Saroyan’s short stories have received more critical acclaim than his plays or novels for their overall consistency and vision of life in America. Saroyan infused his short fiction with strong autobiographical elements that are manifest in themes, settings, and characters. Depression-era readers were particularly responsive to Saroyan’s themes of isolation and hardship. His sense of nationalism and belonging also resonated with readers looking for something to lift their spirits and renew confidence in their shaken country. Saroyan’s popularity declined with the onset of World War II, and critics believe this is because his optimistic, sentimental fiction no longer held the interest of cynical readers enduring the second world war in their generation. Still, Saroyan’s contributions to the genre of the short story are considered important and enduring. He has been compared to such short story masters as O. Henry for making the short story accessible to a wide audience and Ernest Hemingway for stylistic strength. In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Greg Keeler remarks that ‘‘the vitality of his early short fiction, with its passion and seemingly unful- filled promise, continues to ensure his importance as an American writer.’’ In William Saroyan, Howard R. Floan accounts for Saroyan’s success by observing that
he learned to get into his story immediately; to fit character, setting, and mood to the action;...
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