Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Ohio River

*Ohio River. Major tributary of the Mississippi River that rises in western Pennsylvania and flows southwest nearly one thousand miles before joining the Mississippi. On a boat trip on the Ohio with his parents, Bruce Dudley hears the singing, conversation, and laughter of African Americans for the first time. Their daily connection with the river allows their voices to remain in touch with the world. Bruce’s return to the river as an adult spawns a connection with the river and the sense of self he lost while in Chicago.

*Mississippi River

*Mississippi River. Bruce’s trip down the Mississippi awakens his sensibility to the elemental self he lost. He rides the Mississippi to New Orleans, enjoys the shade and sounds of trees on the bank, hears the voices of African Americans, and returns to his childhood home and his place near the Ohio River.

Old Harbor

Old Harbor. Bruce’s childhood home in Indiana, to which he returns after years in Chicago. Old Harbor is a fictional town similar to the more famous Winesburg, Ohio, which Anderson depicted in greater detail in 1919. Bruce is reunited with the Ohio River and rejects newspaper work. He changes his name from John Stockton to Bruce Dudley, indicating his change of self in his old home, and experiences a personal rebirth, working with his hands varnishing automobile wheels.

Grey home

Grey home. Home of automobile wheel...

(The entire section is 609 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Anderson's techniques embroiled the literary world in controversy ever since his first book was published, and Dark Laughter was no...

(The entire section is 301 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Dark Laughter has been dramatized twice—in an NBC theatrical adaptation and in a sound recording by Metacom (1983). Anderson always...

(The entire section is 72 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Anderson, David D. “Anderson and Myth (1976).” In Critical Essays on Sherwood Anderson, edited by David D. Anderson. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. Connects content to the writer’s effort to define the myth underlying his own life. Concludes that in Dark Laughter Anderson is pleading for individualism in a materialistic America and that the novel is the rejection of rejection.

Burbank, Rex. Sherwood Anderson. New York: Twayne, 1964. An accessible text with a chapter-long consideration of Dark Laughter that gives historical context for the novel. Provides an effective interpretive plot summary and critical analysis of the work. Includes a preface and chronology, minimal notes and references, a selected bibliography, and an adequate index.

Flanagan, John T. “The Permanence of Sherwood Anderson.” In Critical Essays on Sherwood Anderson, edited by David D. Anderson. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. Emphasizes the autobiographical nature of Anderson’s fiction, connects his lifestyle to that of characters like Bruce Dudley, and addresses his writing style. Flanagan presents Dark Laughter in a positive light.

Townsend, Kim. Sherwood Anderson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. An excellent literary view of the novel, including the influence of various writers. Sees Anderson as seeking complete identification with the “niggers” of his novel. Townsend evaluates the work as a failure, despite the fact that it captures the rhythms of life in the 1920’s.

White, Ray Lewis. Sherwood Anderson’s Memoirs: A Critical Edition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969. Collection offers a good selection of the writer’s reflections on Dark Laughter. Includes an account of how the family maid, Kate, inspired the novel. Also includes a selected bibliography and index.