The Novels of William Styron: From Harmony to History (Southern Literary Studies)
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The Novels of William Styron, Gavin Cologne-Brookes presents a comprehensive study of William Styron's work by drawing on theories of Mikhail Bakhtin and Georg Lukacs, Brookes acknowledges previous Styron criticism-with its emphasis on Freudian, existentialist, and southern concerns-but offers new perspectives on Styron's importance. He considers Styron not so much as a southern writer as one whose influences include southern roots, and argues that this novelist's work becomes more significant as it becomes more historically involved. He also addresses the vital questions of where, when, and how the novel form is important.
black rebelwhich blacks in the late sixties said Styron had no right to exploreand the ''unspeakable" realm of the Holocaust. He thereby summons us to look again at connections between apparently distant events and our own livesto peer more closely at the ways that such events are inescapable for us. The feat of fantasy by which we are brought to this in Sophie's Choice and The Confessions requires the reader's "conscious, creative assistance.'' It is only when critics see the novels as retailing
wholly negative agency, illustrated by Mason, must be destroyed. On this level, Set This House on Fire plumbs a novelist's responsibility when the idea of harmony can translateas the fascist leanings of some modernists and Erik H. Erikson's portrayal of Hitler in Young Man Luther suggestinto ordering the sociohistorical world by dominating or silencing competing voices or by evasion. Having symbolically broken from the South by moving to Connecticut and writing a novel set elsewhere,
band were "shot down" in a "few days," Nat was ''grappling'' with ideas beyond him, the confession was to "give general satisfaction." Like Peter's composition, Gray's presentation of events is meant to alleviate fears and fit preconceptions of what is acceptable. His picture of Nat is consequently a mere interpretation, configuring a new Nat, separate from the historical person. We must realize that the historical document on which Styron's novel is based is of unascertainable truth and that,
well his recomposition of events in a retrospective attempt to understand his experience. Nat recalls how his verbal abilities fed his delusion of having a destiny. He came to Turner's attention for stealing a book, and his ability to read gained him a favored position within the limits that being a slave allowed. Hearing a conversation between Turner and a salesman, the young Nat felt a "voluptuous stirring" as he echoed the "traveling man's wordsFull springtide, spring, spring"and was
Turner," 67. Baldwin is quoted by Sokolov as arguing that "it's important for the black reader to see what [Styron] is trying to do and to recognize its validity" (p. 67). 85. Alice Walker, "Source," in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1971; rpr. London, 1988), 16365. 86. Toni Morrison, in answer to my question about Styron's novel, City Hall, Sheffield, Eng., March 2, 1988. Page 152 as Baldwin, Angelou, and Morrison can bring a special insight to themes like those in