This prevailing sentiment and a past suspected incident of two male lovers fuels the fire.
Mildred Dunlap was bequeathed a substantial fortune when her father passed away but, unfortunately, she was not bestowed femininity. She is 6 feet tall, her hairline is receding, she has hair on her upper lip and an ungainly figure. Her money and lack of beauty are already hot topics amongst the local women, who deliberately shun her. Mildred is extremely benevolent with her money, often assisting townsfolk in time of need. Her generosity is ignored by the women, who would much rather focus on her shortcomings (in their eyes).
Mildred lives on her somewhat isolated farm in seclusion with her cousin, Edra, a stunning beauty, who is traumatized by a terrible event early in life. Mildred and Edra are in a relationship and live as a couple. They are careful to keep this secret, not allowing their few visitors to discover there is only one bed in the house.
Charley has just the lost love of his life. He is a man bereaved and inconsolable. Mildred, desperate to keep nosey people from making assumptions in the wake of the Wilde furor, strikes up a friendship with Charley to divert the town’s attention. She is confident Charley will never see her a romantic light so there’s no danger. Edra, on the other hand, is not quite so secure and is jealous of Mildred and Charley’s relationship.
Just as Mildred supposed, soon the women are scandalized. They talk of nothing but her and Charley, speculating on the nature of their relationship. They make it their business to get the truth of the matter. Several menfolk are disgusted with their wives’ snooping, but few try to put their foot down to stop it. It ends with tragic consequences.
All the while, the extreme prejudices of the times and small towns are evidenced by hatred of Jews and blacks. News reports of calamities befalling Jews and blacks are cause for joy and reiteration of “Can’t trust those kind…Should know his place.”
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is not so much about her relationship with Edra, as it about bigotry in all its ugly forms. The discovery of Mildred and Edra’s relationship would be disastrous or would it? It really depends on who finds out.
This novel displays the offensive side of human nature without glossing it over, how life events affect thought patterns, building friendships, transformations and acceptance. It is a brutally blunt novel in some respects, yet one of hope. (less)