Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Victoria  Bethoney 

Twentieth-Century Extremist Groups in Southern California

Women’s Search for Identity in Kristin Hannah’s Novels

Kristin  Hannah
Extremists in Southern California in the twentieth century planned and carried out many bombings, shootings, murders and mutilations. Some extremist groups attacked Jews and African Americans while others directed violence towards U.S. government tax laws. Anarchists went further with their revolts; some sought freedom from government laws, while other more radical anarchists aimed to destroy all government rule. As of 2013, scholars recognized 1,018 known hate organizations that operated in the U.S. The American extremist groups included neo-Nazis, white nationalists, racist skinheads, black separatists, neo-confederates, and also Klansmen. Most extremist groups were responding to the many kinds of rapid social change that occurred in twentieth century America. Some resented the social change that came with the Civil Rights Movement, and resented African Americans freely exercising their rights as American citizens; and some were angered by taxes levied by a growing federal government. Other extremists responded to social change by embracing long-standing anti-Semitic currents in American life.

Similar in its intensity to extremists’ reaction to social change in twentieth century America, the deep rooted insecurity that plagues the female protagonists of Kristin Hannah’s novels manifests itself in a number of ways. These women feel enormous societal pressure to live up to their full potential in life, as they are expected to balance a career, love, and a family. They suffer with maintaining this balance at first, but are able to overcome these struggles that are not only caused by societal expectations but also stem from their lack of confidence. In Firefly Lane, for instance, the author traces the development of the childhood friends Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart who, as they grow older, struggle to maintain their relationship in light of each woman’s unspoken feelings of jealousy towards the other. Throughout the many decades of their friendship, the challenging balance of career, love and family comes into play when Kate and Tully decide to lead very different lives. With Kate focusing on her love life and family and Tully working toward the success of her career as a newsreporter, each woman develops her identity and sense of individuality.

Major Works Consulted:

Atkins, Stephen E. “Other White Supremacist Movements.” Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2011.
Hannah, Kristin. Firefly Lane. New York: St. Martin’s, 2008.
--. True Colors. New York: St. Martin’s, 2009.
Schwarz, Fred. The Three Faces of Revolution. Washington, D.C: Prospect, 1972.
Photo Credit: Hannah, Kristin. Firefly Lane. New York: St. Martin’s, 2008.