The Sticking Place


In what way were we trapped?
where, our mistake?
what, where, how, when, what way,
might all these things have been different,
if only we had done otherwise?
if only we might have known.

James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

What is the relation of man to nature (and supernature)? Man subjugated to nature and God; little human control over destiny; fatalism Man can control nature or God works through man; basically optimistic
What is the relation of man to time? Present orientation; present and future telescoped; slow and “natural” rhythms Future orientation and planning; fast; regulation by the clock, calendar, and technology
What is the relation of man to space? Orientation to concrete places and particular things Orientation to everywhere and everything
What is the nature of human nature? Basically evil and unalterable, at least for others and in the absence of divine intervention Basically good, or mixed good and evil; alterable
What is the nature of human activity? Being Doing
What is the nature of human relations? Personal; kinship-based; strangers are suspect Relatively impersonal; recognize non-kin criteria; handle strangers on basis of roles
Emphasis on community, church, clubs etc. Individualism; self-centered concerns
Thoughts of change and progress; expectation of change, usually for the better Attitudes strongly traditionalistic
Freedom to determine one’s life and goals Fatalism
Routine-seeker Action-seeker
Self-assurance Sense of anxiety
No particular stress on maleness Stress on traditional masculinity
Use of ideas, ideals, and abstractions Use of anecdotes
Acceptance of object goals Rejection of object goals
Oriented to progress Orientation to existence
Strong emphasis on saving and budgeting No saving or budgeting
Desire and ability to plan ahead carefully No interest in long-range careful planning
Placement of group goals above personal aims Precedence of personal feelings and whims over group goals
Recognition of expect opinion Expert opinion not recognized
Child-centered family Adult-centered family
Responsibility for family decisions shared by husband and wife Male-dominated family
‘Togetherness’ of husband and wife Separateness of husband and wife; separate reference groups
Home tasks shared by husband and wife Sharp definition of home tasks between husband and wife
Many family activities shared (vacations, amusements, etc.) Few shared family activities
Disciplined child-rearing; stress on what is thought best for the child’s development Permissive child-rearing; stress on what pleases the child
Family bound by common interests as well as emotional ties Family bound by emotional ties; few common interests
Family a bridge to outside world Separation of family and outside world
Reference group less important Reference group most important
Object-orientated life pattern Person-orientated life pattern
Association between sexes Little or no association between sexes
Strong pressure of status No status seeking
Striving for excellence Leveling tendency in society
Readiness to join groups Rejection of joining groups
Ability to function in objective ways in a group Ability to function in a group only on a personal basis
Attachment to work; concern for job security and satisfaction Detachment from work; little concern for job security or satisfaction
Emphasis on education Ambivalence toward education
Cooperation with doctors, hospitals, and “outsiders” Fear of doctors, hospitals, those in authority, the well-educated
Use of government and law to achieve goals Antagonism toward government and law
Acceptance of the world Suspicion and fear of outside world
Participation in organized amusements, cultural activities, etc. Rejection of organized amusements, cultural activities, etc.

From Yesterday’s People by Jack Weller (University of Kentucky Press, 1965)
All rights reserved by the original copyright holders

We mountain people are the product of our history and the beliefs and outlook of our foreparents. We are a traditional people, and in our rural setting we valued the things of the past. More than most people, we avoided mainstream life and thus became self-reliant. We sought freedom from entanglements and cherished solitude. All of this was both our strength and our undoing.

They came to a land of great natural beauty – high misty mountains, broad valleys and secluded coves and hollows, clear bouncing waters and frothing waterfalls. Wild game, roots and herbs for food and medicine were everywhere. The forests with their towering trees seemed endless, and underneath were rocks and minerals that would attract outsiders later on. For a people escaping from infringements of church and state, Appalachia was ideal for a new way of life, for a time, away from “powers and principalities.”

They came for many reasons, but always for new opportunity and freedom – freedom from religious, political, and economic restraints, and freedom to do much as they pleased. The pattern of their settlement shows that they were seeking land and solitude.

Although many were literate, evident from their letters, signing of public documents, and their possession of books, for a generation or two they left most formal schooling behind. This was a choice of profound significance for mountain people.

Life in the wilderness and the continuing relative isolation of Southern mountaineers made a strong imprint on us. The Appalachian value system that influences attitudes and behavior is different in some ways from that held by our modern countrymen, although it is similar to the value system of an earlier America.

From Appalachian Values by Loyal Jones (The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1994)
All rights reserved by the original copyright holders