William Saroyan Additional Biography


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The youngest of four children, and the only one of them born in America, William Saroyan’s earliest memory was of his poor and exiled Armenian family in Fresno. When he was three, his father died, and the children went to an orphanage. At eight, reunited with his family, Saroyan learned to read and write, and from the age of nine considered himself a writer. At twelve, he threw out all the rules because, he said, they did not include him. He rebelled at school and spent most of his time on the streets of Fresno’s Armenian district, later weaving its atmosphere and people into his writings.

In 1934, when he was twenty-six, Best American Short Stories reprinted his story “The Broken Wheel” from an Armenian newspaper. Then Story published “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” and Saroyan was suddenly the most sought-after writer in America. He began writing plays, including The Time of Your Life: A Comedy in Three Acts, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1940. He refused the award.

He was associating with writers, actors, and the cream of New York society when he was drafted into the Army in October, 1942. He rebelled against every kind of regimentation in the Army and was humiliated by nine months of latrine duty. He wrote his first two novels by 1951, the year that he and a cousin wrote lyrics to an Armenian folk tune that became the popular song “Come on-a My House.”

Married to the debutante Carol Marcus in 1943, he and she had two children, Aram and Lucy. In 1951, she divorced him for the second time. Bitter novels about marriage and the family followed. From 1959 to 1964, he exiled himself to Paris because of income tax problems. In 1964, he returned to Fresno, where he wrote autobiographies, still seeking the meaning of his existence until his death in 1981. During his life, Saroyan published forty books and wrote hundreds of other works, some of which have since been published. His spontaneity and romantic vision helped free American fiction and drama from old forms.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

William Saroyan was the fourth child of Armenian immigrants, Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, who settled in Fresno, California. Three years after Saroyan’s birth, his father died, and Saroyan, along with his brother and sisters, was sent to an orphanage in Oakland, California. His mother, while working in San Francisco, tried to maintain the family, and by 1915, they were reunited in Fresno. Saroyan’s formal education ended before he completed high school, but by the age of twenty, he had committed himself to a career as a writer. In 1934, he won the O. Henry Award for his short story “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” During the 1930’s, Saroyan traveled widely, published five novels, and worked briefly as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Between 1939 and 1942, Saroyan enjoyed a meteoric career on Broadway. In the early 1940’s, he produced and directed several of his own plays before entering the army in October, 1942. In 1943, he married Carol Marcus, whom he divorced in 1949, remarried in 1951, later divorced again, and by whom he had two children, Aram and Lucy. In the late 1940’s, he published several plays that were not produced on Broadway. After 1943, Saroyan wrote only one important work for the theater, The Cave Dwellers, although he continued to write prolifically in other genres.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, William Saroyan (suh-ROY-uhn) was one of the best-known, most critically admired, and most popular American writers. His affirmation of humane values in the face of adversity, oppression, and human error was a source of comfort to the reading public, and his audacious stylistic experiments won for him the praise of critics. Later, Saroyan continued to write as much and as well as he had before, but the world changed—and with it critical reception and public taste. After Saroyan’s death in 1981, however, audiences began to rediscover an author who was a unique blend of public figure, entertainer, and artist.

William Saroyan was born in Fresno, California, to Armenian immigrants; he...

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(Short Stories for Students)

William Saroyan (who also wrote under the pseudonym Sirak Goryan) was the fourth child of Armenak and Takoohi Saroyan, who fled their native...

(The entire section is 368 words.)


(Drama for Students)

William Saroyan (also known as Sirak Goryan) was born in Fresno, California, on August 31, 1908. He was the fourth child of Armenak and...

(The entire section is 456 words.)