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What Is the Significance of the Representation of Race and Power in a Gathering Light?

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What is the significance of the representation of race and power in “a Gathering Light”?

Analyse the representation of marginalised characters and groups in the novel and evaluate their significance and the ideologies communicated through their roles and choices.

Set in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, the book is focused on the life of a 16-year-old girl named Mattie Gokey. She is the oldest daughter of a widowed farmer, and with that title comes enormous responsibilities on the farm. The problem, though, is that she does not want to be a farm girl all her life. She is a very talented writer, and her teacher's involvement has led to her being accepted on scholarship to Barnard College in New York City. She faces a crossroads decision in her life: does she stay home and honor a promise made to her deceased mother, or does she leave to follow her own dream?

In the midst of this decision, Mattie gets a summer job at a lodge on Big Moose Lake. It is there she meets Grace Brown, who hands her a bundle of letters on the premise that Mattie is to burn them. Later, before Mattie can carry out the task, Grace turns up dead in the lake. Mattie, unable to quell her curiosity, begins reading the letters. As she pieces together Grace's life and realizes why she ended up dead, Mattie is also able to come to terms with her own place in life and what she needs to do.

While the murder case in the book is based on a real event, the author used artistic license in adapting the story. Most notably, Grace hands Mattie both letters that Chester Gillette had written to her and letters that she had written to Chester. In reality, Grace was only in possession of the letters Chester wrote to her; the letters from Grace to Chester were discovered later.

Mattie Gokey, aged 16, the eldest daughter of a widowed farmer, who wins a college scholarship and wants to become a writer.

Emily Baxter is an unconventional poet who has written poems controversial enough that they have been burned and condemned by the highest authorities. Her husband, who does not approve of Emily's poetry, tries to get her committed and eventually, she flees to Paris. Under the name of Miss Wilcox, she acts as a teacher and friend to the main character, Mattie. She also helps Mattie achieve her dream of going to college.

Weaver Smith is the only black boy in the entire area and Mattie's best friend. He worked at the Glenmore Hotel along with Mattie in order to earn money for the train ticket to New York City, where he would attend Colombia University.

Royal Loomis is a handsome but dull boy who Mattie and many other girls are sweet on. Although he doesn't understand Mattie's love for books and words, after spending some time together, he asks to marry her.

Jennifer Donnelly grew up on the outskirts of the Adirondacks hearing tales and ballads of the 1906 murder of Grace Brown, a pregnant nineteen-year-old drowned by her lover in Big Moose Lake. Donnelly's great-grandmother had been working at a hotel on the lake when the murder took place. Her firsthand account, reinforced by Donnelly's reading of Theodore Dreiser's novel concerning the same murder, stirred Donnelly's curiosity. Dreiser's novel, An American Tragedy, renders the couple's plight as a dark outcome of the American dream gone awry. What captured Donnelly's imagination, however, was Grace herself and how she could have been any nineteen-year-old girl. Upon reading the transcripts of Chester Gillette's trial and hearing Grace's voice through the letters used as evidence, the presence of the young woman haunted Donnelly. She felt a genuine grief which was alleviated through writing Grace's story and giving it fresh meaning. Out of that need was born the character of Mattie Gokey, the sixteen-year-old hotel employee who witnesses Grace's body being pulled from the lake the evening after Grace asks her to burn her love letters. In piecing together the story of Grace's life and death through the letters, Mattie comes to understand and solve many of the problems standing in the way of her own happiness and independence. A Northern Light, published in 2003, transcends genre boundaries and was praised by Courtney Williamson of the Christian Science Monitor for "unflinching honesty in its portrayal of loss, poverty, racism, and pregnancy." It was an overnight success in both the United States and Great Britain (where it was published under the title A Gathering Light). It has since earned several major awards in young adult fiction, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Carnegie Medal.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

It's 1906 and 16-year-old Mattie Gokey is at a crossroads in her life. She's escaped the overwhelming responsibilities of helping to run her father's brokedown farm in exchange for a paid summer job as a serving girl at a fancy hotel in the Adirondacks. She's saving as much of her salary as she can, but she's having trouble deciding how she's going to use the money at the end of the summer. Mattie's gift is for writing and she's been accepted to Barnard College in New York City, but she's held back by her sense of responsibility to her family--and by her budding romance with handsome-but-dull Royal Loomis. Royal awakens feelings in Mattie that she doesn't want to ignore, but she can't deny her passion for words and her desire to write.

At the hotel, Mattie gets caught up in the disappearance of a young couple who had gone out together in a rowboat. Mattie spoke with the young woman, Grace Brown, just before the fateful boating trip, when Grace gave her a packet of love letters and asked her to burn them. When Grace is found drowned, Mattie reads the letters and finds that she holds the key to unraveling the girl's death and her beau's mysterious disappearance. Grace Brown's story is a true one (it's the same story told in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and in the film adaptation, A Place in the Sun),



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