The Prick of Noon Essay - Critical Essays

Peter De Vries

The Prick of Noon

Eddie Teeters, the narrator, quickly wins our sympathy through an odd mixture of wit, wisdom, naivete, and unabashed yearning for a lady and a life-style belonging to the moneyed set. In recounting Eddie’s attempt to escape his Backbone, Arkansas, roots and adopt the casual ways and vernacular of Merrymount, Connecticut, De Vries employs numerous comic devices, from Eddie’s malapropisms and unconscious double entendres to caricature, and creates a pathos which is intensified by the humor.

The story consists of Eddie’s ludicrous attempts to ingratiate himself with Cynthia Pickles, an attractive woman who epitomizes the smart set of Rolling Acres, where, as Eddie notes, “men in bleeding madras shorts bounced golf balls off pre-Revolutionary gravestones.” He first encounters her at poolside, racquet in hand, and is smitten immediately, both by “the princess” and her “habitat group,” which urbanely discusses little restaurants in Trieste and similar pressing subjects.

Eddie wants in. His attempts to imitate the ways of what he terms this “genus Homo suburbantis” are not only amusing--such as purchase of a ridiculously long stretch limousine--but provide ample opportunity for the author to satirize the values of the middle and upper classes. Eddie falls “in lust” with nearly every female he sees but repeatedly returns, “a knight in shiny armor,” to his quest for Ms. Pickles.

Eddie has his deceptions as well as desires. He must keep secret his role as producer and stuntman in “Sexucation” films, a screen equivalent of the book THE JOY OF SEX. On his way to respectability, Eddie must conceal his means. As he himself remarks, he is the “Gatsby de nos jours.”

The possibilities for irony and humor in such a comedy of eros are immense, and De Vries does not miss a beat. The wit and verbal play are clever and make for easy reading yet strike close enough to our aims and ambitions to compel us in the end to laugh at our own pretensions.