(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Searching for Caleb is unique among Tyler’s novels in that it is a detective story. The first scene in the book takes place on a train from Baltimore to New York City, where Daniel Peck and his granddaughter, Justine Peck, hope to find some news of Daniel’s half brother, Caleb Peck, who has been missing for sixty years. Caleb is finally found, thanks to a detective the family has hired; however, it is typical of Tyler’s circuitous plotting that at the end of the story Caleb once again leaves the Peck family, with whom he had never been comfortable.

The conflict in Searching for Caleb is typical for a Tyler novel. The community that demands conformity is the Peck family. As Duncan Peck, the black sheep of the family, says, the Pecks have dug a moat around themselves so that from their castle they can judge and disapprove of the rest of the world. From the time of their birth, Peck children are indoctrinated with rules of behavior. Pointing out to his cousin Justine Mayhew that she is wearing a hat only because it is a Peck practice, the observant Duncan lists all the family customs, such as wearing English riding boots and refusing to develop cavities, and all the family prejudices—against golf, plastic, and emotion, for example. So extensive a code can, like the moat which Duncan mentions, effectively keep non-Pecks at a distance.

It is Justine who develops most during the novel and who, therefore, should be...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bail, Paul. Anne Tyler: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Croft, Robert W. An Anne Tyler Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Evans, Elizabeth. Anne Tyler. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Kissel, Susan S. Moving On: The Heroines of Shirley Ann Grau, Anne Tyler, and Gail Godwin. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996.

Petry, Alice Hall. Critical Essays on Anne Tyler. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Petry, Alice Hall. Understanding Anne Tyler. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Salwak, Dale. Anne Tyler as Novelist. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994.

Stephens, C. Ralph. The Fiction of Anne Tyler. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.

Sweeney, Susan Elizabeth. “Anne Tyler.” In The History of Southern Women’s Literature, edited by Carolyn Perry and Mary Louise Weaks. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.