Alienation as a Literary Theme Analysis

Thematic Significance

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

As Alfred Kazin points out in On Native Grounds (1956), much twentieth century American literature “rests upon a tradition of enmity to the established order, more significantly a profound alienation from it.” In its celebration of democracy and individualism, post-World War II American literature has consistently demonstrated its suspicion of and antagonism toward the established order. The theme of alienation is objectified in characters’ emotional conflict as well as in their detestation of social establishments, which are not only oppressive in nature but also ethically ambiguous. Such experiences result from characters’ having to deal with a reality that belies their true identity.