Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Barbara Ladner

Second Advisor

Joyce East

Third Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch

Fourth Advisor

Marcella Barton

Fifth Advisor

Barbara Yeager


Winding farther and farther off the concrete interstate, climbing higher and deeper into the mountains, leaving two-lane roads behind for a one-lane dirt road, and then leaving the last vestiges of the dirt road behind and forging still deeper and deeper into the mountains, the adventuresome traveler beholds the emerging isolated rural hollows. What kind of people choose to live in this remote southern geographical region known as the Appalachian mountain range which runs from northern Georgia through the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Virginias and Pennsylvania? The people who chose to live in these isolated regions are not the town and city dwellers of Appalachia, nor are they the valley farmers. The people living in these remote areas of the mountains are known as “branchwater' mountaineers, occupying the branches and coves, living on the ridges and in the most inaccessible parts of the mountain region. They are small landholders, or tenants or squatters on usually poor land, and they move from abandoned tract to abandoned tract.

The formidable geography of this area has acted as a natural barrier, keeping its inhabitants in, holding others out. The Appalachian region exerts a strong influence on its inhabitants and commands their loyalty. The isolation allows for the development of a rich folk culture, distinctive speech patterns, a strong sense of tradition and radical individualism. It is this group of Appalachian mountaineers that have become the mountaineers of fiction, often portrayed with moral and cultural standards similar to those characters of Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner. This is the region and these are the people Lee Smith has chosen to present in her fiction.


Appalachian Region – Social life and customs.

Smith, Lee – 1944-

Snake cults (Holiness churches).