Raff, after all, is a citizen of the cities of Clayville and later, Mobile. Much of this section revolves around his relationships with the people of those communities — his family, their rituals, and the peculiar rules, customs and beliefs of the people there.
And yet, the title celebrates Raff as the citizen of a very different kind of community, the community of the wild land known as Nokobee. Nokobee is a fictional place, but it appears to be a condensed portrait of a real place, southwest Alabama, in the area of the country known by that half spooky name, the Deep South.
Think back on all the things you’ve heard before about Alabama, its people and its places. Jot those thoughts down, in the order you think of them. We’ll come back to them.
When we think about places we don’t know a lot about, we often nurture overly simplistic impressions of those places. So if you say "Florida" to people who only visit there, they might think of beaches and orange juice. But folks who live in Florida know it is far more complex and interesting than white sand and orange groves.
We may also harbor the suspicion that people in other places aren’t quite like us, that they may experience life in a way we don’t.
"Tell me about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all?" a character asks in Faulkner’s novel, Absalom, Absalom, another famous story about the Deep South. The character who asks those questions sounds like he has just discovered a strange new species of insect running across his floor, and is amused and perhaps a little annoyed by the creature’s mysterious rituals and behavior. I imagine Raff engaged in a very similar discussion when he went to Harvard.
Did these chapters of the book confirm your impressions of Alabama? How would you have felt or reacted, growing up in those communities where Raff was raised? Would it have changed the way you see things? How do the people and customs and beliefs of Clayville and Mobile resemble the people, customs and beliefs of your own community? How do their prejudices and assumptions and beliefs differ from your own?