The Disappearance Essay - Critical Essays

Philip Wylie


The Disappearance was published in the middle of Wylie’s science-fiction years, more than a decade after his esteemed collaborative effort with Edwin Balmer, When Worlds Collide (1933), and a few years before his acclaimed novel Tomorrow! (1954), detailing the horror of nuclear war. Although The Disappearance includes a brief nuclear confrontation, the issues discussed in the novel have more in common with Wylie’s social novels, which criticize and condemn American conventionality, than with traditional science fiction. Reviewers of the novel at its publication noted its use of superficial science fiction to convey Wylie’s polemics on infidelity, the double standard of sex roles, religion, and the interdependence of males and females.

Wylie uses Gaunt as his principal mouthpiece, expressing his philosophies on everything from mysticism to survival instinct. Gaunt’s family life in a Miami suburb mirrors Wylie’s own, and Wylie’s struggles with his father’s Presbyterian religion appear in Gaunt’s condemnation of Connauth’s beliefs.

Wylie’s strongest personal statements occur in two sections. Near the middle of the novel, Wylie launches into a treatise on sex and the duality of individual sexuality, echoing themes expressed in his earlier social works Generation of Vipers (1942) and Opus 21 (1949). Wylie’s other invective expresses concerns common to the postnuclear world:...

(The entire section is 426 words.)