Jack Conroy’s "The Disinherited" - The Awakening of a Socio-political Missionary

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GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 76 pages
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Seminar paper from the year 2002 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: Good (2-B), University of Vienna (Institute for Anglistics/ American Studies), 51 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: There are many ways to read Jack Conroy's The Disinherited. Ever since it was published the first time in 1933, critics and friends of the author differed in their receptions and assessments of the novel. To some contemporary critics, for instance Gold, Farrell and Hicks, The Disinherited conveyed too few communist ideas and did not satisfactorily "recommend militancy as a general solution for the workers' problems." The communist party indeed is not explicitly present in the novel; to Conroy, Marxist politics did not play a crucial role in proletarian literature. Yet on the whole, the left-wing critics praised the book. After its immediate success, the impact of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s silenced the radical thinker Conroy, who had thenceforth difficulties in finding a publisher. Finally, since 1963, when "Daniel Aaron exhumed" the novel, Conroy's literary writing has been gradually rediscovered and the author has been rehabilitated to some extent. Since any attempts to discover the author's original intentions remain inevitably vague and speculative, this paper will not try to find out the true interpretation of The Disinherited. I will rather focus on an alternative reading which is possible to the present-day reader, who deciphers the novel approximately 70 years after its first publication and in different socio-political circumstances. In Walsh's opinion, the novel "never rises to the level of a work of art in which each element is subordinated to a single unifying purpose." Yet, I claim that there is a priority aim: My suggestion is to interpret the narrator's development as the awakening of a missionary who is not interested in a particular religion, but rather stands up for socio-political

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Page 23 - I no longer felt shame at being seen at such work as I would have once, and I knew that the only way for me to rise to something approximating the grandiose ambitions of my youth would be to rise with my class, with the disinherited: the bricksetters, the flivver tramps, boomers, and outcasts pounding their ears in flophouses.
Page 4 - To me a strike bulletin or an impassioned leaflet are of more moment than three hundred pretty and faultlessly written pages about the private woes of a gigolo or the biological ferment of a society dame as useful to society as the buck brush that infests Missouri cow pastures and takes all the sustenance of the soil.
Page 23 - ... looking bystanders infuriated me but did not abash me. The fat on my bones melted away under the glare of the burnished sun, and the fat in my mind dissolved, too. It dripped in sweat off the end of my nose onto the bricks, dampened the sand. I felt weak as from the loss of blood, but also resigned. I felt like a man whose feet have been splashing about in ooze and at last have come to rest on a solid rock, even though it lay far below his former level.
Page 6 - ... chawin'," adhered to his pendulous lower lip and fluttered into the pail, gyrating to the bottom and staining the water with amber. And often I heard some of the men before drinking inquiring cautiously which was "the nigger's cup." But I could no longer withdraw into my fantastic inner world and despise these men. I did not aspire to be a doctor or a lawyer any more. I was only as high or as low as the other workers in the paving gang. Mose began slowing down one afternoon. His motion became...
Page 15 - I thought all the scabs were just born that way," I said. "Why don't the union men talk to the scabs and make them see that they are just being used for tools by the operators?" Mike was not so sure about that. He grunted dubiously. He said he had seen many a scab in his day, and he had found that the most efficacious way of getting them to see the error of their ways was to massage their craniums with a pick handle. But he supposed somebody as guileless as Willy...
Page 24 - Conroy's novel. [T]he proletarian novel could not be said to be 'addressed' to the working class in the same way that a romance or Wild West tale was. The proletarian novel's goal was to 'advance the heritage of human culture...
Page 21 - ... world and his own literary education. Unlike most writers of working-class background, however, Conroy remained within his class to tell their story, eventually to recreate their...
Page 4 - The Disinherited isn't really a novel— as some critics have said. I agree with that. Novel or not, just so it tells the truth. I describe myself as a witness to the times, not as a novelist. And that's what I prefer to be known as.
Page 24 - ... [M]y book will be a cry de profundis to horrify the bourgeois who can afford to buy novels.
Page 14 - ... point' is almost entirely implicit. Conroy's novel illustrates "the limit to which propaganda can be carried; it gives the reader an accurate emotional (and to a lesser extent) intellectual realization of his faith in the proletariat...

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