Although only twenty percent of the nation resides in small towns, according to the 2000 census, people in these communities share the human experience with the other eighty percent of those who live in cities and suburban towns. In her novels, Abide with Me, Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, and Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout depicts what it is like to be a member of one of these rural communities. The small towns that Strout depicts in her novels serve as microcosms of the human experience. In Abide with Me, main character Tyler Caskey is the minister of West Annett, Maine. With the recent loss of his wife, Tyler’s phenomenal sermons begin to decline. Because Tyler loses faith, he cannot find the right words to preach to his community. The whole community shares Tyler’s internal struggle. Not only do they become aware of what he is going through, but it becomes their hardship as well, since they are no longer able to benefit from his spiritual guidance. Through her characters, Strout demonstrates the connection between the residents in small towns.
In contrast to Elizabeth Strout’s focus on small towns in Maine, John F. Fitzgerald’s lived in the urban setting of Boston. John Francis Fitzgerald, also affectionately known as “Honey Fitz,” born to Irish immigrants in 1863 in the North End, rose to be a prominent and influential politician. He transformed Boston politics from an aristocratic and pedigreed world to a hands-on, action-oriented, and “for the people” world, leveraging the new and growing immigrant population. As Mayor, John F. Fitzgerald created jobs, supported the common man, and championed a vision for a “bigger, better, busier Boston.” Also, Honey Fitz gave the unheard and unseen Irish immigrant population a voice and a path, representing their needs. In the nineteenth century, Boston had been a city ruled by the Brahmins, an elite class of wealthy, educated members of society. The Brahmins fought to stifle the growing immigrant population, but Honey Fitz took a stance and redefined the political hierarchy in Boston. Along with transforming Boston, Honey Fitz created a political family of great success, the Kennedys.
Major Works Consulted:
Kennedy, Rose Fitzgerald. Times to Remember. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974.
Keyse, James. Elizabeth Strout. Digital image. http://www.theguardian.com/. Web.
O’Connor, Thomas H. The Boston Irish: A Political History. Boston: Northeastern U. P., 1995.
Strout, Elizabeth. Abide with Me. New York: Random, 2006.
---. The Burgess Boys. New York: Random, 2013.