Richard Ford’s Independence Day is the second novel in a trilogy—including The Sportswriter (1986) and The Lay of the Land (2006)—that describes the life of a real estate agent named Frank Bascombe. Independence Day received both the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Ford has won the Rhea Award for short fiction, and his short stories are contained in many anthologies of contemporary literature.
Independence Day offers a view of the American Dream, but it is a mixed vision of American life. On the one hand, the novel offers a bucolic view of the United States, full of happy families enjoying a Fourth of July parade with a marching band playing a victory march. Bascombe dreams of connecting with his son by visiting shrines to America’s popular sports. He imagines having a heart-to-heart discussion about the books he has brought with him, in hopes of persuading his son, Paul, to read them. His books on, for example, the U.S. Constitution cannot compare with a stolen magazine and Paul’s deeper interest in the music he can escape to via ear plugs.
Bascombe has learned, as a real estate agent, that the search for a perfect house, the perfect home, is flawed. Part of his own personal philosophy of life is that people will get what they will get, and that just about everyone will end up settling for what they can afford. He shows Joe and Phyllis Markham what looks like the American Dream home, but the reality is that a prison is hidden behind its backyard trees. Even the prison becomes a sales pitch, as Bascombe claims it makes the house safer. The only escapees, if any, would be former politicians or former businessmen imprisoned for defrauding the public. Too much of the world has hidden worries. Bascombe had recently been mugged by some random teens who rode by him, hit him over the head with a bottle, and left...
(The entire section is 777 words.)