Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Mosquito Coast caustically critiques contemporary American society, pointing out its madness and its depravity, but this fatalistic work does not offer much hope. While the novel chronicles the epic paradigm, beginning with a young man’s journey, his overcoming of fearful odds, experiencing deep revelations, and returning home, The Mosquito Coast is actually an nihilistic anti-allegory. Charlie is forced to take a journey to a secret destination. Overcoming fearful odds only pushes him backward, and he returns home empty, still a boy rather than a triumphant man. Foreboding symbols abound from the beginning; the scarecrow whom Charlie believes to be his crucified father points out that Father has a brain of straw. Fat Boy, an appropriation of the name given to the first atomic bomb, is a Pandora’s box that will unleash destruction. Allie Fox (clearly as sly as a fox) resembles Prometheus playing with fire, Doctor Frankenstein creating his monster, and Faust outwitting nature only to wind up in hell. He also fits into the American individualist literary mold of James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville and the American inventor model of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers. In addition, the new-beginning theme is particularly perceptible.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Mosquito Coast treats many subjects, but its main themes concern the potential destructiveness of the social rebel and of modern...

(The entire section is 295 words.)