Intertwining the backwoods war of the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons is the tale of a young woman poet and painter taken abruptly from her craft forever; she was Emmeline Grangerford and painted and sketched morose images of laboring women surrounded wholly by death–this is indicative of Gender Studies and Queer Theory.
This is how one of Emmeline’s paintings is described, “…a woman in a small dress…[and]…a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil…[and]…leaning pensive on a tombstone…under a weeping willow…” (Twain. 104). The present darkness parallels that of any painting by Goya–the grim atmosphere and the use of darker shades to convey hopelessness–and in paralleling Goya her painting is received with familiarity in technique by the reader.
In the early 1900s there was hardly familiarity in a woman’s world.
If a woman wished to be an artist she must then have published under a pseudonym, that, or found a company willing to cross a boundary in accepting her work. Notable exceptions are Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, among others; and of the two Shelley is renowned for the novel Frankenstein (1818) and its Gothic themes of death and rebirth, which were ideas still in foundation when she wrote the novel, and which many believed a woman to hardly be credited for.
Much neither changed nor improved up into the age of Emmeline Grangerford; and it is in this section that the reader must imagine the future of her works had she lived to publish them. Though they are connected aesthetically to works of Goya there is little in the book to suggest she had had much success in establishing her own artistic identity: “…[she] made poetry…when she was alive, and it didn’t seem right…there warn’t nobody to make some about her…” (Twain. 106).
Poor luck was unfortunately a taboo on women of the time. The closest they came to actual benefiting labor was in the household and, specifically, the kitchen; not until the beginnings of World War I in 1917 did they acquire a societal role.
Emmeline Grangerford is described as a prodigy, one that may have seen success later in her lifetime: “If [she] could make poetry like that before she was fourteen…ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by.” (Twain. 106). She is also symbolizes the struggling woman in the predominately male century of the 1900s.