Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

The city

The city. Unnamed city in northern Georgia in which the novel’s four friends live and work. Although this place frames the main story, it is never named or treated as anything other than a normal, middle-class (sub)urban place. This technique effectively maintains Dickey’s realistic intention. Unlike antirealist novels, which distort reality in order to draw attention to the place as a symbol of something else, Dickey’s undogmatic use of “the city” allows readers merely to sense that this place is, in some real but undefinable way, a mythical place that represents all of modern, existential life. It is a metaphor for the alienation of the contemporary middle-class, which is treated as both materially successful and spiritually empty.

With its anonymous and interchangeable business complexes, shopping malls, fast-food joints, and suburbs, the city could be any modern American city. This technique underscores Dickey’s intention to present the extreme violence of the friends’ wilderness canoe trip as a universal human experience: Violence, the novel suggests, is the “normal” experience of modern American men. After the river, the city is the most important of the novel’s four places, since its job is to create an image of the modern American place, the most desirable, if flawed, image of order and civilization available to modern humanity.


Oree (OH-ree). Staging area for the...

(The entire section is 539 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Aftermath of Civil Rights
In recent years, "militias" of white men in camouflage fatigues, gathering at camps in the woods to...

(The entire section is 934 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Dickey's fictional stretch of the Cahulawassee River between Oree and Aintry of Helms County, Georgia, is a thinly...

(The entire section is 860 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Deliverance is very much Ed's story, not simply in the fact that he is a leading actor in the dramatic events that occur during the...

(The entire section is 322 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Some readers do not find Deliverance at all interesting, and some find it repulsive, yet others have their imaginations fired up by...

(The entire section is 470 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1970: Americans are beginning to realize that the natural environment is in danger. The first Earth Day celebration is held on April...

(The entire section is 356 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research the Depression-era Tennessee Valley Authority dam project, referred to in the novel as TVA. Report on how river damming affects...

(The entire section is 222 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Deliverance is a rare outing by a poet into the field of prose fiction. But it does share with much of Dickey's poetry a preoccupation...

(The entire section is 243 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In his other novels, Alnilam (1987) and To the White Sea (1993) Dickey continues to explore themes which marked his early work:...

(The entire section is 60 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Deliverance was made into a 109-minute motion picture in 1972 (produced and directed by John Boorman). James Dickey himself wrote the...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Deliverance was made into a major motion picture in 1972, with Burt Reynolds as Lewis, Jon Voigt as Ed, Ned Beatty as Bobby, and James...

(The entire section is 95 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Many of the situations in Deliverance are reminiscent of the struggle between man and water presented in The Old Man and the Sea,...

(The entire section is 369 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Keen Butterworth, "The Savage Mind- James Dickey's Deliverance," In The Southern Literary Journal, Spring,...

(The entire section is 337 words.)


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Doughtie, Edward. “Art and Nature in Deliverance.” Southwest Review 64 (Spring, 1979): 167-180. An exploration of how the arts serve a mediating function in the novel. Argues that art helps negotiate the important boundaries between nature, human nature, and civilization.

Endel, Peggy Goodman. “Dickey, Dante, and the Demonic: Reassessing Deliverance.” American Literature 60 (December, 1988): 611-624. Endel offers a sophisticated and cogent reading of the novel in the light of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and demonstrates how Dickey has created a presentation of unsublimated evil after the fashion of Dante and against the romantic sublime.

Foust, R. E....

(The entire section is 239 words.)