Joseph Heller American Literature Analysis
Heller was one of the pioneers among the novelists of the 1960’s who attempted to end the long reign of realism as the dominant force in American fiction. These writers, who also included Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Robert Coover, Bruce Jay Friedman, and others, rejected what they regarded as solemn and often dull attempts to use fiction to portray the lives of everyday characters, The generation just prior to theirs, which included Norman Mailer, James Jones, William Styron, and Saul Bellow, had emerged from World War II writing novels about experiences very much like their own, using the established methods of realism: accurate description of ordinary events, plots based on logic and avoiding coincidences, and characters neither heroic nor truly tragic that readers would recognize as similar to people they might have known.
The new generation, emerging in the early 1960’s, believed that the novelist should start from the premise that fiction should acknowledge that it cannot be real and cannot successfully imitate reality. By its methods, fiction should call attention to its real nature, which is the creation of an imaginary world that may comment on the real world and reflect some of its qualities but that is not an imitation of it. Because many of the early efforts of these writers portrayed violent and sometimes brutal events in wildly humorous terms, their fiction was at first called “black humor.” Later, it was given the name...
(The entire section is 2521 words.)
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