James Dickey Long Fiction Analysis
James Dickey’s first two novels, Deliverance and Alnilam, were published seventeen years apart, and the chronological separation parallels the levels of difference in their content and style. Deliverance, written by Dickey when he was in his forties, is more conventional in form and more accessible to a popular readership. The reader is quickly plunged into the equivalent of an adventure story, as four middle-aged men take a canoe trip in North Georgia and a malevolent pair of mountain men force them into a primal life-or-death encounter. Alnilam, a formidably physical book of almost seven hundred pages, defies the reader in many ways, including the intermittent use of experimental double-column pages where the simultaneous narration of the blind character’s perception and the seeing narrator is developed. The blind man, Frank Cahill, is physically incapable of the more conventionally heroic feats performed by the narrator of Deliverance. This limitation of the main character seems a deliberate aim of Dickey, as he is writing a book about the delusions human beings sustain in their assumed youth and strength. Yet Dickey is also concerned with physical reality, and the task of characterizing the blind Cahill gives Dickey’s imagination a broad field of sensations to explore.
Though different in many ways, the novels share a concern with men struggling to survive. Deliverance considers the angst of...
(The entire section is 2122 words.)
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