When James Dickey's Deliverance was published in 1970, it was an immediate critical and popular hit. Critics and the general public also applauded the movie that was adapted from the novel by Dickey and released two years later. These two accomplishments were considered outstanding achievements for a writer who before Deliverance was known for his poetry. Like a poet, Dickey identified themes and images in his novel that resonate throughout the American psyche. His novel consists of adventure, suspicion, and murder in a natural setting.
In the book, four ordinary suburban men take a canoe trip through the wild hills of north Georgia, hoping to get away from their regulated, sterile lives for a weekend. Along the way they are accosted by uncivilized backwoods dwellers, and the travelers soon find themselves dealing with murder, a cover-up, and more murder and deceit. With sweeping descriptions and precise details, Dickey portrays the development of the novel's narrator, Ed Gentry, as he learns the ways of the forest and the river in his fight for his own survival. As he becomes more primitive, Ed finds himself grateful for this opportunity to live life to its fullest.