. English Literature

V novel - the portraits of literary characters

V biographies of historical personalities

V news-reel, i.e. news of the day

V camera obscure (eye) inner monologue of the author

Each piece has a title & a number. The biographies of historical

personality were intended to create the historical background, dedicated to

famous people of political, social, scientific, artistic activities. It

included the stories about the outstanding people.

News of the day was to documentarize the specific moments in the USA

history to create the historical colouring & objective picture of that

epoch. It included popular songs, headlines from papers. Here they try to

follow the stream of consciousness of the newspaper reader.

Camera obscure were to show the authors attitude to life, to bring an

individual lyrical touch to the story, personal meditations upon certain

subjects, reminiscences of the things passed, expression of authors ideas

upon various aspects of life. It gave a picture of the authors evaluation

for 30 years.

Novels are fictions. The portraits of literary characters were imaginary

literary heroes. There were 11 of them typical representatives of all the

layers of the American society. The central characters John Wool McHouse.

The author tries to trace his relations with other characters but it

doesnt mean that he knows all of them.

From the unique combination of these elements the unique picture of

American life springs up. The general mood is that of confusion, tension,

tumult, frustration of hopes, feeling that the present is ugly &

intolerable. People are too fussy about their daily routine. In this work

he showed how life was lived on the national scale.

Dos Passos was concerned with the history of the country primarily. The

writer must be an architect of history. His work was a literary conclusion

different elements were assembled. The work is considered to be an

achievement in the American literature. The author tried to use

cinematographic principles in writing: close up, precision in details, the

art of assembly. He also used the technique of montage or juxtaposition. In

his later works he perfected this technique & achieved quite a success in

it. Later he became a radical writer. He was a passionate individualist &

individual freedom was most important to him.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

He belongs to the lost generation but he gave his own name to it jazz

age. Jazz was representative of the general atmosphere of the years the

feeling of instability in life. Age of transition of social values. To his

mind jazz beat ideally expressed that feeling of hopeless despair with

which his young men & women tried to experience the every passing moment of

their lives, their age. There is a recurrent capre diem( )

theme in his novels. His heroes indulge & overindulge. Jazz age expresses

instability & changebility of life present in mind of many people who tried

to flee from the feeling of being lost, for they no longer believed in

life, so they tried to live it to their full. Fitzgerald was not very rich

but was educated in Princeton. He dropped out of it because of poor health

& poor performance, he didnt get to front though he enlisted. He was

painfully aware of the difference between himself & rich students. He had

hatred for the rich. The main topic of his work money & its corruptive

influence. For him money & wealth were social categories. He regarded the

rich to be another race, whose habits & moral principles differ very much.

He looked into the phenomenon of being rich. For him a rich person is one

for whom everything is permitted & they lack human qualities, he tried to

penetrate to the very heart of the matter. So, money & wealth for him were

not economic categories but social phenomena. He regarded rich as another

race, alien kind of people whose habits, moral principles, views were not

as the habits of the ordinary people. They are the people to whom

everything is permitted & consequently they lack certain human qualities

that of pity, compassion, and sympathy. In his works Fitzgerald striped

this world of this mysterious veil. He tried to penetrate to the very

depths exploring the ethics of the rich world. Wealth has dehumanizing

impact on human personality. He had a feeling that something awful is

coming. All the stories that come to my head have touch of disaster. He

produced the collection of short stories All the Sad Young Men, Tales of

the Jazz Age. They are permeated with appocaliptical feeling of tragedy

of American life. Fitzgerald was not the only one who treated this topic

Theodore Dreiser in American Tragedy did the same.

His finest achievement is the novel The Great Gatsby which showed the

contrast between material wealth & the spiritual poverty of the heroes.

Concerning this work in Soviet criticism the term

was used. It means that he tried to show people who were real

characters, strong individuals, but this all is directed not to a right

channel to make ones life to the top, to get something from life, strive

for the world success. For Gatsby wealth is not the purpose but means to

have everything that money can give, a key to personal happiness =

relations between Jay Gatsby & Daisy whom he loves. In youth he suffered

feeling of inferiority, for she was the daughter of rich parents & he was a

poor soldier. He seeks to get money by bootlegging but it turned out that

happiness could not be achieved even with money because Daisy had changed,

she is very deaf & blind spiritually, feeling of all-permissiveness

increased in her. She doesnt stop short in the fraud (car accident).

Gatsby was killed, Daisy departed, fled with her husband without any

remorse. Gatsbys tragedy lies in the fact that he hoped to find happiness,

sympathy, love in the world where these feelings dont exist. The tragedy

is that money changes people & money changed him & Daisy & he didnt

understand this tragedy couldnt foresee it.

Was he a positive or a negative character for the author? He possesses

good moral qualities but he is not the paragon of moral beauty, he obtained

his wealth by not clear ways. Its clear that he is a tragic person. He

wastes his talent for money. Very often he is compared to Clyde Griffite

(Dreisers). But Gatsby is a personality.

Fitzgeralds own story in a way repeats Gatsbys story: he lived

bohemian life, gradually writing became an obligation. He appeared to be a

hostage of his own success. He also had drinking problems, & his wife whom

he loved very deeply had some mental problems.

The other works are This Side of Paradise, Tender is the Night, The

Last Typcoon, The Beautiful & the Damned where he developed the same

topic. Fitzgerald also had a dilemma & he had to choose to write for money

that ruined his health. He died in 1940.

William Faulkner (1897-1962)

A unique personality born in small town of Oxford (Mississippi) he grew

up in an impoverished southern aristocratic family & it had impact on him

(the spirit of the South). His education was not systematic. He inherited

the tragic confrontation of white & black. In 1925 he mat Sherwood

Anderson, dropped out of the university. He tried his hand in different

areas. After an unsuccessful attempt to become a pilot (was wounded in the

WWI), he did different odd jobs, worked in a bank, had a published

collection of poems. He wrote a couple of books imitating lost generation

novels. He produces novels Soldiers Pay, Mosquitoes. Though published

they were not welcomed by critics. Their words were rather hush: Faulkner

has no voice of his own, he has nothing to say. So he decided to write in

a unique style, did not bother himself with any literary tradition. If you

dont like it it is your problem. All his life he lived in that small

town &it became a background for most of his books. It is known as

Yoknapatawpha County

But he found writing to be a pleasure for him. In 1929 he wrote The

Sound & the Fury, Sartoris. This year was a turning point for him. He

wrote as he pleased disregarding traditions. His perspective was to make

things clear to himself. He began to write about the things that he knew

firsthand. Both these novels look into the decay of souths families.

Faulkner mercifully exposes the degradation of the South. There are moral

reasons for this: here the topic of slavery springs up, topic of incest,

moral impurity of people living there, their sins. At the same time one can

feel Faulkners anxiety even hatred about the civilization, contemporary

life. The civilization did only harm. The alternative is a patriarchal way

of living. Much as he scorned the past he still longed for those times.

He neednt invent anything The Sound & the Fury is taken from

Shakespeares Macbeth. He alluded to the words that Macbeth said before

his death:

Lifes but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts & frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound & fury,

Signifying nothing.

It seems that the same feeling of confusion is familiar to Faulkner. The

story is about the decay of the Compsons family. The novel consists of

four parts. The first is told by Benjamin Compson who is mentally

handicapped. He is that very idiot who tells the story of lifes confusion.

Events are given as fragments of his perception as if through the stain

glass. He doesnt know whats going on, he is subconsciously aware of the

conflict in the family. Everything is blurred, mixed, no chronology. We can

indicate time by the hints the characters drop now & then. He uses device

of interrelated temporal plains. The second part is told by Quentin. He is

a romantic type of a person who feels deeply & suffers deeply. He is too

fragile, too frail. He cannot cope with the harsh world (committed a

suicide). The third by Jason Compson. He is practical, persistent,

knowing what he waits from life, a tenacious man. The fourth is told by

Faulkner himself. He tries to be objective, was to put everything their

places. Everything is centred round their sister Caddy. Use of subjective

viewpoint, inner monologue, stream of consciousness achieved a striking

effect highly individual characters become universal types: Bengy

childish perception, Quentin adolescent consciousness, Jason pragmatic.

All of them are contrasted to authors representation of things combining

particular & general. The degradation of one family is the symbol of the

decline of the South in general. He shows that the family gradually

collapses, people are driven to death & despair. Life is chaos of sound &

fury. Another message was that Faulkner himself didnt put up with darkness

& gloom. Positive note is present in the book. His intentions are realized

in the fourth part.

The following works treated the same topic. In 1945 he produced the

chronological supplement to the work Light in August, Absalom!

Absalom!, The Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying.

The decline of the South, race conflict & the constant overlap of the

past & the present, loss of human values are the themes of his works. A

line of descendants of formerly rich South families. The values of the past

generation became corrupted in the modern world. Atmosphere of doomed

despair. He got a Nobel prize in 1950. The values for him are courage,

honour, pride, hope, sympathy, self-sacrifice, compassion.

In 30s his style changed. These works are easy to read. He turns to

another topic the trilogy The Hamlet, The Town, The Mansion. He

thought he had spotted a disease in American society called snopecism

(from Flem Snopes the main character of one of the parts of the trilogy).

Snopecism is evil, the product of capitalist civilization, lust for money,

put on the pedestal of American society. Money dominates American life. It

is peoples God. The trilogy is written in a realistic key. It deals with

the snopes former poor white people. Flem is the first in the rank who by

cunning, corruption, bribe, general unscrupulousness elevated himself to a

ruling financial class. It is shown how this lust for money leads Flem to

come over his friends, family to power. Faulkner shows that a collision

with Snopes ruins people, especially if they are not of his kind. He is to

blame for many deaths. He didnt do it with his own hands but he drove them

to such circumstances. He is not human. Makes him socially dangerous.

People fall victims of his thirst for money. The character who opposes Flem

is his stepdaughter Linda. Faulkner makes her a communist (probably he saw

no other force in the society that could oppose snopecism as a social


The change in Faulkners outlook resulted in the structure of the novel.

Chain of associations is not so unruly as previously.

Faulkner is also famous for his short stories collected into two


Knights Gambit

Collected Stories

Their theme is decline & deterioration o South. Here we meet the same

heroes or allusions to the characters & events of earlier novels. Every

book is interrelated. The Bear is a perfect example of Faulkners style.

It illustrates his concerns. Faulkner had a reputation of a writer for


Eugene ONeill (1888-1953)

He laid the foundation forAmerican drama. He comes form actors family,

education was not systematic, he did different odd jobs gold digger in

Gonduras, sailor, journalist, etc. This enriched him with knowledge of life

firsthand. He developed interest for drama when he treated his tuberculosis

in sanatorium. He read Ibsen. Then after he took a course in theory of

drama in Harvard. 1914 is his literary debut Thirst & Other One-Act

Plays. From 1919 ONeill collaborated with Provincetown players company.

They staged his first works, & with this company his success is associated.

He worked with them up to 1924. The plays of this period:

The Emperor Jones

The Hairy Ape

All Gods Chillun Got Wings (chillun = children)

These plays voiced his protest against racism & exploitation. His plays

differed from typical Broadway production. They are very experimental. On

the one hand, they are realistic dramas, showing the life of people who

never before were the subject of writers interest. On the other hand, his

plays exhibit his search for the adequate form to treat this topic.

Traditional realism is combined with the elements of expressionist drama,

touch of Ibsens influence; innovative approach to the use of the elements

of classical drama & biblical motives. [Ibsen introduced the drama of

ideas, where not the events were important but ideas that were discussed &

disclosed by these events. He is very close to Chekhov]

The Hairy Ape is a story of a young proletariat Robert Smith whom

everybody calls Jank. He was offended by a daughter of a certain man of

property & so he is expressed his to such a degree that he was put to jail

where he absorbed certain socialistic ideas. But when he is released he

tries to find his he is taken for provocateur. He is very

much shocked and baffled so he goes to the zoo where he lets an ape out of

the cage. Eventually this ape kills him & he dies in the apes cage.

His remarks to the play are very important & he pays great attention to

the setting. First scene shows the workers dwelling. It must remind a cage

by ONeill. Then the scene shifts to a stove-hall is shown. There must be a

flame: the fire symbolizes the hell of capitalists exploitation. The next

scene shows the fashionable hotel the paradise of the rich. The last

scene is also an ape cage. It finishes the cycle.

The naturalistic symbolism conveys the idea of inhumanity of exploiters,

shifts the accents from the conditions, turning man to a beast to the

biological characteristics.

In his work of 30-40s experiment takes to realism.

The Great God Brown

Lazarus Laughed

Strange Interlude

He resorted to various techniques of modern theatre psychoanalysis,

inner monologue, mask theatre.

His masterpiece is trilogy Mourning Becomes Electra. Here he develops

classical notion of the tragic & transfers it to American soil of the civil

war period. He takes an eternal conflict & puts it to America. Histories of

ONeills characters are compared to the lives of Electra, Orestas,

Clitemnestra. But the environment is different.

Later he intended to write a saga about wealthy people. It materialized

in two plays:

A Touch of the Poet

More Stately Mansions

ONeill showed how several generations of American families gradually

lose their values, their destines mingle. Individual lives become part of

national history.

The plays crowning his career are A Moon for the Misbegotten, Long

Days Journey into Night. The latter is the most autobiographical.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

He is a southerner born in Columbus, Missouri, where his grandfather was

the Episcopal clergyman. When he was 12 his father who was a travelling

salesman moved with his family to St. Louis, & both he & his sister found

it impossible to settle down to the city life. He entered college during

the Depression & left after a couple of years to take a clerical job in a

shoe company. He stayed there for two years, spending the evenings writing.

He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 & completed his course, at the

same time holding a large number of part-time jobs of great diversity. He

received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play Battle of Angels &

he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 & 1955.

In 1940 he started journey around the country & ended it up in New York.

There he wrote poetry & short stories. 1945 his first success The Glass

Menagerie. Autobiographical elements are very strong in the play. Williams

managed to create a special lyrical atmosphere of the Wickfield family. It

consists of three people mother, crippled daughter & son. Each of them

lives in his or her own glass menagerie i.e. imaginary world which has

nothing to do with reality. They fear the reality, its hoarse & repulsive

jungle for they cannot adjust to the law of these jungles. Main idea is

that kindness & good feelings are doomed in clash with reality. These

people are too fragile, too sensitive.

The play introduced features of new plastic theatre. The principles of

this theatre Williams formulated in the afterward to the play Note for

Reproduction. It is characterized by tense emotional atmosphere, certain

romanticism, masterly music & light effects, attention is given to

cinography & attraction of expressive means of other arts. In stage remarks

Williams is scrupulous about details for they bear important meaning. he

calculated to produce certain effect on the audience.

His second play A Streetcar Named Desire gained him a reputation of

leading stage writer & Pulitzer Prize. In this play there is a clash

between realism & imagination; physical forces, brutishness & helplessness;

sexual drive &thirst for poetic love; naked ugly truth & illusion, world of

fantasy. The main character is Blanche du Beau. The action takes place in

New Orleans in French quarters (it is often compared to the Cherry

Orchard by Chekhov). Blanche visits her sisters family after their

parents died & the family estate is sold. Blanche wears old ridiculously

looking dresses as a symbol of the world she lives in. Blanche meets her

sisters brute of a husband Stan. Her sister gets out of the way to the

hospital to give birth to a baby. Blanche and Stan detest each other. He

hates a woman who lives in Ivory tower & she hates his brutishness. She

denies & longs for him at the same time. In the end he is taken into

lunatic asylum.

Williams plays with human subconsciuosness. But he finds that the core

of the conflict is not inherent in the struggle between masculine &

feminine but a complex interrelation of personal circumstances: social &


Tennessee Williams human type is an outcast, lonely, constantly in

search of a relative soul with whom to share a burden of loneliness. But

life is such that the outsider is doomed to defeat. The only salvation is

love (but even this is questionable). Broken & lost people who are not able

to defend themselves & their dreams can find love that will help them to


Williams is a prolific writer, he also wrote 2 collections of poems. He

combined poetry & realism & this unique combination singles him out from

other writers.

Camino Real is an allegoric drama, very experimental. This is my

conception of contemporary world in which I live, he said. The scene is

divided into two parts:

V fashionable hotel in which people are bored & degraded

V slums in which people are weak, humiliated, apathetic

The town is in terror, free thoughts are persecuted, people are killed

in the streets, brainwashing is actively underway. All problems are solved

by an old gypsy woman who provides a certain entertainment. The city is

called Camino Real[rea:l], that is the way of hope & dream. It ends to

sound real[ri:al], that is the way of reality, dead end of civilization.

Killroy is an ordinary American who feels that atmosphere of social

hysteria & he tries to make sense in life. Old literary characters (Don

Quixote, Byron) come to rescue him. The play has an optimistic ending:

Killroy finally finds the way out of the city to terra incognita. Williams

idealized past, his future is uncertain. His past is good but dead, & the

present is abhorrent.

His other plays Baby Doll, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Something

Unspoken, Suddenly Last Summer, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Milk Train

Doesnt Stop Here Any More, The Night of the Iguana, etc.

Post Modernism.

Post modernism can be regarded in two aspects:

V as a literary trend

V as a phenomenon which doesnt belong exclusively to literature a

certain mentality of post industrial age.

Post modernism appeared after the second WW. In 50s, especially 60s

new type of fiction, new writing emerged, drastically different from

previous writers. The idea that permeated this works: there is need to

reevaluate old values, the values that lead Western civilization (idea of

emancipation, enlightenment). But the WWII showed that the belief that a

human is a reasonable creature who can build a reasonable society is


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