Herman Wouk is a novelist in the tradition of the great English novelists of the nineteenth century; he is also a spiritual descendant of such American writers as James Fenimore Cooper, William Dean Howells, Theodore Dreiser, and James T. Farrell. What he has in common with these writers is narrative prowess, a commitment to realism, and a lively moral consciousness. Furthermore, like these writers, Wouk addresses himself to the population at large. Since World War II, American fiction has seen a distinction between writers who seem inclined to write primarily for other writers or for academic critics and those inclined to write for a general audience. That Wouk is numbered among the latter would appear to be traceable to a definite decision on his part.
Wouk’s first novel, Aurora Dawn, has the flavor of the experimental fiction that began to proliferate in the postwar period. If one were to have speculated in 1946 on the course that Wouk’s literary career was going to take, it would have been a safe guess to say that he would probably continue down the road of experimentation, that he would become more and more concerned with language as an end in itself, and that eventually, he would be writing books destined to be read only in upper-division English courses in universities. This was not what happened, however; in his second novel, The City Boy, Wouk followed a conventional narrative pattern and told his story in language that was...
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