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Reflecting on Moral Choosing in Wendell Berry's Hannah Coulter

“Caleb didn’t need a graduate degree to be a farmer and Nathan didn’t say anything. He went on eating. He had his work to do and he needed to get back to it. Tears filled his eyes and overflowed and ran down. I don’t think he noticed he was crying. That was as near to licked as I ever saw him. Even his death didn’t come as near to beating him as that did.” Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter has no argument, but it does have a vision. Like all narratives it takes the reader up into its account of purposiveness and the rise and fall of the characters judged by this account. Caleb has missed the good life, narrates Berry, because he has missed “home” and the work, place, and people that “home” offers. He has chosen graduate school, professional life, and abandoned the farm and his family. Don’t call it abandonment perhaps; that’s too strict and legal. But abandonment is exactly what Caleb feels it to be.

Read more at Concerning the Soul


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