For this paper, I will discuss three texts that used the theme of violence in their narratives: E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel (2007), Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977) and George Schuyler’s Black No More (1989). It is expected that from this discussion, the employment of violence may be justified to deliver what the author wanted to express to the reader besides merely eliciting horror, excitement or other emotional response.
E.L. Doctorow discussed the Cold War and the New Left movements in The Book of Daniel. He reconstructed the trial and execution of the Isaacsons - the Rosenbergs - in the early 1950s. The story was narrated from the perspective of Daniel, one of their sons. Daniel’s book, which was both his dissertation and the novel sought to explain the mystery of his parents’ trial and execution.
A general display of violence is when Doctorow tried to outline the kind of American radicalism of the past that, for him have vanished today. Here he depicted the work of radicals not towards achieving socialism or social justice but on producing cataclysmic images. Artie Sternlicht, the main character that represented this kind of radical politics stated: “We’re gonna overthrow the United States with images. (p. 140) Sternlicht’s insights, of all its morbidity, were able to seize Daniel and awakened him.
A specific scene that manifested an image of violence, although not in the context of the radical politics mentioned above, is demonstrated in the cost of the state’s abuse on individual, family and society. This is displayed in Daniel’s attitude toward his wife and sister. The violence in him is often narrated in the form of erotic genital violence. At one point and in perhaps the cruelest scene in the narrative, Doctorow described Daniel making his wife kneel, facing away from him just so he could prepare to burn her buttocks with a cigarette lighter. Then, the reader, at one point learned that Daniel’s ...
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