Friday, April 04, 2014

Five literary characters who tell it like it is

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Hanna McGrath tagged five fictional characters who tell it like it is, including:
John Givings (Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates)

The son of Frank and April Wheeler’s real estate agent, Helen Givings, John Givings is the embodiment of everything the Wheelers long to be. He laughs in the face of conformity, he says what he thinks, he’s spontaneous and emotional. (And, well, he also happens to have just gotten out of a mental hospital.) It’s these characteristics that attract the Wheelers to John and move them to divulge their plans to move to France. Later, when April finds out she’s pregnant and Frank gets a promotion, their plans change. What comes next has to be one of the most intense dinner table confrontations of all time. When John hears the news that the couple won’t be moving, he belligerently lays into them, criticizing their fear of change and their conformity to the “norms” of suburban life. He gives voice to every insecurity that the couple has been unable to articulate about themselves, and the effect of his tirade is absolutely devastating, setting into motion a series of events from which the Wheelers never recover. Maybe John’s delivery was a bit extreme (OK, a lot extreme), but for people who’ve been keeping such a lid on such a huge pot of rage, even a gentle nudge toward the truth may have had the same result.
Read about another entry on the list.

Revolutionary Road also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best Aprils in literature, Selma Dabbagh's top ten list of stories of reluctant revolutionaries, Jenny Eclair's six best books list, Laura Dave's list of books that improve on re-reading, Tad Friend's seven best fiction books about WASPs, and James P. Othmer's list of six great novels on work.

--Marshal Zeringue