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Describing the protagonist edgar in el doctorows book worlds fair

Share By self-proclamation, E. Doctorow is not an Ernest Hemingway or a Norman Mailer. Doctorow's first novel, Welcome to Hard Times, appeared in 1960, and its tone is characterized not by the bravado of a Hemingway or a Mailer but by a special note of tenuousness, ambiguity, uncertainty.

In this as in much of his later work the tone is one of diffidence.

Doctorow's narrators are struggling young men, insecure older men, little boys; they speak in disarming voices that underplay rather than insist, and that often seem to belie any authoritative grasp of life. These earlier novels did win their share of critical praise, but it was the hugely successful Ragtime 1974 that put Doctorow on the literary map. At Kenyon he was a student of John Crowe Ransom, whose graceful influence is, however, nowhere to be found in the execrable poetry that occasionally punctuates Doctorow's fiction.

After a year in the graduate drama program at Columbia, he served in the military from 1953 to 1955.

  1. The story, told with a polite, deadpan innocence, concerns the members of a prosperous middle-class family living in New Rochelle and called only by their proper names in the patriarchal hierarchy.
  2. You might even have been relieved not to have to wait any longer.
  3. Doctorow is not an Ernest Hemingway or a Norman Mailer.
  4. Gazing fondly at them all one day, he idealistically conceives of what we are to recognize as the constituent elements of the film serial Our Gang. But as is often the case with those who decry cultural monopoly in the name of pluralism, Doctorow is really working here toward a monopoly of his own.

He subsequently began a meteoric career in publishing, becoming the editor-in-chief at Dial Press at the age of thirty-three. With the gradually increasing success of his fiction, he managed to pull away from publishing to various college positions, most notably at Sarah Lawrence. Today he teaches at New York University. What he means by this, however, is something at once special and vague.

His grandfather's was a kind of socialism that represented progress, the coming into the light from centuries of darkness. It was a very Jewish thing, somehow. The sense of possibility. All the solutions were to be found right here on earth, and the supernatural was not taken seriously. To be sure, Doctorow concedes, The connection between one's precarious position in society and the desire for some analysis that would change society is not exclusively Jewish, but it runs all through modern Jewish history.

Although Doctorow is a skillful and subtle writer, his novels, as novels, suffer from a permanent air of self-righteous grievance and from the fatal meretriciousness of the parti pris.

  • We knew how their great leaders who had fallen out of favor were erased from their history texts;
  • The story, told with a polite, deadpan innocence, concerns the members of a prosperous middle-class family living in New Rochelle and called only by their proper names in the patriarchal hierarchy:

A middle-aged survivor named Blue, who is also the novel's narrator, becomes the key figure in the town's reconstruction, but several years of heart-wringing work on his part as the informal mayor of Hard Times, as the new town names itself, cannot ward off yet another wave of destruction when the Bad Man returns.

Doctorow kind of hero, doubtful and insecure. And far from having a beautiful Grace Kelly at his side, Blue must struggle to win even a modicum of affection from Molly, a tough ex-whore who constantly belittles him for what she considers his cowardice in the face of the Bad Man. As the town is laid waste for a second time, Blue in desperation shoots, but the Bad Man is not quite dead and in the ensuing turmoil he, Molly, and Jim all die, the first two locked in an eerie embrace.

Through her obsessive terror of the Bad Man, the novel suggests, Molly has linked herself to evil, bringing upon herself the thing she most greatly feared. Welcome to Hard Times has been called a Jewish fable in its concern with radical evil focused against an insular community. Given Doctorow's flexible definition of Judaism, and his desire for that touch of pious prestige, this is a characterization he no doubt welcomes. But the novel also shapes up as a cautionary allegory of the cold war.

There seem to be no effective measures. But some things are sure: On the aesthetic level, however, Doctorow's rather neat formula does not quite work. While obviously we are intended to understand Blue's heroism as a function of sheer persistence in the face of multiple insecurities, the character Blue emerges as flaccid and wavering, a man who is never actually certain that the game of life is worth the candle.

In trying to undercut the stereotype of the macho frontiersman, Doctorow has created a stereotyped nebbish. Without dawdling over historical fact, Doctorow gives an account of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, here called Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, told from the viewpoint of their elder child and only son, Daniel, who must struggle to his own maturity in the 60's against the unusual circumstances of his past.

He begins to find his answer in the sorry realities of the 50's: Of course, there is a slight oddness in the way they reacted to the knock on the door—as if they knew what was coming. But they did know what was coming. And so did everyone else who lived with some awareness into that time. There were certain convictions that American democracy would no longer permit you to hold. If you were a Jewish Communist, anti-Fascist; if you cried Peace!

  • To this one is tempted to rejoin that if there is no objective historical reality anyway, what is Doctorow so exercised about?
  • On the aesthetic level, however, Doctorow's rather neat formula does not quite work;
  • With the gradually increasing success of his fiction, he managed to pull away from publishing to various college positions, most notably at Sarah Lawrence;
  • Doctorow is not an Ernest Hemingway or a Norman Mailer;
  • His latest novel, at any rate, could almost be called pre-political.

You might even have been relieved not to have to wait any longer. Thus his various personal struggles are resolved as well, including his occasional impulse to torture and humiliate his wife.

E.L. Doctorow’s

His tormented younger sister Susan is not as fortunate in reconciling herself to her past and so commits suicide. But Ragtime is even more inventive. Set in turn-of-the-century America, Ragtime deliberately and deliciously evokes a kind of ice-cream nostalgia which it then proceeds to juxtapose to ugly reality, the racism, sexism, brutality, poverty, and hypocrisy of the age.

The story, told with a polite, deadpan innocence, concerns the members of a prosperous middle-class family living in New Rochelle and called only by their proper names in the patriarchal hierarchy: Also appearing in the novel are actual historical personages, engaged in exploits that are purely Doctorow's fabrication: He and the rest of the family become involved with a ragtime pianist named Coalhouse Walker, Jr.

Before Coalhouse and Sarah can wed, however, a vicious racist prank launches him on a career of righteous terrorism in which he is joined by a group of idealistic blacks and the newly politicized Mother's Younger Brother. Meanwhile, an impoverished Jewish immigrant named Tateh i. Although something of a sellout, Tateh—who plays the by-now standard role in this novel of the ambiguous hero, Doctorow-style—still has an earthy love of life of the kind that Father conspicuously lacks.

Gazing fondly at them all one day, he idealistically conceives of what we are to recognize as the constituent elements of the film serial Our Gang: That's what I do.

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We all know examples of history that doesn't exist. We used to laugh at the Russians who in their encyclopedias attributed every major industrial invention to themselves. We knew how their great leaders who had fallen out of favor were erased from their history texts. We were innocent then: To this one is tempted to rejoin that if there is no objective historical reality anyway, what is Doctorow so exercised about?

But as is often the case with those who decry cultural monopoly in the name of pluralism, Doctorow is really working here toward a monopoly of his own. His latest novel, at any rate, could almost be called pre-political. Indeed, World's Fair features Doctorow at what he does best, capturing with painstaking, sometimes exquisite accuracy a certain kind of intensive family life that we are being told on many sides has passed into history.

  1. There were certain convictions that American democracy would no longer permit you to hold.
  2. Also appearing in the novel are actual historical personages, engaged in exploits that are purely Doctorow's fabrication.
  3. The sense of possibility. Today he teaches at New York University.
  4. While obviously we are intended to understand Blue's heroism as a function of sheer persistence in the face of multiple insecurities, the character Blue emerges as flaccid and wavering, a man who is never actually certain that the game of life is worth the candle. And so did everyone else who lived with some awareness into that time.
  5. A middle-aged survivor named Blue, who is also the novel's narrator, becomes the key figure in the town's reconstruction, but several years of heart-wringing work on his part as the informal mayor of Hard Times, as the new town names itself, cannot ward off yet another wave of destruction when the Bad Man returns.

The Altschuler fortunes are delicately chronicled by the younger son Edgar, now a middle-aged man. Along with the little joys and satisfactions of Edgar's family, he records an increasing sense of loss and disappointment as the marriage grows cooler, the father's business fails, and the older brother flunks out of college and soon leaves home.

Edgar's growing perception of life's bewitching and often mournful seriousness is especially well evoked through the rich details of his 30's Bronx boyhood.

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Despite being a boyhood memoir, World's Fair has the tone of an elegy. The sense of fated inevitability and the gradually shrinking possibilities that Edgar chronicles in his family turn gently ironic when juxtaposed against the brash, infinite possibilities presumably represented by the 1939 World's Fair, which the family visits at the end of the book.

That fair, we know, has become something of a negative locus classicus for the Left, a monument to the worst excesses of capitalist technology and mindless futurism. Doctorow, however, underplays all this, never departing from Edgar's tone of impeccable editorial reserve, leaving the implications to the reader.

For Doctorow has here forgone still another classic staple of fiction, the engagement of characters in action that tests and defines them. His characters are never allowed to become individuals whose consciousness can shape their circumstances; rather, they passively preside over an existence conditioned by various factors beyond their ken and beyond their control.

  • He subsequently began a meteoric career in publishing, becoming the editor-in-chief at Dial Press at the age of thirty-three;
  • But the novel also shapes up as a cautionary allegory of the cold war;
  • He and the rest of the family become involved with a ragtime pianist named Coalhouse Walker, Jr;
  • All the solutions were to be found right here on earth, and the supernatural was not taken seriously;
  • After a year in the graduate drama program at Columbia, he served in the military from 1953 to 1955;
  • Despite being a boyhood memoir, World's Fair has the tone of an elegy.

Indeed, Doctorow maintained, a book that dares to engage the political dimension will be denounced as ideological. We are being bought off by our comfort while great moral outrages are committed in our name. No such salvation is to be glimpsed in Doctorow's work, which, deliberately eschewing the examination of the individual heart, has been gutted of the power of art to transcend political and aesthetic categories.

Doctorow seems to have swallowed them all. Doctorow himself was prominent in denouncing the appearance of Secretary of State George Shultz at the conference, not so much on the credible grounds that literature and government should be kept entirely separate, as on the partisan grounds that the Secretary is a representative of the ignominious Reagan administration.