The Golden Bowl (Manfred)

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Frederick Manfred's The Golden Bowl is his first novel, published under his birth name Feike Feikema. Manfred insisted on his title, which echoes another American novelist, even when his friend Sinclair Lewis argued against it.

Published in 1944, it is a novel about the Dust Bowl. It follows a few months in the life of Maury Grant, an itinerant farm boy whose family has been wiped out by the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. Grant becomes a reluctant hired hand at the Thor family farm in southwestern South Dakota, leaves them in despair of the hopelessness of their situation, then returns a few weeks later and, Manfred implies, chooses to remain. The last pages depict a "black blizzard" with gripping vividness.

Manfred (b. 1912) grew up on an Iowa farm. After graduating from college, he struck out to see the country, hoboing west to Yellowstone and back. The Golden Bowl is based on those adventures and his firsthand experience of the Dust Bowl. (Many years later, Manfred would write a memoir of his cross-country adventure, The Wind Blows Free.)

The Golden Bowl has been in and out of print repeatedly, including a fiftieth-anniversary edition by the South Dakota Humanities Center.


Robert C. Wright, Frederick Manfred (Twayne's United States Authors series ; TUSAS 336)