The Adventures Of Augie March
By Saul Bellow
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The Adventures Of Augie March by Saul Bellow ranked # 81 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
The Adventures of Augie March (1953) is a novel by Saul Bellow. It centers on the titular Chicago born character, who grows up during the Great Depression and shifts through a variety of occupations, but considers each too limiting, and seeks to expand into more difficult projects. This picaresque novel is an example of bildungsroman.
Bellow, via great artistry, garners sympathy for an individual always on the make and always willing to be used.
Unlike other picaresque novels, for example, Fielding's Tom Jones, which also recounts the early career of a youth making his way through society, the plot of Augie March is never pre-determined. Things simply happen to Augie, one after another, apparently randomly, with no evident story arc or hint as to where his adventures are leading, if anywhere.
For some readers, this is the novel's great frustration; for others, its strength; the latter see in Bellow's loose approach to plot an accurate mirror of life as it is really lived, far more than in novels in which events seem forced or over-plotted, and therefore more an authorial device than the natural consequence of the characters' own temperament, personality and outlook.
It is interesting to note that even by the time Augie March was published, in 1953, the Chicago (and America) it describes had been long gone. Chicago in the 1920s and 30s is depicted as a wide-open city in which social barriers could be readily crossed, and which of course had not experienced the post World War II economic boom which transformed American society and culture.
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