Ava’s Man Summary & Study Guide

Rick Bragg

Ava’s Man

  • 50-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 37 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English instructor with an MFA in Creative Writing
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Ava’s Man Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “Ava’s Man” by Rick Bragg includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 37 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Economic Effects of the Great Depression and Familial Expectations of Masculinity and Manhood.

Plot Summary

Rick Bragg’s Ava’s Man, published in 2001, is a work of creative nonfiction that centers around Charlie Bundrum, the author’s maternal grandfather. Although Bragg’s grandfather died before Bragg was born, the book is inspired by the innumerous stories, anecdotes, and memories of Charlie that the author heard from the people that knew and loved him. Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is known for his nonfiction works that center on family in the Alabama region. Ava’s Man addresses the economic effects of the Great Depression and the “new” South in the 1920s. It also explores the theme of familial expectations of manhood and follows a relatively linear timeline of Charlie’s life, revolving around his relationship with Ava, Bragg’s maternal grandmother, and their children.

Although the book is about Charlie, Bragg is the narrator, and the linguistic style is very much his own. The genre is nonfiction because it tells the real history of a man who once lived, but it is more specifically creative nonfiction because Bragg colors the story with personal interjections and inventive details. In the beginning of the book, Bragg states that his family didn’t talk much about Charlie after his death because it was too painful. Bragg always knew that his grandfather was a good man and well-loved by everyone in the family, but he always felt a void because he didn’t know the details of his life. At the end of the book, Bragg reveals that it was only after becoming an adult and deciding to write about his grandfather that people in his family began to talk about Charlie. Bragg received most of the details about Charlie’s life from his family and friends during a family reunion.

While the book is about Charlie, it is also about the effects of the Great Depression on Charlie’s life and his reaction to the transition from an old South to a new South. Bragg investigates how these events changed not just the socioeconomic landscape of the South, but also how it impacted hardworking Southerners, like Charlie, on a personal level. Throughout the book, Charlie is a man who prefers living in the woods, near the river; he fishes for food, distills whiskey for money and fun, and lives by his own moral code—which doesn’t necessarily align with the law. While these skills help Charlie and his family survive the desperate times of the Great Depression, civilization finds them less desirable as it tries to transition to a new South. Charlie, who had always taken pride in himself despite being poor, is arrested for vagrancy simply because he looks homeless. No longer can Charlie make homemade whiskey because law enforcement can now spot stills from the air. As the new South pushes people from the woods to the cities, Charlie finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize.

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