Themes and Meanings
One of the main ideas of the novel never appears as explicit statement. While a chronological arrangement of events controls the structure—except for the poem-preface and the opening chapter, and the simultaneity of certain scenes in the North and South that follow sequentially—the attitude toward time is hardly conventional, that is, not that to which one is accustomed in a piece of fiction. Reed superimposes the present on the past. He accomplishes the merger through language, using twentieth century diction to describe nineteenth century events and attitudes. He refers to facts, technology, events, movements, and people that a nineteenth century character could not know. Mingling with the events of the 1860’s are the names of Yul Brynner, Barbara Walters, and Harry Reasoner. Pabst Blue Ribbon, flower children, and Nazi concentration camps are bedfellows with the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s drinking habits, the Native American, and fugitive slave laws. The whole country listens to the Emancipation Proclamation on the radio and watches Lincoln’s assassination on television. Harriet Beecher Stowe captures her interview with Uncle Robin on cassette tape. Whatever else Reed intends—and certainly the absurdity is highly entertaining—he is declaring (as he frequently does) that there is nothing new under the sun. He suggests strongly that all is vanity.
Flight to Canada is a demythologizing of American life. The list of...
(The entire section is 571 words.)