John Knowles American Literature Analysis
A view occasionally voiced among literary critics is that most writers have but a single message to share, and they simply repeat it in various guises from work to work throughout their writing careers. Such a judgment might be made concerning the majority of the novels and short stories of John Knowles. In his extended nonfiction piece Double Vision: American Thoughts Abroad, he asserts that “the American character is unintegrated, unresolved, a careful Protestant with a savage stirring in his insides.” Knowles views life in American, Western culture as having “an orderly, rather dull and sober surface but with something berserk stirring in its depths.” It is this duality of character, this coexistence of the moderate, the gentle, and proper with the treacherous urge to destroy what cannot be controlled, that Knowles repeatedly presents to his readers for their understanding.
Knowles has placed his novels in settings that influenced his own worldview. He has made repeated use of the emotionally charged environment of boarding institutions such as he attended during his secondary and college years, finding there an ideal milieu for illustrating the effects of cultural duality. In such settings, characteristically ricocheting between the opposing demands of undisciplined and frequently cruel peer expectations and constrictive adult regulations, he found a microcosm of the wider society he wished to illustrate.
(The entire section is 2960 words.)
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