50 States, 50 Novels – Part 8

Oklahoma – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

Although Steinbeck’s novel traverses several states, it gave human faces to a group that, at the time, were disparagingly referred to simply as “Okies.” Steinbeck’s novel also serves as a lament for the Oklahoma landscape, torn up by monstrous machines, and the changing face of the American agricultural industry.

Oregon – Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (1964)

Both this novel and Kesey’s more famous debut, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, are set in Oregon, the state where Kesey spent his high school years and much of his later life. Although it is overshadowed by its predecessor in terms of popularity, Sometimes a Great Notion is considered by most critics to be the better work.

Pennsylvania – Edgar Huntly by Charles Brockden Brown (1799)

One of the first Gothic novels in American literature, Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleepwalker would go on to influence generations of writers. The story follows the title character’s search for his friend’s murderer, and uses the untamed Philadelphian woods of 18th century America for its ghastly backdrop.

Rhode Island – The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (1984)

Upon release, this novel took everyone by surprise as a significant departure from Updike’s previous work, with a plot revolving around a group of witches in a fictional town in 1960’s Rhode Island.

South Carolina – Porgy by DuBose Heyward (1925)

Overshadowed by its more famous opera adaptation, DuBose Heyward’s Porgy is nonetheless an important novel, later inspiring Harlem Renaissance writers such as Langston Hughes. Set mostly in the tenements of Charleston, South Carolina, the novel is known for its accurate recreation of regional dialects and languages.

-Christian Kriticos

Skip to content