A Death in the Family is an autobiographical novel by author James Agee, set in Knoxville, Tennessee. He began writing it in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955. It was edited and released posthumously in 1957 by editor David McDowell. Agee's widow and children were left with little money after Agee's death, and McDowell wanted to help them by publishing the work. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1958. An autobiographical novel is a novel based on the life of the author. ... James Agee (November 27, 1909 – May 16, 1955) was a United States novelist, screenwriter, journalist, poet, and film critic. ... Alternate uses: Knoxville (disambiguation) Knoxville is a city located in Knox County, Tennessee, United States. ... The Pulitzer Prize is a United States literary award given out each April. ...
University of Tennessee professor Michael Lofaro claimed the version printed in 1957 was not the version intended for print by the author. He discussed his work at a conference that was part of the Knoxville James Agee Celebration (April 2005). Lofaro tracked down the author's original manuscripts and notes and has reconstructed a version he says is more authentic. Lofaro's version of the novel will be released in 2007 as part of a 10-volume set called The Works of James Agee (University of Tennessee Press). The University of Tennessee (UT), sometimes called the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT Knoxville or UTK), is the primary institution of the statewide land-grant University of Tennessee system, Tennessees flagship public university. ...
According to Lofaro, McDowell altered the original text in a number of ways:
Removed the original opening, a nightmare scene, and instead started the novel with "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," a previously published short work of Agee's that was not intended as part of the novel.
Altered the order of the book, which was intended to be chronological.
Some chapters were removed.
Some chapters were chopped up.
Some chapters were moved and presented as flashbacks.
The number of chapters was changed from 44 short chapters to 20.
The main message was that the death of a person close to the heart of anyone is significant and can cause a great deal of pain as well as change in the lives of others.
The family tensions between Mary and her in-laws are exacerbated by Mary's decision not to allow Ralph to act as Jay's undertaker.
Mary's religion is a source of frustration to the family because they feel it is a waste of her energy; she is so intelligent and spirited that they hate to see her spend so much time on something that they do not believe will reward her efforts.
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