Classic English literature: America America
‘America America’ is a novel written by Ethan Canin in 2008, which represents the American country in retrospective of the 1970s – the time of elections for Presidency spiced with intricate family, love and social classes’ relationships. The novel draws America as a country, which it used to be and which it continues to be up to the present moment.
The system of the characters is quite sophisticated, but there are three obvious ones, who definitely stand out from the others and form the whole story. Corey Sifter, Liam Metarey and Henry Bonwiller – are three ‘whales’ who construct the plot of the story.
Corey Sifter – a middle-aged journalist, who through the eyes of the experienced person, as he is now, describes the events of the political company of the 1970-1972 closely connected to his own life and life of one of the wealthiest families of that time. He lives in the upstate New-York, and in flashbacks returns to the same place, where he, as a teenager, was taken under the wing of Liam Metarey’s family, who supported Henry Bonwiller’s elections for the Presidency. Corey experiences a huge change in personality, emerging as a boy, closely attached to his parents, the working-class people and turning into a person, being involved in cover stories and scandals. He is a son of a plumber, who became a private driver for the possible future President. He is a part of the system and only implicitly influences the course of events. However, the reader perceives the novel through Corey’s eyes and takes the run of things through his feelings and emotions, therefore Corey is protagonist.
It’s hard to draw the line between main protagonist and antagonist characters, because none of the mentioned above, appear to clash in a direct conflict.
Liam Metarey – a tycoon, the son of the railroad and coal magnet, who, perhaps, because of feeling guilty for the deaths of five miners, trapped in a shaft, starts to support Henry Bonwiller, a candidate for the Presidency. Liam takes Corey to his house and deeply attaches to the boy. He involves Corey to his society, being selfless and benevolent to a complete stranger, what seems hardly possible, taking into consideration what business he is in.
Henry Bonwiller – a liberal Democrat, who runs for Presidency. Here a clear antagonistic line turns up – Senator comes out against the President Nixon, and the conflict reaches its climax with Joe Ellen’s murder. In spite of being involved into affair, which was hidden by a cover story, he remains ‘a best friend a working man could ever had’ (Canin). Through the point of view of Joe Ellen, a young woman who falls in love with charismatic Senator, we feel the author’s affection towards this character. He dies in advanced age of 89, having lived the bright life.
The mentioned death is an opening scene of the novel, which creates the mood for the whole story. Such a somber occasion as a funeral ceremony of the former Senator somehow symbolizes the end of the Nixon’s era. The action takes place during the eights decade of the XX century, the dark time of building the country. Vietnam War, blood and tears alongside with coal and railroads describe vividly the time of Nixon’s Presidency, making us the witnesses of its rise and decline.
Ethan Canin. ‘America America’. Random House Publishing group, 2008 Print