*Batavia (ba-TAY-vee-uh). Large town in western New York, near the Great Lakes. Author John Gardner was born in Batavia and spent most of his youth there. His novel The Resurrection (1966) creates a Batavia that geographically resembles the Batavia he knew. Unlike The Resurrection, whose protagonist leaves and returns to Batavia and contrasts his idealized memory of the town with the present reality of its changes, the central characters in The Sunlight Dialogue are life-long residents of Batavia. They notice its small changes gradually.
Batavia is a nondescript backdrop, familiar to most people even if they have never been to the town itself; it is a typical town of the mid-1960’s. Batavia serves as the typical middle-class American town with typical middle-American virtues and vices, a perfect setting in which to explore the effect of the changing times on individual characters. The marks of the changes that are affecting the rest of the nation at this time become evident: an influx of new residents of different races and nationalities, a rise in violence and drinking, changes in labor and the work ethic. The town cannot cope with these changes; it is dying and decaying, as are many of its citizens in this novel.
Placing the novel’s magical, mysterious plot in this realistic setting grounds it and makes it easier to relate to, though not entirely believable. Batavia faces a confusing...
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