Tobias Wolff American Literature Analysis
Wolff emerged as a short-story writer in the generation following the authors of so-called experimental fiction, such as Robert Coover, Donald Barthleme, and John Barth. His stories, along with those of his contemporary Raymond Carver, were less concerned with form and structure and more interested in questions about moral choice in daily life. In this respect, Wolff follows a tradition established by earlier American short-story writers going back through John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and such European predecessors as Anton Chekhov and James Joyce. However, unlike these writers, Wolff’s moral questions rarely revolve around adultery or religion; instead they examine the grave difficulty people often have in telling the truth. It could be said that Wolff’s great subject is the many reasons for lying and all the ripples of consequence that come from each lie. In his memoirs and in Old School, Wolff’s protagonists eventually recognize the effects of their lying and accept any punishments (such as being expelled from school) with some humility. In the short stories, the recognition of error is more often left to the reader, though there are exceptions, as in “An Incident in the Life of Professor Brooke” (1980), in which a man who has been judgmental toward a colleague realizes that his own conduct deserves similar scrutiny.
Many stories touch on the theme of social class, or more specifically, social climbing....
(The entire section is 2909 words.)
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