Appalachian Mountains and Funeral Dress Essay

Submitted By Nicole-CarterWilliam
Words: 2061
Pages: 9

Emmalee Bullard is the sad but courageous main character in the novel “The Funeral Dress” written by Susan Gregg Gilmore in 2013. Set in rural Tennessee in the 1970s Emmalee faces so many challenges. She grew up in extreme poverty, she also lost her mother at a young age and was raised by her father who certainly bullied her to say the least. Their home had no indoor plumbing, no phone, no heat during the winter. She lived in the worst of conditions. At 16 she went to work at a shirt factory in the novel called Tennewa. While working there she is trained by a seamstress named Mrs. Leona Lane. Leona and Emmalee develop a very close bond. Leona looks at Emmalee as a daughter to her. She knows Emmalee has no stability or anyone to guide her through life.

Emmalee becomes pregnant at the age of 18 by a boy who was of higher economical and social class than her. Emmalee is forced to leave work to care for her newborn as a single parent. Emmalee has to care for her baby girl in very harsh and lonely conditions. I can relate to Emmalee in the sense of having a child at a young age. I had my son when I was 18. It is difficult but very manageable with patience and love. I didn’t agree or like the way Emmalee treated her baby in the beginning of the story, I was astonished at some of the things she said to her newborn baby. She also seemed to resent her daughter for having to raise her alone, and for simply having to care for her at all.

Emmalee seems to be a very sad soul underneath her rough exterior. She feels as if she always has to deal with loss in her life. I can relate to having bad times in life. I’ve never felt as sad as Emmalee seems to be but everyone goes through hard times, whether it be dealing with poverty, loss, heartbreak, among many other things. We can all relate to feeling sad. The thing I loved most about the novel is that even though Emmalee was extremely sad and lost, even though she didn’t have money, or many people to lean on, she comes out of her hole. She really turns her life around and eventually becomes happy with what she has. We aren’t always dealt a wonderful hand of cards, but learning to live with what you have and becoming confident in yourself knowing you can change your future no matter what life you have lived is something to hang on to in times of need.

Throughout the novel there are flashbacks and changes in perspective from Leona to Emmalee. We discover that Leona lost her baby after delivering him alone in her home far out in the mountains. Throughout the story there is just so much suffering it really made me stop and think of all things that have ever haunted or terrified me, the things that have at one time or another made me sad or feel insufferable. I thought those things were nothing compared to what these characters have gone through in their lives. Finally after so much loss in her life Emmalee feels she can finally truly trust someone, with that someone being Leona. Leona is the first person sense Emmalee’s mother died who has told her she can accomplish whatever she wants she just has to do it. She has to change her situation. Leona asks Emmalee to bring her baby girl and to come and live with herself and her husband. Leona knows that she does not have much but she has a clean home, she has electric and plumbing and she knows she can help Emmalee provide for herself and Kelly Faye in a healthy, happy environment. The night before Leona was set to pick Emmalee up from her home, Leona and her husband get into a fatal car accident.

Emmalee is filled with extreme heartache when she receives the news of her friend’s tragic accident. She feels empty and now stuck, like she will never get out of that holler. Emmalee decides she wants to make Leonas burying dress, she insists Leona needs something special. Emmalee asks her estranged Uncle and Aunt to watch her baby until she can complete her task of making the dress before Leona’s funeral. With Emmalee’s aunt Mettie being of