In its exploration of the individual man tested by the frontier elements, Deliverance continues the legacy of classic American fiction. But it is also very much a creature of the turbulence, violence, and apocalyptic mood of the late 1960s. In a 1976 interview, Dickey himself explained the novel's success thus: "I wrote the right book at the right time."
That time was one of widespread skepticism over the continuing validity of institutions and traditions. Dickey removes his four protagonists from their comfortable social setting and places them in the wilderness in order to test their individual resources and to probe the premises of modern civilization. What begins as a pleasant weekend outing for four middle-class and middle-aged men soon forces each to confront fundamental issues about a life he had been taking for granted.
Deliverance is also an expression of the environmentalist concerns that were beginning to emerge as public issues during the period in which it was written. Civilization is encroaching even on the remote Georgia wilderness in which Ed, Lewis, Drew, and Bobby go canoeing. They encounter the jetsam of urban life floating along the most accessible parts of the river, and even its most primitive parts will soon be conquered by a dam. Their adventure one autumn weekend represents a desperate last chance: for each mortal man individually and for the vanishing environment.
Deliverance is a...
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