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Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction

Homosociality and Nihilist Performance

Sandra Singer

Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction considers fictional work of the time subsequent to the attacks. The book develops and investigates models of stock characters in 9/11 fiction who promote the trauma meme within a narrative arc of tragedy; the conceptual evolution of trauma and media as thematic arcs is interpreted within specific 9/11 novels and in correspondence with other terrorist fiction. The almost exclusively male stock character protagonists include the male homosocial perpetrator and the tightrope walker. Among the more recent authors discussed are Amy Waldman and Thomas Pynchon, whose novels illustrate the way characters inhabit media models, rather than, as previously thought, using media for disseminating terrorist events and messaging. Other featured writers include Bernhard Schlink, Don DeLillo, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan, Joseph O’Neill, and Colum McCann. Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction is a valuable text for scholars of 9/11 fiction, as well as for professors and university students studying contemporary literature.

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Chapter 4. Limitations of the Hyper-rationalist in Ian McEwan’s Saturday

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LIMITATIONS OF THE HYPER-RATIONALIST IN IAN MCEWAN’S SATURDAY

Conflicted life histories are borne out through the internal and external struggles of McEwan’s singular characters. His figures are constructs representing social positions rather than characters one identifies with wholeheartedly. Twentieth-century literary theorist György Lukács might have termed McEwan’s upwardly mobile protagonist Henry Perowne a type. Fathomed in relationship to 9/11 and its aftereffects, Saturday offers a distanced view of 9/11 mediated through focalizer Henry’s British lens, though he discovers that the spatial separation from the sites of initial impact in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. on 11 September, 2001 does not free Europeans such as himself and his family from implications of the events, especially if the United Kingdom joins the 2003 Iraq war.1

Humans cast in the text anticipate and respond to terror, in part on account of experiencing violence and horror in day-to-day urban life. Over the course of a day, hyper-rationalist Henry takes instructive lessons about engaging with the Other that he typically dissociates from himself on the basis of class, religion or ethnicity. The response to 11 September is creatively woven into the novel’s larger critique of social and economic stratification and inequality with roots reaching back into the British class system. While Perowne, through his clash with lower class, illness addled, street ruffian ← 73 | 74 → Baxter, starts to comprehend the imperative of engaging across British class lines, his conclusions about the disparity of...

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