The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Critical Essays

Michael Chabon

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Michael Chabon’s work has been well received both critically and popularly since his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988); his third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Chabon’s work has been praised for many factors, primarily his intricate, believable characterizations and highly developed, artistic prose.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay brings together Chabon’s most important themes: the search for identity, the persistent need for humans to escape (from society’s strictures, family expectations, and even themselves), and the importance of art in dealing with human identity and emotions. It deals with these themes by using comic book artists and characters to represent the need for escape, literally and figuratively. Josef Kavalier studies to be an escape artist and uses the skills learned from his teacher to literally escape the Nazis. He then becomes obsessed with helping his family escape, though his attempts all fail. He escapes his anger over his brother’s death by joining the Navy and escapes from the mother of his child because he cannot imagine his own happiness.

Samuel Klayman is also in the constant process of attempting escape, as he tries to leave his mother, his boring life in Brooklyn, and his growing realization of his own homosexuality—he even escapes from his identity by adopting the pen name Sammy Clay....

(The entire section is 536 words.)