The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ramona

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Edition of 1920. See also Ramona on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

RAMONA. ‘Ramona’ (1884), by Helen Hunt Jackson, was written to carry forward an indictment already begun in the author's ‘Century of Dishonor’ (1881) against the treatment of the Indians by their white conquerors. ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’ comes at once to mind, but the two books have little in common besides an analogous intention. Mrs. Jackson romantically eluded the problem by making Ramona, the heroine, and her Temecula husband, Alessandro, so near to high-caste Mexicans in color and nurture that their wrongs as Indians seem untypical of the real grievances of their unfortunate race. They suffer little more from the invading Yankees than do the full-blooded Mexicans. Indeed, the true conflict and injustice occur between the old Californians, Indian or Spanish, and the predacious vanguard of the Anglo-Saxon conquest. California, for Mrs. Jackson, was a splendid paradise of patriarchal estates in vast fertile valleys, steeped in a drowsy antiquity, and cherished by priests as unworldly as Saint Francis. Against this rich background she set a story which begins in peace, blackens to hard and ugly tragedy and then grows at the end into peace again. The pomp of the setting, the strength of the contrasts, the eloquence, the intensity, the passionate color dominate, almost submerge, the problem stated, but they tend also to lift it into the higher regions of the imagination in which particular acts of injustice take on the large significance of universality.

Carl Van Doren.