The games men play: Madness and masculinity in post-World War II American fiction, 1946--1964

Thomas P Durkin, Marquette University

Abstract

"The Games Men Play" examines the relationship between madness and the social construction of masculinity in the period following World War II. Through an examination of works by J.D. Salinger, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, and Ralph Ellison, it focuses on how madness serves as a metaphor for man's unwillingness or inability to attain a prescribed sense of masculinity. By providing close readings of the texts against the backdrop of contemporary socio-cultural artifacts, it demonstrates the ways in which literature provides invaluable social commentary regarding masculinity during this period. More specifically, it argues that the literary texts of the post-World War II period emphasize madness to show that the rules governing the traditional views of masculinity exclude many males from achieving recognition of their manhood. Chapter One examines the transition from boyhood to manhood in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye to show how a sense of disaffiliation and alienation led to a state of madness due to Holden's reluctance to adhere to codes of masculinity. Chapter Two examines madness as an expression of irrational male fears regarding increased female independence in Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Chapter Three examines the ways in which a sense of cultural dislocation calls into question one's masculinity and therefore drives one towards madness in Kerouac's On the Road. Chapter Four examines three models of African American masculinity in Ellison's Invisible Man to demonstrate how an adherence to codes of masculinity still results in the refusal to recognize the veteran's claim to manhood. Ultimately, this study provides a new understanding of theories of madness and their corollary relationship to theories of masculinity evidenced in the work of male authors during this period.

Recommended Citation

Thomas P Durkin, "The games men play: Madness and masculinity in post-World War II American fiction, 1946--1964" (January 1, 2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3263800.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3263800

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