The Purified Vision: The Fiction of Wallace Spegner
Otis, John Whitacre
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This dissertation examines the most prominent characteristics of Wallace Stegner's fiction. The controlling theme is the "purified vision" or Stegner's dedication to the principle of clarity in art. This principle serves as unifying metaphor and loose framework for a three part study of method, theme, and poetic effect. Part I is an analysis of Stegner's first person narrators and his use of the bird motif. The discussion is concerned primarily with the first person narrators, Joe Allston and Lyman Ward, who appear in Stegner's recent fiction. They are assessed as both characters and devices in reference to Wayne Booth's classification of fictional narrators. The focus here is on point of view, the consequences and appropriateness of the first person narrator for fiction. Part II examines a major element in Stegner's fiction, the protagonist's search for himself which usually involves him with some kind of father/authority figure on the filial, political, or spiritual levels. The broad theme of paternalism is expressed in a variety of patterns but the father and son relationships of The Big Rock Candy Mountain and the Joe Allston novels are the most significant. It is this theme of paternalism that produces the warm humanity and passionate parenthood of Stegner's fiction. Part III marks a culmination with the discussion of the spiritual/poetic dimensions of Stegner's works. It suggests that Stegner is most evocative and poetic when working with time and his "ghosts of memory" or his "ghosts of meaning"--and that though he is " no mystic of any stripe," he nevertheless succeeds in being most mystical with non-mystical/non-spectacular means--the purified vision which in this case serves spiritual truth. The conclusion evaluates Stegner's critics to date plus asserting the importance of this supremely versatile artist.
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