In an American Literature module, how could I answer questions about this novel? Are there any links that can be made to American culture?
This post includes two questions. In accordance with the eNotes Homework Help policy that only one question may be asked in each post, the answer provided here is to the second question.
The themes of The Body Artist are largely drawn from US society, although they apply more generally to the modern human condition. The body artist of the title is specifically identified as Lauren Hartke, as this is her profession. The concept can more generally be applied to the other characters and their situations. They exemplify the theme of alienation from society, which is one of the most common themes in American literature. In addition, the theme of person re-invention—the famous “second act” in life to which F. Scott FitzGerald referred—is key in this novel.
Lauren and Rey Robles, her husband, are alienated from each other; their marriage seems more like a performance than a true union. After Rey dies by suicide, the reader learns that Lauren was his third wife. The multiple marriages, his realization that his career had faded, and his ending his own life together imply his difficulty in navigating society. We also learn that in real life, Rey had re-invented himself with a new name when he came to the United States, similarly to Lauren’s artistic reinvention through her art form. Throughout the novel as well, as Lauren copes with the mysterious Mr. Tuttle, the reader wonders at the limits of her attachment to society and to sanity.
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