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Death in the Family, A

a partially autobiographical novel by James Agee, published in 1957, All The Way Home

rufus book father home

It tells the story of the shattering of a secure and happy family when the father is killed in a car crash. Agee's writings are marked by an exploration of his own past; this novel focuses on a young boy named Rufus, Agee's middle name. The book opens with ‘Knoxville: Summer of 1915’, a passage of descriptive prose by a mature man trying to reconstruct a child's perspective of a summer evening with his family. By juxtaposing passages in italics with ordinary print, the book details two times of the growth of Rufus, with the italicized sub-narrative weaving in and out of the main narrative providing a kind of psychological basis. The narrative then proceeds to Rufus's trip to a cinema with his father Jay, the stops they make on their way home at the bar and on a hillside, Rufus's confused understanding of the differences between his parents, and other thoughts. After hearing about his father's imminent death, Jay drives to his father's home and, upon returning, is killed in a car crash after driving recklessly along the mountain roads. The later part of the book is taken up with the preparations that Mary, Rufus's mother, makes for the funeral. The book was later dramatized under the title All The Way Home (1960; Pulitzer Prize) by Tad Mosel.

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