E. L. Doctorow American Literature Analysis
E. L. Doctorow is a political novelist concerned with those stories, myths, public figures, and literary and historical forms that have shaped public consciousness. Even when his subject is not overtly political—as in his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times—he chose the genre of the Western to comment upon the American sense of crime and justice. Knowing that the Western has often been the vehicle for the celebration of American individualism and morality, Doctorow purposely writes a fable like novel in which he questions the American faith in fairness and democracy. At the same time, he writes from within the genre by maintaining the customary strong opposition between good and evil, between the bad guys and the good guys, and a simple but compelling plot.
The struggle in Welcome to Hard Times is between the Man from Bodie, who in a fit of rage destroys a town in a single day, and Blue, the tragic old man who almost single-handedly tries to rebuild it. The plot and characters echo classic Western films such as High Noon (1952), with their solitary heroes who oppose villains tyrannizing a community. Doctorow’s vision, however, is much bleaker than the traditional Western and cannot be encompassed by the usual shoot-out or confrontation between the sheriff and the outlaw. In fact, Doctorow’s novel implies, the West was chaotic and demoniac, and order was not usually restored in the fashion of a Hollywood motion picture....
(The entire section is 6764 words.)
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