Why We Need Port William

Marriage, the Economy of Membership, and Ordered Diversity in the Fiction of Wendell Berry For as long as men have told stories, they have been primarily concerned with stories of a certain kind—those of love, of fidelity, of loyalty to kith and kin and country. The purposes of these stories have been as varied as the stories themselves. Some were meant to instruct; others, merely to provide amusement for a few idle hours. But the narrative form has long been recognized as more than cheap entertainment, and philosophers have grasped its utility. Something about narrative seems to capture our interest and burn its images in our memories better than mere statements of fact or opinion ever could. And perhaps no one better puts the agrarian philosophy into narrative form than Wendell Berry. Berry is a man beyond tidy classification, who sees the good and ill in all movements that claim his influence. Jason Peters notes: Berry’s politics, closely tied to his economic critique and his distrust of organizations, are complicated by the fact that America’s two major political parties increasingly resemble each other. He calls himself a Jeffersonian and a Democrat. He is a Jeffersonian inasmuch as he supports decentralization and the proliferation of as many small landholders as are possible, and he is a Democrat inasmuch as he was born into, and comes out of, the New Deal.[1]  The motivation for all Berry’s interests is the overarching question of the well-being of the land and its people. For any technology or program, Berry asks the question, “What are the limits?  What is this for?”[2] His primary concern is the land. He is a conservationist, but unlike the modern conservation movement, he believes that the land is best used, not left in wilderness.[3] And the best use of land, by far, is agriculture. We depend on the land, Berry notes, so much so that it is in fact a part of us: “ . . . we and our country create one another, depend
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