Date of Award

Spring 1979

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Schwartz, Joseph

Second Advisor

Mitchell, Robin C.

Third Advisor

Becht, Ronald E.


Thornton Wilder is an anomalous figure in Modern American literature. He is confident, optimistic, and he is a believer. My study of Wilder's fiction identifies the source of Wilder's unique vision of reality. It examines the perspective through which Wilder looks at reality, and the perspective he employs as a writer in order to convince his reader that his vision is accurate. This study argues that Wilder's vision of reality is based upon his belief in God. Wilder's belief provides a perspective through which he looks at life. Part of this study examines the ways that the definitions and premises inculcated by the Judeo, Christian tradition affect the characterizations and vision of reality presented in Wilder's fiction. For instance, Wilder's conception of man is a Christian one. He portrays man as a creature who is a combination pf good and evil. No character in Wilder's novels is entirely good or entirely evil. Wilder is also optimistic. While he recognizes evil, he does not despair in the face of it as many of his contemporaries do. Basic to the Christian conception of reality is hope, is the promise that man is redeemable. Similarly, Wilder's fiction reflects the Christian philosophy of history. Experience is meaningful for the Christian. History is justified by the Incarnation. Wilder shares this Christian view of history. He writes about universal themes and addresses a universal audience. This study also examines the perspective which Wilder supplies to his fiction as a means of rhetorical persuasion. For example, in The Cabala Wilder contrasts the modern and medieval visions of reality. In The Ides of March and The Woman of Andros Wilder compares the modern view with the classical view. In each case, the reader gains a perspective which helps him see more clearly the basic assumptions of each view. I argue that perspective in this instance is a rhetorical device that Wilder employs in order to convince that portion of his audience which does not share his belief that his vision of reality is accurate.



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