Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Russell Banks’s Continental Drift recounts the unlikely, intertwined destinies of Bob DuBois, who forsakes his dead-end blue-collar job in New Hampshire to start a new life with his family in Florida, and Vanise Dorsinville, who flees poverty and oppression in Haiti with her infant son and adolescent nephew for the promise of freedom in America.
The novel is divided into eleven alternating sections, preceded by an epic-like “Invocation” and concluding with a summarizing “Envoi,” which contrast the stories of Bob’s and Vanise’s migrations south and north, respectively, their lives finally colliding in a shocking twist of events off the coast of southern Florida. Banks’s third-person narrative voice relates realistically the separate travails these two protagonists undergo in their quest for better lives in Florida, though occasionally the narrator assumes a limited omniscience in plumbing the individual psychology of these characters as they reflect upon their very different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.
The sparse, mock-epic-like invocation informs readers that “This is an American story of the late twentieth century, and you don’t need a muse to tell it.” The story begins with a section recounting the present-day situation of Bob DuBois, who has lived all of his life in Catamount, New Hampshire, and since high school and his glory days as an all-state hockey player has been working as an oil-burner repairman...
(The entire section is 838 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Bob Dubois has just gotten paid and heads for a beer in his home town of Catamount, New Hampshire, on a snowy Friday evening just before Christmas. After he drinks his beer, he intends to buy his young daughter a set of figure skates. Though self-reflection is not part of Bob’s nature, he feels a building frustration with his life. He cheats on his wife and feels remorseful, especially when his infidelity leads him to be too late to buy the skates for his daughter. Bob’s unhappiness with his life boils over, and he smashes out all the windows in his car. Finally home, he collapses with his wife Elaine. They decide to try to improve their lives by moving to Florida, where Bob’s brother Eddie lives.
Vanise Dorsinville lives in a small village in Haiti. As a hurricane rages, her family worries about Vanise’s young nephew Claude, who is not at home. When the skies calm, he returns, carrying a ham. When he acknowledges looting it from an overturned truck, they become frightened that Claude will be arrested. The family decides that Vanise should take the boy to Miami, where his father lives.
Eddie arranges a job for Bob running a liquor store. Eddie insists that Bob begin carrying a gun to work, which he can then leave behind the counter. At first Bob is happy with the changes in his life, and he takes a more active interest in his children. Bob is excited to learn that Elaine is carrying their third child.
(The entire section is 1159 words.)