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Narrating North American Borderlands

Thomas King, Howard F. Mosher and Jim Lynch

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Evelyn P. Mayer

The study centers on the presentation of the North American borderlands in the works of Canadian Native writer Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water (1999), American writer Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007), and American writer Jim Lynch’s Border Songs (2009). The three authors describe the peoples and places in the northeastern, middle and northwestern border regions of the USA and Canada. The novels address important border-oriented aspects such as indigeneity, the borderlands as historic territory and as utopian space, border crossing and transcendence, post-9/11 security issues, social interaction along the border, and gender specifics. The interpretation also examines the meaning of border imaginaries, border conceptualizations, and the theme of resistance and subversion.
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4 Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007): Borderlands as Utopia

4   Howard Frank Mosher’s On Kingdom Mountain (2007): Borderlands as Utopia

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Quebec-Vermont Borderlands. (Focus and emphasis added).

Kingdom Mountain as a postnational, post-racial, and postcolonial place is most important for the novel’s protagonist Jane Hubbell Kinneson, the so-called Duchess of Kingdom Mountain, and as the setting of the novel. Kingdom Mountain is a utopian space, a mountain kingdom marked by unique nature, hybridity, and its own rules despite the geopolitical boundary cutting through Kingdom Mountain and Jane’s home. The partly indigenous protagonist not only resists the commodification of nature and the development of her Native land in the name of dubious progress, but also disrupts societal expectations by welcoming partly African American Henry Satterfield, the aviator from the South, to Kingdom Mountain. In so doing, the Duchess draws on her family’s legacy of inclusiveness and social justice having been actively involved with the Underground Railroad. Linking with the indigenous experience and critique of the imposition ← 113 | 114 → of artificial and colonial borders on Native lands, Howard Frank Mosher highlights the arbitrary nature of the international line in a humorous fashion. Jane eats in her kitchen with one foot in Canada and one in the United States, because the international boundary represented by a yellow line on the floor runs directly through her house on Kingdom Mountain. Precisely due to that position of the line the border is nothing more than a “family joke” (10). It is an insignificant line on the ground in the everyday life of Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons. The line is blurred in more than one way. Kingdom Mountain is both a social and a geographical in-between space. These dual liminal spaces of opportunity are closely intertwined, since the borderland position as a place of refuge for “mankind” is inscribed with new meanings. In-between mainstream society and remnants of self-contained life, visionary and utopian reconceptualizations of community emerge literally beyond any border binaries, whether national, social, or racial.

The eponymous title of the novel may allude to a number of references such as Scripture, civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s speech referring to the “mountaintop,” the black gospel song “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and also African American writer James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. In so doing the underlying historical context and a discourse focused on race and ethnic relations becomes apparent. Literature is a barometer of overarching societal themes emerging in the public discourse. As such literary expressions are linked to locality or nation and share insights into constructions of national identities and conversations: “A nation’s literature documents its self-imaginings, its self-definitions” (Goldstein xix). As concepts, race and ethnicity, though often contested and ambiguous terms, play a crucial role in the understanding, selfperception, and representation of the diverse society in the United States. Literature reflects that importance: “We assert, in short, that we need to understand race and ethnicity to understand America, and we therefore need to understand how race and ethnicity are constructed in, reiterated by, and critiqued through America’s literature” (Goldstein xx). The social construction of race and ethnicity is a bordering process and a practice featured strongly in Mosher’s novel. Werner Sollors reminds the reader of the “antithetical nature of ethnicity” (26) and stresses that “American culture is full of examples of the fusion of ethnicity and otherness” (26). He finds historical examples for this phenomenon across the board, using neutral or positive terms for one’s own group and less flattering ones for the other groups of people. In this context Sollors refers to Fredrik Barth’s work Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (1969) and the notion of boundary constructions, reminiscent of what might be called othering by bordering in present-day language usage. According to Sollors, “[…] Barth sees the essence of ← 114 | 115 → ethnicity in such (mental, cultural, social, moral, aesthetic, and not necessarily territorial) boundary-constructing processes which function as cultural markers between groups” (Sollors 27). Sollors argues in favor of the pervasiveness of “rhetorical boundary construction” (28), building on Barth’s observations that it is not the cultural content that necessarily counts (Sollors 27–28). Bordering and othering are seen as key practices in group identification and identity construction.

Symbolic bordering, borderlands, and geopolitical boundaries are prevalent features in the works of white U.S. author Howard Frank Mosher. His novel On Kingdom Mountain is set in 1930 on the Vermont-Quebec border, the yellow line representing the geopolitical boundary, even bisecting the protagonist’s house and kitchen in the utopian in-between space of Kingdom Mountain. Bordering and debordering practices are at play in the plot through the interaction of the main characters, Jane Hubbell Kinneson and Henry Satterfield, both being of mixed, yet different ethnic and racial heritage. Mosher describes the life in rural northern Vermont showing the independence and strong character of the locals, who are “terrifically independent-minded people” (Mosher, Northern Borders 2). In the novel a palpable frontier atmosphere is conveyed. Jane is the last of the Memphremagog Abenakis. She claims her Native as well as her White Scottish Kinneson mountain heritage in her fight against the construction of the “Connector,” a planned highway between Kingdom County, Vermont and Quebec (Mosher, Kingdom 6). In addition to the conflict surrounding the Connector, the main focus is on the blossoming relationship between Jane and the stranded southern aviator Henry of mixed African American ancestry. An underlying motif is the hunt for the treasure of Kingdom Mountain, gold hidden from a Civil War heist.

Mosher’s writing is influenced by memories and experience of his own life in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It highlights his sense of belonging and his sense of place. He celebrates the rugged nature and the individualism of rural northern Vermonters. Deploring the vanishing way of life, he creates a historical novel which alerts the reader to the need for environmental conservation and overall humanity in a multicultural and multiethnic society. His goal is to strike a balance between tradition and progress, the local and the global, particularly in times of economic integration. In a timely manner, Mosher’s 2007 novel On Kingdom Mountain precedes the onset of the financial crisis of the fall of 2008. This novel set in 1930 during the Great Depression speaks even more pertinently to present-day readers. Mosher uses an impressive number of historical events as a backdrop, ranging from the Great Depression, Prohibition, and the Vermont ← 115 | 116 → 1927 flood to the dust bowl years, prominently featuring allusions to the Civil War and the Underground Railroad. Ultimately the book deals with love, life, and loss. The question of a life on the line, literally on the border between two countries, states, and worldviews, is explored. There is a thin, yet important, line of differentiation between the Duchess of Kingdom Mountain and the village of Kingdom Common. Lines, borders, and spaces in-between permeate the novel. The characters have to negotiate their identities and adjust their actions accordingly. It is difficult to remain neutral and continue sitting on the fence in terms of tradition versus progress or overall racial and ethnic relations.

Mosher’s novel explores borders on multiple levels and tests the reader’s own subject position with regard to the very human struggle for identity and belonging. The question arises whether belonging can work without the bordering by othering strangers “from Away.” The ongoing need for geographical and cultural identity, and symbolic borders in the novel (and by extension observable in a similar fashion in the world of the 21st century) testifies to the prevalence of “bordering, ordering and othering” (van Houtum and van Naerssen) in times of globalization and simultaneous reterritorialization. The more everything is in flux, transient, and multiple, the more a longing for belonging, for knowing oneself, and one’s place in life becomes apparent. In Mosher’s novel Jane, the protagonist, stays on Kingdom Mountain and practices a utopian countercultural lifestyle. However, in a lack of professional opportunities she pays for her decision to abide by her father’s wishes. Due to her strong will, the Duchess is at peace with herself and her life close to, yet not fully part of the village.

Throughout the novel the time of year is indicated. The spring and the autumn equinoxes frame the plot bookend-like. Jane’s “season of foolishness” (264) lasts for the entire spring and summer, i.e. from Jane’s 50th birthday to the harvest festival, the novel ending with Thanksgiving in November. An epilogue discloses further developments in Jane’s life, the community, and Kingdom Mountain. There are numerous subplots, but also some leitmotifs holding the plot and the storyline together. The notion of strife is one such theme, as are Jane’s words of wisdom, a list that grows over a lifetime and is Jane’s self-inscribed epitaph on her tombstone (276):

Jane Hubbell Kinneson

The Duchess of Kingdom Mountain

That which I have learned I leave as my legacy.

Close all gates behind yourself.

Every generation should have its own Bible.

The walls we erect to protect ourselves from early pain

often shut us off from later joy. ← 116 | 117 →

To immerse oneself in the natural world is to share a

universal thread with every living being.

Always declare yourself to the person you love.

Live each day not as though it is your last, but as though

it is the last day of the lives of the people you meet.

All the best stories are about love.

Hence, the novel explores the overcoming of erected walls and borders of all sorts and that “universal thread” related to every living creature. Inclusivity and humanity profusely inform On Kingdom Mountain.

4.1    Kingdom Rules: The Duchess and Subversion Strategies

Mosher draws heavily on Vermont and U.S. history up until and around 1930 with a focus on African American, Native American, and overall social history of rural and primarily white Vermont. In addition, the Bible, literary history, and Roman, Egyptian, and Greek mythology are sources of inspiration for Mosher. He questions and counters dominant paradigms and his protagonist, Jane, true to her mixed heritage employs Native-like subversion strategies. Furthermore, characters’ names, place names, and certain objects’ names allude in ironic or humorous fashion to the Bible or history. Jane proves to be an iconoclast instituting her own Kingdom rules and editing the King James Bible to her liking. Mosher also refers to the natural world and geological terms, while additionally including numerous literary references. Through the courtroom scenes in the Kingdom County courthouse and the Vermont Supreme Court the judicial system is prominently featured in the novel. Illusions and legends are invoked and a bygone era is resurrected with evidence from the past, whether tombstones, letters, or old family photographs. Jane bestows the “stereopticon” (121) with the family photos to Henry as a “legacy” (124) of the past. The transient nature of time and space and the generational transmission of duties play a major role in the novel.

The “Gray Ghosts” (1) of the “Riddle of Kingdom Mountain” (27), the voice of Henry’s grandfather Captain Cantrell Satterfield (27), or the dog-cart man embody the “magical realist” vein. The term first coined in 1925 by Franz Roh referring to art (Slemon 9) is considered to want for “theoretical specificity” (Slemon 10) and “is an oxymoron” (Slemon 10). Therefore, magical realism, as posited by Stephen Slemon, “suggests a binary opposition between the representational code of realism and that, roughly, of fantasy” (10). In his fictitious historical novel On Kingdom Mountain Mosher goes beyond binaries and combines magical realist elements with an overall realistic rendering. Ghosts, mysteries, and myths add to the reader’s subject position as in-between. Furthermore, intertextual references, ← 117 | 118 → for instance referring to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, abound and hence bridge time and place in literary history.

4.1.1    “Lady Justice”: Humor, Naming, Historical and Literary Allusions

In Mosher’s novel the strategies of ironically linking ideas, questioning and reclaiming by renaming are striking. Almost every name exudes meaning and is carefully chosen by the author. Some memorable names include Jane’s rifle called “Lady Justice” (33), a short club called “St. Peter” (15), or her applejack “Who Shot Sam” (10). The naming humorously makes the reader ponder the question of justice. The Duchess often behaves like her own Lady Justice. She does not wait for authorities to help, but as a strong-willed and independent-minded woman Jane embodies Lady Justice and resorts to her own way of justice. This resourcefulness often involves the Duchess resorting to Lady Justice such as in the incident with the loggers clear-cutting near her char pond (37) and her ‘performance’ in the movie theater (173).

Mosher’s irony is also evident in naming the short club “St. Peter.” It juxtaposes violence and the church, thereby reinforcing the stereotype of religious selfrighteousness and hypocrisy. Along the same lines, a non-functioning thresher is named “King James’s Jehovah” ironically commenting on Jane’s view of the biblical God. Her father calls the thresher “Samuel L. Clemens, in honor of Mark Twain’s typesetting invention that wouldn’t set type” (154). However, Jane prefers to call the machine “King James’s Jehovah because all it ever caused was trouble” (154). In Jane’s version of God in her Kingdom Mountain Bible “old Jehovah” is depicted as “a jolly, good-natured fellow” (153). She relates to Henry her problems with theodicy and, turning 18, her “most unfortunate experience with King James the First and his Bible” (152). The thresher, dubbed King James’s Jehovah, acts according to Jane’s perception of the biblical deity in the King James version as a “wrathful Jehovah” (161), uncontrollable once on the loose with the electrical current. Mosher once more has his protagonist on the “avenging” thresher subvert the church’s reputation, when the machine interrupts the Congregational minister’s adjustment of the weekly message on the bulletin board: “He got as far as THE LORD GOD IS AN ANGRY G before, as if to prove his point, the berserk combine gobbled up the bulletin board” (162). Time and again Jane is involved in demounting the dominant discourse and accepted religious foundations. She replaces official doctrine with her own doctrine. Mosher thus crosses the border between personal freedom of expression and sanctioned, or according to Jane’s views sanctimonious, discourse. ← 118 | 119 →

The names of the apple varieties are existing varieties of apples including the “Northern Spy”28 (12), but Mosher chooses the ones that fit best in the context of his novel. These varieties sound more unusual such as “Duchess of Oldenburg, Westfield Seek No Further, […]” (12). The Duchess hence owns an apple variety called in short “Duchess” and having its roots in Russia.29 This is fitting as Jane is likened to “a Russian empress” as she ruled Kingdom Mountain for decades (7). Jane’s parlor off the kitchen is dubbed On Kingdom Mountain (10). She has her “dear people” there and talks to her ancestors, who are represented in an artistic manner. Historical allusions and references to historical events are frequently used in the novel either in an explicit or, as is the case in Mosher’s naming practices, a more humorous and slightly more implicit fashion. Her “matched pair of red oxen” is named “Ethan and General Ira Allen” (13). A sense of place, of northern Vermont, is always present through these narrative strategies.

Other references are of literary or intermedial nature. These references comprise the names of her blockheads Memphre Magog and the Loup-Garou (8), encompassing also the mythic and the realm of legends and fairy-tales. Mosher evokes the Brothers Grimm (8) and repeatedly Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (20, 26) and above all the King James Bible and King James himself (7). Jane’s “scribblers and scrawlers” (46) include Jane Austen, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson, Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, and King James (46–48). These sculpture-like representations are “[…] life-size, with oblong craniums and painted features” (46). Additionally, Jane draws parallels to Rip Van Winkle (37). Mosher uses a wide variety of allusions and contexts for his intertextual and cultural references. Regarding the natural world, John James Audubon (9), glaciologist Louis Agassiz (17) and the North American Bird Carving Contest (19) are referred to in the novel. This is befitting as regards Jane, as she used to be a schoolteacher, is a “bookwoman extraordinaire” (45) and prides herself on her learnedness and inquisitive mind. Jane “‘edit[s] down the classics,’ in accordance with Rule Three of her ‘Precepts for the Serious Bookperson’” (47). This rule states that “Nearly every book should be shorter” (47). Yet again Mosher’s humor shines through and the Duchess is characterized as a woman sure of herself. Mosher uses these narrative devices to contextualize the Duchess as part of the White middle class despite her mixed ancestry and her simple and rural lifestyle in the remote, seeming wilderness of northern Vermont. ← 119 | 120 →

4.1.2    Religious Rewriting: Reclaiming by Renaming and Reappropriating

Jane, God-like, names her Eden, Kingdom Mountain. She thereby names, subdues, and values her natural surroundings and some of the animals, such as her beloved “blue-backed char of Kingdom Mountain” (35). It is a biblical act reminiscent of Genesis and the Garden Eden in its prelapsarian stance. A list of place names in the utopian borderland and in-between space of Kingdom Mountain include the following: table rock, balancing boulder, devil’s visage, Chain of Ponds, Upper East Branch of the Kingdom River (17), Great Northern Slang (18), the peace cairn (18), and the Gate to Canada (35), and East Round Hill and West Round Hill. The aviator Henry is intrigued by the naming tradition: Sheep Meadow Pool, Short Sheep Meadow Pool, Somebody’s Home, and Nobody’s Home (34).

In Mosher’s naming process ostensible divisions are overcome and distinctions blurred. A Native woman becomes “Pharao’s Daughter” and in an ironic twist is found, like Moses in his basket, in a manger on Christmas Morning (10). Against the backdrop of the church’s complicity in the colonization of indigenous peoples this reappropriation of a Biblical story and Native rewriting highlight what Gerald Vizenor has called “survivance” and healing humor. The whole notion of Christianity, whether regarding Jesus Christ or the Bible, is undermined through ironic and comical references in characters’ names and actions. The Duchess is very outspoken in this regard, even though she does not completely dismiss Christianity or the stories of the Bible. Instead, in an iconoclast manner she adjusts the Scriptures to her liking to almost literally underline the key roles of women, animals, and nature.

Jane is “[…] vexed by King James the First, whom she held personally responsible for the King James Bible” (5–6). Mosher, in the vein of feminist theology, has his heroine Jane reflect on the lack of female insights in the Bible. Jane contends: “The Bible needs a woman’s touch here and there” (142). She has her own “Kingdom Mountain Bible.” Furthermore, she claims that “[e]very generation should have its own Bible” (143). From a religious point of view it is blasphemous to rewrite Scripture, God’s word, but in On Kingdom Mountain it serves the purpose of unsettling and subverting what is regarded by Jane as Western male-centric hegemony. Jane is a powerful female character and of Native-White heritage. Her mother “was the last of the full-blooded Memphremagog Abenakis” as Jane tells Henry. She herself has a unique outlook on the world shaped by her upbringing in relative remoteness and seclusion from the world, despite the village close by. Her thinking is infused by Native spiritual belief systems and ← 120 | 121 → a sense of animism. She criticizes Jesus for “curs[ing] the poor barren fig tree” (143). Her allegiance is first and foremost with nature as she feels akin to it. Jane thoroughly enjoys fishing and for her that experience is a practice to imbue her with her natural surroundings and create a sense of belonging: “Through the quivering leader she felt connected to the river and to her beloved mountain, past and present” (35).

Jane’s traditions and her ancestors are dear to her. She immortalizes her ancestors as her so-called dear people (10) espousing an “otherworldly aspect” (10). These ancestors have descriptive and meaningful names such as Jane’s great-great-grandfather Venturing Seth Kinneson (10), Venturing Seth and his son Freethinker, her grandfather Quaker Meeting, Uncle Pilgrim, her father Morgan and Jane’s mother Pharao’s Daughter; their Maker, King James’s Jehovah (12). Jane’s ancestors are Quakers and hence pacifists, but, as a result of (self-inflicted) tragedy, they renounce the Presbyterian Church and subsequently religion altogether. Pilgrim’s disappearance is blamed by Jane’s grandparents on religion, because due to the religious rift between Protestants and Catholics they do not allow Pilgrim to marry Manon, a Catholic. Jane’s father is a freethinker and she herself harbors negative feelings towards the Bible after her father makes her “vow away” her future on the Bible. He blackmails her in order to make her stay on Kingdom Mountain instead of going to college. She must choose either shooting her beloved oxen and going to college or staying on the mountain and looking after the oxen herself. Her father, Morgan, is the patriarch of the family and since her mother had already died, she obeys her father out of respect, love, and admiration. For this reason she presents an artificial figure of Morgan (269), when she discloses her will to her friend Judge Ira Allen and her cousin Eben Kinneson Esquire, the opponent in the dispute pertaining to the high road.

In the narration there are numerous allusions to hell. Characters explicitly invoke the devil. Devils, hell and adjectives such as “infernal” (149) are used. Henry is occasionally referred to as a devil, sometimes as a daredevil, and Henry’s grandfather is also referred to as a devil or the old devil, and finally the town fathers are alluded to as devils. The leitmotif of the riddle hinting at the Treasure of Kingdom Mountain includes religious allusions, albeit in a non-orthodox way. The riddle is reminiscent of a hymn; it reverses a key line of the hymn all the while echoing the biblical language such as host, Father, Son and Holy Ghost: “Behold! On high with the blessed sweet host, Nor Father, nor Son, but Holy Ghost” (80). Moreover, the riddle is called “The Trinity” (80). Instead of following a spiritual quest, the treasure hunt for the hidden gold is a very earthly quest giving in to dreams of wealth and riches, and eventually greed. Henry is not hindered by ← 121 | 122 → religious reverence from searching for the gold in the ruins of an old church, but it turns out that looking for material gain in a religious setting proves futile. The collection plate Henry finds instead of the long-sought-after gold turns out to be a chamber pot, which Jane repurposes as the “golden helmet of Mambrino, after the headpiece of the good gentleman from la Mancha” and makes her carved Loup-Garou wear “as a crown” (89). Using ironic comedy, Mosher questions religion and materialism, while intertextually referring to Cervantes and trickster mythology. Mosher’s narrative strategies are interwoven to serve his purpose of unsettling preconceived notions. In a revealing narrative layer, the burned down and presumably “cursed” (86) church is the pilgrimage site “Our Lady of Memphremagog” (85) in Canada, situated very close to the border. This illustrates how the borderland is integrated historically in this remote Vermont-Quebec region. Yet again heaven and hell, terminologically meet, when the aviator “[…] had had the devil’s own time just locating the site of the cursed church […]” (87). Henry behaves in a rather irreverent manner at the burned church, where people sought healing (85), but were allegedly fooled by profit-seeking priests, hence the curse (86). Mosher criticizes organized religion and links the desire for profit in former times with Henry’s material aspirations. Henry’s behavior is juxtaposed with the pilgrims, both kneeling, however for different goals. The aviator seeks gold, the “hopeful petitioner who long ago crawled up the great stone steps of the church to be made whole” sought healing.

Jane’s language frequently refers to biblical terms or biblical stories. At a town hall meeting to discuss the proposed Connector, Jane seemingly gives in to her opponents personified by her cousin, powerful Eben Kinneson Esquire with these words: “I plainly see that in this instance we shall have to render unto Caesar what’s his. In Vermont, at least, this high road will go where it has a mind to go” (7). Her opponents deem this statement a concession, however when the Duchess specifies the meaning of her words, it becomes clear that she is far from conceding. Jane, “[a]s the sole proprietor and last resident of Kingdom Mountain” (5), states unmistakably that her mountain “is an entity unto itself” (8) and that she owns the mountain. In this instance, Jane uses proverbial biblical sayings to her advantage in contrast to her usual scathing critique of the King James Bible. This example underscores that she does not lack respect for the Bible completely, but uses it according to her liking and her convictions. She creates her own religion, practicing it in her life, the epitaph on her tombstone being her personal commandments printed in ten lines.

The very designation “Kingdom Mountain” alludes to the heavenly kingdom and transcends the geographic dimension of the term. When Henry crashes with ← 122 | 123 → his biplane and Jane meets him for the first time, he is almost unharmed and Jane remembers the Dickensian words “‘Recalled to life’” (26). This reference is also reminiscent of biblical miracles. Kingdom Mountain, in the former tiny village of Kinnesonville, boasts its own “miracle well” (119), as Henry dubs the well near the Kinnesonville cemetery. Also linked to the phrase “recalled to life,” which means rising from the dead and the resurrection, the well water is aptly called “Easter water” (119). It evokes the longstanding local Easter tradition of using the water, renowned as “the coldest and purest in all Kingdom County” for spiritual healing. The beginning of this tradition is unknown, “[b]ut for many years Presbyterians, French Canadians, and even a few Kingdom Mountain freethinkers had made their pilgrimage here on Easter Sunday, often in a spring snowstorm, to draw the healing water from deep in the heart of the mountain” (119). The heart of the unique space, the heavenly kingdom on earth, Eden, is pure and has healing powers. Divisions are overcome and people from different religious persuasions unite to experience the healing powers of the Easter water that “washed away sins, assuaged guilty consciences, and reconciled grudges between family members and neighbors” (119). As in the Christian tradition believers are reconciled with God and reconnected through Jesus’s death and resurrection at Easter, the Easter water symbolizes unity, reconciliation, and fresh beginnings.

Crossing cultural and religious borders, in Jesus-like fashion Jane practices an inclusive lifestyle on Kingdom Mountain granting refuge to diverse people as is her family tradition. Unlike Jesus, her neighborly love does not include tax collectors. In fact, Jane in iconoclast manner behaves more like her own goddess, a duchess implementing her own religion-infused duchy or heavenly kingdom. In an armed confrontation on her property between Jane and the Connector clear-cutters Jane retorts to Henry’s reminder to follow Jesus’s example: “The question is not what the outspoken young Nazarene would do but what I must do” (141). She also dismisses Henry’s objection that “Jesus believed in turning the other cheek” (141) and asks him the question in return: “What would the horned red devil do in my situation? How would he advise me, practical-minded old fellow that he is?” (141). She completely crosses the line to the other side, turning the biblical binary of good versus evil upside down. This is enshrined in her “Kingdom Mountain Bible,” where she edits and rewrites “a good deal of the New Testament as well as the Old” (141). According to her own disclosure to Henry, she “[f]irst eliminated from the conversation of the young schoolteacher […] all references to Hell, of which there are many in King James’s corrupt version” (141). This emphasizes once more the complete iconoclast topsy-turvy biblical view Jane holds. She dismisses Paul, whom she refers to as “Sneaking Saul” (142) ← 123 | 124 → and John the Baptist. Furthermore, Jane adds her own words and thoughts to the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore the Duchess preaches her own Sermon on Kingdom Mountain to Henry and states that she has focused on women, nature, and animals in her version as these topics are not sufficiently covered in the traditional Bible (142–43).

In trickster fashion with a strong feminist attitude, she renounces religious traditions, Scriptures and ostensible patriarchic and parochial discourse in the Bible. She puts marginal comments in her “revised family Bible” (146) such as “horsefeathers” (146), her strongest word of disapproval. When looking for hints in Jane’s Bible related to rainmaking, Henry finds that term in connection with Genesis, in the margins of the prophets and Paul’s letters and “again beside the entirely excised story of Noah” (147). Henry disagrees with Jane’s heretical reading of the Bible (147). The Duchess also takes offense with Jesus’s stance regarding his family. For the Duchess family is paramount, and she states, “If we deny our family, we deny ourselves” (147). While Henry is reading the Bible to find clues on how to make it rain, in order to earn money for buying a new airplane, Jane carves an archaeopteryx, which she calls the “Noah of Kingdom Mountain” (148). As a pun, the word archaeopteryx even contains the word ‘arch.’ Once more, despite dismissing much of the Bible, Jane here refers to the Bible, albeit by rewriting and reappropriating Biblical stories and figures in a Native trickster-like manner. Her naming aptly shows the comic irony and subversion of dominant discourse, particularly in 1930 rural northern Vermont. Jane does not completely abandon bordered order or “immanence” for her own version of religious transcendence, but goes beyond border binaries by living, practicing, and conceptualizing Kingdom Mountain as an alternative realm, as a Bhabha-like “third space,” or her very own heavenly kingdom.

4.1.3    Dual Perspectives and “Second Sight”: Ghosts, Mysteries, and Myths

A key figure in the novel’s important, yet hidden underlying narrative realm, almost angel-like, is the so-called “dog-cart man” (135), who is accompanied by eight or nine dogs, “mongrels,” (135) and has a “small red wagon” (135). Henry first meets the dog-cart man in the defunct house at night, where the mysterious man, surrounded by his dogs, paints a panorama, “a replica of Kingdom County on the floor of the cupola” (133). The dog-cart man materializes out of nowhere, is mute and deaf (135), and communicates by painting the walls of buildings. His “arresting scenes” blend “past, present, and even perhaps the future” (135). He paints “prophesiz[ing] the past” (136), yet he is particularly prophetic in ← 124 | 125 → terms of the future. This becomes obvious when he paints the harvest festival and includes the yellow biplane, the aviator Henry, and Jane. Depending on the perspective, it looks like Jane is either waving hello or goodbye in that painting. The vision is blurred and two-fold interpretations are possible. In keeping with the overall novel’s set-up, there are numerous small hints at Henry’s either staying or leaving. It remains an enigma in the narration whether Henry’s priority is the gold or the Duchess, whom he learns to love in the course of his stay on Kingdom Mountain. The dog-cart man, again prophet-like, paints a scene of Jane’s childhood. She then realizes that she should look for her missing uncle in Montreal. This new direction of her search eventually leads her to her half-sister. The dog-cart man transforms people’s thoughts into paintings, thus representing their subconscious yet unknown to themselves. This man is a key narrative device in Mosher’s novel, similar to and exceeding the importance of the voice of Henry’s grandfather.

Gradually Mosher’s ghosts, mysteries, and myths tell the story of the treasure of Kingdom Mountain and Jane. His phantom plot catalysts are the so-called “Gray Ghosts” (1). These are two men on horseback, who steal the treasure from a bank. The voice of Henry’s grandfather, who most likely was involved in the bank heist, is very real for Henry. Grandfather Cantrell Satterfield is a ghost-like presence, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Instead of the murdered king telling his son Hamlet how to proceed, the voice of the grandfather tells his grandson. It is the ghost’s influence and nagging voice that makes Henry eventually renounce the Duchess and instead go for the gold and his independence. The legend of Henry and Jane’s color-blind love story survives and people see apparitions of Henry and Jane after Jane’s death.

Some stories told in the community relate to “Courteous Clyde of the Clouds” (103), Clyde being strikingly alike Henry Satterfield. Local lore includes allusions to a lake monster, dubbed “Lady of the Lake”30 (131) and to historical “Rogers’ Rangers” (131). Other stories revolve around Pilgrim’s Ghost and the tragic love between Jane’s uncle Pilgrim and Manon, Vanishing Pilgrim and Manon. The denominational border between Presbyterians and Catholics, between Anglophone and Francophone, and between American and Canadian cannot be ← 125 | 126 → overcome. This chasm, deemed irreparable, has led to Pilgrim’s and Manon’s disappearances. Another important phenomenon is Jane’s “second sight” (21), which is a foresight or premonition. In addition, Jane’s dear people, blockheads Memphre Magog and Loup Garou, scribblers and scrawlers exhibit this “otherworldly” and in the case of the blockheads also the mythic aspect.

4.2    “The Flying Lovebirds”: The Clash and the Reversal of Stereotypes

Mosher focuses on a multiethnic and multiracial setting, not only alluding to fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad, but also including the almost extinct tribe of the Memphremagog Abenakis. The Abenakis as a New England tribe illustrate the importance of the indigenous presence in that region from a historical, postcolonial, and social justice point of view: “As a region with a long history of contact, conflict, and accommodation between Indians and non-Indians, the Northeast is important both historically and theoretically. Indian events in New England and elsewhere were central to colonial history” (Bragdon xiv). Furthermore, Mosher plays both on ethnic divisions and on the North-South divide regarding the issue of slavery and the insider-outsider paradigm that accompanies these notions of ethnic, regional, or ideological belonging. Mosher presents Jane and her ancestors in the novel as role models for inclusiveness. Though keeping themselves apart from the village of Kingdom Common as such by living on Kingdom Mountain, the Kinneson family is nevertheless involved in village life through Jane’s commitment to teaching, to the library, or the film screenings. The humanitarian and open-minded ethos of the Kinnesons is practiced by a long-standing tradition: “No one in need had ever been turned away from the home place on Kingdom Mountain” (Mosher 30). Jane is quite sociable despite living by herself on Kingdom Mountain and very hospitable as reflected in her treatment of people with various backgrounds of 1930s New England: “With the exception of whiskey runners and revenuers who violated her rule of fifteen miles per hour at all times, game wardens, whom she detested on principle, and border officials ‘whose border didn’t exist and never had,’ Jane welcomed all visitors to her mountain” (Mosher 43). So Jane also takes in Henry Satterfield, the aviator and showman from the South who wrecked his plane near the home place on icy Lake Memphremagog. ← 126 | 127 →

4.2.1    The Duchess: Heiress of Kingdom Mountain and Memphremagog Abenaki

Jane has a very strong and independent personality. She likes fishing for char, being self-reliant in a Thoreau-like manner, is very old-fashioned and closely identifies with Kingdom Mountain, her ‘duchy,’ entrusted to her by her ancestors. The Duchess values her family traditions and ancestors on both her Scottish and her aboriginal sides. She used to be a schoolteacher, but afterwards keeps busy with her rugged way of life on Kingdom Mountain, “her various jobs in the village” such as “overseer of the poor,” or her beloved work in the “Atheneum, her small free library and bookshop” (45), movie screenings, carvings, and basket weaving (44). She is ambitious and follows her own unwritten and at times written rules such as for dealing with books, dubbed the “Precepts for the Serious Bookperson” (47). Jane, “the bookwoman extraordinaire” (45) does not only rewrite the King James Bible, but she also “edit[s] down the classics” (47) and is very critical and opinionated, particularly about Shakespeare, “the Pretender of Avon” and King James the First, “the most villainous impostor”

(48). The multiethnic and multicultural Duchess displays her Scottish identity by still using Scottish terms such as “char” and “glen” while equally embracing her Native identity as an ecologist. Moreover, she has a feminist streak and embodies a strong sense of tradition with religious ties to the Quakers, reminiscent of the Amish. She does not use electricity and tries to resist the lures and convenience of so-called civilization. Creating life-like illusions out of lifeless carved objects is Jane’s specialty as the birds of strife, the dear people, the block-heads, and the scribblers testify. These practices resemble ways of ancestor worship, of keeping the ancestral linkages and the traditions alive.

Jane has to negotiate her place, identity, and livelihood in a changing social and economic world of 1930 Vermont, in a very harsh climate and on the border of the United States. She does not cross the line between the past and the present but sits on the fence between tradition and modernity, whether Scottish, Quaker, or Native traditionalist. Other issues and contrasts Jane embodies are rural versus more urban, wilderness versus civilization or regressive versus progressive stances. She asserts a powerful role in the community as an independent, strong-willed, and self-reliant person, despite living on a “mountain,” thanks to her contributions to community life in the village of Kingdom Common. In spite of being very traditional and opposed to certain forms of progress such as the Connector, the Duchess is very progressive in terms of race relations and interaction between men and women. With regard to race and ethnicity a distinction needs to be made: “Racial formation thus incorporates ethnicities but reaches beyond ← 127 | 128 → the cultural into the historical and – most of all – structural, material and institutional operations of categorization” (Lauret 5). Race is conceived as a broader category encompassing ethnicity to a certain extent as seen in ethnic literature. Though Mosher is a White author, his novel can be considered ethnic because the main characters are of mixed parentage. Moreover, the historical background of the 1930s and the theme of race relations in rural Vermont stress the ethnic features of Mosher’s novel. One defining characteristic of ethnic literatures is “the historical ‘burden of representation’” and “the writing against history” (Lauret 7). Mosher rewrites metanarratives, particularly religiously infused ones, and thus writes against history. Additionally, Mosher’s color-blind and post-racial utopia on Kingdom Mountain is a powerful antidote to dominant viewpoints of Vermont in the 1930s and even bold at the beginning of the 21st century despite a U.S. president of mixed African and White American descent.

Mosher’s narration unfolds from the vernal/spring equinox to the fall equinox. These solstices mark turning points for Jane, who turns fifty and meets the aviator on her birthday on the frozen lake. The metaphorical development from the spring through the fall is also mirrored in Jane’s and Henry’s relationship. The fall equinox marks the fall from grace for the villagers and simultaneously for Henry, who takes the gold and leaves without saying goodbye to Jane. The relationship between Henry and Jane develops in several stages: Henry’s arrival and sojourn in the barn, Henry staying in the home place, Henry and Jane as a couple, Henry and Jane’s engagement, and then Henry’s sudden and secretive departure. With the arrival of the aviator, a barnstormer, Jane falls in love and learns to look for common ground in her relationship with him. She is very attached to Kingdom Mountain, but is willing to sacrifice a lot for Henry and change her life. Jane declines two marriage proposals by her old friend Judge Ira Allen, who is “the great-great-grandson of the Vermont hero-outlaw Ethan Allen” (69). The judge does not trust Henry and is jealous of him (69).

Though Jane does not fully comprehend why she declined those marriage proposals, she still shares her musings with Henry Satterfield with whom she starts her so-called “featherbed chats” (70). In such a talk chatting to each other through a vent hole in the ceiling of Jane’s bedroom, situated below Henry’s bedroom, she tells the story of a possible treasure map deposited at the bank (72). After that Henry first cannot fall asleep, but then he does and dreams of the gold and the treasure, whereas Jane dreams about flying away with Henry (72–73). These dreams foreshadow the action to come. For Henry the gold counts in contrast to Jane, who cares about company and the relationship. Their relationship blossoms, but in the end, due to racism and suffocating provincialism on the ← 128 | 129 → part of the villagers, withers again. Jane accepts the transient nature of love and despite her sadness about Henry’s sudden departure, not to mention the loss of the newly recovered treasure of Kingdom Mountain, she is glad about being able to stay on Kingdom Mountain. She dislikes to be uprooted.

Jane’s attitude in face of hardship, obstacles, and life’s “strife” contrasts with Henry’s outlook on life in spite of his showmanship. Jane, an optimistic and resourceful person, embraces the state of life that is “strife” (109). The statement “It’s the way of the world” (108) comes up time and again. When Jane and Henry observe a hawk catching a hare, for Henry it is “[b]ad luck for the rabbit” but for Jane it is “[g]ood luck for the hawk” (109). This epitomizes their different viewpoints on life. Strife is a notion also apparent in W. E. B. Du Bois’s writing. Donald B. Gibson in his introduction to The Souls of Black Folk posits that with regard to “double consciousness” Du Bois states: “The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife” (Gibson xv). This explains why for Henry it is more difficult to accept strife in contrast to Jane. He has had to live with and through race-related experiences of strife more often than Jane in her rather sheltered mountain life. Her strife is of a different nature, but not related to her biracial heritage. Jane has to live independently in rural and remote Vermont, as an unmarried woman in a men’s world. Nonetheless, as her strife with hardship is mostly self-imposed and she enjoys being strong, independent and the master of her own destiny after abiding by her father’s wishes, strife is a given for her, but in less existential and overt ways than for Henry. She can face the reality of her times in 1930s Vermont and creates the birds of strife display voluntarily. Strength and resilience come more easily to her as her life has been less bordered, or if partially so than voluntarily. Henry seems to be more extrovert and social, a true showman, who needs applause and affirmation. With such a disposition he is even more sensitive to acts of racism or xenophobia.

In addition, Jane has found her half-sister in Montreal. Despite her bordering effort in terms of the proposed high road, she lets her defenses down and engages in debordering by connecting with her newly found sister. Cross-border relations are taken up by the sisters, since they happen to live on different sides of the boundary between Canada and the United States. After the departure of Henry, the North-South relations between Jane and the aviator are replaced by crossborder or borderlands relations with her sister in Montreal. After the loss of her partner, she has found a sister and thus family relations. She no longer lives all by herself, but can choose her level of interaction and intimacy with her loved ones. Moreover, she also reconnects with Judge Ira and finds a new partner in him. ← 129 | 130 →

The “foolish season” of Jane’s 51st year in life and on the mountain marks a turning point. The fall is full of changes, and Jane’s courage and optimism ultimately gain the upper hand, despite despair and moments marked by a broken spirit. Jane remembers that she usually regards fall as a season of new beginnings rather than a season of melancholy, and so she holds on to that positive view. Her ox dies and when she wants to scare the crows away near the dead ox, she encounters a great gray owl. The owl, which symbolizes wisdom in Greek mythology, leads to an epiphany for Jane. She suddenly knows what to do and attributes this to her imagination, a better term for her so-called “second sight”. Most likely it is this moment when she has the idea of giving the mountain away to the Appalachian land trust in her will. In so doing, she rights the wrongs of the past and finally acts as she should and could have done before. In a life coming full circle and finally free of her father’s binding compact, she goes to the Thanksgiving homecoming ball with Judge Ira Allen and makes good on the missed opportunity 32 years ago. The last years of Jane are marked by the harmony she enjoys in the close companionship with the judge and her newly found Montreal sister and her family. Mosher’s novel concludes with a happy ending in a fairy-tale like fashion as “everything is possible on the Mountain”. Jane and Henry are to be reunited as ghosts or at least are so as apparitions in the legends of northern Vermont. After a long and fulfilled life, Jane dies true to herself despite her father’s stifling contract as her tombstone explains: “all the best stories are about love” (276). This powerful message sends a strong signal of hope that the world might truly become color-blind and integrated, still leaving room for individualism and a sense of home and belonging. Jane is not bitter, quite the opposite. She knows she belongs to and on Kingdom Mountain and has loved ones to share the ups and downs of life with. The Connector is built and ski hills come, times change, but best of all, Jane’s dreams have come true. She spends time with her partner, Judge Ira Allen, her sister and her family, the mountain is protected, twice she wins first prize in the North American bird carving contest with the owl and part of the birds of strife display, and the home place becomes a museum. She does what she prefers to do, lives with those whom she loves and where she wants to be, belonging to Kingdom Mountain.

4.2.2    The Aviator: Southern Mixed-Race “Stranger” “from Away”

Flying in his biplane to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont aviator Henry Satterfield crosses the Mason-Dixon Line, the demarcation separating the slave states from the free states, probably asking himself with Du Bois: “Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house” (Du Bois 5)? His mother is a ← 130 | 131 → Creole (30), and Henry is referred to as the “stranger” (31). Henry has to try to find his place in the community, while living with Jane. The southerner is an avid aviator, showman, and a weather maker flying everywhere. As a barnstormer he performed with a wing walking lady, a role Jane will fill later on in the novel. Resilience and internal strength are obvious characteristics of the protagonists and their roles as barnstormers and wingwalkers: “If barnstormers were the most exciting daredevils of the late 1920s, then wing walkers were the most extreme and intrepid individuals among them” (Onkst n.p.). Henry fits the barnstormer31 profile as a former pilot during World War I. Because he encounters racial barriers in the United States that prevent him from flying for the U.S., he has to fly for the Royal Canadian Air Force (251). Consequently, Henry not only literally crosses the Mason-Dixon Line, but also metaphorically through his relationship with the Duchess, who, though of mixed European and Native descent, is nonetheless perceived as a White woman by her northern Vermont community.

Mosher subtly, yet critically, comments on racial, ethnic, and social relations in the United States using the historical context of New England in 1930. U.S. and Canadian histories and the histories of African Americans and African Canadians are intertwined by the Underground Railroad, road to the abolition of slavery and freedom. On Kingdom Mountain often alludes to the Civil War, a war for freedom of the oppressed and commodified black people in the United States. Not least the U.S. Civil War is invoked through the “Great Kingdom Common Raid” in the same era and the riddle of Kingdom Mountain, both linked to the “Gray Ghosts” (1) resembling Confederate soldiers. Mosher explicitly uses the term “Mason-Dixon Line” in his prologue regarding the “Great Kingdom Common Raid” (2), a legend thriving because of the large stolen sum of money and the vanishing of all traces: “[…] neither of the rifle-toting raiders was ever heard from again, either north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line” (2). Mosher’s character of Henry embodies the Mason-Dixon Line, but thanks to his mixed heritage, Black and White, he bridges and transcends this duality by his very existence. However, another “two-ness” (Du Bois 5) of being “[…] an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body […]” (Du Bois 5) persists in the eyes of others, despite his being both White and Black. His partial whiteness is disregarded by the villagers. Even if he were not of mixed ancestry, but only Black, the villagers have the choice and ← 131 | 132 → moral obligation in a free state such as Vermont to see the common humanity among people of all races.

In the village of Kingdom Common people choose to perceive Henry’s otherness, which is threefold: “An exhibition man who is also a man of color and a stranger” (Mosher 250). He does not have a serious profession nor is he white or from the region. This triple handicap, when stated in a cowardly yet overt fashion in a racial slur on the water tower (Mosher 252–53), is the final tipping point towards Henry’s resolution to leave Jane. He steals away secretly carrying the treasure of Kingdom Mountain and without giving Jane her portion as he had originally intended. Both Jane and Henry had had their doubts about getting married and had had acknowledged Jane’s rootedness as opposed to Henry’s adventurism and restlessness, symbolized by his biplane. For Henry the decisive factor in tipping the scales in favor of leaving is most likely the slur “MISS JANE TROUBLE + DARKY SATTERFIELD = THE FLYING LOVEBIRDS” (Mosher 253) in combination with playing “Dixie” and catcalls after Henry’s and Jane’s flight performance on the last day of the Harvest Festival. Jane is furious and ashamed: “She was mortified. Mortified for herself, for Henry, and for the village she had called civilized” (Mosher 253). This shock has repercussions for both Jane and Henry. Jane’s worldview is shattered, and Henry sees his foreboding thoughts confirmed. Henry’s mere longing has been in Du Bois’s words: “He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face” (Du Bois 5). The racist message in capital letters, for all to see, is placed on the water tower, the backbone of the village as water is essential for any community to thrive. Water signifies life, and this decent life metaphorically speaking is denied to Henry. His basic human right to be a fellow American citizen is not granted to him.

Quoting Robert B. Toll, J. Stanley Lemons posits that “[t]he minstrel show was America’s first national, popular entertainment form, and from it came two of the classic stereotyped characters of blacks” (Lemons 102). He states that these two stereotypes are “Zip Coon” and “Jim Crow”: “Zip Coon was a preposterous, citified dandy. […] Jim Crow represented the slow-thinking, slow-moving country and plantation darkey” (Lemons 102). The very word “darkey,” albeit in different spelling, is echoed in the racial slur in the unfair and openly racist fair scene. Based on insights by Russel B. Nye, Lemons holds that popular culture is a barometer of public opinion: “Popular culture is an exceptional means for gaining an insight into what masses of people are thinking, feeling, and dreaming. It is neither high or art culture, nor is it folk culture; but it is something in between ← 132 | 133 → […]” (Lemons 103). This in-betweenness is accessible and comes to the fore in the openly racist harvest festival scene. This reenactment of a minstrel show is reversed afterwards when Henry turns the villagers’ scheme back on them.

During their engagement Jane and Henry discuss ethnic relations and Henry as opposed to Jane is pessimistic about the color-blind side of the village. Jane wants to reassure Henry and tells him: “As for your Creole ancestry on your mother’s side, no one here in Vermont, of all places, would think it any kind of handicap at all” (Mosher 251). It is important in that context that Vermont’s constitution dating back to 1777 “was the first in America to provide for a State system of education, to give every man the right to vote and to forbid slavery” (Wilson 96). This abolitionist heritage is what makes Jane sure of the villagers’ embracing Henry as one of their own. Henry is not convinced due to his own experiences: “Oh, Miss Jane, my ancestry is always a handicap. Always. It is why, in order to fly against the Kaiser, I had to leave this land for Canada and join the RCAF” (Mosher 251). Even when wanting to risk his life for the United States during the First World War Henry had to cross the border northward and join the Canadian forces because of racism in the United States.

Jane wants to emphasize that skin color is of no significance, neither in the Kingdom nor in their engagement, and points out her own mixed ethnic and racial heritage: “I assure you that your color is no factor here in the Kingdom. Nor is it at all a factor in our engagement. As you know, I’m half Indian myself” (251). However, Henry realizes the importance local family roots play in this regard. He comments on the disadvantage in being from far away and of mixed heritage: “That’s different. The fact that you were born and bred here, and no stranger, counts heavily in your favor” (251). Jane pleads in support of her neighbors in the Kingdom: “For many decades, Henry, Kingdom Mountain was the last station on the Underground Railroad. For all its many faults, the Kingdom is still a community of civilized people” (251). This notion is utterly shattered by the racist events at the Harvest Festival. Henry’s reaction is one of revenge before taking off for good. He displays “the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy” (256) on his biplane during his last flight at the festival and tars and feathers the Commoners: “The civilized people of Kingdom Common had become a minstrel show” (Mosher 256). Black-white relations are reversed. The Commoners are reduced to laughable protagonists in a show usually mocking African Americans.

Henry leaves with the gold and without a goodbye. The villagers attribute Henry’s sudden departure to him alone as he was the outsider not belonging in their Vermont village: “All the blame fell on the outsider from Away” (Mosher 261). However, Jane gains a new insight and realizes that “[…] the stranger ← 133 | 134 → destined to come to Kingdom Mountain was, in the end, like all strangers, also destined to leave, probably with something that belonged to her. Her gold, her heart, whatever” (Mosher 258). Despite her disappointment Jane is glad about not having to leave her mountain and sees a connection between recently-found money and newly found love. Both seem to be elusive: “Yet a part of her, she could not deny, felt a certain relief, for she was already homesick for the mountain she would now never leave. The nature of found money was that you would surely lose it again. Maybe that was the nature of love as well” (Mosher 258). Nonetheless, she does not grow bitter, but continues her life proactively on Kingdom Mountain. She voluntarily performs the role of wing walker and as such belongs to the world of “the ultimate risk-takers of their day” (Onkst n.p.). She is and remains courageous and resilient.

4.2.3    Community Borders: Representing Racial Relations in 1930 White Vermont

In Mosher’s novel the racial boundaries cannot be blurred beyond Kingdom Mountain. The local community only encourages the dominant discourse and mainstream participants in their village life. They reborder despite Henry’s initially good relations with many people in the village. However, the town fathers and some others are his “detractors.” Jane is also too individualistic for the village. Aside from her quirkiness, strong independence, and courage she alienates the village with her shooting at the screen while showing a movie to the locals in response to malign acts by rowdies. Nonetheless, the town fathers provoke and count on the gang to create hassle at the movie screening. As this plan is not successful in the end, the Duchess prevails and the town fathers try another scheme closing the Atheneum and evicting Jane’s scribblers and scrawlers. This is a true shock to the Duchess aside from the continuing battle regarding the Connector. These tensions build momentum and culminate in the hypocrisies of the town fathers and Eben (253) at the harvest festival. The crowds “swell” and are happy with the performances put on by Henry as the aviator and Jane as his wing walker, but the town fathers want more for a payment. They dare to ask for an upside down flight despite the water tower racial slur, playing Dixie, and the catcalls. They hypocritically apologize and maintain their request for an upside down flight. For the promised sum of 100 dollars Henry seemingly gives in, which Jane cannot comprehend, and she announces that she does not want to continue wing walking.

This incident confirms Henry’s fears and doubts about the prospects of a mixed-race couple as well as the ambiguous warning of his ghost-like grandfather. ← 134 | 135 → Jane is too naïve to see the impossibility for someone to be included in the community if a person is too different and From Away. A stranger remains a stranger as long as the person is not born and bred in this small place, particularly in those times. Henry and Jane have discussed racial relations early on. Jane remains convinced that the villagers are civilized, which Henry counters with his life-long experience of racism and xenophobia. He declares that he still has to find such a civilized community (251) and repeats that he was only part of the air force in Canada, not in the United States (251). Henry experiences in a more pronounced way what President Barack Obama describes in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Obama relates the reaction of people, whether “black or white,” who learn about his biracial background: “They no longer know who I am. Privately, they guess at my troubled heart, I suppose – the mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds” (Obama xv). He does not feel “tragic” or at least not more “tragic” than his fellow citizens: “[…] the tragedy is not mine, or at least not mine alone, it is yours, sons and daughters of Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island, it is yours, children of Africa” (Obama xv). The common diversity of roots in the United States is emphasized and the foundation of the nation is alluded to. Obama posits that everyone was an immigrant at some point, whether the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock or “the huddled masses” of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in view of the Statue of Liberty. Native peoples are the only ones who have been in North America since times immemorial, but Obama does not mention them in this context as he tries to explain and come to terms with his own biracial black and white heritage. His hopes in writing about his journey is that this narrative “might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the American experience, as well as the fluid state of identity – the leaps through time, the collision of cultures – that mark our modern life” (Obama vii). In Mosher’s novel the main characters, Jane and Henry, are ahead of their times in terms of open-mindedness and a holistic view of mutable identities. This progressive stance regarding racial relations and their very existence as biracial people almost inevitably lead to overt and covert clashes with the dominant discourse in Vermont of the 1930s.

In the earlier conversation between Judge Ira Allen and Jane, Jane bluntly asks her friend, if he is opposed to Henry because of Henry’s color, which the judge denies. At that time Jane thinks the color line might be a problem, although she has known her friend Ira all her life. However, in terms of the village or even the state of Vermont she dismisses Henry’s matter-of-fact statement that he is a triple outcast and thus will never be fully or even partially integrated. He states ← 135 | 136 → it is always a problem to live as a man of color and that there is no such thing as a civilized community. The color line is closely related to the seemingly similar, yet different concepts of race and ethnicity. Manning Marable explains the difference between the social construct of “race” and the more recent concept of “ethnicity,” also in the historical development of these designations: “‘Race’ is therefore a dynamic social construct that has its roots in the transatlantic slave trade, the establishment of plantation economies based on slave labor, and in the ideological justification for the vast extermination of millions of indigenous Americans” (Marable 44). According to Marable ethnicity focuses on “cultural and social traditions” (44). He highlights the ambiguity and contested nature of the two terms race and ethnicity in academe: “Currently there are major academic disagreements over the meanings and materiality of race and ethnicity” (Marable 45). Marable posits that diverse responses to these discussions exist ranging from the “racial-ethnic theorists, or the multiculturalists” (45) to “cultural unversalists” (46), “‘new school’ universalists” (47) to “social theorists of race and ethnicity who frankly do put forward essentialist and identity-bound models of cultural difference” (47). Theory is one way to approach the color line, but every individual needs to negotiate his or her positioning with regard to race and ethnicity in practical ways, while trying to avoid falling prey to essentializing, racist, or xenophobic behavior. This is the bordered world in a historical context that the characters in Mosher’s novel need to negotiate and come to terms with.

The aviator is sincere in his feelings for the Duchess, and she is sincere with him as Henry acknowledges, but Henry’s doubts are linked to the practical side of their living together in the future. He sees the difficulties from a realistic angle. Henry wonders, if it is right or possible to uproot Jane even temporarily, as she is “wedded to a hill” (252) according to the knowing voice of his ancestor. The aviator is not strong enough to ignore the trickster-like, ambiguous, and at times mischievous voice of his grandfather painting the Eldorado picture for Henry. His ghostly voice entices and emotionally blackmails Henry to go after the gold and forget about the Duchess as such a relationship is doomed to fail. Both partners have made their choices long before, Henry being an aviator who is flying away and the Duchess being rooted in Kingdom Mountain and bound to stay there. Henry’s direction is outbound, Jane’s is inbound.

Henry, of Creole ancestry, is a showman and aviator from the South, a stranger from Away, and though the Duchess if of mixed ancestry with partial Native roots, she is the Duchess “born and bred” in northern Vermont. The invisible identity and social border of belonging to a place or being from Away cannot be overcome in the eyes of the villagers and eventually also in the eyes of Henry. ← 136 | 137 → This blow confirms Henry’s fears and doubts and the devilish words of his grandfather. Henry leaves and since there is nothing to lose Henry has his revenge and takes the gold without leaving Jane the 10–20 percent originally planned and thus almost breaks her spirit. He seems to have pangs of conscience to leave Jane behind without saying goodbye. Henry is fighting with his inner demon in the form of his grandfather’s voice. The aviator is haunted by that voice and the inherited and inherent compulsion for gold. Henry seems to want to talk to Jane, right after confronting the town fathers about the water tower and Dixie incident; however, she abruptly quits and thus leaves him to his own devices.

After the explicit bordering and marking him as an outsider, an outcast from Away who is only good to perform and entertain, but mocked, ridiculed and despised, Henry decides to play along and turn the game on the villagers. The people ostracize and other him as a southerner and thus part of the Confederates. He then turns the tables on them. He is in charge and visibly leaves his mark. Therefore, he embraces the redrawing of the Mason-Dixon Line and takes up arms in this restaged civil war between the northern and southern states in northern rural Vermont. He takes the clue and during the official ceremony with all dignitaries present shows them the Confederate flag painted on his biplane and tars and feathers them, a treatment for criminals. Moreover, by tarring them he gives the Caucasian northerners from Kingdom Common a black-face and creates a “minstrel show” (256) with the villagers as the protagonists. As Scott Herring argues, white people took at face value the stereotypes of Blacks at the beginning of the 20th century. These prejudices come to the fore and are perpetuated by “the century-old tradition of minstrelsy, in which white comics blackened their faces with burnt cork and performed an imitation of black life for a (usually delighted) white audience” (3). The tradition of minstrelsy and the continuation of stereotypes in racial relations is likened to acting and putting on a mask in order to live up to expectations by the racial other. This notion echoes Frantz Fanon’s seminal work Black Skin, White Masks. Herring suggests that white people internalized stereotypes of black people. He refers to W.E.B. Du Bois32 in his critique of such behavior: “Not all but a significant number of whites adopted the images of the minstrel fiction and applied them to the African American reality, seeing in the streets characters from the stage; blacks very quickly learned, in their dealings with whites, to put on the mask. For Du Bois, ← 137 | 138 → the mask is a Veil to be rent” (Herring 3–4). In this quotation the nexus between mask and veil becomes apparent. The mask or the veil obscure, hide, and shield a truth. Du Bois regards the Veil as a discursive barrier between peoples from different races leading nowhere: “Du Bois’s dominant metaphor for the communicative impasse which exists between the races is the Veil” (Herring 11). At the same time a mask or a veil is also a marker of difference, a separation, and a barrier. Both are outward accessories or even clothes that express identity and belonging and in so doing mark group identities. Nonetheless, as Herring outlines based on his reading of Du Bois, color lines need to be blurred and overcome: “Du Bois’s fundamentental design – his political agenda – is to subvert the color line which minstrelsy has helped to construct” (Herring 11). Therefore, the color line is artificially and socially constructed and maintained by questionable social entertainment practices.

Johnella E. Butler posits that “W. E. B. Du Bois observed in The Souls of Black Folk that the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, and he proposed a ‘merging’ for the Negro” (Butler xi). The color line, though lingering, is less visible in the twenty-first century thanks to increasing blurred boundaries of color and otherwise. Butler links the color line to the borderlands in her edited volume aptly titled Color-Line to Borderlands: The Matrix of American Ethnic Studies. She suggests that “[…] Du Bois signals the borderlands” (Butler xi). According to Butler, “[Du Bois] knows that ‘truth’ is ‘above the Veil,’ above the racial line that seeks to maintain the ignorance perpetuated by a racialized existence, and that to be above the Veil one has to move across the color-line” (Butler xii). Veil and color line are equated and both need to be transcended and overcome. A torn Veil and a blurred or even erased color line add to more equality and unity. Ethnicity should not remain a marker of hierarchy, stereotyping or outright racism, but be a part of diversity in unity, reflecting the “e pluribus unum” of the United States.

Du Bois’s notion of the Veil is characterized by Robert Stepto as “his [Du Bois’s] famous trope of the Veil, which is variously that which shuts him (and others) out of ‘their world,’ that which he himself can put in place in seeking a self-protective isolation, and that which he will triumphantly live above, in time” (29). Binaries and the need to address and negotiate dichotomies are important. Stepto makes a point out of this so-called “two-ness” and links it to Du Bois’s concept of “double-consciousness”: “‘Two-ness’ obviously includes the sensation of seeing one’s self through the eyes of others that Dr. Du Bois so famously termed the Negro’s ‘double-consciousness’” (52). Stepto further postulates that the notion of “two-ness” is a complex one: “But two-ness is so many things: ← 138 | 139 → the forging of a biracial identity and a racial identity” (52). Mosher’s novel On Kingdom Mountain, a title replete with echoes of Negro spirituals and African American history, is a pertinent case to analyze whether or not Stepto’s assertion that “African American fictions and other narratives often are set in carefully constructed geographies: freedom and oppression are mapped; each has a landscape and a climate; each has exterior and interior spaces to be negotiated” (126). Its importance highlighted by the eponymous title of Mosher’s novel, Kingdom Mountain is such a “carefully constructed” space that needs to be defined, maintained, and negotiated by the Duchess and the aviator among themselves, but then also in the courtroom scenes and social interaction with the xenophobic White villagers in rural Vermont.

Vermont is a complex state with a history of migration leading to a quest for identity: “Between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, Vermont experienced an ongoing crisis of identity – one that unfolded according to the historical-geographic context of out-migration from the state” (Harrison, “Tourism” 482). This identity crisis is exacerbated by newcomers from “non-Anglo ethnic groups,” one large group being French Canadians (Harrison, “Tourism” 482). The negative image of French Canadians is portrayed in Mosher’s novel. Racial, ethnic, and economic changes inform one another: “Indeed, once peered behind the mask of the typical Vermonter, reformers found a host of deeper social problems – many of which they traced back to the catalyst of farm abandonment” (Harrison, “Tourism” 482–83). Removing the “mask” means seeing clearly that in Mosher’s novel farm abandonment, rural isolation, and economic woes are the underlying forces propelling the plot.

Eben and the townfathers use exactly these reasons in favor of their case of building the Connector. As their guiding principle in this business project they pretend to have the economic well-being and the future of the whole community in mind. Indeed “[b]y today’s standards, the most important crop of the era was tourists. This became the critical cash crop for many people” (McReynolds 94). Tourism and economic opportunities are important principles but the end does not always justify the means. Development at that time in Vermont means huge changes transforming the landscape, social relations, and livelihoods. More-over, even before the big developers became interested in Vermont, Vermonters could nonetheless generate modest incomes from tourism: “Prior to the 1930s Vermont’s nascent ski business remained confined to the state’s open pastures, logging roads, and hillside fields, and although largely noncommercial, it did generate limited amounts of revenue for services such as food, lodging, and transportation” (Harrison, “Technological Turn” 200). Thanks to the Connector ← 139 | 140 → tourism could be promoted and visitors would bring money, and in their wake, jobs to the Kingdom. However, the price tag for the ecology is not considered. It is Jane, who fights to maintain Kingdom Mountain in its pristine wilderness for future generations and continues to honor both her parents’ legacies, her Scottish and the Memphremagog Abenaki roots.

Robert M. Vanderbeck states that “[…] Vermont is among the most racialized of the fifty U.S. states if we take that to mean the states with the clearest association in popular geographical imaginations between their territories and specific racialized identities” (641). According to Vanderbeck Vermont is understood “as an iconic space of Yankee whiteness” (642). When Henry joins Jane and wants to marry her (247), Jane’s age of innocence in the village of Kingdom Commons is lost, because “[n]o place on earth is as fickle as a small town” (263) and rumors do not stop, when Henry disappears. Yankee whiteness is compromised by the presence of a man of color and from the South, the Civil War opponent. The Civil War is often alluded to in On Kingdom Mountain. It is a backdrop against which the events of the plot unfold, intrinsically linked to the treasure of Kingdom Mountain, the stolen gold by the Civil War “Gray Ghosts.” The question of blood and race is an issue of several ethnicities: “Vis-à-vis ‘white blood,’ the power of a drop of ‘Negro blood’ is to contaminate. In contrast, the power of a drop of ‘Indian blood’ – if no more than a drop – is to enhance, ennoble, naturalize, and legitimate” (Strong and Van Winkle 551). This seems to be at work in the villagers’ minds as Jane is perceived as white, sort of one of them in her quirky way, although she is of mixed heritage, being part Memphremagog Abenaki. In contrast to her, Henry is constructed as a man of color of African American, or to be precise, Creole ancestry.

In Mosher’s novel the race card is played according to the interests of the white and covert racist village community. Whereas Jane with her biracial heritage is accepted as one of them, and her claims in court to her Native heritage, advantageous for her cause, are even disregarded, Henry is racially othered by the villagers. Initially they are fascinated by his exoticism, but then the mood changes and he is the stranger from away, the Southerner, the flying showman, who is not part of their community. He is a transient and presents comic relief for this remote rural village in Vermont, while simultaneously transgressing and expanding the notion of belonging for the villagers. The different treatment of the two biracial characters in the novel, Jane of European and Native descent, but a long-time resident and respected though somewhat marginal member of the community and the Southern aviator, Henry of White and Black mixed heritage, ← 140 | 141 → is revealing. Jane’s partial Whiteness supersedes her Nativeness, whereas Henry’s partial Blackness remains dominant and eclipses his partial Whiteness.

Paradoxically, Vermont as a synonym for Yankee Whiteness, is also a pioneer of the abolition of slavery. Vermont was one of the states that opposed slavery early on: “In the wake of the American War of Independence, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, the states with the lowest percentages of slaves, became pioneers in legislating the destruction of the institution either by constitutional articles or by judicial decisions based upon their new constitutions” (Drescher 127). Helping refugee slaves on the Underground Railroad to Canada is one thing as these refugees quickly cross the border. They are merely a temporary and almost invisible presence, and only Jane and her family are portrayed as practitioners of these convictions. However, after the initial exotic encounter with Henry, integrating a colored stranger from Away, is a different matter altogether. In the world of the 1930s it is difficult to adjust to full equality. Henry stands out. The voice of greed by the whisperings of his grandfather paired with the experience of the racial slur on the water tower determines Henry’s departure. After his disappearance the world is seemingly back to normal; the racial border preserves a sort of order in the Vermont village.

When Jane is associated with Henry she descends into a morally ambiguous state, partly in analogy to the following statement: “People biologically black in any degree could not openly aspire to whiteness, but whites could easily descend into blackness if they failed in morality” (Williamson 108). This means that Henry could not dream of being accepted as white, not even in the North, nor can Jane hope not to provoke covert or even overt racism with her interracial liaison. Although Jane is not white, but of mixed heritage, she has been subsumed under the category “White” thanks to her local lineage and rather prominent position within the village community. The North and the South are not so different in their bordered racial and ethnic relations, only the Harlem Renaissance intellectuals being an exception to that phenomenon: “[…] whites in the North, as in the South, had already arrived at the one-drop rule and stopped all Negroes abruptly at the thresholds of their lives” (Williamson 134). White – black relations remain bordered and liminal. This threshold is not crossed. In Mosher’s novel, however, the motto on the “lintel over the porch door” of Jane’s home reads: “They lived in a house at the end of the road and were friends to mankind” (29). Jane’s attitude clearly reflects the practices of her family to help whoever is in need of help, whether, African American, Asian, or Canadian. The threshold to her home can be crossed. ← 141 | 142 →

Patrick Wolfe postulates “that race is a social construct” (387). He further argues that “[…] Indians and Black people in the US have been racialized in opposing ways that reflect their antithetical roles in the formation of US society” (Wolfe 387). These antithetical roles and diametrically opposed perceptions by whites are embodied in the novel by Jane and Henry. Both are of mixed heritage, but according to the preferred outcome of the white majority Jane’s Native composite heritage is not taken into account in order to deny her land claims, whereas Henry remains African American after the initial exotic interest in him. For black people in the U.S. the so-called “‘one-drop rule,’ whereby any amount of African ancestry, no matter how remote, and regardless of phenotypical appearance, makes a person Black” (Wolfe 388), applied. The opposite is true for Native Americans / American Indians, whose Native identity and Native rights were at risk when being of mixed heritage: “For Indians, in stark contrast, non-Indian ancestry compromised their indigeneity, producing ‘half-breeds,’ a regime that persists in the form of blood quantum regulations” (Wolfe 388). Moreover, for Wolfe the notion of race is constructed in the othering process: “Black people were racialized as slaves; slavery constituted their blackness” (Wolfe 388). In analogy with that observation Natives are constructed as Natives and treated as such: “Correspondingly, Indigenous North Americans were not killed, driven away, romanticized, assimilated, fenced in, bred White, and otherwise eliminated as the original owners of the land but as Indians” (Wolfe 388). The othering of the people and categorizing them seems to dehumanize them and make settlers’ actions seem less consequential for the affected Native peoples.

The question arises: “Who is ethnic in the Green Mountain State” (Senécal 63)? It becomes clear that “[t]here are no First Vermonters; only Abenakis who have left their mark upon the land for thousands of years” (Senécal 63). Vermont is equated with whiteness and the quintessential American, the stereotypical “Yankee”: “Vermont’s construct of ethnicity is synonymous with whiteness, a most peculiar brand of whiteness at that. Vermont’s definition of ethnicity, the source of much racial, gender, and ethnic prejudice, inequality, and intolerance, is closely associated with the narrative that we have built around the Yankee […]” (Senécal 64). Furthermore, the climate contributes to the construction of Vermont identity: “Climate, geography, small-scale industries, and poverty have conspired to deny us our allotment of Blacks, Chinese, Eastern, or Southern Europeans. We are as white as a virgin page, as buffered as snow” (Senécal 66). In this regard racialization needs to be defined: “The term ‘racialization,’ in the context of an analysis of Canada-US border crossings, draws attention to how ‘racial’ categories and identities are both constructed and contested within ← 142 | 143 → relations of power (as was apparent in the post 9/11 context), and linked to very real and unequal im/mobilities” (Helleiner 110). The mobility of racialized people is hampered, which is why Henry only feels free and can be completely mobile in his airplane. The plane as an icon of freedom symbolizes his freedom as a man of color in a racialized world. As a free aviator he can defy stereotypes and fly away from practices and spaces of racism and racialization: “‘Racialization’ is therefore the process by which racialized groups are identified, given stereotypical characteristics, and coerced into specific living conditions, often involving social/spatial segregation and always constituting racialized places” (Kobayashi and Peake 393). Native Americans are also a racialized group seen from a White hegemonic and racializing gaze.

Bonita Lawrence argues that there is a connection between classifications and conceptualizations, “how a classificatory system produces ways of thinking – a grammar – that embeds itself in every attempt to change it” (4). She maintains that Native peoples continue to be agents of their own destinies, albeit in a special context: “To speak of how pervasively the Indian Act (in Canada) or federal Indian legislation (in the United States) has permeated the ways in which Native peoples think of themselves is not to deny Native people the agency to move beyond its logic” (Lawrence 4). Jane practices her agency and she exhibits her strong relationship to her Native ancestors and community: “For Native people, individual identity is always being negotiated in relation to collective identity, and in the face of an external, colonizing society” (Lawrence 4). Lawrence postulates that a common notion of what “Native” or “Indian” means was “an external descriptor, meaningless to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas prior to colonization” (4). Settler societies subsumed everyone Native under one category and ascribed them with “a common raced identity as ‘Indian’ ” (Lawrence 5). She further argues that there are tensions between individual identities and pan-tribal linkages: “Contemporary Native identity therefore exists in an uneasy balance between concepts of generic ‘Indianness’ as a racial identity and of specific ‘tribal’ identity as Indigenous nationhood” (Lawrence 5). Nations and settler states cannot be equated, quite the opposite manifests itself, as Lawrence puts it: “For Indigenous people, resisting colonial relations involves a refusal to accept the authority of Canada or the United States as settler states, and a focus on rebuilding the nations that the colonizer has sought to destroy” (5). Indigenous peoples highlight the Native presence on the North American continent and their tribal nations, predating the European settlers regarded as newcomers.

Jane, as the last heir of the Memphremagog Abenakis also identifies tribally in the courtroom scene. Native identity is by no means an abstract notion, but ← 143 | 144 → literally grounded in her Abenaki heritage and the land. Kingdom Mountain, symbolizing her home with the dual Scottish and Native heritage, is the ancestral connection for her. Her Native roots emphasize the connection to the land, whereas her Scottish roots alert her to the importance of tradition and respect for her forebears. The respect for her ancestors is a legacy that is present in both her cultural and ethnic or racial origins. Therefore, her biracial and bicultural heritage do not create an internal conflict for her. Jane literally embodies these two legacies and thrives with them in her own independent, strong, and selfconfident way of life. Lawrence postulates that Native lived experience is questioned in the name of authenticity: “In such contestations of identity (which are always on white terms), Native people revealed as transgressing the boundaries of so-called authenticity – in their appearance (if mixed-blood), or in possessing any aspect of apparent modernity – are inevitably dismissed as fakes” (23). Jane is disregarded as a Native person in the courtroom scene. She is almost treated as a fake; her land claim of Kingdom Mountain and ancestral aboriginal rights is challenged outright. Native identities are often contested as is the case for Jane in the novel: “In both Canada and the United States, Native identity has for generations been legally defined by legislation based on colonialist assumptions about race, Nativeness, and civilization, which are deeply rooted in European modernity” (Lawrence 24). Native and non-Native worldviews and thus systems differ and need to be accommodated.

Mosher’s Native presence is indeed a vanishing one. Jane, with no offspring of her own, is the last member of the Memphremagog Abenakis. The author adheres to the prevalent stereotypes of the environmentally conscious but at the same time vanishing Indian. Nonetheless, Jane’s legacy lives on. Consequently, the Native land and the legacy remain preserved for future generations. Mosher finds a way to combine these stereotypical attributes in the persona of his protagonist, Jane. Reading Mosher’s novel, written in 2007 by a contemporary U.S. author, but set in the 1930s Vermont, the reader has to keep in mind the historical disjuncture between time of writing, reading, and setting, plot, and characters. In 1930 the traditional Vermont has almost disappeared, or, at least, it has altered significantly as the rise of new economies, livelihoods, and ultimately a new order testifies. Historical context is thus helpful. The problematic legacy of land issues persists in the form of land claims. The novel is more about vanishing land for Native sovereign use than about the vanishing Natives: “A difficulty that Native communities across North America must wrestle with centers on the reality of ongoing colonial encroachment – the need for Native communities to assert some sort of boundary marker between their small remaining land base← 144 | 145 → and the white communities around them” (Lawrence 24). Land is of paramount importance for the indigenous communities.

4.3    Blurred Color Lines: Kingdom Mountain as Utopian In-Between Space

On Kingdom Mountain, the eponymous title of Mosher’s novel, represents a utopian in-between space of racial and ethnic integration in contrast to the village of Kingdom Common, standing for segregation. The border between segregation and integration is subverted on Kingdom Mountain. Despite their differences, Jane, the White-Native Northern duchess, and Henry Satterfield, the White-Black southern aviator fall in love and transcend societal norms and racial borders. This reminds the contemporary reader of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech “I’ve been to the mountaintop33” in which he powerfully shares his firm belief in a color-blind future. The civil rights leader frequently uses the mountain metaphor in the biblical echoes in his speeches. Mosher, in spite of rewriting and critiquing the Bible in the person of his protagonist, Jane, still harks back to these images of the Bible.

Aside from religious allusions, history is the underlying principle of Mosher’s novel. Historical events such as the Civil War, the abolition of slavery, the Underground Railroad, Prohibition, and the Great Depression and African American history up to 1930 permeate On Kingdom Mountain. Against the backdrop of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the community in the novel holds on to mental borders and reinscribes the Mason-Dixon Line34 with meaning. Community members’ bordering and othering marginalizes and stigmatizes both Henry and Jane. Racist and xenophobic tensions simmer and surface during the harvest festival and explode with the racial slur on the water tower. Inscribing the racist message on the water tower for everyone to see is a public shaming act for Jane that resembles putting Hester Prynne with the scarlet letter on the pillory (Hawthorne 50). The local community does not approve of a certain behavior, whether in the case of Hester or Mosher’s protagonist Jane, and the seeming culprit is ← 145 | 146 → publicly denunciated by the hypocritical elites, probably with the help of some easily enlisted youngsters.

In contrast to the village, Kingdom Mountain is a mountain kingdom not only with its unique and independent climatic, legal, and geopolitical characteristics and ruled by the duchess, but also as a miniature “city upon the hill” to borrow this Puritan and biblical image popularized by John Winthrop. Jane is critical of religion and particularly of the King James Bible, yet still uses the Bible or religious references frequently. In the United States of 1930, Kingdom Mountain is a secluded, almost isolated realm, an “entity unto itself” (8). It is a utopian space representing the Promised Land, a prelapsarian Garden of Eden, where Jane’s forebears subdued and christened the wilderness. The mysterious figure of the dog-cart man paints a “[…] tree of life […] on Miss Jane’s front door” (205), thus highlighting the reading of Kingdom Mountain as an Eden-like place and space. Naming plays a crucial role in White-Native relations, too. Natives have lived in North America since times immemorial, and White European newcomers named or rather renamed places according to their own concepts upon contact. In that way the Natives and the Native presence were erased. Jane, with her mixed heritage and despite her pride in her Native roots, continues the family tradition and also uses the non-Native Kinneson names for places on the Mountain, emphasizing once again the independent and unique status of Kingdom Mountain.

4.3.1    Contested Geopolitics: The Canada-U.S. Border and Kingdom Mountain

Jane is the only owner of Kingdom Mountain and its last remaining resident (5). She has a strong sense of belonging and responsibility towards this special place. The Mountain is a “third space” unto itself:

What Jane knew for certain was that the mountain had sheltered and provided sustenance for several generations of Kinnesons and that it created its own weather and seasons, quite sharply different from the weather and seasons elsewhere in the county. It nurtured its own species of trout and, on its summit, several boreal plants and lichens found nowhere else within a thousand miles. (18)

Kingdom Mountain is a microcosm with its own flora, fauna, and history of habitation. During the lawsuit to settle the decision whether or not the Connector can be built, the question of citizenship and hence jurisdiction is addressed: “Are you yourself an American or Canadian citizen” (191)? Jane responds by presenting herself as a spokesperson and representative for the silenced voice of the Mountain itself: “Neither. I’m the last member of the Memphremagog tribe ← 146 | 147 → and the last of the Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons, speaking on behalf of the rights of Kingdom Mountain” (192). She contends that this geographical space is self-contained and neither constitutes a part of the United States nor of Canada: “Since the domain in question belongs to another nation, not Canada or the U.S., neither the U.S. nor Canada can exercise eminent domain. Kingdom Mountain is an eminent domain. It belongs to itself” (192). Kingdom Mountain is a kingdom just by itself with its own jurisdiction, history, and heritage. This unique space outdoes the administrative understandings of the nation-state. Nationalities as attributed by the court or others are not upheld in Jane’s definition. She is first and foremost a Kingdom Mountain Kinneson and identifies with the Memphremagog Abenakis.

The fictional Kingdom Mountain is set in the real region called the Northeast Kingdom,35 a geographical area that evokes a strong sense of place in the local residents. Mosher and his wife Phillis found refuge in the Northeast Kingdom from urbanization and globalization: “When we came to the Northeast Kingdom in 1964, both Phillis and I knew we wanted to live in the country, preferably near the border” (Mosher, North Country 99–100). This geographical rootedness in an area that is “still something of a true frontier” (Mosher, Northern Borders 1) translates into Mosher’s fiction as Kingdom Mountain. Mosher’s writing is strongly influenced by autobiographical events and his personal journey in life. There are striking parallels to be discovered and discussed in relation to his fiction: “I have spent the last three decades living here [Northeast Kingdom] and chronicling the lives and times of these individualists in my novels and short stories” (Mosher, North Country 2). It is a “last vestige of an earlier Vermont” (Mosher, North Country 2). He remembers the old times in his fiction “as the ever-encroaching development spreading northward from southern and central Vermont began to reach the Kingdom, and as the old horse loggers and hill farmers and moonshiners and whiskey runners vanished […]” (Mosher, North Country 2). Keeping the old times alive by telling their story in a time and place remote from the present is one of Mosher’s central endeavors in his writing.

The Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons have a long tradition of helping others as expressed in the motto on the lintel over their porch door: “They lived in a house at the end of the road and were friends to mankind” (Mosher, Kingdom 30). They help a host of people from diverse backgrounds “not just fugitive slaves but French Canadian and Chinese immigrants slipping over the mountain into ← 147 | 148 → the United States from Canada and all kinds of wayfarers overtaken by weather, sickness, and injury, even bindlestiffs and tramps off the Grand Trunk Railroad” (Mosher, Kingdom 30). The Grand Trunk Railroad transcended borders and operated in Canada and the U.S. in what would be Ontario and Quebec and New England today. It is interesting to note that the border has worked in two directions, namely fugitive slaves wanting to leave the U.S. and enjoy freedom and safety in Canada and then French Canadians and Chinese immigrants wanting to come to the United States. Kingdom Mountain is the crucial regional link in this migration movement between the United States and Canada. Hence, the current American fears that Canada is a gateway for illegal immigration to the U.S. is not unfounded, considering the history of the Canada-U.S. boundary.

Political scientist James Laxer compares the Canada-U.S. border to other international borders and highlights the influx of immigrants seeking refuge in either of the two countries. He describes how the existence of a border separating two countries with different policies provides ways or even incentives for people to find a safe haven across the line:

Like other international frontiers, the Canada-U.S. border has often afforded opportunities for those who needed to escape from the government of the day and its policies. Having a border handy to allow for flight has always been valued by freedom seekers (and by criminals) the world over. Sometimes, over the course of the past two centuries and more, it has been residents of the United States fleeing north, other times Canadians fleeing south. (Laxer 110)

This binational border crossing pattern is depicted in Mosher’s novel. However, it focuses mostly on the role Kingdom Mountain played in slavery times and during segregation. The Mountain is a place of refuge for fugitive slaves escaping to Canada by means of the Underground Railroad36. Another reason for this technological terminology is reflected in the analogy drawn by a slave owner trying to capture a run-away slave: “The slave owner declared it was as if the slave disappeared on some kind of ‘underground railroad.’ It was a timely metaphor. What was once the freedom movement eventually became known as the ‘Underground Railroad’ and the ‘train’ would occasionally be nicknamed the ‘Gospel Train’” (Tobin and Dobard 62). Jane’s grandfather, father and uncle ← 148 | 149 → “had conducted hundreds of fugitive slaves over the mountaintop to Canada” (Mosher, Kingdom 18). The usage of the term “mountaintop” powerfully recalls Martin Luther King’s last speech, in which he presented himself as “a black Moses” (Sollors 50). Moses also guided the people towards the Promised Land, but was prohibited to enter it himself (Deut. 32:52, Bible http://biblehub.com/ deuteronomy/32-52.htm). Nonetheless, God granted him a glimpse of Canaan (Deut. 34:4, Bible). In an eerie sense of foreboding Martin Luther King seems to have known his fate somehow. Evoking Moses by referring to “the mountaintop” portrays Jane’s forebears as Moses-like men, in keeping with the name of Jane’s mother as “Pharaoh’s daughter” (Exod. 2:10, Bible) that guided the chosen people, black fugitive slaves, to the Promised Land, in this case Canada. Sollors posits: “In some slave narratives that heavenly land of a better life after death was resecularized as ‘North’; in other stories it could mean Canada or Africa” (47). Canada and also the international boundary between Canada and the United States is perceived as a haven, the border being a “sanctuary line”. In the novel, according to Jane, Kingdom Mountain is considered to be “the site of Vermont’s northernmost Underground Railroad station” (Mosher, Kingdom 197). So, it is not only a unique place for Jane’s family history and sense of belonging, but also a significant place in the history of New England as well as in African American history. Laxer states that it is in fact Canada that serves as a refuge for others such as Americans and not only the U.S. that is a place of refuge for immigrants from all over the world: “While America has proclaimed itself a refuge for the peoples of the earth, it is Canada that Americans have often come to seek refuge – Loyalists, slaves and war resisters” (Laxer 44).

Mosher’s novel bears witness to numerous historical events and developments. The Thirties “[b]ounded by the traumas of the Wall Street Crash and the attack on Pearl Harbor” (Conn 1) are a decade marked by one major event, the Great Depression, arguably almost as momentous in importance domestically as the Civil War: “With the exception only of the Civil War, Americans faced in the Depression the most wrenching and divisive domestic crisis in their history. An economic structure that had seemed unshakable simply collapsed, and neither experts nor ordinary citizens were ever sure why” (Conn 1). In the plot of his novel Mosher weaves together the Civil War, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. Allusions to these events are frequent. The motif of freedom together with the tropes of a quest for independence and refuge is eminent: “During the era of Prohibition in the United States, from 1920 to 1933, Canada provided a refuge for Americans that was very different, and rather less heroic, from the refuge during the time of the Underground Railroad” (Laxer 142). Especially ← 149 | 150 → during – but by no means limited to – the time of Prohibition, smuggling was rampant and became part of folklore and storytelling: “Over two centuries, border residents have amassed a considerable folklore around smuggling. Whiskey conveyed through a garden hose across a backyard, […]” (Farfan 75) and more tales along these lines.

The border links history, cultural practices, migration patterns and their narrative representation, influencing Mosher, a long-time local resident. Similar romanticized folklore arose with regard to the Underground Railroad: “From the mid-nineteenth century onward into the twentieth century, the folklore that grew up surrounding the Underground Railroad has become one of the most romanticized aspects of American history” (Horton 176). These are the stories Mosher includes in his fiction and this reservoir of local lore does not seem to run dry. They form part of the local cultural identity, particularly for the residents with a relation to the Underground Railroad: “In certain regions of the northern United States, especially Ohio, but also in many other areas of the Midwest and New England, Underground Railroad sites, or ‘stations,’ are hallowed ground, places crucial to local heritage tourism and identities” (Blight 233). These “stations” remind Americans of the redemptive nature of some aspects of their history and help to build a sense of identity whether national or regional.

The Canada-U.S. border features as a setting in the novel and takes the form of a yellow line in a matter-of-fact way stressing the arbitrary and de facto nonexisting border. The defiant stance regarding the border, basically a non-issue for Jane and her ancestors, becomes evident in the ice fishing shanty, her kitchen bisected by the international boundary, and the casual border crossing when driving to Montreal. The border is referred to in its capacity as a historical sanctuary line for the Kingdom Mountain raiders and as an economic bounty for smugglers, mostly whiskey runners, during Prohibition. Smuggling seems to be pervasive in the novel, even including the low high Sheriff and the Doc. They make Henry fly over the border illicitly. Animals also freely cross the border. The border plays a role only in the construction of the Connector, because after the boundary line the Quebec government must continue the construction of the Connector.

Kingdom Mountain is a “gore”, that is “an unincorporated township unto itself” and Jane’s ancestors and herself never pay taxes to anyone (55). Jane strongly defends her mountain and reiterates that the mountain belongs to her and not Vermont, the U.S. or Canada (57) against claims to the contrary by her entrepreneurial cousin Eben. He states the “forty-fifth parallel” is the international ← 150 | 151 → border between Canada and the United States and in more narrow terms Quebec and Vermont (57).

4.3.2    Disconnected “Connector”: Ecology vs. Economy, or Past vs. Present

The Connector is planned as a connecting highway or “high road” between Kingdom County, or more precisely, the village of Kingdom Common, and Quebec. Jane opposes the project as it will cross her land on Kingdom Mountain. The construction of the new “high road” (6) is also detrimental to the small hill farmers. They hope that Jane will speak for them. Her opponent is her very own cousin Eben Kinneson (6). Mosher uses Vermont’s history and changing social and physical landscapes as a backdrop to his plot. The larger struggle of ecology versus economy comes to the fore in the fictive setting of Kingdom Common and Kingdom Mountain at a micro-level. Jane is a key figure and spokesperson for ecology and the interests of the small farmers. Despite the crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, sustainable solutions accommodating livelihoods of the common people and the local flora and fauna need to be taken into account. With the Connector the threat of big business and fancy ski resorts becomes very real in the novel. Fact and fiction inform one another in Mosher’s novel.

Due to the perceived threat, Jane engages in acts of bordering. At first glance the Connector looks as an improvement, because it connects the locals on both sides of the international boundary. However, the Connector is not planned to increase mutual understanding but to overcome primarily economic isolation. Consequently, Jane’s bordering is necessary to maintain the local way of life. The power brokers and other stakeholders in the village community see it differently and are in favor of debordering, of connecting the borderlands. However, this is mainly an economic integration and reminds the 21st century reader of the FTA and NAFTA.

If ruthlessly exploited, Kingdom Mountain’s ecology is threatened by the Connector’s economic potential. Jane describes Kingdom Mountain as an edenic in-between space, completely independent legally, but also boasting its own climate, weather, and some unique endemic species. This biotope of flora and fauna is severely threatened by the proposed “high road.” Jane’s Scottish ancestry and her Native heritage enable her to stand firm and not give in to the economic and social pressures. She remains true to her ancestors as the last Memphremagog Abenaki and the sole survivor of the Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons. The unfolding battle encapsulated in ecology versus economy is reminiscent of land claims by Native peoples in North America. White people exploited Native lands ← 151 | 152 → after forcibly relocating the Natives to other areas, such as reserves and reservations. Economic greed, lust for power, and violence sealed the fate of Natives in North America in the era marked by colonialism and Native genocide. Cultural genocide and ecocide still have an impact today on Native nations. However, in Mosher’s novel Kingdom Mountain becomes peace park-like. The conservation effort prevails and the edenic and endemic flora and fauna unique to this in-between space, this borderscape, remain intact and are enshrined in a contract. Thanks to this decision “all’s well that ends well” describes best the outcome for Jane. Her life comes full circle, and she engages in a win-win situation with her contenders. She draws the borders, metaphorically speaking, in her interaction with and integration into the local community. She has learned whom to trust and where to maintain a clear line between herself and others.

The two court scenes highlight the battle between the supporters and the detractors of the Connector and showcase the unique space of Kingdom Mountain and Jane’s self-confident and knowledgeable approach to stating her case. She first does so at “the district court of Kingdom County” (59) with her friend Judge Ira Allen as the judge. Jane’s father was a long-time Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court; so Jane has always been familiar with the judiciary. Chief Justice Dewey used to be her father’s clerk and allowed her to bring her dear people to court with her “in the case of Jane Kinneson versus Kingdom Common” (186). At the same time, a deep divide between different worldviews and different lifestyles becomes apparent. This rift is not easily bridged and remains a source of conflict throughout the novel. Jane uses precedents to prove that she is legally allowed to state her own case during the hearings, as is possible for all Memphremagog Abenakis. As in King’s short story “Borders,” she claims to be neither American nor Canadian, but the last heir of the Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons and the Memphremagog Abenakis. The Supreme Court justices ask pertinent questions, yet in the end rule in favor of Eben Kinneson Esquire. Seemingly a lost cause, Jane gives the mountain to the conservation trust her sister has told her about to save it from destruction. The Appalachian Trust will take the case to the United States Supreme Court.

4.3.3    Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line: En Route from Civil War to Civil Rights

The community and the Duchess engage in diametrically opposed bordering and debordering strategies. Jane, in a very progressive manner for her time, defiantly transcends racial and ethnic borders, the figurative Mason-Dixon Line, with her public display of love for Henry. However, in terms of the “Connector,” ← 152 | 153 → she opposes the infrastructure project for good reasons. When it comes to her mountain, nature, and the environment, the Duchess is very traditional. The village commoners are the opponents. They want to profit from the economic opportunities with the help of the new highway, the Connector, but ostracize the southerner Henry Satterfield regardless of their initial good relations. Henry causes ambivalent reactions in the village. He befriends some people, women in town admire his gentlemanly behavior, and he loves storytelling and hearing about the bank robbery from the older men. Despite his getting along well even with Eben Kinneson, some people such as the town fathers or a couple of gossips do not like him. When Judge Allen indirectly warns Jane about Henry, she inquires if this is due to the fact that Henry is a “man of color”. The judge dismisses this notion, but the narrator reveals that he is distrustful and jealous of Henry. In the courtroom scene, Henry is regarded as the “exotic southerner” by the spectators (50).

A striking contrast in the oppositional set-up of the two main characters is the clothing they wear. Jane, passing as white and with light hair, always wears black, whereas Henry with his dark complexion and Creole ancestry always wears white. Consequently, color lines are blurred or rather subverted. By choosing this clothing and these colors, the persons wearing these outfits want to project an image and probably want to blend in. The only way for a southerner, a stranger from away with Creole ancestry, to outdo the villagers and be overly perfect is in manners and dress. Henry is impeccably dressed when accompanying Jane to the courtroom wearing a “gleaming white suit, newly white-washed shoes, and crimson vest” (53). To wear white and a crimson vest is a revealing combination reminiscent of Biblical language and symbolism: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (KJV 2000, Isa. 1:18; http://bible.cc/isaiah/1–18.htm). Both biracial characters represent a stark contrast in multiple ways: Jane – perceived as white and dressing generally in black – edits down the Bible and Henry – perceived as black and dressing in white – subconsciously lives up to Scripture much more than Jane in terms of words, less so with actions at times. By dressing almost exclusively in white Henry may want to pass as White and become part of the White village community and stop being considered from away. A turning point in the relationship between Jane and Henry is when Jane learns about Henry’s mixed heritage. He “was of mixed blood, one-half Scotch-Irish and one-half Creole” (Mosher 30–31). Jane is herself of mixed heritage due to her mother: “‘My mother, you know, though she had no Indian ways at all, was the last of the full-blooded Memphremagog Abenakis’” (Mosher 143). She then makes sure ← 153 | 154 → that Henry exchanges the barn and the company of his plane for her home and her company, initially putting him up in the best bedroom upstairs (30–31). Interestingly though, he stays in the very bedroom where Jane’s ancestors, who were abolitionists, granted refuge to fugitive slaves. Thus, general and personal histories connect and come full circle. The room has become a symbolic place, a transient space of being in-between the past and the future, the familiar and the new home of freedom, imbued with future prospects.

By choosing to have two main characters of mixed heritage, Mosher alludes to the possibilities and challenges of relations among different ethnicities. Only Kingdom Mountain, however, is a color-blind, post-racial, and utopian world in which the love between Jane and Henry has the freedom to thrive. In the village of Kingdom Common “[t]ongues wagged” (Mosher 31) and gossip is widespread. Mosher seems to pit Jane, White and Native, northern and female, against the aviator Henry Satterfield, White and African American, southern and male. There are borderlines of racial, cultural and geographic identities as well as gender differences. Moreover, the differences in gender roles as perceived by the protagonists themselves and the society in which they need to function and by which they are surrounded, are perceivable and renegotiated. This oppositional duality is also symbolized in making Henry Satterfield an aviator flying in-between heaven and earth. The plane is a metaphor for possibilities and opportunities. In the sky different laws matter and gravitation is defied. Below reality interferes in the form of racial slurs. High in the sky in his biplane Henry is free to fly wherever and with whomever he chooses. Jane, while wing walking, is walking a thin line between integration and segregation, desire and fear, modernity and tradition. Indeed, she is wing walking the Mason-Dixon Line up in the sky in the eyes of the spectators at the Harvest Festival. Metaphorically reaching towards her and Henry is the water tower with the racial slur, thus threatening and limiting Jane’s dreams and aspirations for the future. She is disillusioned regarding the larger community of Kingdom Common.

Mosher not only blurs color lines regarding the protagonists, Jane and Henry, but also with regard to Jane’s sister in Montreal. Jane and Henry find out about and visit Jane’s sister in Canada. After Henry abruptly leaves Kingdom Mountain Jane connects even more closely with her half-sister. In Mosher’s post-racial utopian novel Jane is White and indigenous, whereas her sister is White and Black. Therefore, one character of mixed ancestry, Henry, is, on plot level, exchanged for another multiethnic and multiracial character, Jane’s sister. The half-sisters have the same father, but different mothers. Morgan, Jane’s father goes south to look for his brother Pilgrim and during that ‘pilgrimage’ fathers Jane’s sister ← 154 | 155 → before returning home. After his return to Vermont he starts a family on Kingdom Mountain with his Native wife, Pharao’s Daughter, who is Jane’s mother. The reunion of the sisters of different mixed-race backgrounds signals blurred ethnic distinctions and at the same time also blurred family as well as national distinctions. In a North American reading the sisters belong to two different locations, since they reside on two different sides of the international boundary. However, there is more unity than disunity in spite of presumably different citizenships and nationalities. The sisters both reside in the borderland region of New England-Quebec. People in Montreal are mostly bilingual, so that the linguistic boundary does not represent any barrier in the sisterly communication. In a utopian stance, Mosher narrates a story of a world with less visible borders and focuses on the shared family relations of humankind. The nation-state as well as separating ethnic identity markers belong to a bygone era in On Kingdom Mountain.

4.4    Summary

In Mosher’s novel border binaries whether geographical, racial, or cultural are complicated, subverted, and renegotiated. Borders are questioned by some, yet maintained by others, an example being color or, even more aptly, the figurative Mason-Dixon Line between the locals and the aviator. Jane and Henry transcend racial and cultural borders by their very existence, despite Jane’s Memphremagog Abenaki mother’s lack of conspicuous Native ways. During the courtroom scenes before the Supreme Court of Vermont, Jane’s indigeneity is doubted. Eben challenges her claim to Native ancestry (196–97) and the legal implications. This is reminiscent of Thomas King’s short story “You’re not the Indian I had in mind” (Stories).

Mosher himself lives in the border region of New England-Quebec, in the so-called Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. His novel is linked to his own experience in northern Vermont and his sense of place. The love for this region and its people permeates the novel and makes for a valid backdrop. On the border peoples, cultures and identities meet. Kingdom Mountain is represented as a unique “third space” and a utopian space, too, reminiscent of an Edenic and paradisiacal place of harmony for nature, animals, and humans. This special space is enhanced by the geographical location and status, being “an entity unto itself” plus an “unincorporated township.” Kingdom Mountain lies between the United States and Canada, between Vermont and Quebec and is marked by indigenous claims in addition to the homestead tradition of the Kingdom Mountain Kinnesons. Bordering unfolds along social, and, most importantly, racial borders. ← 155 | 156 → Henry is the triple outcast, a showman, “a man of color,” and “From Away.” Jane wants to be different and is othered by the locals. Bordering works both ways. The need for and danger inherent in bordering for identity maintenance and construction becomes apparent. Mosher shows the detrimental effects of societal and racial bordering along color lines and the hypocrisy of the town fathers. He warns about the “bordering, ordering and othering.”

The utopian dimension is the color-blindness of Kingdom Mountain. All guests are welcome, even enemies like one of the raiders. This gesture of inclusion is offered in the time of Jane’s father Morgan Kinneson, who is Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. Kingdom Mountain has been a place of refuge for fugitive slaves as well as for “bindlestiffs” and everyone else in need of help. Only in this utopian in-between space, this mountain kingdom with its own liberal, progressive, and inclusive rules is the blossoming relationship between Jane and Henry possible against the lingering racism. Mosher wants to paint the picture of a post-racial society and contrasts the utopian hybrid and Bhabha-like “third space” of Kingdom Mountain with the racial mentality and small-town narrow-mindedness of the commoners. There is an invisible rift between the Duchess and the villagers, who admire but do not necessarily like Jane, with the one exception of Judge Ira Allen. The Duchess is a bone of contention in discussions surrounding the Connector. The hill farmers count on her, but the town fathers dislike her because of her opposition, strong will, and independence. There are also divisions between townspeople and rural residents. Jane, though not being a “hermit” but welcoming other people to her mountain (43) is part of the rift (44). In this borderland a unique culture emerges embodied in the Duchess. The question arises, if her way of life is vanishing and with it her utopia. Henry’s sudden departure is in part due to and ultimately triggered by the opposition and racism he faces in the village, but also in part because of the lure of the gold and the freedom he experiences in the in-between space, the sky. In the end, both Jane and Henry inhabit a utopian space, the one on Kingdom Mountain, the other in the limitless sky. ← 156 | 157 →


28     <http://www.orangepippin.com/apples> 2 Nov. 2012.

29     Duchess of Oldenburg Apple: “An attractive early-season apple, originating from Russia in the 18th century, and now quite widely grown in northern Europe and the USA”. <http://www.orangepippin.com/apples/duchess-of-oldenburg> 8 July 2014.

30     Title of Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake” <http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/works/poetry/lady.html> 8 July 2014. Mosher alludes to Scotland emphasizing the Duchess’s sense of tradition and roots. Furthermore, a border linkage presents itself: Sir Walter Scott’s „Abbotsford House“ in the Borders, Scotland <http://places.discovertheborders.co.uk/search/type/Historical-Buildings.html> 8 July 2014.

31     In the 1920s the tradition of barnstorming and the associated practice of wing walking was widespread. People of black descent were also early aviators. Onkst, David H. “Wing Walkers.” Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <www.Centennialofflight.gov/essay/…>.

32     “Du Bois imaginatively adapted two biblical images of the veil as a division within the temple {Exodus 26:33} and as the cover that the divinely inspired Moses wore when he came back from Mount Sinai and spoke to the people {Exodus 34:33–35}” (Sollors 49).

33     <http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/ive_been_to_the_mountaintop> Martin Luther King, Jr. 3 April 1968. Memphis, Tennessee. 19 Feb. 2013. Werner Sollors states: “[…] Martin Luther King consciously cast himself as a black Moses when he declaims, ‘I’ve been to the mountain top…’ […]” (50).

34     <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/04/0410_020410_TVmasondixon.html>.

35     “This is a beautiful part of Vermont. It should have a special name – the Northeast Kingdom” (Senator George Aiken, 1952 / qtd. in Mosher, North Country 99).

36     The term was most likely coined due to the latest technology at the time and the linguistic impact that exuded from that development: “Although many, sometimes contradictory, tales exist about how the term first came into general usage, it almost certainly arose in part as a response to the advent of the railroad train during the 1830s and 1840s. As the newest technology of the day, the railroad introduced words and gave new meaning to older terms” (Horton 175–76).