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Hillbilly Elegy meaning: What does the film’s title signify?

Hillbilly Elegy
Amy Adams and Owen Asztalos in Hillbilly Elegy. Pic credit: Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX

Hillbilly Elegy is a new drama movie on Netflix that arrived on November 24, following a limited theatrical release on November 11.

Hillbilly Elegy is based on J.D. Vance’s 2016 memoir of the same name.

The film follows three generations of the Vance family. It explores their Appalachian roots and the challenges that Vance faced growing up in Middletown, Ohio.

It also shows how Vance overcame the challenges of his circumstances and received a good education. He went on to attend Yale Law School.

Hillbilly Elegy stars Gabriel Basso as J.D. Vance, Glenn Close as Vance’s grandmother Mamaw, and Amy Adams as his mom, Bev. Owen Asztalos plays the young J.D.

What is an elegy?

The term “elegy” is formally used in the arts and literature, referring to a poem considered serious, deeply thoughtful, and usually sad, sorrowful, somber, or mournful reflection about aspects of life and death.

The word elegy is derived from the Greek word “elegos,” which means “song of mourning” or a “lament.”

It was originally used, referring to a form of ancient Greek verse or poetry that explores the darker aspects of experience, especially the pain of loss or death.

It is also used in English literature and art in compositions lamenting dead people.

It is used in a broader or looser sense concerning any musical or literary composition, or a speech, with a pensive or reflective tone.

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Why is the meaning of Hillbilly Elegy?

Hillbilly Elegy, as the title of the new Netflix movie, reflects the fact that the film follows the lives of three generations of the poor working-class Vance family.

The term “hillbilly” refers to J.D.’s family’s living conditions and attitudes back home — a situation he escaped when he bettered himself in college and life.

However, even though he left this world, he maintains that he was a “hillbilly” through his upbringing and “poverty was the family tradition.”

The memoir that the movie was based on tells the story of how he could move on and let his hillbilly upbringing die, so he could become a successful venture capitalist and achieve the success most people from his hometown never dreamed of.

Whether or not J.D. was truly a hillbilly (although his grandparents clearly were based on being raised in what is referred to as “Hillbilly Headquarters, USA) is an argument since he only visited there and didn’t live in the rural area known for “hillbillies.”

Regardless, the title Hillbilly Elegy refers to J.D.’s attempts to overcome the limitations expected of his upbringing and achieve his path to success as an adult — and the pain of leaving that past behind.

Hillbilly Elegy is streaming on Netflix.

John Thomas Didymus


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