Seventy-Six

Article

July 1, 2022

Seventy-Six is ​​a historical fiction novel by American writer John Neal. Published in Baltimore in 1823, it is the fourth novel written about the American Revolutionary War. Its importance lies in the pioneering use of colloquial language in Yankee dialect, the realism of the battle scene, the detailed characterization of the characters, the stream of consciousness, the profanity and the sexual and romantic allusions. For all these reasons, the novel influenced later American writers and foreshadowed later literature. The narrative prose resembles spoken American English, more so than that of any other literary work of its period. It was the first American work of fiction to use the expression son-of-a-bitch. The story is told by Continental Army soldier Jonathan Oadley and follows multiple love stories intertwined with scenes of battle and the general unfolding of the war. It explores the male pain and self-loathing generated by violent acts committed in wars and duels. In response to James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy (1821), and inspired by Neal's work in A History of the American Revolution (1819), the author wrote the novel over twenty-seven days, early in 1822. It was generally well received. at the time of publication, it raised Neal's national status as an author, and is considered by some scholars and by the author himself to be his best novel, although the consensus among scholars is that the book is more of a failure in construction than a success in the style. It fell into oblivion for much of the 20th century.

Plot

The book is written in the first person from the perspective of narrator Jonathan Oadley in the role of an old man reminiscing about the American Revolutionary War. It opens with an expression of urgency that he feels as he records his memories for posterity: "Yes, my children, I will delay no longer."[1] His story begins in New Jersey in the early winter of 1776: the residents fear the British and Hessian raiding parties after George Washington's retreat through the area. Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan and his twenty-year-old brother Archibald decide to join the Continental Army, along with his sixty-year-old father Jonathan, his cousin Arthur Rodman, and neighbor Robert Arnauld. Arnauld's daughters, Clara and Lucia, become the brothers' love interests. As the Oadley brothers recruit soldiers from the area, Colonel George R. Clinton arrives to train the new cavalry unit. Clinton brags vaguely about his connections to Washington, befriends Archibald, and awards him a commission as captain. While the brothers are out training, the Oadley house is burned down by Hessian soldiers, wounding Major Jonathan and kidnapping Arthur's love interest, Mary Austin. All the characters assume that she is dead. Shortly after, the Oadleys find themselves in their first battle, in which Archibald is injured. He recovers in time for the three to fight at the Battle of Trenton, in which the older Jonathan is killed. As Jonathan, Archibald, Arthur and Clinton campaign in New York and New Jersey, multiple romantic stories unfold. Lucia courts and is courted by both Clinton and Archibald. Jonathan and Clara become romantically involved, but Jonathan has a brief affair with his younger, flirtatious cousin Ellen Sampson. Mary Austin reappears and is reunited with Arthur in Philadelphia, but expresses a romantic interest in the older Robert, whom Jonathan calls "a rake, a voluptuous, a sensualist, perhaps".[2] Archibald and Clinton compete for affection. de Lucia, leading Archibald to kill Clinton in a sword duel. Volume I ends when Archibald is arrested, due to the du