Inspired by his childhood in rural Arkansas in the 1950s, John Grisham narrates a fiction story in ‘A Painted House’ through the eyes of a seven year old, Luke Chandler, who lives with his parents and grandparents in a little house which had never been painted. The protagonist of the story, Luke Chandler is the youngest member of a family struggling to earn enough to settle their debts as cotton farmers. In the first chapter, the story commences with the young boy and his grandfather searching for extra hands from hard workers to help them with the cotton harvesting.
They successfully hire a family of the hill people, the Spruills and a few Mexicans (Grisham A Painted House). The major characters in this novel include the character through which the story is told, Luke Chandler, his highly respected grandparents Eli “Pappy” and Ruth “Gran. ” His parents Kathleen and Jesse Chandler work hard to wipe out the inevitable family debt and secretly hope that rather than growing up to become a farmer, their son grows to become a baseball player (Grisham 1-2).
The other characters are the harvesters in their cotton farm; Cowboy, a Mexican worker who carries around with him a switch blade that he would use in an instant. The young hooligan Hank from the Spruill family is their oldest son and is very cruel and violent to anyone who offends him apart from his brother Trot. His sister Tally, the mysterious seventeen year old girl who is not very smart according to Luke. The extra characters include the Latcher family, Luke’s best friend Dewayne, Luke’s Uncle Ricky Chandler, the Siscos’ and Watsons’ among others (Grisham 2-5).
In this captivating story, Grisham chronologically unfolds the dramatic moments with the ordinary events that fill Luke’s weekly routine at their farm. The author additionally gives a descriptive passage of life in the rural Arkansas. As the novel unravels, bringing to light the ups and downs of the Chandler family during the cotton harvesting period, Cowboy and Hank Spruill provide most of the drama (Grisham A Painted House). Hiring of field hands lead to six weeks of cotton picking where the harvesters were subjected to severe heat, exhaustion, rains and at times each other.
This fiction novel depicts the experiences that bring Luke from a world of innocence to one of harsh reality as a result of hiring both hard workers and trouble makers with the ability to commit murders. Luke witnesses and hears things a seven year old could not be prepared for. He then finds himself struggling to keep secrets that threaten both crop harvesting and the lives of the Chandlers forever (Grisham 210-214). With more hands in the field, Luke picked less cotton for the eight hours he worked in the field.
Before going to fields at sunrise and doing the hard work of picking cotton, tearing and putting the bolls into their respective sacks, Luke’s day began with a hearty breakfast. The end of the day which would be coupled with a hurting back and burning neck would be rewarded with a family gathering to listen to St. Louis games on the radio. This reward and his love for baseball later on led to Luke’s first encounter with the television. Sunday mornings were set aside for church whereas Saturday afternoons was a day to spend in town.
Luke would spend most of his Saturday in the movie house (Grisham 1-5). As days passed, Luke thoughtlessly follows Tally to their poverty stricken sharecropping neighbours where they witness the neighbour’s daughter scream in agony and go through labour and eventually give birth. After days passed, Luke is given a letter by the new mother Libby to mail to his admired uncle Ricky who was fighting in the Korean War as she claimed that Ricky was the father of her child. A claim the Chandlers were not comfortable with as many people did not want to be associated with the poor Latcher family (Grisham 99).
Luke’s life is moderately idyllic until the day he notices how the arrogant Hank Spruill is aggressive and somewhat mentally unstable. Hank viciously attacks some three boys from the greedy and notorious Sisco family which later leads to the death of one of the Sisco brothers as a result of the injuries he sustained during the fight. Although many of the adults around Luke, including Stick Powers, the local sheriff, suspect Hank for the death of Jerry Sisco brothers, the gigantic Hank identifies Luke as a friendly witness who would support his version of the truth with regards to the event.
Being an innocent and fearful boy and one who is too frightened to admit the truth, the consequences of this encounter remains a dark secret which Luke is forced to keep (Grisham 214). Cowboy frightens Luke when he boasts with the intent of using a switchblade if necessary. Additionally, Luke witnesses a love affair grow between Cowboy and Tally. There is a constant animosity between Cowboy and Hank (Grisham 203). Hank constantly bullies the Mexicans and this leads to his murder by Cowboy. Subsequently, his body is then thrown into the river.
Having secretly followed Cowboy, Luke witnessed Hank murder Hank with a knife then throw Hank’s body in the river. After realizing that Luke witnessed the brutal and unfair ending of Hank’s life, Cowboy threatens to kill Luke’s mother should he tell anyone what he saw before running away with Tally (Grisham 210). Luke’s house had never been painted and this shows the low status of the Chandler family in the community. Luke later discovered that someone had been painting the weather beaten clapboards white. With the approval of his parents, Luke continued painting with the help of the Mexicans by purchasing paint from his own savings.
This gradual transformation is a sign of the changes in Luke where he became more self conscious as he grew older each day from innocence to experience. Additionally, the transformation also signified the changes in Luke’s family after all the ups and downs as they prepared to enter a new phase in their lives (Barnes & Noble A Painted House) Work Cited Barnes & Noble. “A Painted House: Synopsis. ” 2008. Accessed 20 November 2008 from <http://search. barnesandnoble. com/A-Painted-House/John-Grisham/e/9780440237228>. Grisham, John. A Painted House. Dell Publishers, 2001