, responsibility and betrayal– Power –
Belonging– Horror and monsters – Redemption.
Style and language
The dialogue in the novel reflects the strong local accent of rural Mississippi, providing a real sense of place and identity. The prose is rich with poetic similes and symbolic passages.
The novel is primarily a crime thriller, and this chapter will look at where the novel fits in with the literary genre and traditions of crime fiction.
Thomas Gerald Franklin (* 1963)© Ulf ANDERSEN/GAMMA-RAPHO/laif
Born on 7th of July in the tiny community (400–500 citizens), Franklin grew up as a huge fan of comic books and pulp fiction (science fiction, horror, fantasy, Tarzan stories, etc.) and was not a good student at school.
Up to age 18
The family moved, and Franklin attended the University of South Alabama, where he worked many menial jobs and took nine years to graduate.
Taught for a year at the famous all-black Selma University.
He graduated from the University of Arkansas with an M.F.A. after four years which he really enjoyed, during which he also met his future wife Beth Ann.
First work published, the story collectionPoachers
First novel published, Hell at the Breech
Smonk is published, cementing his reputation as a regional writer
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is published to widespread acclaim and great commercial success
The Titled World is published, a novel Franklin co-wrote with his wife
Tom Franklin is currently an associate professor at the University of Mississippi.
Whether he is writing crime fiction or historical novels, Tom Franklin is a regional writer who is closely associated with the American South, specifically the states Alabama and Mississippi. The traditions, lifestyles and landscapes of the South feature prominently in his writing.
The southern states of the USA are very different from the North. Traditional ways of life which were associated for generations with natural factors like different kind of agriculture (the plantations, for example) and the very different climate are combined with historical, political and social factors including slavery, segregation, the American Civil War, widespread religious intensity and a lot of rural poverty. Industrialisation and urbanisation had been northern phenomena long before they began affecting the South.
Franklin addresses many issues of Southern identity and life in Crooked Letter, including racial dynamics, the coherence and claustrophobia of small rural communities, and social problems like drugs, alcoholism and poverty. He also makes efforts to portray the languid atmosphere of the hot and humid climate, and there is a strong awareness of beauty in his descriptions of the landscapes of the South.
Chicago has many nicknames, including the “Windy City” – referring to its chilly and raw climate – and the “City of the Big Shoulders”, which is a line taken from Carl Sandburg’s poem Chicago (1916) and reflects the city’s strong working-class and industrial identity. In Crooked Letter, Alice and Silas move from Chicago to Mississippi, which is for Silas like a different world. When Silas talks to Cindy about Chicago he describes an exciting place with raw weather, access to the highest level of national sports, great pizza and much more – a lively, stimulating environment, full of noise and pressure, very different from the slow and quiet rural world of Chabot and Fulsom (p. 243).
Race is a huge issue in American history and culture, and while it is a factor throughout the entire country and throughout all social strata and demographics, it is historically particularly relevant to the Southern states, including Mississippi, where the novel is set.
Slavery and institutionalised white supremacy (the conviction that white people are fundamentally better than dark-skinned people) were defining features of Southern society for many years. The American Civil War has complex origins, but one of the major factors was the push to abolish slavery.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had many of its defining moments occur in the South, where racial segregation was widespread and efforts to maintain the white supremacist status quo were fiercer and more oppressive than in the North. In a secretive shadowy world, the institutional racism which enforced segregated schools, bathrooms, buses and drinking fountains was accompanied by mob violence and the secret society Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was first formed in the 1860s to overthrow the Republic following the Civil War. The white supremacist identity of the Klan has remained its defining feature throughout the years. The KKK is a secret society, but members are famous for their distinctive uniform of white robes with pointed white hoods. The Klan has been responsible for countless murders, lynchings and assaults on African-Americans and civil rights activists.
Grave of 14-yearold Emmett Till, lynched by a white man. © picture alliance/AP Photo
Silas had virtually no contact with white people when he was growing up in a peaceful all-black neighbourhood in Chicago (131.8–21). It was only when he came to Mississippi that he encountered white people who would openly call blacks the N-word. As an adult, Silas sees the effects of structural racism, for example when he looks at the courthouse and sees exclusively white lawyers and exclusively black defendants (174.4–6).
Class and social status
The South maintained an almost feudal social system far into the modern era, with powerful, dynastic landowners who ran their vast estates like medieval aristocratic properties, complete with successive generations of servants and, for a long period, slave labour. In Crooked Letter, the clearest example of class and social tensions is combined with racial issues in the idea of “white trash”, specifically Wallace Stringfellow and the Walker family. These are white people who are at the very bottom of the social hierarchy, poor, uneducated, unskilled, unemployed, and often associated with drug addiction, alcoholism and domestic abuse. We can see in the character of Wallace how a lifetime of being treated like dirt can make you believe it at some point (“I ain’t worth a shit”, 283.10), but the combination of this sense of worthlessness with Wallace’s emotional and psychological problems makes him a dangerous character. Cindy Walker on the other hand has also been subject to contempt and abuse throughout her young life, but she wants to escape and find a better life.
Religion in the Deep South has an interesting and diverse history. There is a long tradition of Protestantism, but the predominant denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention. There are also many Methodists.
Religion plays a minor role in Crooked Letter. Larry is a believer, and Wallace’s first memories of Larry are of him in a church. Larry and his mother feel a genuine hunger for religion and must search for congregations which will accept them after Larry becomes the main suspect in the disappearance of Cindy Walker. They are Baptists.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was Franklin’s third novel, and is his most successful and famous work.
Poachers (short story collection)
Hell at the Breech
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
The Tilted World
His first published work, this collection of short stories won a major prize in the field of crime fiction (the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Short Story).
Hell at the Breech and Smonk
His first two novels are historical novels, both examples of regional fiction, as they are set in Alabama. Hell at the Breech, his debut, was based on actual historical events. Smonk is a wildly over-the-top novel about a brutal rapist and his path of destruction, intended in part as a reaction against or parody of the excessively masculine Southern fiction of established writers like Cormac McCarthy (famous for novels like Blood Meridian – published 1985).
has recently been translated into German for the first time and has been receiving a lot of attention for its grotesque, energetic humour and brutality.
The Tilted World
Co-written with his wife, this is another historical, regional novel, set in Mississippi in 1927.
Tom Franklin is widely considered to be a regional, and specifically Southern writer. All of his published work has been set in Mississippi or Alabama, and the region and his experiences there have shaped his work as a writer.
“To write a story, you have to get the details right. You have to convince a reader you know what you’re talking about.”
Franklin’s personal background in the region and his familiarity with the life, landscape, history, people and feel of the South means that there are traces of his life and experience in his work. This is also true of Crooked Letter: for example, like Larry, he grew up with a father who ran a car repair workshop in a tiny rural community.
He mentions in interviews how much autobiographical detail has slipped into Crooked Letter: “the character of Silas "32" Jones is very loosely based on the sole police officer of the hamlet of Dickinson, Alabama, where I grew up” and “I used a lot of autobiographical stuff for Larry, the mechanic”. These autobiographical details include Larry’s reading habits – when asked in an interview who his favourite writers were and are, Franklin says, “I loved Stephen King and Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid”.
His roots in the South have shaped him as a writer:
“So, yes, the souths made me the writer I am. It taught me to listen to the cadences and rhythms of speech, and to notice the landscape. It also has this defeated feel, a lingering of old sin, that makes it sweet in a rotting kind of way. Much of it is poor, much is rural, and thats an interesting combination, a deep well for stories.”
In the same interview, Franklin talks briefly about the origins of the novel: “Id been wanting to write about a small town police officer, and Id long had the image of a loner mechanic in my mind. When I put the two together, the story began to form.”
This comment reinforces the impression many readers of Crooked Letter have that this is primarily a character-driven novel, and, despite the plot, only secondarily a crime thriller.
Two young boys, Larry and Silas, become friends in rural Mississippi in the late 1970s. A girl, Cindy Walker, disappears, feared dead, and suspicion falls on Larry. Twenty-five years later, Larry is an outcast in the area, and Silas is now a police officer, investigating the disappearance of a local girl, Tina Rutherford. Larry is again a suspect, even after he is found shot and badly wounded in his own home. Silas investigates the crime and is forced to re-examine his own history. After Silas has confessed about the events of 1982, he and Larry can begin to mend their friendship.
What follows in this section is a brief chapter-by-chapter summary of the novel. Some of the chapters are based entirely or largely in the past, as the novel covers two different periods (1979–1982 and two weeks in 2007), and these flashbacks are indicated in the summaries.
The novel starts with Larry Ott, a 41-year old man who lives alone in his parents’ house. He wakes up and goes about his morning routine, looking after his chickens, and heads off to work in his father’s car repair workshop, Ottomotive. On the way he gets a call from his mother, who is in a nursing home, saying that she would like to see him. He heads back home. When he walks into his house he is ambushed by an intruder wearing an old zombie mask which Larry has had since he was a boy. The intruder shoots him and then watches him bleeding out on the kitchen floor.
Police Constable Silas “32” Jones is patrolling when he sees an unusually large number of buzzards – carrion eater birds – hovering over an area of woodland. He investigates, hoping/fearing that he will find the corpse of a missing girl, Tina Rutherford. Instead he finds the body of Morton ”M&M” Morrisette in a swamp. M&M was a local marijuana dealer with whom Silas had played baseball and been good friends in high school.
Local detective and investigator Roy French arrives, followed by other officials, including Silas’ girlfriend Angie, an EMT (emergency medical technician).
Later, back in the office he shares with Miss Voncille, the city clerk, Silas is visited by French, who says that he had visited Larry Ott regarding the missing Rutherford girl. Silas follows up on a report that a rattlesnake has been found in someones mailbox. The mailbox belongs to a woman named Irina who shares a house with two other divorcees in a run-down area populated by poor whites.
Silas is doing his shift directing traffic later that day when he receives an ominous phone call from Angie, who is now at Ott’s house.
This chapter is a flashback, beginning in March 1979. Larry recalls his father driving him to school one freezing cold morning. They see Silas and his mother, Alice, waiting by the road and pick them up. Familiarity between Larrys father and Alice Jones is implied. Larrys mother seems surprised and a little suspicious when he tells her about it later when she picks him up from school. This is repeated for days. Larrys mother quizzes him about the woman and how his father behaves with her. She drives Larry to school one day and it is obvious she and Alice know each other: She gives the Jones’ two second hand winter coats and makes a bitter comment before driving off and leaving them standing in the freezing cold.
Larry goes to find Silas in the woods, where the Jones family lives in a cabin. He seems to want to be friends with the other boy. He finds Silas, teaches him how to shoot, lends him a rifle and then leaves his gloves for the boy as well.
Back to the present: On the phone to Silas, Angie describes briefly what she has found at Larry’s place. Silas goes to investigate and is reminded of having been there once before when he and Larry were friends. French arrives and they examine the crime scene together (Larry is in hospital, badly wounded but not dead). After examining Ott’s house, Silas returns home to find that Larry had tried to call him earlier that day, leaving a message on his answer machine.
This very significant chapter shows how important Silas was for Larry, how lonely and withdrawn Larry is, and how unpleasant and dangerous both Carl Ott and his friend and neighbour Cecil Walker are. It also shows the reader one of the two events (the fight – the other being the disappearance of Cindy Walker) which permanently changed the course of Larry’s life.
Another chapter set in the past, this one describes events later in the year Silas and Larry first met, 1979, leading up to Carl forcing them to fight over the borrowed rifle. Silas beats Larry, who then calls him “n****r”, changing their relationship for ever.
This chapter is divided between the present day and a substantial section containing Silas’ recollections of his childhood and his journey with his mother from Chicago to Chabot.
Silas investigates further in Larry Ott’s life. He goes to Ott’s garage and then back to his house to look for further clues as to what has happened. He finds small pieces of glass and the butt of a joint. Being in Ott’s house triggers memories of his childhood.
Silas remembers his early life in Chicago, and how, after his mother’s boyfriend had been arrested and then gone on the run, he and his mother had left Chicago to head south to Mississippi, where she came from. As a child Silas had deeply resented his mother for her relationships with men and the way she took him out of the world he had known.
Picking up in 1982, this chapter recounts Larry Ott’s connection to the disappearance of Cindy Walker and how those events shaped the rest of his life and the lives of his parents.
Cindy has encouraged Larry to take her out on a date. He believes they are going to the drive-in to see The Amityville Horror, but she tells him that he is to drop her off somewhere else so that she can see her secret boyfriend, and that because she is pregnant he must swear to never tell anyone about it. Larry follows her instructions, but she never appears at the arranged meeting place later that night. When he returns to the Walker’s house he is attacked by Cecil Walker. Soon after, the police are summoned.
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