Early US Literature

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Annotated Book

Fiedler, Leslie A.  Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Stein and Day, 1966. Print.

Love and Death in the American Novel is a thought-provoking book, a must-read for all scholars and student majoring in English literature. The book examines thoroughly the themes of love and death in the American novel as treated by major American writers. Leslie Fiedler gives an in-depth analysis of Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and The Huckleberry Finn, in addition to providing a shorter analysis of other works such as The Last of the Mohicans, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Monks of the Monk Hall, and The Victim. In his examination, Fiedler shows how American writers have failed to portray adult heterosexual love and how they have become infatuated with incest, death, and innocent homosexuality. Based on this premise, Fiedler argues, “There is a pattern imposed both by the writers of our past and the very conditions of life in the United States from which no American novelist can escape, no matter what philosophy he consciously adopts or what theme he thinks he pursues” (xi). In The Scarlet Letter, for instance, Fiedler shows how Hawthorne after making passion a central theme in the novel switches to write “an elegiac treatise on the death of love” in the way a love a story is written (506).

 Love and Death in the American Novel is 603 pages. It is split into three parts. The first and second parts explore the how this pattern emerged and evolved and the third part studies how Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and The Huckleberry Finn, could not escape this pattern.