Donald Barthelme’s rendition of Snow White is a twisted, incoherent version of the fairytale in episodic form. Barthelme’s first novel, it contains fundamental elements of philosophy, psychology, and various forms of art and popular culture “abstracurately” (Barthelme’s own wordplay) conveyed in his short stories. The work is, indeed, Joycean—a dark satire of human nature and a sociopolitical statement on postindustrial modern times.
Barthelme’s innovative style entails the use of experimental literary devices to underline the effects of materialistic consumerism and sociopolitical repression on humans. The collage of words and concepts that precede each disjointed “chapter” are literary pieces of the puzzle meant to provide insight into the meanings being sought by the characters.
Snow White is a parody possessing the attitude typical of all of Barthelme’s novels: A twisted, dark, humorous view of life in an irrational world. This work of experimental fiction displays nonsensical words, impeded dialects, inconsistent punctuation and person-tense, as well as varying writing styles. The novel’s page layouts and fragmented quasi chapters are riddled with an intentional play on words in the form of puns and subtle literary symbolisms. Barthelme’s manipulation of language targets the mass media’s use of words promoting mindless consumerism. His stained veil of literary innuendo probes and punches the pulpit with blatant social judgments and political irony.
Snow White also presents a psychosocial diagnostic enigma of unsubstantiated childhood trauma, personality disorders, and a politically repressed society within a literary puzzle of suggestive images and loosely connected plots. Aspects of Snow White’s dissociated identity appear to be projected in each of the seven men whom she “dwarfs”...
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