The Last Picture Show Essay - Critical Evaluation

Larry McMurtry

Critical Evaluation

A stalwart of contemporary American writers, Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer Prize in literature in 1986 for Lonesome Dove, arguably his greatest work. He is a renowned writer of Westerns and contemporary dramas. The town of Thalia, which appears in The Last Picture Show and several other works, is strongly based upon his hometown of Archer City, Texas, and much of his writing is semiautobiographical.

Lovingly dedicated to McMurtry’s hometown, The Last Picture Show realistically, bluntly, and often tragically portrays the lives of unremarkable people in an unremarkable town. McMurtry’s propensity to quickly and frequently change perspective from one character to another essentially makes Thalia a character in and of itself and emphasizes the inevitablely close knit nature of a small town’s populace. There are no secrets in Thalia, and the book makes no attempt to hide any.

The Last Picture Show is a novel partly about coming of age and partly about reflections of small town life but also wholly about the pursuit of love and sex. Indeed, upon its release in 1966, it was fairly controversial as a result of the unabashedly frank manner in which it depicts sex in several forms. Adultery, premarital sex, group sex, homosexuality, pedophilia, statutory rape, and even bestiality all make appearances in the novel. There is little in the manner of a progressive plot, save for Sonny, Duane, and Jacy’s pursuit of sex, and nearly all of the subplots concern themselves with the sexual pursuits of minor characters. The lack of a traditional goal allows McMurtry to concentrate on the one thing that is important to all of...

(The entire section is 684 words.)