Jean Stafford American Literature Analysis
Stafford’s fictional world is one of loneliness, isolation, and alienation. For one reason or another, her protagonists are separated from other individuals or from their society as a whole. Even though they are often powerless to transcend their situation, their detachment makes these characters excellent observers. It is through their eyes that Stafford tells her stories.
Some of Stafford’s most appealing protagonists are imaginative, rebellious children. In “Bad Characters” (1954), Emily Vanderpool becomes fascinated by a young thief and, with her, embarks on a brief but exciting crime spree. In “A Reading Problem” (1956), the same protagonist gets involved with a traveling evangelist, again with hilarious results. In such stories, however, the protagonists face nothing worse than a scolding from their parents. There is no danger that society will actually expel them.
Some of Stafford’s adults, too, manage to transcend the problem of alienation from society. In “Maggie Meriwether’s Rich Experience” (1955), for example, an American girl who has been humiliated by a group of sophisticates at a French country house transcends her embarrassment by dramatizing it for American friends, thus making it truly “rich,” or funny. Similarly, in “Polite Conversation” (1949), Margaret Heath and her husband, both of whom are working writers, risk losing only their time and their privacy when local organizers try to incorporate...
(The entire section is 2886 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Jean Stafford Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!