Robert Penn Warren's Night Rider

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“In one deep sense, novels are concealed autobiography. I don 't mean that you are telling facts about yourself, but you are trying to find out what you really think or who you are” Robert Penn Warren explains (Warren). Night Rider, a historical fiction novel, was published in 1939 by Robert Penn Warren and was based on Kentucky’s Tobacco War that took place between 1905-1908, involving planters demanding better prices for their crops. An organization advocating for the tobacco planters’ cause called the Association of Growers of Dark Fired Tobacco developed into the Free Farmers Brotherhood for Protection and Control which night raided crops of those who did not join their battle against the companies that refused to comply to their demands.…show more content…
Despite his medical condition, Robert Penn Warren grew up aspiring to become a naval officer and had planned to go to Annapolis. His goal was within reach; “In fact, he was accepted by the Naval Academy, but that summer his younger brother aimlessly tossed a stone over a hedge” (McClatchy). Instead, Warren became a chemical engineer but quit soon after finding an interest in English courses and later attending Vanderbilt University, Yale University, Oxford University, and UC Berkeley. After graduating, he agreed to a request by publishers and editors of the American Caravan to write novels and incorporated folk tales from his childhood. Warren eventually became a teacher at Vanderbilt and Louisiana State University and founded the Southern Review. The author’s flawed familial life was as tempestuous as his early career. His first wife, Emma Brescia, “was a pretentious, obstreperous, cruel woman whose erratic behavior was for years attributed to her alcoholism but was later diagnosed as madness” (McClatchy).” They divorced in 1952 and Warren later married Eleanor Clark whom he had a strong and loving but turbulent bond with. The couple had two children in Connecticut’s countryside, giving Warren a new attitude in his…show more content…
He is noted to rarely mention his personal life, perhaps due to the impact of his mother’s death, his father’s financial problems, and his difficult marriage. Because of these stressful events, “he struggled over individual poems and was often dissatisfied with his efforts”( Ruppersburg). His first novel Night Rider, unfortunately went unrecognized but on the other hand, All The King’s Men gained popularity as a notable political novel about the process of going from ‘rags to riches’, earning him the Pulitzer Prize.
Shortly after, Warren experienced a ten year long poets block in 1954 and wrote autobiographical verses about the lessons and losses of experience. He used personal experiences from his childhood as well as history to write these works. However, “Warren balked at being labeled a ‘historical novelist’ ” (“Robert Penn Warren”). Disgruntled at the fact that he was known as a historical novelist, Warren concentrated on minor characters to develop the plot of his novels and shifted away from using a historical focus. His resistance to his acclaimed title was proven futile much to his
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