The American Dream and a Lost Eden in The Tenants Essay

The American Dream and a Lost Eden in The Tenants Essay

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The Tenants is one of the most accomplished novels from a writer Malamud who is one of the finest post-war American novelists. The novel describes the confrontation of two writers – one Jewish, the other African-American and probes into the nature of the art of writing. His novels exhibit an interlacing of fantasy and reality with equal importance on moral obligation. The setting of the novel at issue is New York City, where the theme of self exploration is gradually developed through the contrast between two writers, one Jewish and the other black, struggling to survive in an urban ghetto. Their confrontation about artistic standards bring out the essential theme of how race informs cultural identity, the purpose of literature, and the conflict between art and life. Malamud blends gritty realism, absurd comedy and fantasy to deal with social issue as well as nature of creative writing process.

The Tenants tells the story of a writer labouring to complete a novel which he has been struggling over for the past ten years. He stays in a dilapidated building in Manhattan of which he is the sole tenant. He stays there much to the chagrin of its troubled owner who is eager to demolish it. The situation gets worse as an aspiring black writer sneaks into the building and starts his literary pursuit. Though the two characters Harry and Willie are polarized and stereotyped, their relationship is defined with a significant amount of psychological accuracy. The surrealistic quality of the novel suggests the way in which art in the form of romance conveys the actual essence of human experience. The urban renewal process is rendered with a certain nightmarish quality that depicts a kind of waste land. The following description is parti...


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...lection of Critical Essays.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1975.
---, Eds. Bernard Malamud and the Critics. New York: New York University
Press, 1971.
Howard, Leon. Literature and the American Tradition. Garden City: Doubleday, 1960.
Levine, George. “Realism Reconsidered.” The Theory of the Novel, ed. John
Halperin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.
Malamud, Bernard. The Assistant. 1957; rpt. New York: Dell, 1971.
---. The Tenants. 1971; rpt. New York: Pocket Books, 1972.
Olderman, Raymond M. Beyond the Waste Land: The American Novel in the
Nineteen- Sixties. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973.
Pinsker, Sanford. The Schlemiel as Metaphor: Studies in the Yiddish and American
Jewish Novel. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.
Roth, Philip. Reading Myself and Others. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1975.

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