All Over but the Shoutin’ Themes

Rick Bragg

All Over but the Shoutin’

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All Over but the Shoutin’ Themes

Poverty

“The only thing that poverty does is grind down your nerve endings to a point that you can work harder and stoop lower than most people are willing to.  It chips away a person’s dreams to the point that the hopelessness shows through, and the dreamer accepts that hard work and borrowed houses are all this life will ever be” (25).

Bragg’s experience growing up in rural Alabama with an alcoholic father is dominated by one thing: being poor.  His mother works much too hard at menial jobs to feed her children.  He sees the adults around him die young, both from the hard work of surviving and the drinking they do to escape their troubles.

Bragg himself is isolated by his status as “white trash.”  He feels this acutely in adolescence when girls reject him as being the wrong kind of person.  Bragg has a self-described chip on his shoulder for ever after.  He is driven to prove that he is better than his background, better than a poor, ignorant boy from the South.   

Fighting and Violence 

“Listening to them, I learned much of what a boy should know, of cars, pistols, heavy machinery, shotguns and love, all of which, these men apparently believed can be operated stone drunk.  I learned that fighting drunk is better than sober because a clear-headed man hurts more when hit.  I learned that it is ok to pull a knife while fighting drunk as long as you are cautious not to cut off your own head” (58).

“What I wrote was football, which was short of killing, usually, even in the South.  People have said it is what we do now instead of dueling.  That is untrue.  It is not so refined a violence as that.  It is what we do instead of rioting” (134).

These two quotes describe the culture in which Bragg and his brothers grew up.  A man proves he is a man by drinking and fighting and playing violent sports.  Bragg absorbed this casual attitude to violence himself and feels he must fight back when insulted.

Near the end of the book, Bragg finally achieves…

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