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“One Foot in Eden” Essay

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Essay: The Widow in Black in Rash’s “One foot in Eden”

The character of Widow Glendower in Ron Rash’s novel “One Foot in Eden” represents both the tragic and mystic nature of human personality: the author achieves this by combining deep knowledge of the world, spirituality, and antipathy in one being.

The novel starts with an event when a person who is regarded as a local villain vanishes in the forests of South Carolina. The story is set in 1950’s. The novel is structured as 5 different stories, which overlap and intertwine, forming a complex and unparalleled maze of love, murder, and grief. One of the main ideas in the novel is to locate the spiritual sense in life and discover the ends to such being.

The character of Widow Glendower (or witch) is used to represent the idea that improper actions tend to cause grief and disappointment for the people performing such deeds. Widow Glendower also illustrates various myths that talk about the path of life and knowledge. Local inhabitants of Jocassee fear and admire the witch simultaneously. This is due to her great knowledge of being and her mystic powers, which people can not fully grasp or fathom. Amy, the wife of Billy Holcombe, provides her own account of the witch, a story that was told by her grandmother years ago: “There had been many another story about her I’d hеard growing up. How oncе Lindsеy Kilgorе saw hеr risе out of a trout pool hе’d bееn fishing, her body forming itself out of the water” (Rash 68). The author uses such words to describe Widow Glendower to evoke in the reader a fear of the supernatural and mystic powers possessed by the witch. The character of Widow Glendower is also used to refer to the magic knowledge of the world by referring to witch’s structure in the river, which, in turn, symbolizes the eternal disappearance and the eternal come back. (Healy 194).

The character of Widow Glendower is portrayed as an illustration that certain deeds can result in fatal mistakes and tragedy. Amy can’t become pregnant and she resorts to the witch as her last hope. Amy is so desperate that she listens to the Glendower’s advice to commit adultery as her only mean to get pregnant. Here, Rash shows that the witch, in a way, accepts the responsibility for the deeds of others by advising people to commit certain improper actions.

This novel of Ron Rash gives evidence of profound metaphysical concern: concern for the roots of being, for being in act, manifested by numinous and symbolic qualities. Widow Glendower does not seek these roots out of curiosity, nor does she find them in speculative discussion. As a witch and as a person, Glendower feels compelled to share her supernatural abilities with the others, even though she is not always aware what such abilities may cause at the end.

Bobby Murphree is the Sheriff’s deputy who gives his account of the latest events in the novel. It so happens that he has to sink what’s left of Widow Glendower in the lake, which also happens to be its deepest part. After the task is completed, Bobby passes the farms on his boat and observes that things look completely intact: one is able to get an impression that nothing changed since all of the events took place. The river, lake, and water play a significant role here as they symbolize the flowing and changing nature of life. When the witch’s casket comes floating down the river at the end, it symbolizes that the witch rises to the surface again. In the beginning of the novel, the widow is hard to trace: “I’d have to be the one to call on Widow Glendower. I followed the river up past the old Chapman place to where Wolf Creek flowed into the river”, whereas at the end her casket appears just by itself (Rash, 44). In other words, no one needs to look for her anymore, she comes to the people directly.

This novel seeks the reconciliation of the inner and outer man, of the world of the present with its roots in the past. It aims at unity, and the power which restores this living unity is imagination. Widow Glendower combines various seemingly unrelated characteristics, which are closely intertwined into one complex personality. She is a witch and a savior; she is liked and disgusted by her fellow citizens; she is respected and feared by those seeking her help.

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