John O'Hara American Literature Analysis
Critical opinion of O’Hara’s work has long been divided. His receipt of the National Book Award in 1956 and the Gold Medal Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1964 indicates that the literary establishment considered him an important writer. The academic community, however, has largely ignored him. He is seldom found in the anthologies used on college campuses. One reason for this neglect, and the most obvious one, is that O’Hara’s fiction gives the professor little to discuss in a literature class. O’Hara avoids figurative language and rhetorical richness. His style was permanently influenced by his newspaper training. He is very traditional in his narrative technique, eschewing all trends toward experimentation with chronology, point of view, or dialogue.
Perhaps it is this spareness of style which led the eminent American critic Edmund Wilson to comment that O’Hara’s long works always seemed like first drafts of what might eventually have become nice little novels. (Wilson did, though, praise O’Hara highly as a short-story writer.) Another adverse criticism often leveled against the novels is that they lack a moral center. The argument is that the narrative voice is so detached, so like the ideally objective journalist, that it is unclear how the author feels about his characters. O’Hara’s fictional world is a very dangerous place; his characters are never secure. Their lives may be blighted at any moment...
(The entire section is 4841 words.)
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