Paul Bowles American Literature Analysis
Though widespread acclaim eluded Bowles, his impact upon contemporary fiction has been a lasting one and a significant one. More than any other American writer, he introduced existentialist concepts to American fiction. His main themes are those of existentialist fiction: the isolated self, the impossibility of meaningful communication between people, and the terrifying void beyond this world which can drive people insane.
Bowles’s writing concerns, for the most part, people of frail identity searching for something to relieve the intense monotony that comes from being caught up in the self. These ennui-ridden searchers come to developing countries to have something to do, somewhere to go, even if they do not find meaning in this flight from familiarity.
The professor of “A Distant Episode,” for example, a linguist with all the cultural sophistication and pride of the educated Westerner, wants to do a language survey in Morocco. What he finds is not what he seeks. Captured by wild, cruel Reguibat tribesmen, his tongue is cut out, and he is further mutilated so he can be sold as a comic curiosity piece. In order to survive, he soon learns to do what his captors say. Finally, however, a French soldier, thinking him a mad religious character, tries to shoot him. The story closes with him running toward the desert sun and certain death; the professor’s personality disintegrates in the Sahara.
So, too, the personality of Kit...
(The entire section is 3677 words.)
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