Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Last Exit to Brooklyn is a violent, realistic, and brutal novel that captures the animalistic world of 1950’s Brooklyn. The novel displays a gangland underbelly and reflects the grinding poverty, financial and moral, of Brooklyn’s Red Hook. Some critics believe that the novel mirrors the characters and situations that its author knew before he left New York for California. The novel is a recollection of a time when the world should have been basking in the peace following World War II yet was preparing for the Korean War. Its main theme is anxiety brought on by the location. The novel shows the anxiety about being a man and rebelling against being a man. The novel also shows the anxiety about being a woman and mother during the time and coping with husbands and boyfriends who are unsure of their own personas. It is no surprise that the character of Vinnie is drawn in such a stereotype of gang masculinity that he has no other outlet than to beat soldiers who pass by the diner because he cannot be one of them, with their socially acceptable appearance of manhood. Instead, Vinnie is a predator who laughs as Georgette is stabbed yet flirts with him in the security of Goldie’s apartment when everyone is high on drugs and alcohol. Similarly, in the final section, Lucy is obsessive with her cleaning and in the end sleeps with Abe as an act of defiance against the role society has forced upon her. All the characters are stereotypes of their sexual or societal...

(The entire section is 492 words.)