(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Norwood contains the autobiographical elements so often found in a first novel. Norwood Pratt served in the Marine Corps, as did his creator. Norwood lives in Ralph, a little town in the northeastern corner of Texas, only a few miles from the Arkansas line. The protagonist travels to New York City, then returns home, completely unaltered by the many adventures he has had during his odyssey. The novel is set in the late 1950’s.

There are many suggestions of Voltaire’s Candide (1759) in the story line. Norwood is a lovable, optimistic innocent. He works at a gas station for which unpretentious would be the most charitable characterization. Like Candide with his Pangloss, Norwood lives in the same house as his mentor. His brother-in-law lives on disability checks from the Veterans Administration and spends his many hours of leisure spouting crack-brained philosophy. Norwood is a simple young man, both intellectually and in the sense that he is unaffected in the extreme. His ambitions are modest. He loves country music, and his life’s dream is to sing on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport—he does not even aspire to the Grand Ole Opry.

Norwood’s motivation for leaving Ralph is modest as well. A buddy from Marine Corps days owes him seventy dollars. He believes his friend to be living in New York City, and he heads east to collect his money. At this point, the novel becomes picaresque. As he meanders around the country...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Norwood Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Blackburn, Sara. Review of True Grit. The Nation 207 (August 5, 1968): 92.

Blount, Roy. “745 Boylston Street.” The Atlantic Monthly 270 (December, 1992): 6.

Clemons, Walter. Review of The Dog of the South. Newsweek 94 (July 9, 1979): 12.

Disch, Thomas M. “Cultcrazy.” The Nation 241 (November 30, 1985): 593-594.

Garfield, Brian. Review of True Grit. Saturday Review 51 (June 29, 1968): 25.

Houston, Robert. Review of Gringos. The New York Times Book Review, January 20, 1991, 7.

Jones, Malcolm. Review of Gringos. Newsweek 107 (February 11, 1991): 60.

King, L. L. Review of The Dog of the South. The New York Times Book Review, July 29, 1979, p. 12.

Marcus, James. Review of Gringos. Voice Literary Supplement 93 (March, 1991): 7.

The New Yorker. Review of Masters of Atlantis. 61 (November 25, 1985): 163.

Shuman, R. Baird. “Portis’ True Grit: Adventure or Entwicklungsroman?” English Journal 59 (March, 1970): 367-370.