Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Twin Oaks Tavern

Twin Oaks Tavern. Described by Cain as a “roadside sandwich joint, like a million others in California.” The diner also includes living quarters for the husband and wife, a filling station set off to one side, and a grouping of a half dozen shacks referred to as an auto court. The lodgings, in particular, add to the sense of confinement experienced by the two lovers, as they attempt to free themselves from their suffocating lives through a brief and impulsive affair. As portrayed by Cain, this is drifter country, a land of passersby, passing fancies, and passing relationships. It is a place where people are always headed elsewhere. For Frank, it is a place from which to escape. For Cora, it becomes a test of Frank’s commitment to her. By agreeing to stay, he would be signaling that he was no longer a vagabond and, more important, that he was no longer trying to make her into one.

Culinary and carnal appetites are closely intertwined in Cain’s two main characters, beginning with their first sexual encounter in the diner’s kitchen. It is a scene brimming with irony, in that it is the place where Cora’s husband has sharply rebuked her for not adequately gauging the size of Frank’s appetite. In fact, Frank’s desire for the man’s wife serves to diminish thoughts of food to the extent that it sickens his stomach.


Roads. The many roads that cover Cain’s grim Southern California landscape. The first vision the...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Cain is best remembered for his prose style, and this was his most effective technique. A master of the well-paced story, Cain eschews...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

By his own admission, Cain did not use literature as a vehicle for philosophizing or moralizing, but two concepts which appear in his fiction...

(The entire section is 260 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Partly because of the widespread currency of Wilson's essay (it is still frequently quoted today), partly because of the time when Cain...

(The entire section is 350 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Before The Postman Always Rings Twice was filmed, it was adapted for the stage. Cain was hired to write the script (although he...

(The entire section is 207 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ahnebrink, Lars. Beginnings of Naturalism in American Fiction. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961. Provides useful introductory criticism.

Cain, James M. The Complete Novels. New York: Wings Books, 1994. Contains critical commentary and a comparison of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Cain’s other novels.

Hoopes, Roy. Cain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982. The definitive biography of Cain. Includes a filmography and publications lists.

Madden, David. James M. Cain. New York: Twayne, 1970. A critical approach to Cain’s writing and influences.

Wolfe, Tom. Introduction to Cain X 3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. A useful collection because of Wolfe’s “new realism” approach to Cain’s novels.