THE FRICTION BETWEEN PAST AND PRESENT: THE AMERICAN DREAM, LANDSCAPE AND IDENTITY IN THE NOVELS OF ANNIE PROULX
The novels and short stories of Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx are deeply impacted by the rural communities in which she lives and works. Her fiction is also considerably influenced by her research oriented academic training in history, specifically the Annales school, and subsequent twenty-year career as a journalist and non-fiction writer. Proulx’s concern with ecological issues, although always a persistent undercurrent throughout her writing, increasingly dominates her later work, most notably her fourth novel That Old Ace in the Hole, as well as two recent books of non-fiction, her memoir and a history of Wyoming’s Red Desert.In separate chapters devoted to examining three of Proulx’s novels, Postcards, Accordion Crimes and That Old Ace in the Hole, this thesis provides a critical evaluation of the major themes common to the author’s work with specific attention to the interplay of social, economic and environmental forces upon the lives of individuals caught amid the chaotic forces of change. This analysis also examines how each novel’s primary protagonists reconcile the nature of success and their own identities within the idealized vision of the American Dream.In Postcards the Blood family, rural New England dairy farmers, struggle to adapt as the rapidly modernizing post war economy disrupts their traditional way of life; in Accordion Crimes, a diverse group of immigrants are compelled to shed all vestiges of their cultural heritage amid enormous pressure to assimilate in order to become American; and finally in That Old Ace in the Hole rural residents in the Texas panhandle, threatened by the encroachment of large-scale corporate hog farming operations, fight to preserve their community and traditional way of life. In conclusion, this analysis demonstrates that, despite the perceived notion that the American Dream is attainable by all people regardless of national origin, social or economic status, Proulx’s novels reveal it to be a deeply flawed promise.
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