John Updike American Literature Analysis
Showing remarkable versatility and range, and meeting with both critical and popular success, Updike’s fiction represents a penetrating realist chronicle of the changing morals and manners of American society. His novels continued the long national debate on American civilization and its discontents, but perhaps what is most significant about his fiction is its depiction of restless and aspiring spirits struggling within the constraints of flesh, of time and gravity, and of changing social conditions, to find something of transcendent value—all of them lovers and battlers. For Updike, as for many other writers, the conditions and possibilities of love are an index of the conditions and possibilities of faith and belief. As Updike writes in an essay: “Not to be in love, the capital N novel whispers to capital W western man, is to be dying.”
Updike’s versatility and range can be seen in terms of both style and subject. His first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, written when he was in his twenties, is cast twenty years into the future and explores the social and spiritual implications of an essentially antihumanistic socialism. The novel captures imaginatively the voices and experiences of octogenarian characters. In The Coup, Updike portrays the speech and sensibility of an American-educated, deposed African leader. In the Bech books, like Bech: A Book and Bech Is Back, Updike creates the persona of an urbane,...
(The entire section is 7934 words.)
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