Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Emperor of America, Condon presents a typically bleak picture of American life and politics. This tale of "the owners of the country" details how they use the United States to satisfy their rapacious greed. The most evil of the wealthy owners of America is Wambly Keifetz, who uses a nuclear bomb to destroy Washington, D.C., and nearly every government official. His scheme is to leave the American people with only one choice for a leader, Caesare "Chay" Appleton, a war hero. Since the age of five, Chay has been in military schools and then the army, rendering him extraordinarily naive about how civilian society functions. He is motivated by greed and easily manipulated by Keifetz, who promises him a big pension, Chay's one clear goal in life.

Keifetz uses television to manipulate the American people. Throughout the novel, Condon asserts that Americans live in an unreal world cynically created by television networks. In Emperor of America, Americans believe anything they see on television. The networks are only too happy to oblige Keifetz by making Chay into the world's most famous war hero, because war heroes bring good ratings. Condon portrays gullible Americans, who eagerly participate in their own victimization if television encourages them to do so. Chay murders hundreds of thousands of dissenters, yet Americans think he is a great man. A heroic general, who opposes Chay and Keifetz and tries to save American democracy, is not only gunned down by Chay and his followers, but he is then transformed by television into a national hero who was a Chay supporter all along.

In the world of Emperor of America, the nation is run by a wealthy few for their own benefit. Unyielding in his harsh view of America, Condon provides no positive ending. After Chay's career is destroyed and the republic is restored, Americans elect Keifetz President of the United States; the greatest mass murderer in American history is elected leader because television has portrayed Keifetz as a...

(The entire section is 822 words.)