A Painted House

A Painted House

Overview
A Painted House is a February 2001 novel by American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author John Grisham
John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

.

Inspired by his childhood in Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, it is Grisham's first major work outside the legal thriller genre in which he established himself. Set in the late summer and early fall of 1952, its story is told through the eyes of seven-year-old Luke Chandler, the youngest in a family of cotton farmers struggling to harvest their crop and earn enough to settle their debts.
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Encyclopedia
A Painted House is a February 2001 novel by American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author John Grisham
John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

.

Inspired by his childhood in Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, it is Grisham's first major work outside the legal thriller genre in which he established himself. Set in the late summer and early fall of 1952, its story is told through the eyes of seven-year-old Luke Chandler, the youngest in a family of cotton farmers struggling to harvest their crop and earn enough to settle their debts. The novel portrays the experiences that bring him from a world of innocence into one of harsh reality.

Plot


The story begins to unfold as Luke and his grandfather Eli, also known as Pappy, search for migrant workers to help them with the cotton picking. They initially consider themselves lucky to hire the Spruills, a family of "hill people
Hillbilly
Hillbilly is a term referring to certain people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia but also the Ozarks. Owing to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term is frequently considered derogatory, and so is usually offensive to those Americans of...

," and a few Mexican migrant workers who annually come to the area looking for work.

Aside from working long hours under the hot sun in the fields, Luke's life is fairly idyllic until he sees the overly aggressive and mentally unstable Hank Spruill attack three boys from the notorious Sisco family, one of whom is beaten so severely he dies from his wounds. Hank arrogantly identifies Luke as a friendly witness who can support his version of the event, and the fearful boy backs up his story, although the adults in his life, including local sheriff
Sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

 Stick Powers, suspect he's too frightened to admit the truth.

When Luke sees Cowboy, one of the Mexicans, later murder Hank and toss his body into the river, Cowboy threatens to kill Luke's mother if Luke tells anyone what he saw. Cowboy and Tally, the teenage daughter of the Spruills, then run off together and are not seen again. Luke also learns that his admired Uncle Ricky, fighting in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, may have fathered a child with a daughter of the Latchers, their poverty-stricken sharecropping
Sharecropping
Sharecropping is a system of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land . This should not be confused with a crop fixed rent contract, in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a fixed amount of...

 neighbors.

Grisham surrounds these dramatic moments with descriptive passages of life in the rural South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 and the ordinary events that fill Luke's weekly routine. His hard work in the fields is preceded by a hearty breakfast of eggs, ham, biscuits, and the one cup of coffee his mother allows him, and at day's end he's rewarded with an evening on the front porch, where the family gathers around the radio to listen to Harry Caray
Harry Caray
Harry Caray, born Harry Christopher Carabina, was an American baseball broadcaster on radio and television. He covered four Major League Baseball teams, beginning with a long tenure calling the games of the St...

 announce the St. Louis
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are a professional baseball team based in St. Louis, Missouri. They are members of the Central Division in the National League of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals have won eleven World Series championships, the most of any National League team, and second overall only to...

 games. A devoted fan, Luke is saving his hard-earned money to buy a team baseball warm-up jacket he saw advertised in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. Saturday afternoons are spent in town, where the adults share idle gossip and serious concerns and the youngsters visit the movie house, while Sunday morning is reserved for church. A visiting carnival
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

, the annual town picnic, and Luke's introduction to television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 - to see a live broadcast of a World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

 game - are additional bits of local color scattered throughout the tale.

A flood devastates the family's cotton crop before the harvest is completed, and Luke's parents decide to travel to the city to find work in a Buick
Buick
Buick is a premium brand of General Motors . Buick models are sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, and Israel, with China being its largest market. Buick holds the distinction as the oldest active American make...

 Plant, breaking a history of generations working on the land. The novel ends with Luke's mother smiling on the bus, having finally got her wish to leave cotton-farming.
The book's title refers to the Chandler house, which never has been painted , a sign of their lower social status in the community. One day Luke discovers someone furtively
Secrecy
Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups, perhaps while sharing it with other individuals...

 has been painting the weatherbeaten clapboards white, and eventually he continues the job with the approval of his parents and the assistance of the Mexicans, contributing some of his own savings for the purchase of paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

. The house's gradual transformation symbolizes the changes in the boy and his family as they prepare to enter a new phase in their lives.

Main characters


  • Luke Chandler—the youngest in the family and the protagonist of the story.
  • Eli "Pappy" Chandler—Luke's highly respected and hard-working grandfather and patriarch of the family. He is a World War I
    World War I
    World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

     veteran.
  • Ruth "Gran" Chandler—Luke's quiet, conservative, and wise grandmother who prays for the safe return of her younger son, Ricky, from the Korean War.
  • Jesse Chandler—Luke's father, who served in World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     (during which he suffered a debilitating injury), and struggles to help his father erase the family's debt.
  • Kathleen Chandler—Luke's mother, who tends to the garden while dreaming of a better life in a suburban home with indoor plumbing and modern conveniences.
  • Hank Spruill—the 'hill people' family's oldest son, boastful and quick to offer violence to anyone who offends him.
  • Tally Spruill—the seventeen year-old daughter in the migrant worker family, who lets Luke watch her bathe and runs off with Cowboy.
  • Trot Spruill—the youngest Spruill, who suffers from a crippled arm and begins to paint the Chandler's house. Trot, who is also mentally slow, is the only member of the family, next to his older sister Tally, whom Hank is never cruel to.
  • Cowboy—the Mexican who carries a switchblade and is quick to use it. He eventually kills Hank in a fight and runs off with Tally.

Additional characters

  • The remainder of the Spruill family—consisting of the parents, Leon and Lucy, who fear Hank, and their two nephews, Bo and Dale.
  • Pop and Pearl Watson—owners of the local store, a meeting place for the community.
  • Miguel—leader of the Mexicans who work for the Chandlers.
  • Reverend/Brother Akers—the fiery minister of the Black Oak Baptist Church.
  • Jimmy Dale—An uncle of Luke's, who works at a Buick
    Buick
    Buick is a premium brand of General Motors . Buick models are sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, and Israel, with China being its largest market. Buick holds the distinction as the oldest active American make...

     plant in Michigan
    Michigan
    Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

     and offers to help his cousin Jesse find employment if he and his family relocate north.
  • Stacy—Jimmy Dale's snobbish "Yankee
    Yankee
    The term Yankee has several interrelated and often pejorative meanings, usually referring to people originating in the northeastern United States, or still more narrowly New England, where application of the term is largely restricted to descendants of the English settlers of the region.The...

    " bride, who is horrified by the Chandlers' living conditions and becomes the butt of Luke's practical joke as retaliation for her arrogant attitude.
  • Stick Powers—Black Oak's lazy overweight
    Overweight
    Overweight is generally defined as having more body fat than is optimally healthy. Being overweight is a common condition, especially where food supplies are plentiful and lifestyles are sedentary...

     sheriff, who asserts his authority when necessary but would prefer to catnap in his car parked in the shade.
  • The Latcher family—A family of poor sharecroppers, whose daughter Libby gives birth to a child she claims is fathered by Ricky Chandler.
  • Dewayne—Luke's best friend.
  • Ricky Chandler—Luke's nineteen year-old uncle who is fighting in the Korean War
    Korean War
    The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

    . He is never seen
    Unseen character
    In fiction, an unseen character is a character that is never directly observed by the audience but is only described by other characters. They are a common device in drama and have been called "triumphs of theatrical invention". They are continuing characters — characters who are currently in...

     and referenced only in letters and flashbacks.

Television adaptation


On April 27, 2003, CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 broadcast a television adaptation directed by Alfonso Arau
Alfonso Arau
-Biography:Arau was born in Mexico City, the son of a doctor. He directed the films Zapata: The Dream of a Hero, Like Water for Chocolate , A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves and Anthony Quinn, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame production A Painted House, adapted from the John Grisham novel of the...

 for the Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City based greeting card company. The second longest-running television program in the history of television, it has a historically long run, beginning in 1951 and continuing into 2011...

. Aside from advancing Luke's age from seven to ten and adding a brief scene at the end, Patrick Sheane Duncan
Patrick Sheane Duncan
Patrick Sheane Duncan is an American writer, film producer and director.A graduate of Grand Valley State University in Allendale Charter Township, Michigan, Duncan's career has been influenced by his Vietnam War experiences, which inspired the television mini-series Vietnam War Story and its...

's teleplay remained faithful to its source and frequently used Grisham's dialogue verbatim.

The cast included Scott Glenn
Scott Glenn
Theodore Scott Glenn is an American actor. His roles have included Wes Hightower in Urban Cowboy , astronaut Alan Shepard in The Right Stuff ,Emmett in Silverado , Commander Bart Mancuso in The Hunt for Red October , Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs and The Wise Man in Sucker Punch -Early...

 as Pappy, Logan Lerman
Logan Lerman
Logan Wade Lerman is an American actor, known for playing the title role in the 2010 fantasy-adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. He appeared in commercials in the mid 1990s, before starring in the series Jack & Bobby , and the movies The Butterfly Effect and Hoot...

 as Luke, Robert Sean Leonard
Robert Sean Leonard
Robert Sean Leonard is an American actor, who has regularly starred in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Since 2004 he has played the role of Dr. James Wilson on the TV series House...

 as Jesse, Melinda Dillon
Melinda Dillon
Melinda Rose Dillon is an American actress, perhaps best known for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the holiday classic A Christmas Story.-Early life and career:...

 as Gran, Arija Bareikis
Arija Bareikis
- Biography :She starred alongside Rob Schneider as Kate in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and currently is cast as LAPD police officer Chickie Brown, in the police drama series Southland, which originally aired on NBC before moving to TNT in 2010....

 as Kathleen, Audrey Marie Anderson
Audrey Marie Anderson
Audrey Marie Anderson is an American film and television actress. She was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas.- Career :...

 as Tally, Luis Esteban Garcia as Cowboy, and Pablo Schreiber
Pablo Schreiber
Pablo Tell Schreiber is an American actor known for his dramatic stage work and for his portrayal of the Polish-American character Nick Sobotka on HBO's Baltimore drug-related crime drama The Wire. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Awake and Sing! on Broadway...

as Hank.