Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters is a mash-up of poetry, drama, and fiction. Masters presents a series of first-person monologues as they appear on the gravestones in a Midwestern cemetery in the early 1900s. The characters “speak” their own poetic epitaphs from beyond the grave, confessing the true motivations of their lives and uncovering many of the mysteries and secrets of the town. The voices of the former residents of Spoon River often appear in clusters that present all sides of a story that would be incomplete if presented by only a single voice. Each epitaph may be appreciated for its own poetic merits, but by cross-referencing them with each other, the careful reader learns elements of the underlying (get it?) narrative that even the characters themselves do not understand.
Welcome to Spoon River! This small midwestern town was home to many interesting characters, most of whom are now "sleeping on the Hill." By way of the poetic epitaphs inscribed on their tombstones, each character narrates one small part in the often dark and mysterious history of this strange place where nothing is as it appears on the surface. But that's the great advantage of having ghosts tell you the story: They have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, and they will usually tell you the whole truth, no matter how sordid, twisted, or ugly it may be. Some of them may even share some life lessons and advice. Others will tell you more than you want to know. Over the next few days, we will be taking a virtual stroll through the Spoon River Cemetery and hearing the voices of some of the spirits that still haunt that sad place. This experience will take place in the environment of a game of Interactive Fiction called Voices of Spoon River (dead link from USU -- Try this one!). We will play in the computer lab, but first, let's examine some of the resources that may help you make sense of the epitaphs and solve the mystery at the heart of the game. This list includes all the handouts and references I have used while visiting Spoon River with my classes over the years, so you won't be doing all the assignments, but chances are that a couple of these will end up in your notebook: