Iowa farm, American farmer, round barn
The Round Barn is a novel in two parts that tells the story of two Iowa farm families during the period 1915 to 1929, a volatile time in the history of the American farm. The first part of the novel tells the story of Joe Marshall, a young man in conflict with his hard-working farmer father. At sixteen-years-old, Joe must choose whether to leave the farm to pursue his own desires or to stay where he is needed to help keep his financially strapped family afloat. Part two of the novel focuses on Mae Allinson, a woman in her early twenties, who has willingly accepted the responsibility of raising her sister's child after her sister dies in childbirth. By doing so, Mae forsakes the man she was to marry, the man who would take her to Chicago and away from farm life. The round barn, built by Joe Marshall's father in the opening chapter of the novel, serves as a through line linking all the chapters and connecting characters to a specific place. The round barn, in addition to being a stage setting for the action of the novel, has its own story arc, rising out of the Iowa soil in the first chapter, functioning as a working barn through the central part of the novel, then finally falling into disrepair by the end. In the novel, Joe and Mae each seek their own identities within their families, identities that put them in conflict with a family dynamic that is focused on the survival and prosperity of the family as a whole. This conflict forces each character to define for themselves what love, power, freedom, and obligation mean and how far they are willing to go inpursuit of these things. In addition to functioning within their own families, the main characters must also contend with the larger issues that put pressure on the American farm of the time (economics, war, social change, and migration to the urban areas), factors that push and pull the characters in different directions. By telling the story from the positions of two different characters and by spanning the number of years that it does, the novel seeks to show how events and the passage of time transform the individual characters, their families, and the American farm.
Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Fallows, Susan Elizabeth, "The Round Barn" (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3155.