Citation
From Indistinction to Irony

Material Information

Title:
From Indistinction to Irony the Transformation of American Suburban Fiction, 1830-1970
Creator:
Reynolds, Andrew
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Publisher:
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
english
Physical Description:
1 online resource (238 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
English
Committee Chair:
Leverenz, David
Committee Members:
Hegeman, Susan E.
Wegner, Phillip E.
Travis, Patricia A.
Graduation Date:
8/7/2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Bourgeois ( jstor )
Capitalism ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
Houses ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Narrators ( jstor )
Novels ( jstor )
Picturesque beauty ( jstor )
Suburban life ( jstor )
Suburbs ( jstor )
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
bourgeois, culture, deterritorialization, discipline, genre, spheres, sprawl, surveillance, white
Genre:
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
English thesis, Ph.D.

Notes

Abstract:
This study develops a two-part definition of the suburban subgenre of American literature, based upon the perception of a break between nineteenth- and twentieth-century suburban texts. Unlike previous studies, mine surveys nineteenth-century fiction, discovering a general tendency to evaluate the emergent suburban space and culture as potentially inadequate for promoting white middle-class identity and social status. This concern can be traced back to the Victorian period s rapid urban growth, industrialization, foreign immigration, and proletarianization factors that resulted in a destabilized class structure and increased economic as well as social competition. In suburban fiction of this era, a typical character, recently arrived from the city, is dismayed by the difficulties of suburban housekeeping, the lack of genteel society and urban conveniences, the opportunity that rural leisure provides for misadventures, and the potential for shame through interactions with the rural working class. I propose that the subgenre s first phase is characterized by a theme of indistinction, signifying an inscrutability as well as an inability to provide the desired social status. The second phase, in contrast, is distinguished by a dominant theme of irony, which evolves in response to the increasingly tight association of twentieth-century suburbia with white middle-class identity. No longer is discontent principally oriented toward the suburbs perceived failures. Instead, the problems portrayed in many twentieth-century suburban novels can be interpreted as the unintended consequences or side effects of suburbia s very success at creating an exclusive, respectable, thoroughly middle-class social geography. These problems include the collapse of the bourgeois intimate sphere, the emergence of a minimalistic social order characterized by conflict avoidance and disengaged tolerance, and the spread of suburban sprawl. The irony structuring these texts is the most distinguishing and provocative characteristic of the twentieth-century suburban novel. My multidisciplinary dissertation thus provides a new account of the development of a literary genre and, in doing so, also reconfigures established ideas about the American suburbs. ( en )
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description:
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local:
Adviser: Leverenz, David.
Electronic Access:
RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2011-08-31
Statement of Responsibility:
by Andrew Reynolds.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UFRGP
Rights Management:
Applicable rights reserved.
Embargo Date:
8/31/2011
Resource Identifier:
004979660 ( ALEPH )
769020288 ( OCLC )
Classification:
LD1780 2010 ( lcc )

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young niece who lives with the Marriwoods. A reader of romantic novels, Fairchild complains to

her cousin Penitence about the "monotony" of suburban life (LF 15). Even Penitence, who says

"it was with almost unconquerable reluctance I accompanied Papa into the country-I feared I

should die with ennui, and that I should find no society," comes to appreciate the benefits of

suburbia, particularly her ability to condescend to the locals (LF 45). In Clovernook, the "fretful"

Mrs. Harmstead is the only dissatisfied suburbanite. The experiences of these minor characters

are not central to their respective narratives and remain undeveloped. In the men's texts, by

contrast, dismay with the unexpectedly rural quality of suburban life, expressed by the

suburbanite narrator-protagonists, creates the rhetorical situation.

Second, these works evaluate suburbia differently. Its effect on middle-class distinction

remains a dominant concern, but the republican values and Christian morality that Hentz and

Cary rely on to make their judgments do not appear in Cozzens's and Coffin's writings. Possibly

as a result, the men express concern about the negative effect of the country, rather than the city,

on suburban identity. In the end, the men reach an accommodation with suburbia by turning its

faults into virtues and adopting a humorous, sarcastic attitude about their suburbanites' many

misadventures. Third, the men's texts demonstrate a different kind of storytelling. In contrast to

the dramatic eventfulness that characterizes Hentz's novel and Cary's interconnected short

stories, Cozzens's and Coffin's sketches present everyday suburban life episodically and without

"artistic" finish. The picturesque is more than a trait of the setting in their fiction; it influences

the form of the narrative as well.

The very brief first chapter of The Sparrowgrass Papers encapsulates all of these new

developments. The narrative begins, "It is a good thing to live in the country," yet each of the

chapter's five vignettes immediately contradicts this statement.52 The narrator, Mr.









conservative, tacky, stifling, and petty."41 Of course, in making this claim Pagano ignores

Hudson's theme of ambiguity and his discussion of pro-suburbia novels by "suburban evangels"

such as B. F. Skinner's Walden Two or Eric Hodgins' s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

Nevertheless, Pagano finds instead of a uniform genre message that "American writers take

vastly different positions on suburbia, positions that are deeply rooted in notions of class, gender,

and ethnicity."42 Actually, the four basic positions her chapters explore are all uniformly

negative, although they differ significantly in other respects. Rather than constructing the

subgenre around one or two master themes, Pagano in effect delineates several phases of the

suburban narrative. Each chapter groups texts based upon historical period, theme, and other

formal characteristics. Her first chapter discusses the early suburbs through the dominant theme

of pastoralism and the motif of transportation technology. When she turns to the WWII era, the

theme changes to existential angst about the absence of tradition in the suburbs, and the motifs

are drawn from Christianity. In the sixties and seventies, the theme shifts to suburban sexism and

the dominant style is humor, while the themes for the end of the century are suburban racism and

ethnic assimilation.

Though Pagano shares the same formalist, thematic approach as Hudson and Jurca, she

implicitly comes to theorize the subgenre as mutable and historically evolving, not monolithic

and static. One could imagine inserting the white diaspora or artificiality into Pagano's account

without difficulty. Unfortunately, she fails to provide much of an explanation for why certain

complaints emerge at specific times or how the phases of the subgenre relate to each other. The

only exception is her excellent first chapter, which provides a fine historicist account of suburban

literature. The chapter links transformations in the literary use of the pastoral to changes in

suburban transportation technology, and Pagano makes substantial reference to nonliterary









the bungalow.52 On the surface, the minimal house seems completely at odds with its Victorian

predecessor, yet they share an underlying commitment to domesticity and intimacy, rearticulated

by the minimal house in terms of comfort and togetherness rather than simplicity and virtue. The

various agents of capitalism backed this change, because the minimal house, despite its name,

was a more profitable product. Minimalism, according to Wright, refers to the house's exterior

outline and ornament, as well as its square footage and the number of rooms inside. Reductions

in all these categories were made to accommodate a rapidly increasing investment in domestic

technology. New additions to middle-class suburban homes between 1890 and 1920 included

indoor plumbing, central heat, bathrooms, electricity, appliances such as vacuums and toasters,

and materials such as porcelain and linoleum.53 According to Wright, such additions were

estimated to have increased construction costs by a quarter to a half in the period between 1890

and 1905, resulting in the need for aesthetic minimalism simply in order to keep housing

affordable.54 The crucial effect of these new conveniences was not increased prices-though

they did rise steadily-but the greater industrialization of the suburbs. A typical middle-class

suburban house could no longer be had independent of developers, manufacturers, and

advertisers. Even the less expensive "self-built" houses of the period between 1910 and 1929

were often prefabricated products bought from mail-order companies such as Sears, Roebuck

and Co. In short, the nineteenth-century "individual home" had become Babbitt's standardized

house.

Where exactly lies the problem with this intervention of industrial capitalism into the

suburbs, in which Babbitt is implicated? Does Lewis believe mass-produced domestic goods are

essentially bad? Catherine Jurca makes this very accusation, taking Babbitt's message to be "that

such things as comfortable mattresses, window shades that don't crack, and standard lamps are











16 Ibid., 205.


17 Ibid., 137.

18 Ibid., 157.

19 Ibid., 189.

20 Ibid., 211.

21 Richard Rorty, C. ir,,i.. i,... Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), 158.

22 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 29.

23 Ibid., 83-4.

24 Ibid., 88.

25 Ibid., 185.

26 Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963; reprint, New York: Norton, 1997), 47.

27 Ibid., 282.

28 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1985), 239.

29 Keith Gandal is similarly critical of the loose usage of Foucault's theory by Mark Seltzer, who according to
Gandal reductively "deduces the realist and naturalist novel from the general phenomenon of disciplinary society"
(The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane, and the Spectacle of the Slum [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press,
1997], 18).

30 M. P. Baumgartner, The Moral Order of a Suburb (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 127.

31 Ibid., 12.

32 Ibid., 9.

33 Ibid., 12.

34 Ibid., 110.

35 Ibid., 128.

36 Ibid., 128.

37 Ibid., 127.

38 Ibid., 160, 161.

39 Ibid., 102.

40 Ibid., 104.

41 Elsewhere in the novel, Humbert's presence in suburbia is questioned on the basis of race, namely the Jewish
heritage that is mistakenly attributed to him. See Alfred Appel, Jr.'s annotations on "the anti-Semitism theme" (L
448).









condemning the pointers: "The people who are attracted by that sort of thing are every bit as bad

fake-sports as my bog-trotters here. These poor fellows of mine are honest laboring men out of

employment. They do this thing for their board and lodging-you see I feed them well-and

they're a good deal better men than most of the dudes who think they can't live without white

boxcoats and balloon riding-breeches" (Sage 163). Most damning is the realtor's claim that

former pointers perpetuate his hoax: "The people who are caught want to catch others. I've

known them to go out in their own sport clothes and drill with my boys when the express trains

came in" (Sage 163-4). Bunner thus portrays suburbia as a kind of mass delusion, and

experienced hands such as Mr. Sage can laugh at the process, having paid the price of admission

to this society-being duped oneself.

Although Mary Stewart Cutting's "The Suburban Whirl" (1907) lies outside of my

grouping by strict chronology, her long story surprisingly demonstrates more affinities with the

texts written by my two antebellum female authors than with much of the twentieth-century

subgenre. Her protagonist, Hazel Fastnet, faces a moral dilemma as she must choose between

two suburban lifestyles, one materialistic and caught up in fashionable society, the other

characterized by the retirement, domesticity, and simplicity Hentz and Cary prescribed. Cutting's

story begins with Hazel showing two of her wealthy, older neighbors around her new home:

"Hazel was sublimely unconscious of the fact that this interior, which she proudly showed each

visitor, was to her not the reality of bare floors and empty rooms, but a spot ideally endowed by

the imagination with all the luxuries of the future."74 She is young, ambitious, and eager to

emulate her neighbors, admiring Mrs. Stryker in particular because her clothes "were always

little short of magnificent" ("Whirl" 5). The problem the Fastnets discover about living "in the

country," as Hazel describes it, is not the inconveniences that provide Cozzens and Coffin so









Deterritorialization and Sprawl

The term deterritorialization has taken on a fairly wide range of meanings in geography,

anthropology, and sociology. As the term implies, deterritorialization can describe the act of

restructuring space through the removal or destruction of whatever gives a place its perceived

identity or value. Alternately, the term can describe a way of occupying space that does not

conform to traditional notions of "place." This second meaning has gained the most attention in

recent academic work, particularly because of interest in the related phenomenon of

globalization.20 According to Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zufiiga, "global space is

conceived of as the flow of goods, people, and services-as well as capital, technology, and

ideas-across national borders and geographic regions-resulting in the deterritorialization of

space, that is, space detached from local places."21 A frequently invoked example is the

commercial airport, which has been analyzed as a "non-place" between actual destinations,

circulating crowds of isolated travelers who experience minimal social interaction.22 Similarly, a

chain store or restaurant franchise demonstrates the architectural homogeneity and simulation

that tend to characterize deterritorialized space. In short, deterritorialization signifies a

"breakdown in the isomorphism of space, place, and culture."23

When considered in this second sense, deterritorialization appears to be a phenomenon of

comparatively recent history, promoted in particular by revolutionary technologies such as the

automobile. Yet we should not overestimate its newness or technology's influence. Indeed,

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari first introduced the concept in their account of Western

political and economic history. According to these two philosophers, each political-economic

system has had its own particular way of (de)territorializing space, but capitalism represents "a

new threshold of deterritorialization," because it not only allows but also rewards the systematic

transformation or "creative destruction" of space, much more so than previous systems.24


208









Baumgartner's perspective allows us to reconsider the behavior ofLolita's characters, beginning

with Charlotte Haze, "Miss East," and Misses Lester and Fabian. These suburban women

demonstrate a notable reluctance to exercise social control over Humbert, though they all know

about his indecency with Lolita to some degree. Their failure to act might not be a capricious

choice on Nabokov's part, but instead could reflect his awareness of the social disorganization of

suburban communities.

Baumgartner contends that moral minimalism stems from a lack of"cohesive and

enduring ties" to a community.31 People are more likely to face rather than flee conflicts when

they are bound by necessity to remain in a relationship, or when their reputations or honor within

their larger community are at stake. Suburbs do not foster strong ties for several reasons, as

Baumgartner summarizes:

Suburbs are physically and socially structured in ways that allow a great deal of
privacy and separation, and it is not uncommon for people to know few of their
fellow residents. More important, suburban households often are separated by a
great deal of social distance. High transiency rates truncate connections between
them in time, for instance. ... In addition, even while they exist, most suburban
relationships encompass only a few strands of people's lives. Such ties usually arise
from residential proximity or common membership in an organization, and they are
only rarely buttressed by shared employment, joint ownership of possessions,
participation in a closed social network, or economic interdependence.32

Class seems the most critical single factor to consider, since it serves as a rough index of the

amount of autonomy a person can afford. In fact, Baumgartner claims that the working-class

members of her sample community were likelier to use "more confrontational modes of conflict

management-especially violence and the use of the local court"-than their wealthier

neighbors.33 While behaviors such as conflict avoidance certainly take place outside the confines

of suburbs, suburbia appears to be a separate social order within capitalist society because of the

pervasiveness of tolerance and avoidance there-or what amounts to the same thing, its

concentration of wealth. In the terms I have been using, moral minimalism can be understood as









recognizes the determining power of space and its contribution to the suburban dream state. The

ignorance of suburbanites cannot be completely conscious and intentional. Otherwise, why

would guilt be disturbing or "nagging"? On the other hand, Kenyon delves into the history of

suburbanization to show how detachment was promoted by specific government agencies and

corporate interests, as well as suburbanites of course, for a variety of reasons that include profit

and racial segregation. Revealing these multiple interests at work more concretely explains how

suburbanites could become discontented or disillusioned with suburban life and the detachment it

imposes, even as they obviously enjoy many more privileges than some other groups. In effect,

Kenyon's three-part theory begins to complicate the schema of agency and structure,

fragmenting the monolithic suburban subject as well as the institution of suburbia.51

Kenyon provides an excellent theoretical framework, well substantiated through

nonliterary suburban studies, but she has less to offer as a literary critic. Her book focuses on

accounting for the suburbs, not the subgenre. Literature and film do not feature in several

chapters, and she uses them only to exemplify the concepts of detachment and estrangement.

Furthermore, estrangement as a literary theme suffers from something of the same problem as

Hudson's artificiality and ambiguity. Instead of being too indefinite, estrangement is rather too

broad, because it does not exclusively define suburban literature. Estrangement is considered by

Darko Suvin to be an essential characteristic of the utopian and science fiction genres, for

instance. One could make the case that estrangement defines the entire modern novel, as Michael

McKeon implies when he argues that the fundamental "instability" of novelistic form and

content reflects the epistemological and social uncertainty of modernity.52 The Russian formalist

Viktor Shklovsky even proposes estrangement or defamiliarization as the basic activity of









beloved Nepperhan river rolls along, no longer a dumb feeder of mill-ponds, but a legended

stream. ... A touch of Irving's quill, and lo, it is immortal!" (SP 64). Irving lends Yonkers

literary distinction, which benefits both Cozzens and Mr. Sparrowgrass.

A closely related way in which Cozzens attempts to make suburbia more distinctive is by

adopting the literary form of the sketch. Sketching, as opposed to trained drawing, was "a

relatively stable sign of gentility" among the landed gentry in Britain until the late eighteenth

century.54 Around that time, sketching became associated with both romanticism and the

picturesque: "Hasty brushwork and shading, broken lines, roughness, and irregularity thus invite

viewers to think in terms of either the artist's spontaneous and authentic feelings or the

naturalistic and dynamic rendering of landscape."5 Partly through these associations, the visual

and verbal sketch became a way for the middle class to redefine its identity and challenge the

authority of the landed gentry: Richard C. Sha states, "the rising middle class would in the course

of the next century appropriate the sketch-and its ability to confer truth and nobility upon the

artist-for its own ends."56 When the sketch migrated to the U.S., it was put to a similar use.

Washington Irving was the first important American sketch writer, and his "modern tourist"

Geoffrey Crayon instructed the young nation about the value of travel and the picturesque.57

Irving, according to Kristie Hamilton, "condensed into the brevity of the sketch activities that

would actually require a prohibitive amount of time and money."58 She concludes, "The

aspiration to leisure that was a mark of the middle class was thus inscribed in the genre, as Irving

executed it."59 In other words, sketching could serve as another strategy for bourgeois

distinction, not unlike sincerity and sentiment, domesticity, and suburbia.60

Cozzens's invocation of Irving seems no mere coincidence. The Sparrowgrass Papers are

referred to as "sketches" by their fictional author (SP 30), and I believe Cozzens chooses this









topics of her mixed ancestry, her "child-like" tastes and "savage" love of sweets, her turban and

"mystical swathings," and her "gold-bowed spectacles of massive frame" (SS 22-3). Mrs.

Johnson's purpose becomes explicit when the narrator remarks, "she most pleasure our sense of

beauty and moral fitness when, after the last pan was washed and the last dish was scraped, she

lighted a potent pipe, and, taking her stand at the kitchen door, laded the soft evening air with its

pungent odors" (SS 22). Her labor, race, and personal habits all provide the suburbanites with

distinction, in part by drawing attention away from their own boring middle-class

conventionality.

When Mrs. Johnson's son Hippolyto Thucydides visits, he disrupts the suburbanites'

pleasure, or as the narrator tellingly puts it, "the presence of Thucydides in our kitchen

unaccountably oppressed our imaginations" (SS 32). He is a liminal figure like his mother, yet

her opposite in many ways: "He was a heavy and loutish youth, standing upon the borders of

boyhood, and looking forward to the future with a vacant and listless eye" (SS 31). Where his

mother's thoughts dwell mostly on her past, Thucydides seems to suffer from thwarted

ambitions. He refuses to stay in the city, running away from his boarding house constantly

during the summer to visit his mother. Yet he does not conventionally fit into suburbia either,

because he neither works nor lives there. Most strikingly, Thucydides prefers to lie half inside

the house, "balanced-perhaps in homage to us, and perhaps as a token of extreme sensibility in

himself-upon the low window-sill, the bottoms of his boots touching the floor inside, and his

face buried in the grass without" (SS 31-2). Whereas Mrs. Johnson charmingly stands framed by

the doorway smoking her pipe, continuing to serve them as a picturesque dessert herself so to

speak, her son provides an affront through his unaesthetic inactivity.









occurred. While he tries to create some meaning for his mother's murder by claiming it as his

own deed, making himself into a powerful agent rather than passive victim, he expresses

reservations about this effort to the end. He concludes his memoir by stating, "whatever single

ghastly act I did manage to achieve, it was done out of freedom, out of choice. This is the only

consolation I have in the face of death, my readers: the thought of my free will. But I must

confess that there are moments when I doubt even this consolation ." (EP 236). As part of his

creative process, the narrator incorporates many of the adult matters that threaten or confuse him,

particularly violence and sexual behavior, into his story. Thus, his memoir of childhood is

infused with historical anachronisms from the late 1960s.

Even his intended suicide could be a response to the threat of his own adulthood's arrival,

his inevitable indoctrination into a world of violence-manifested in the form of the Vietnam

draft, for which he might now be eligible. In the end, Richard's account, by virtue of its very

dubiousness and incompleteness, demonstrates the characteristic disconnectedness or historical

amnesia of postmodern culture that is one effect of deterritorialization. The novel's form

reinforces its meaning. At the same time, Gates' s allusions provide her readers with material to

perform the work that Fredric Jameson calls "cognitive mapping" and reach their own

conclusions. Oates's dual agenda is what makes Expensive People an exciting yet difficult work

to interpret.

My reading of the novel suggests one direction in which suburban narratives have

developed away from the confinement paradigm developed in the early-twentieth-century and

often repeated in postwar fiction. In Expensive People, the most important problem with post-

WWII suburbia is not architectural homogeneity, social conformism, or a sexually repressive

code of behavior. Instead, the problem can be summed up in the word "sprawl," a system that


224









I am by no means suggesting that the previous academic studies all lack merit. This work

has been groundbreaking and has produced many fascinating analyses and insightful readings.

My hope for this dissertation is to contribute to this effort, beginning in this introduction by

drawing from the existing scholarship a few basic principles for theorizing the subgenre. My

chapters will then put this theoretical framework into practice, as I bring some overlooked texts

into the classification and draw comparisons between suburban literature and other genres or

aesthetics such as local color and postmodernism. My ambition is to produce a new, two-part

model of the subgenre, based upon a break I perceive between nineteenth- and twentieth-century

suburban texts.

The first phase is characterized by a theme of"indistinction." Playing on Pierre Bourdieu's

concept of distinction, I argue that nineteenth-century fictions tend to evaluate suburban space

and culture as potentially inadequate for promoting white middle-class identity. The inability of

the suburbs to produce the desired social status leads to an inscrutability, which is further

emphasized by the fiction's use of the picturesque aesthetic as well as the sketch form. The

second phase, in contrast, is distinguished by a turn to novels and a new dominant theme: an

irony that emerges due to the increasingly tight association of twentieth-century suburbia with

white middle-class identity. The new literary discontent targets some of the unintended

consequences of suburbia's success at producing distinction.

In the remainder of this introduction, I will first consider the question of how the suburbs

are defined by briefly surveying the efforts of nonliterary suburban studies. I will then examine

the emerging field of suburban literary studies and assess the various definitions of the subgenre

that have been put forth. I will offer my own model within that context.









of these builders were carpenters, some real estate men, but most were not professionals at all.

The vast majority were either men building houses for their own occupancy or small investors

who built a house nearby their own residence in order to profit from the rents of one to three

tenants."45 The financing of the suburbs also remained highly individualized prior to the 1880s.

Warner writes, "In the absence of widespread bank participation, thousands of private investors

made up the mortgage market. They lent money to homeowners and builders in small quantities

for terms of six months to ten years."46 Not only was the suburban house imagined by its cultural

promoters in terms antithetical to the industrial city and capitalist marketplace, therefore, but the

business of house construction also lacked organization and profitability, further limiting its

influence. This situation of relative autonomy allowed the suburbs, and by extension the intimate

sphere, to operate as a space of exception.

The 1880s proved the turning point for the industrialization and commodification of the

suburbs. While the same values and iconography continued to hold sway, their material

expression became more and more the product of commerce and industry, inside and out.

"Through the 1870s," Gwendolyn Wright notes, "middle-class housewives filled their

presentation rooms with 'household elegancies' or 'ladies' fancy work' of their own making,"

which included objects such as "hand-crocheted pillows and rustic furniture, knotted rugs and

hand-painted screens, gilded rockers and laminated bric-a-brac stands."47 In the 1880s, however,

factory-produced furniture and ornamentation began to replace such handmade items. That

decade also introduced a "greatly increased output and variety" of prefabricated, ornamental

woodwork and other building materials, such as plaster and plate glass.48

As a result, the contradiction implicit in the suburbs and the intimate sphere, always

present, reached a peak, as industry and the market provided the means to achieve forms of









this point in the war, U.S. officials believed that improving the cities and herding rural refugees

in "would make them aware of the material benefits to be found in a thriving, capitalist,

metropolitan center and accelerate the development of a new set of modem values, loyalties, and

ties between the South Vietnamese state and its citizens."54 Thus, the Vietnam Builders created

airfields, ports, canals, and hospitals in addition to military installations. The overall costs of the

construction project at the end of the contract were finally estimated at $1.8 billion.55

The counterpart to this benevolence was a staggering assault on rural Vietnam, the

conventional war that infrastructure construction facilitated. In conceiving of ways to drive

peasants and insurrectionists out of the uncontrollable countryside, U.S. officials expressed a

vision of Vietnam that is strangely reminiscent of suburban sprawl and perhaps the most

surprising way that Americans attempted to export their familiar mode of production of space

during this era.56 According to Marilyn Young, "Westmoreland and his staff devised a new

approach in 1966 and 1967: destroy everything in an area known to be largely under NLF

control, whether or not there had been an attack-trees, houses, crops-and then withdraw,

taking the population out with the troops, leaving the burned-over district as a free field for

bombs and artillery."57 The scale of this geographical deterritorialization would have impressed

even the suburban developer William Levitt. In one instance, "The entire Iron Triangle area,

within a 32-mile perimeter, was first to be pulverized by B-52 and artillery fire, then flattened

with giant bulldozers."58

"By October, 1968, U.S. forces had dropped almost 3 million tons of bombs on North and

South Vietnam-nearly 50 per cent more than they had dropped in both the European and Asian

theaters during World War II."59 This figure does not include napalm or other weapon systems

used to clear the countryside of all traces of life; for instance, "one hundred million pounds of


218









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Katharine Ross. Embassy Pictures, 1967.

Gray, Francine du Plessix. "The Ultra-Resistance: On the Trial of the Milwaukee 14." New York
Review of Books 13 (1969): 125-61.

Habermas, Jirgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a
Category of Bourgeois Society. 1962. Reprint. Translated by Thomas Burger and Frederick
Lawrence. Cambridge, M.A.: MIT Press, 1989.

Haegert, John. "Artist in Exile: The Americanization of Humbert Humbert." ELH 52 (1985):
777-794.

Halttunen, Karen. Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in
America, 1830-1870. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

Hamilton, Kristie. America's Sketchbook: The Cultural Life of a i,\niiei'ii-Century Literary
Genre. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1998.

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Harris, Richard. "The Making of American Suburbs, 1900-1950s: A Reconstruction." In
Changing Suburbs: Foundation, Form and Function, eds. Richard Harris and Peter J.
Larkham, 91-110. London: E & FN Spon, 1999.


232









that enabled his terrible abuse. The absence of laughter will be connected to Lolita's lost

childhood in the poignant memory at the very end of the novel.

Humbert's final symbolic break with suburbia's social order occurs, ironically, when he

returns to Ramsdale to elicit Clare Quilty' s whereabouts from the man's uncle, Ivor Quilty.

Driving directly from Coalmont through the night, Humbert takes a shortcut and his car gets

stuck in the mud. He changes out of his fancy outfit into some old clothes and extricates the car.

Arriving in Ramsdale, he decides to visit the former Haze residence. "Forgetting that in an

American suburban street a lone pedestrian is more conspicuous than a lone motorist," Humbert

says, "I left the car in the avenue to walk unobtrusively past 342 Lawn Street" (L 288). He tries

to speak with a young girl who apparently lives in the old Haze house, but she runs and fetches

"a violent-looking dark man." Humbert recounts: "I was on the point of identifying myself when,

with a pang of dream-embarrassment, I became aware of my mud-caked dungarees, my filthy

and torn sweater, my bristly chin, my bum's bloodshot eyes" (L 288-9). It only takes him a short

time to walk back to the avenue, yet he discovers: "A red ticket showed between wiper and

windshield; I carefully tore it into two, four, eight pieces" (L 289).

This entire scene demonstrates his disregard for the rules that make moral minimalism

possible. Although Baumgartner considers suburbia to be a kind of limited anarchy, suburbs are

nevertheless relatively peaceful and orderly, in part because the lack of individual responsibility

for maintaining order is compensated for by a strict social code governing the use of public

space, a code applied by residents and enforced by authorities. To begin with, residential

suburbs-especially postwar ones-do not typically have much public space beyond parks,

streets, and perhaps sidewalks. "Partly because there are no destinations along most roads except

private houses, and partly because residents drive when they have errands to do, there is very









phenomenon and a recreational trip that his suburbanites take. Indeed, the book would be more

accurately titled Sketches by a Suburbanite.

Just as Howells's Charlesbridge is less knowable of a community-to borrow Raymond

William's phrase-than are Cozzen' s Yonkers, Coffin's Fordham, or even the New York City of

A Hazard ofNew Fortunes for that matter, so does Howells' s understanding of suburban

distinction differ from that of his predecessors. His main concern is about the suburb's lack of

picturesqueness and romance. Their absence results for him in its unnarratability and thus his

turn to Boston. For Howells, middle-class status is tied first and foremost to an ability to be

entertained and to sentimentality. In other words, aestheticism is not merely a substitute means of

distinction, as was the case in The Sparrowgrass Papers and Out of Town, but the only operative

one for Howells. The suburb and its residents simply do not provide the material for such

experiences, so his attention is drawn to the urban poor, ethnic immigrants, and racial minorities

that exist at the edges of suburbia. The unnamed narrator-protagonist of most of the sketches,

who may likely be Howells himself and is a professional writer like his two predecessors, desires

to convert his encounters with "vagabonds," ethnic ghettos, and displaced domestic artifacts into

picturesque diversions.67 Though he succeeds on occasion, the sketches more often than not

conclude in frustration and pessimism, because he discovers disturbing signs of social change

and gritty realities that hinder his imagination. The plotless, ephemeral quality of some of

Howells's sketches, along with the unusual obscurity of his suburbanite characters, further

intimate a sense of failure.

Like the two previous sketchbooks, Suburban Sketches begins with a newly arrived family,

and Howells seems prepared to follow their domestic adventures, making light of their

difficulties through sarcasm: "It was on a morning of the lovely New England May that we left











13 Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1996), 60. Further references are to this edition and
will be cited parenthetically in the text as B.

14 Jirgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois
Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (1962; reprint, Cambridge, M.A.: MIT Press, 1989), 46.

15 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 76.

16 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 160. See Michael Warner, "The Mass Public and the Mass Subject," The
Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1993): 234-56.

17 Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York: Norton, 1976), 166.

18 Ibid., 19-20.

19 Babbitt's speech describing the "Ideal Citizen" reiterates these values (B 162). Although Babbitt does briefly
entertain a desire for upward mobility, forcing himself into the McKelveys' social circle (B 173), he consoles
himself for his failure there by renewing his commitment to intimacy, successfully befriending Sir Gerald Doak-
one of the McKelveys' prized social ornaments. As Babbitt announces in triumph, "Jerry, you're a regular human
being!" (B 221).

20 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 47.

21 For an interpretation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's vision of an anti-capitalist form of domesticity, see chapter one
of Gillian Brown, Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: Univ. of
California Press, 1990).

22 Stephanie Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life: A History ofAmerican Families 1600-1900 (London:
Verso, 1988), 210.

23 Allan Silver, "'Two Different Sorts of Commerce'-Friendship and Strangership in Civil Society," Public and
Private in Thought and Practice: Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy, eds. Jeff Weintraub and Krishan Kumar
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997), 49. Habermas, Structural Transformation, 46.
24 On the differences between "natural character" and personality, see Sennett, Fall, 150-3.

25 Eli Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life, revised and expanded ed. (New York: Harper & Row,
1986).

26 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 47.

27 Coontz, Social Origins, 258.

28 Ibid., 269.

29 Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press,
1959) suggests that the very origins of the intimate sphere, the suburbs, and the modem novel were intertwined. In a
chapter on the literary innovations of Samuel Richardson, an early participant in British suburbia who felt "a great
need for a kind of emotional security and understanding which only the shared intimacies of personal relationships
can supply" (186), Watt concludes by observing Richardson's legacy:

It is paradoxical that the most powerful vicarious identification of readers with the feelings of
fictional characters that literature had seen should have been produced by exploiting the qualities of
print, the most impersonal, objective and public of the media of communication. It is further
paradoxical that the process of urbanization should, in the suburb, have led to a way of life that was
more secluded and less social than ever before, and, at the same time, helped to bring about a
literary form which was less concerned with the public and more with the private side of life than









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... ................. .................................................................................... 3

A B S T R A C T ........................................................................................ ........ ....... 9

CHAPTER

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ............................................................................................ .............. ....... 1 1

A Review of Nonliterary Suburban Studies ........................................................... 16
A Review of Suburban Literary Studies....................................................... ............... 23
T heorizing the Subgenre ....................................................................................................... 33
A N ew Account of Suburban Literature .......................................................................... 36

2 THE INDISTINCTION OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY SUBURBAN FICTION..............45

A C o n trary A e sth etic ...................... ........................................................................................... 4 5
A Brief H history of Early M iddle-Class Suburbia........................................... ..................... 47
"A M odel of the Purest Simplicity": Hentz and Cary.................. ........ ............... ........ .. 57
"It Is a Good Thing to Live in the Country": Cozzens and Coffin ....................................... 69
"It Wanted the Atmosphere of Sentimental Association": Howells ................................. 86
"Without Glory of Any Kind": Beers, Bunner, and Cutting............................................... 101

3 BABBITT AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SUBURBAN INTIMATE
SPH E R E ................................................................. 115

"I Don't Know that I'm Entirely Satisfied!": The Emergent Discontent of the
Twentieth-Century Suburban Novel ................ ........................... 115
The Old Comforts of Home: The Decline of Bourgeois Intimacy .............. .... .............. 120
The New Comforts of Home: The Rise of Mass Consumerism................................. 132
T he B u siness of H om e M making ..................................................................... ..................... 139
H om e A w ay from H om e..................... ................................................... ............................ 144

4 LOLITA'S UNDISCIPLINED SUBURBS................................... ................ 159

"A Foreigner and an Anarchist": Humbert Humbert in Postwar Suburbia ......................... 159
"A Lighted House of Glass": Humbert under Surveillance ............................................ 162
"Our M iddle-Class Nosy Era": The Disciplinary Society...................................................... 165
"The Merciless Glare of the Common Law": Humbert and Disciplinarity........................... 169
"The Spell of Absolute Security": Undisciplined Surveillance ............................ ......... 172
"Humbert the Terrible Deliberated with Humbert the Small": Power and Avoidance ........ 179
"The Feeling W as Good": Humbert's M oral Apotheosis................ .................................... 188









seems to refer to his political position in Zenith's dispute over unions, wages, and work hours, it

more accurately describes the individual revolution that Babbitt stages in defense of a separate

personal life. After all, he only wants to voice his personal opinions about the strike, not to do

anything publicly in support of it. He does not march with his old acquaintance Seneca Doane in

defense of the strikers, though he speaks out in the company of his associates at the Athletic

Club, saying, "Strikes me it's bad policy to talk about clubbing 'em" (B 281). He never considers

changing his work ethics or political affiliations; he only stands up for the right to think

differently in his personal life than he acts in his private business. He wants to lead two separate,

contradictory lives. As Babbitt tells Doane, "I've always aimed to be liberal" (B 269).

Unfortunately for Babbitt, others refuse to let him achieve his goal. From Tanis Judique,

he wants sentiment on his schedule, when his bruised ego needs ministrations, and he does not

appreciate that she begins to make demands upon his sympathies: "when he forced himself to

ask, 'Well, honey, how's things withyou,' she took his duty-question seriously, and he

discovered that she too had Troubles" (B 322). She turns intimacy into an obligation that intrudes

into his other life, calling him at work to make sure he still cares for her. He breaks off the

relationship, therefore, saying, "I want us to be friends but, gosh, I can't go on this way feeling I

got to come up here every so often-" (B 326). In addition, Babbitt's individual revolution, like

the general strike, runs into strong opposition from his associates in the business community.

They refuse to tolerate the political independence that he expresses in his personal life, even

though his actual commitment to business has not perceptibly changed. They are equally upset

that he seems to be abandoning the class-affirming rituals of the suburban intimate sphere for the

bohemian lifestyle of Tanis's Bunch, even though he has already broken off the affair by the

time they confront him. They pressure him to join The Good Citizens' League, a









a neighbor argues that letting his cows eat most of the leaves off of Mr. Sparrowgrass's young

fruit trees is helpful: "the only way to have good trees is to have 'em chawed" (SP 26). The new

suburbanite is sold a watchdog and a horse of guaranteed quality; both animals prove to be

defective, causing him annoyance and further expenditures (SP 17, 131).

Mr. Sparrowgrass's discontent becomes most intense when these fiascos diminish his

social standing. For instance, he overhears the village teamster spreading news of the horse's

faults around the village, telling the neighbors, "Sparrygrass-got a hos-got the heaves-

got'em real bad" (SP 125-6). The narrator admits, "I was so much ashamed, that I took a

roundabout road to the stable, and instead of coming home like a fresh and gallant cavalier, on a

hand gallop, I walked my purchase to the stable" (SP 126). He is equally irked by the teamster' s

failure to recognize the boundary of class between them: "I must say, I have always disliked old

Dockweed's familiarity; he presumes too much upon my good nature, when he calls me

Sparrygrass before ladies at the depot, and by my Christian name always on the Sabbath, when

he is dressed up" (SP 125-6). After all, even the duplicitous man who sold Mr. Sparrowgrass the

deficient horse addressed him as "squire." The teamster's insult is later repeated, says the

narrator, when "old Dockweed laid his mitten upon my elbow, with a familiarity that might be

excusable in a small village, but which was by no means as respectful in a village so extensive as

our village" (SP 199). This imprecision indicates Mr. Sparrowgrass's difficulty differentiating

the genteel suburb from the rough-mannered country. He feels shame again, for instance, when

visitors arrive from the city and the pitiful reality of his garden does not live up to his "bragging"

(SP 40). Far from meeting the suburban ideal, living in the country threatens his sense of

distinction.









central city as determined by commuting patterns, per capital income changes, and other factors.8

Census data have been used to make pronouncements about suburban trends, yet this practice is

questionable. The census could mislabel people who might otherwise be considered city

dwellers, as Palen explains, "simply because they live in a smaller city that lies near an even

larger central city."9 Similarly, because the outer limits of the metropolis must correspond to

county (or county equivalent) boundaries, rather than counting only incorporated suburban

communities, the rural parts of counties deemed "outside the central city" are lumped together

with the suburbs.

Additional problems with measures of density appear in comparative analyses. "Although

the federal census of 1920 revealed that for the first time more Americans resided in cities (51.4

percent) than in rural locales," writes Michael H. Ebner, "the category of city as a place with

2,500 or more inhabitants was very loosely defined and obscured what was taking place in the

suburbs."10 Needless to say, the "city" of 1920 and the "central city" of the contemporary MSA

are vastly different entities. A longer and broader view further adds to the imprecision, as

Kenneth T. Jackson notes:

Low density, for example, means one thing for the nineteenth century, when urban
densities normally ranged between 50,000 and 100,000 per square mile and newer
areas often had 30,000, and another for the late twentieth century, when many inner
cities have been developed at fewer than 15,000 per square mile and many
suburban areas often count fewer than 1,000 people in the same physical space.
Similarly, some countries have productive agricultural lands which feature higher
population densities than the public and unproductive suburbs of the United
States.11

Without a consistent universal standard, housing and population densities can tell us little about

the suburbs.

In the past thirty years, historians of suburbia have put forward a wide range of definitional

parameters that conceptualize the suburb in terms beyond density. Perhaps the most influential


































2010 Andrew Stuart Reynolds









Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. 1964.
Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

McKeon, Michael. "Generic Transformation and Social Change: Rethinking the Rise of the
Novel." Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach, ed. Michael McKeon, 382-399.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Miller, J. Hillis. Topographies. Stanford, C.A.: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Miller, Laura J. "Family Togetherness and the Suburban Ideal." Sociological Forum 10 (1995):
393-418.

More, Thomas. Utopia. 1516. Reprint. Translated by Paul Turner. New York: Penguin, 1965.

Moskowitz, Marina. Standard ofLiving: The Measure of the Middle Class in Modern America.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Muller, Peter 0. Contemporary Suburban America. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1981.

Nabokov, Vladimir. The AnnotatedLolita: Revised and Updated. Edited by Alfred Appel, Jr.
New York: Vintage, 1991.

Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills. 1985. Reprint. New York: Penguin, 1986.

Nicolaides, Becky M. and Andrew Wiese. "Introduction." The Suburb Reader, eds. Becky M.
Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, 1-12. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Oates, Joyce Carol. Expensive People. 1968. Reprint. Princeton, N.J.: Ontario Review Press,
1990.

them. New York: Vanguard, 1969.

"Visions of Detroit." In (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities, 346-351. New
York: E. P. Dutton, 1988.

Pagano, Rachel. "Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction." Ph.D. dissertation. Columbia
University, 2001.

Palen, J. John. The Suburbs. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995.

Phillips, E. Barbara. City Lights: Urban-Suburban Life in the Global Society. Second edition.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968.

Riesman, David. "The Suburban Sadness." The Suburban Community: A Sourcebook of the
Sociological Patterns That .\lh, ,' the Lives ofForty Million Americans, ed. William Mann
Dobriner, 375-402. New York: Putnam, 1958.


235









Fastnets' baby ("Whirl" 38). Following her husband's untimely death, Mrs. Stryker "plunged

fiercely for distraction into the drapings of her widowhood," inaugurating what Cutting derides

as "a revel of dressmaking inside and out of the house" ("Whirl" 84). The Fastnets are quickly

caught in the same trap. Before Hollister even has Stryker's job, Hazel begins planning to buy

new clothes and talks to her husband about moving to a more fashionable house ("Whirl" 95). As

the Fastnets go off to a party, she placidly leaves the baby with its new nurse, a more subtle shift

away from her previous domesticity ("Whirl" 96).

Hazel turns from her course when she discovers the conditions of the office where

Hollister will work, a "cave of industry" artificially lit and steam heated ("Whirl" 48). With

melodrama suitable to the Victorians, she professes her unwillingness for her husband to suffer

this extreme oppression, and her speech to him also recalls the pastoral values of early Victorian

suburban fiction: "I couldn't be happy-it would kill me! to be in the sunlight and the fresh air

every day and know you were cooped up there, going so early, staying so late!" ("Whirl" 108-9).

Cutting even returns to the religious morality that characterizes her female literary predecessors,

as Hazel informs her husband of her realization that they do not need more money: "God has

been helping me to find that out, to-night. It's all spending and striving after more and more,

without any peace or rest in it" ("Whirl" 110).

The three narratives examined in this concluding section demonstrate the repetition that is

necessary to establish a genre. Most of the features that describe this body of fiction change

function or simply disappear in the twentieth century. Gone are the notions of "living in the

country," along with extended descriptions of picturesque nature as well as any serious

consideration of suburbia as pastoral. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "fresh, green breast of the new world"

in The Great Gatsby (1925) is a vision of the receding past, while Edith Wharton's description of









deciphering whether she was in the environs of Boston or Dallas."33 Oates references this

phenomenon succinctly by having a friend ofNatashya's, visiting from New York City, inquire,

"Is this the Midwest?" (EP 186). Expensive People refuses to ever explicitly answer the question

or geographically locate its "anonymous miles of suburban wasteland" (EP 67). Richard Everett

refers to another now-familiar phenomenon when he mocks the "suburb of Pleasure Dells, as

bereft of dells as Oak Woods was bereft of oaks" (EP 68). As he observes, sprawl often destroys

the topography and natural attractions that, in a postmodern manner, reappear nostalgically in a

subdivision's name, a last remnant of the old pastoral desire to blend city and country life. As

Robert Fishman remarks, "The great American postwar housing boom was perhaps the purest

example of the suburban dream in action, yet its ultimate consequence was to render suburbia

obsolete."34

Detroit and Vietnam

Deterritorialization can also be discovered at work in the disinvestment of America's cities

as well as in the capital investments made by the U.S. in South Vietnam. The signs in a place like

Detroit, an exemplary American city of the postwar period, are too obvious. In 1950, Detroit was

the nation's fourth largest city; "The Motor City's population peaked in 1952 at 1.85 million. By

1960 the number of people residing in the central city had fallen to 1.67 million. During the next

20 years Detroit lost nearly half a million people, while surrounding suburban counties gained

over a million new residents."35 This change in the location of housing was matched by an

equally remarkable shift in property values within Metro Detroit. In 1960, the total value of

property in the city stood at $5 billion, almost equal to that of its suburbs.36 By 1970, city

properties showed almost no change, while the value of suburban properties had increased to $12

billion.


214









Charlotte marries Humbert, she informs him of her plan to remove her irritating daughter from

the household: "Little Lo goes straight from camp to a good boarding school with strict

discipline and some sound religious training. And then-Beardsley College" (L 83). When

Charlotte reads Humbert's diary, her immediate reaction is to want to flee Ramsdale, ceding him

the house that was hers prior to their very recent marriage (L 96). Humbert intercepts her writing

the three letters, but rather than make a scene, Charlotte expels him from the room. As he

ponders how to deny his wrongdoing, she races to the mailbox to send her letters, preferring to

write him rather than argue in person-though she fails to avoid being struck by a neighbor's car

in the street.

The curious behavior of "Miss East" also might demonstrate moral minimalism.

Overhearing Humbert and Lolita's quarrel, the neighbor does not call the police to report a noise

disturbance, a domestic dispute, or something more unsavory. Perhaps she cannot contact the

authorities and still remain anonymous, since she is the neighbor most obviously affected by

Humbert's east-facing open window. Miss East's disgruntled phone call nevertheless substitutes

for a face-to-face confrontation, and she chastises Humbert in what seems an attempt to contain

rather than rectify his conflict with Lolita. Similarly, Lester and Fabian do not investigate or

interfere, whatever they may suspect, perhaps because their new neighbors will soon be

leaving-Humbert rents the house of a professor on sabbatical-as in fact they do (L 176).

Humbert's management of conflict and power is the most complex and dynamic, as befits

his character's position in the narrative. He provides a self-analysis early in his pursuit of Lolita:

"Despite my manly looks, I am horribly timid. My romantic soul gets all clammy and shivery at

the thought of running into some awful indecent unpleasantness. Those ribald sea monsters" (L

53). Although he insinuates that his childhood experience influenced his aversion to conflict,









Despite the apparent success of the early-twentieth-century suburbs at performing their

original function, the characteristic discontentment persists in suburban fiction, though not

without significant changes too. The loose, anticlimactic narrative structure of the sketches gives

way to a new "suburban" plot centered upon a white, middle-class man's dissatisfaction with his

marriage, home, and career, leading to an adulterous affair and a family crisis that is resolved by

accidental violence or death. I take the emergence of this dominant plot-not found in every

novel to be sure-as symptomatic of a general shift in the subgenre's perception of the suburbs.

No longer is discontent principally oriented toward the suburbs' perceived failure at

consolidating middle-class identity, its inability to create a distinctively middle-class way of life

or to ward off threats from outside the suburb.59 Instead, the problems portrayed in many

twentieth-century suburban novels seem to be caused, ironically, by the suburbs' very success at

creating an exclusive, respectable, thoroughly middle-class social geography. Some of these

problems include the collapse of the bourgeois intimate sphere, the emergence of a minimalistic

social order characterized by conflict avoidance and disengaged tolerance, and the growth of

suburban sprawl-as I will elaborate through my discussions of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt,

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and Joyce Carol Oates's Expensive People, respectively. I explain

this turnabout by proposing that the suburbs' success leads to their transformation, as additional

capitalist functions such as consumerism and deterritorialization are introduced and incite

conflicts over the suburbs' previous exceptions to the rules governing capitalist space. Therefore,

the new problems presented in literary treatments of the suburbs can often be interpreted as

representing the unintended consequences or side effects of suburbia's success at providing

distinction.









demonstrates this point, but in fact, most consumer goods featured in the novel work flawlessly.

Lewis remains far less critical of commodities than of the social relations embedded in them

through mass-market exchange. Most importantly, he seems worried that commercial relations

may disrupt intimacy and turn personal life into the material for an advertising campaign, in the

same manner that Habermas finds the public sphere being replaced by the culture industry's

administered conversation.57

In other words, the problem with the extension of industry's reach into the suburbs is really

the intrusion of capitalism into the intimate sphere.58 Babbitt, as a real-estate agent and

developer, is to a degree responsible for the general commercialization of suburban domestic life

that frustrates him personally. He is caught in a trap of his own devising. In order to appreciate

better why Lewis positions his protagonist so, and what Lewis thinks about the fate of the

intimate sphere in the twentieth century, I will conclude by analyzing Babbitt's rebellion, which

constitutes most of the novel's main plot.

Home Away from Home

Babbitt's rebellion should be read as a series of attempts to create opportunities for

personal life and intimacy somewhere other than the suburban intimate sphere, to reinstate their

former idealized opposition to consumerism and capitalism in general. His revolt begins

innocuously with incoherent feelings of dissatisfaction and climaxes much later in his willful

flouting of the beliefs and demands of his wife, his neighbors, and his friends. Four moments

spanning the spectrum from passive discontentment to active rebellion are worth examining: his

dream of the fairy child, his friendship with Paul Riesling, his camping trips to Maine, and his

affair with Tanis Judique. In all four cases, Babbitt seeks to attain the rewards that domestic life

fails to provide him, searching for a space outside of the family and the suburban house in which

to enjoy them. These rewards are, respectively, the experiences of romantic love, friendship,









seems closer to the concerns of nineteenth-century suburban fiction. While a general labor strike

does momentarily threaten Babbitt's home city of Zenith, his own middle-class security is never

in question. The only "Red" he ever encounters is his old college friend Seneca Doane, a radical

lawyer, while people outside the middle class are of little concern to Babbitt except in so far as

they do work for him-quite different from the experience of Howells's suburbanites. Babbitt's

discontent more immediately regards a feature of the suburbs that is transforming, a privilege

that is not a tangible material or economic benefit: his personal life. He rebels because the

relative autonomy of the intimate sphere is being eroded by the consumer culture that colonizes

the early-twentieth-century suburbs. Here lies the novel's great irony: Babbitt as a suburban

resident loses his space for privacy and intimacy due to the kind of work he himself does as a

real-estate agent, suburban land speculator, and community developer, the Babbitt who

represents industrial capitalism's encroachment into the suburbs. Sinclair Lewis positions his

protagonist to experience both sides of this transformation. I agree with Jurca, therefore, in

understanding Babbitt as not simply a victim of his environment. Babbitt experiences suburban

life as a trap, but the trap, ironically, is one of his own devising.

The Old Comforts of Home: The Decline of Bourgeois Intimacy

The best way to explain Babbitt's discontent begins with an examination of his different

roles that come to be at odds. I will start with his work persona, because it dominates his

character and determines most of his important actions through the first half of the novel, prior to

his rebellion. Babbitt's occupation is real-estate broker; he operates the Babbitt-Thompson

Realty Co. in the city of Zenith with his partner and father-in-law, Henry Thompson. 13 They

manage rental properties, negotiate land transactions, and on the side sell suburban homes built

in a "high-class restricted development" called Glen Oriole (B 34). Babbitt's work occupies what









Protestant work ethic. Indeed, he enjoys a secret pride that his son Ted does not perform any

chores around the house (B 64), although he still hypocritically invokes the work ethic as an

excuse to avoid paying a bonus to his young employee Stanley Graff (B 62). Babbitt also avoids

the responsibility of moral authority and instruction. Although both parents are vaguely troubled

by the possibility that Ted is having premarital sex, Babbitt only makes an empty promise to his

wife that "Yes sir, by golly, I'm going to take Ted aside and tell him why I lead a strictly moral

life," to which Myra doubtfully responds, "Oh, will you? When?" (B 78). Ted's socialization

does not seem to depend upon the intimate sphere; neither does Verona Babbitt follow her

mother's path. Verona, "just out ofBryn Mawr" College (B 13), works as a "filing-clerk at the

Gruensberg Leather Company offices, with a prospect of becoming secretary to Mr. Gruensberg

and thus, as Babbitt defined it, 'getting some good out of your expensive college education till

you're ready to marry and settle down'" (B 14). Babbitt's assumptions about a woman's proper

trajectory are matched by his inability to comprehend his daughter's interest in the social sphere,

what he derides as "all this uplift and flipflop and settlement-work" (B 14). The gendered

determinism of the separate spheres retains a powerful hold on Babbitt's imagination.

Just as the Babbitt family's domestic life does not adhere to the nineteenth-century

pattern, so does George Babbitt's experience of the suburbs reveal a significant difference from

their portrayal by Howells and other Victorian fiction writers. The discontent of nineteenth-

century suburbanite characters came from their perception that the suburbs failed to reinforce a

precarious middle-class identity by unsuccessfully excluding threatening aspects of the industrial

city. On the contrary, Babbitt reveals no such concern about the suburbs of Zenith. The opening

paragraphs of the novel reflect his confidence in the modern, class-segregated metropolis:









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

The American suburbs are readily stereotyped. Unlike "the city" or "the country," which

might bring to mind cosmopolitan diversity or some distinctive regional identity, "suburbia"

evokes the idea of a homogeneous, national culture through a series of familiar images: picture

windows and manicured lawns, cul-de-sacs and car garages, swimming pools and barbeques, and

at the heart of it all the white, middle-class, nuclear family. Suburban literature also seems rather

easy to identify. Based on conversations and teaching experiences I have had in the course of

writing this dissertation, I have found that casual readers believe this subgenre began in the

1950s and is best represented by John Updike's "Rabbit" novels and the short stories of John

Cheever. The convention of this body of literature, it might be added, is to expose the discontent

and domestic conflict hiding behind the material signs of success and public displays of

conformity. In other words, the literary suburbs are inevitably home to a disgruntled

"organization man" and his dysfunctional family. This mundane subject matter along with the

recognizability of this subgenre consigns it to an inferior literary status, as a popular branch of

realism lacking the aesthetic originality, social significance, or political engagement of high

modernism, postmodern metafiction, and magical realism.

These beliefs certainly exist for a reason, yet they are overly simplistic and even

misleading. As the title of this dissertation suggests, the suburbs and the subgenre have relatively

long histories in the context of U.S. culture. Even a brief survey of their histories reveals some

fundamental conflicts. Over the last fifty years, observers have questioned whether the post-

WWII suburbs are truly suburbs or not, considering that these development have progressively

drifted away from their traditional urban centers to create a new type of built environment, one

that William H. Whyte, Jr., was already in the late 1950s calling "sprawl." Some have argued









Thus, we need to examine the twentieth-century intimate sphere in more detail in order to

understand Babbitt's discontent.

The New Comforts of Home: The Rise of Mass Consumerism

With the emergence of the social sphere and the success of the suburbs, little reason

remained for the intimate sphere to continue serving its original function of socialization. The

ideal of intimacy did not as a result suddenly cease to compel belief, however. The intimate

sphere had been the subject of an extensive ideological campaign throughout the nineteenth

century. Intimacy had provided the alibi not only for women's domestic labor but also for men's

participation in capitalism as well, their consolation and compensation, as demonstrated by the

intense sentimentalization of "Home Sweet Home." I see two possible explanations for what

happened. The first possibility is that when the practical need for the family to indoctrinate,

coerce, and inhibit its members diminished, the radical potential implicit in the intimate sphere's

opposition to capitalism could be unleashed. The intimate sphere as a prop could be pulled out

from under the private and public spheres, and the structure of the spheres stood on its head, with

the intimate sphere at the apex and the new social sphere providing support. What before had

been mostly ideology, an alibi, could potentially become realized as a genuine end in itself, in

what Sennett calls the "intimate society" of the twentieth century.31

Such a structural transformation would help to explain why the intimate sphere did in fact

reorganize during the Progressive Era around an ethos of personal fulfillment, romantic

satisfaction, and leisure. New practices that distinguished this incarnation of the intimate sphere

included "masculine domesticity," the companionate marriage, and family togetherness.32 All

three can be understood as attempts to turn sentimental Victorian ideals about intimacy into

reality. Margaret Marsh defines the first as "not equivalent to feminism" but instead "a

behavioral model in which fathers agreed to take on increased responsibility for some of the day-









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

To say that I could not have completed this project without David Leverenz would be an

understatement. I could not imagine a better dissertation director. His unwavering enthusiasm

and prompt, incisive responses to innumerable drafts kept me from quitting and helped me to

overcome my worst writing habits. Any portion of this dissertation that manages to be distilled

and cogent-two of David's favorite terms of praise-is a result of his mentoring, if not his

direct assistance. In the past year, I have felt rejuvenated about this project, and it is no

coincidence that during that same period I have increasingly noticed the ways in which David

has helped me to improve as a writer, ranging from my general approach to literary scholarship

down to the structuring of sentences. I cannot thank him enough, and I aspire to his patience and

generosity as a teacher.

I am also indebted to the members of my committee for their instruction and support.

Susan Hegeman introduced me to the idea of approaching literature through setting in her

stimulating seminar "The City and the Country." My seminar paper for Susan was the first thing

I wrote on the topic of suburbia, and her prompting me to be more rigorous in defining my

subject effectively led to this dissertation. Phil Wegner similarly sparked my interests in genre

and the theory of space, both through his own scholarship and also by introducing me to writers

including Fredric Jameson and Henri Lefevbre. Phil's dynamic ability to periodize and

historicize cultural phenomena inspired my own attempts at theorization in this work. Trysh

Travis shared her knowledge of suburban history with characteristic frankness, and she boosted

my confidence by inviting me to visit her class "Masculinity in Suburbia" as a guest lecturer.

Each of them offered me valuable feedback on various parts of the dissertation, and my defense

was truly enjoyable and enlightening thanks to all their efforts.









Myra provides a caricature of the Victorian matron, as revealed more than anywhere in her brief

yet extraordinary outburst at the end of the novel (B 313). Meanwhile, George feels a very

middle-class responsibility about his children's futures. He worries about his son Ted in

particular. The high-school boy takes drives with friends whom his mother worries may not be

"nice decent girls," and he aspires to be a car mechanic (B 77). Babbitt announces his other

intentions for his son: "I've told him a hundred times, if he'll go to college and law-school and

make good, I'll set him up in business" (B 11). This comment reveals how the times have

changed, despite George's and Myra's lagging attitudes. If Ted were to earn a law degree at the

state university Babbitt attended, he would not require paternal assistance, because he would

have acquired an impersonalized, standardized set of skills enabling him to enter the professional

or corporate world-something more widely marketable than his or his family's reputation. The

public educational system is only one element of the new social sphere that emerged during the

Progressive era, removing from the family and the home much of the responsibility for the

middle class's social reproduction. The social sphere, as Habermas describes it, collapsed the

boundaries between the private sphere, the public sphere, and the state through practices such as

economic interventionism and social legislation.30 The social sphere is therefore related to the

corporation and the wage system, which also introduced more regularity to the class structure,

reducing the dynamic social mobility associated with the entrepreneurial private sphere of the

nineteenth century.

The Babbitts' domestic life, as one might expect, reflects the increasing influence of the

social sphere and the resulting transformation of the intimate sphere in the early twentieth

century. While Babbitt realizes it is important to encourage his children to be formally educated,

he does not bother himself with training them at home in middle-class values such as the









domesticity that progressively abandoned the core values of simplicity and functionality. For

instance, the High-Victorian Picturesque architectural style became popular at this time;

individual personality was thought to be expressed through its "profusion of functionally useless

ornament" borrowed indiscriminately from other styles-ornamentation that was mass produced,

furthermore.49 As Wright observes, "In order to have the home seem to be a haven from the

world of business and industry, it was necessary to bring in industrially produced furniture, bric-

a-brac, curtains, and wallpapers, and to learn from department-store displays, manufacturer's

advertisements, and books of advice how to arrange these things."50 Industrialization did more

than replace handicraft; it opened the way for a significant transformation of the house and the

suburbs.

The change occurred more straightforwardly in the building of houses, as the subdivider

was succeeded in importance by the speculative developer. Previously only suburbs for the

wealthy had been methodically designed and laid out. Due to the advances in the manufacture

and distribution of construction materials, along with the slow rationalization of the building

trades, Fordist efficiencies of scale could be achieved, and the first large-scale builders of

middle-class communities arose in the 1880s, such as Samuel Eberly Gross in Chicago. Their

projects were often widely advertised, effectively creating local suburban brands and turning

houses into standardized commodities. Most importantly, they showed that mass suburbanization

could be a profitable industry. As Dolores Hayden reflects, "Developers like Gross had

demonstrated that housing could be a very broad business spanning land subdivision,

construction, and mortgage lending."51

The most visible sign of change came with a shift in suburban architectural styles after the

turn of the century. A new aesthetic of minimalism became dominant, embodied most notably in









deceased uncle's perfume company (L 32); he could figuratively be described as an escaped

convict, being on the run from suburbia and having committed himself to a few mental

institutions; he experiences impotence with Charlotte (L 74); and finally, he and Lo constitute a

family group as well as a corrupt and vigorous couple.

Beyond the lack of evidence within the novel, little research suggests that postwar

American suburbia or automobile culture is particularly characterized by disciplinarity or

panopticism. Humbert makes a pertinent observation about Clare Quilty's suburban house Pavor

Manor, as he locks all the interior doors to preclude Quilty's escape: "The house, being an old

one, had more planned privacy than have modern glamour-boxes, where the bathroom, the only

lockable locus, has to be used for the furtive needs of planned parenthood" (L 294). Humbert is

correct, in that a change took place around the turn of the century regarding domestic interior

architecture. Margaret Marsh examined popular suburban house pattern books from the 1860s

and 70s: "The design and function of the rooms suggested not only a separation between the

family and outsiders, but also a good deal of internal family segregation."22 By contrast, a so-

called "open floor plan" became popular around the turn of the century: "the important new idea

about domestic space was that the house should express togetherness and family activities, not

provide special spaces for individual activities."23 Indeed, the house's latent role as a site of

production and instruction continued to diminish with the increasing institutionalization of such

activities during the Progressive Era via the corporate capitalist market and the public education

system. Spaces such as a basement kitchen run by servants, a sewing room, or a study were

abandoned in favor of a living room and family kitchen.

Despite Humbert's worry that modern suburban houses lack privacy, the turn-of-the-

century rearrangement had little to do with instituting disciplinarity or panopticism. "In the









The ironically titled "A Day's Pleasure" addresses the topic of suburban leisure. The entire

family, including the baby and its nurse, travel by horse-car to the harbor to take a ferry to the

Gloucester beach. They meet with minor setbacks along the way, culminating in their decision

not to disembark from the boat once they finally arrive because of a slight chill in the air. Where

Coffin turned the same scenario to a humorous end, swiftly piling up outrageous accidents in

order to exhibit his suburbanites' ineptitude, Howells's long, tedious sketch makes the same

point with his characteristic blend of pathos and sarcasm. Upon hearing a brief account of the

excursion, one of the suburban women who stayed at home exclaims, "I don't wish to hear

anything more. That's your idea of a day's pleasure, is it? I call it a day's disgrace, a day's

miserable giving-up. There, go in, go in; I'm ashamed of you all. Don't let the neighbors see you,

for pity's sake" (SS 158).

The next pair of sketches touch most directly upon the aesthetic problems with which

Howells struggles. In "A Romance of Real Life," a gaunt man named Jonathan Tinker comes to

the door of a Charlesbridge resident late in the evening, claiming to be a sailor just returned from

a two years' voyage, trying to locate his daughter who is reputed to live nearby. The protagonist,

a contributor to the magazines, takes this chance encounter as proof of his embryonic theory of

literary realism: "This contributor had been lately thinking, whenever he turned the pages of

some foolish traveller,-some empty prattler of Southern or Eastern lands, where all sensation

was long ago exhausted, and the oxygen has perished from every sentiment, so has it been

breathed and breathed again,-that nowadays the wise adventurer sat down beside his own

register and waited for incidents to seek him out" (SS 172). The contributor helps the sailor

canvass the neighborhood, and in learning more of Tinker's adventures "rejoiced in him as an

episode of real life quite as striking and complete as anything in fiction. It was literature made to









following decades maintained a similar relationship to urban black culture, becoming consumers

of rap and hip-hop music, appropriating the street idiom, and glorifying gang culture.

A more serious complication with this reading is that Richard may be lying when he claims

to have murdered his mother. Many readers have had their suspicions raised by the postmodern

style of the novel, particularly due to the narrator's metafictional asides and admissions of

fabrications. If we reconsider the evidence, his father Elwood seems the most probable culprit.

Elwood's boot prints were the primary evidence found at the crime scene, though his son claims

to have been wearing the boots at the time. In addition, the murder weapon was never discovered

where Richard claims that he hid it, to his surprise. More importantly, Elwood has several

motives: he fights viciously with his wife about many things, as Richard enumerates (EP 74-5).

Moreover, Elwood informs Richard, "I almost lost my top [security] clearance because of your

mother," perhaps due to her bohemian behavior or her invented Russian background-a likely

liability in Cold War America (EP 131). By killing her, Elwood could make room for a more

advantageous spouse. Indeed, Richard enters a psychiatric hospital upon collapsing after his

mother's death, and a week after his discharge, his father presents the boy to his new step-mother

(EP 234). He moves the reconstituted family to new, more expensive house, which he can afford

having recently been hired as a company president, and he probably collected life insurance

money as well. Statistically, acts of domestic violence are overwhelmingly committed by adult

men, and Natashya's not-so-secret sexual affairs provide a final, banal reason to suspect her

husband.

If Richard's matricide-the lynchpin of the entire narrative-is another lie, it only

reinforces my reading of the novel as a sprawl narrative. Richard's memoir is unquestionably an

attempt to make sense of his past, though as an adult he still does not know all that really


223









to-day tasks of bringing up children and spend their time away from work in playing with their

sons and daughters, teaching them, taking them on trips."33 The purpose of such leisure activities

was not to instill values of obedience and discipline, as the Victorian patriarch attempted, but to

achieve intimacy as its own end and reward. Marsh writes, "fathers were encouraged to be

'chums' with their children, especially, but by no means exclusively, with their sons."34 In the

post-Victorian world, sharply dichotomized gender roles remained normative, even as their

foundations were melting into air. Fathers thus took special interest in their sons out of fear that,

without a masculine presence in the intimate sphere, boys risked feminization, yet also because

their own manhood needed a place for regeneration due to their perceived emasculation by

bureaucratic, corporate, and managerial work.35 By no coincidence does George's son happen to

be named Theodore Roosevelt Babbitt.

Domestic interior architecture also embodied the new ethos, and again, the intimate sphere

finds its analogue in the suburbs. Whereas "Victorian houses had been designed for separation,"

Marsh determines, "[t]he most striking thing about early twentieth-century suburban houses was

their design for togetherness."36 Popular open floor plans featured living rooms or family rooms,

which replaced the numerous spaces for individual privacy: the sewing room, the sitting room,

the library, the den, and the smoking room.37 The Babbitts value time spent together in their

living room, as we've seen, and George might adhere to the new masculine domesticity as well.

For instance, he takes his son along on a business trip to Chicago, and "once away from the

familiar implications of home, they were two men together," smoking cigars, telling jokes, and

acting chummy (B 215).

The flaw in this explanation, at least as far as Babbitt is concerned, is that his domestic life

does not really satisfy him. He experiences the same flashes of irritation and gnawing discontent









The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and
cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. They were neither
citadels nor churches, but frankly and beautifully office-buildings.

The mist took pity on the fretted structures of earlier generations: the Post Office
with its shingle-tortured mansard, the red brick minarets of hulking old houses,
factories with stingy and sooted windows, wooden tenements colored like mud.
The city was full of such grotesqueries, but the clean towers were thrusting them
from the business center, and on the farther hills were shining new houses,
homes-they seemed-for laughter and tranquillity. (B 1)

These houses glitter on the inside as well, being outfitted with all sorts of up-to-date domestic

technology and amenities. Lewis describes at length Babbitt's material privileges, his "royal

bathroom" (4), his "triumphant modern mattresses" (B 12), his "hot-water radiator .. of exactly

the proper scientific surface for the cubic contents of the room" (B 12), his electric lamps,

vacuum cleaner, "electric percolator and the electric toaster" (B 13). Such conveniences helped

to resolve the nineteenth-century dismay with suburban life as inferior to urban standards. Lewis

presents Babbitt's house as perfectly standardized, "right out of Cheerful Modern Houses for

Medium Incomes" (B 12), and Babbitt himself betrays no anxiety about his suburban residence

failing to make him feel middle class. Finally, covenants and deed restrictions, such as those he

established in Glen Oriole, legally ensured the exclusivity of the early-twentieth-century suburbs,

providing yet another reassurance.

These changes show that, although George and Myra appear nostalgic for Victorian

ideals of intimacy and personal life, their domestic situation does not conform to the nineteenth-

century pattern of behavior that made those ideals achievable. Without the family's taking part in

socialization through moral authority and discipline, creating bonds outside the medium of

market exchange, a sense of duty and mutual dependence among family members remains weak.

In other words, the more the Babbitt family members make their own way in the world, the less

likely they will be to experience the non-instrumental relations and pure humanity they desire.









Thucydides is threatening and disruptive like the Irish, not docile and aesthetic as the

suburbanites believe African-Americans should be. As the narrator says: "We beheld him all

over the house, a monstrous eidolon, balanced upon every windowsill; and he certainly attracted

unpleasant notice to our place" (SS 32). The suburbanites try to manage him by claiming he

shares his mother's "primitive nature," though she informs them of"his industry, his courage,

and his talent," claiming that "there was no one so agreeable in society, or so quick-witted in

affairs" (SS 32). This description of the young man's qualities makes him a potential parody of

the white middle-class suburbanites. The family decides that he must go, and the sketch ends

abruptly with Mrs. Johnson remorsefully quitting their service. If Mrs. Johnson serves as an

exception that proves the rule of suburban exclusivity, then Thucydides, with his offensive

inclination for suburban life, spoils the possibility of picturesque mixture.

The next two sketches repeat Howells' s themes, contrasting Boston's Italian "vagabonds"

with the Irish residents of the "Dublin" community. The narrator admits, "we Northern and New

World folk cannot help but cast a little romance about whoever comes to us from Italy, whether

we have actually known the beauty and charm of that land or not" (SS 45). The various Italian

beggars, organ grinders, and scissors grinders who appear at his door could be considered

nuisances, yet he finds them enjoyable because of the diversions these immigrants offer-indeed,

this sketch begins a trend of drifting away from the topic of suburbia that will only become more

pronounced. Although the Italians are all impoverished and homeless, their need to elicit his

goodwill through pleasantry allows him to imagine their lives as he wishes: "I feel that they only

pretend a disgust with it, and that they really like organ-grinding, if for no other reason than that

they are the children of the summer, and it takes them into the beloved open weather" (SS 35).

Recording the appearance and habits of one peddler, he nonchalantly remarks, "she, too, has had









the Van Osburgh marriage in The House ofMirth (1905) as a "simple country wedding" and

"sylvan rites" drips with sarcasm.7

Also gone are non-whites, who are banished from suburbia until the 1980s. While Tom

Buchanan may echo the spurious racial theories of Howells's narrator, no such characters as Mrs.

Johnson or her son Thucydides are featured in The Great Gatsby or novels of its period. Sinclair

Lewis's KingsbloodRoyal (1947) features an apparently white suburban protagonist whose

great-great-great-grandparents are discovered to have been an Indian and "a full blooded Negro,"

and even such a seemingly insignificant revelation leads to hysteria.76 Gone as well are

representations of non-upper- or middle-class neighbors or visitors to suburbia, as the fear of

their threatening or shaming suburbanites dissipates. The mechanic George Wilson's surprising

behavior at the end of The Great Gatsby provides a rare exception, while George Babbitt is far

more representative of the new attitude. When his teenaged son Ted announces that he would

like to learn boxing and self-defense in case he needs to defend the family's honor in public

(presumably from the same type of fellows who harass Clitheroe in Beers's story), Babbitt

dismisses his son's desire as unnecessary: "'Nobody's going to pass no slighting remarks on

nobody,' Babbitt observed, 'not if they stay home and study their geometry and mind their own

affairs instead of hanging around a lot of poolrooms and soda-fountains and places where

nobody's got any business to be! ,,77 Home, the suburb, is where the middle-class person is

finally somebody.

All of this is to say that the theme of indistinction no longer defines suburban fiction.


Notes
1 See Amy Maria Kenyon, Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (Detroit:
Wayne State Univ. Press, 2004); and Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in
Twentieth-CenturyAmerican Fiction and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).









This irony is the most distinguishing and provocative characteristic of the twentieth-

century suburban novel. Discontent in the face of apparent success becomes the new dominant

theme, replacing the nineteenth-century one of concern about indistinction. Indeed, the beginning

of the twentieth century marks a wholesale "transformation of genre," as the setting and field of

vision are restricted, a new master plot materializes, the symbolism changes, and ultimately the

very image or "symbolic landscape" of suburbia changes.60 Nineteenth-century suburban fiction

remains either guardedly optimistic or disconcertedly resigned about the future of suburbia. By

contrast, the twentieth-century subgenre provides an almost uninterrupted chronicle of the

contradictoriness, defectiveness, and intolerability of the suburban way of life. Marking this

change in attitude is the newly ubiquitous motif of the collapse of a suburban family, often

through a death, the opposite of nineteenth-century domestic fiction's comic ending with

marriage (Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World) or family reunited (Harriet Beecher Stowe's

Uncle Tom's Cabin). Indeed, I would consider another name for the twentieth-century subgenre

to be "anti-domestic fiction," because of its orientation toward male characters as well as its

reversal of the earlier tendency to "glorify the home" (to borrow a phrase from Nabokov).61

In making these generalizations, I do not want to imply that the irony I have described

appears in every single twentieth-century suburban novel, nor do I intend my way of reading to

completely discount those of previous critics. I would like to believe that my narrative could

subsume these other accounts, putting their ideas into a new framework. In the end, though, mine

is as partial-in other words, as incomplete and biased-as any other attempt at genre criticism.

As Bourdieu observes:

Attribution is always implicitly based on reference to "typical works," consciously
or unconsciously selected because they present to a particularly high degree the
qualities more or less explicitly recognized as pertinent in a given system of
classification. Everything suggests that, even among specialists, the criteria of









reflected, 'No class to that tin shack. Have to build me a frame garage. But by golly it's the only

thing on the place that isn't up-to-date!'" (B 4). This sort of unbidden awareness, repeated ad

nauseam with the thousands of commodities Babbitt owns or considers buying, shapes the

pattern of his neurotic consciousness.

Second, domestic relations assume a more instrumental character when consumerism

provides the setting and medium for intimacy. The Babbitt children, for example, attempt to

trade on their parents' love in order to acquire nicer things. Ted begins by comparing himself to

his high-school classmates: "Say, gee, I ought to have a car of my own, like lots of the fellows"

(B 16). Babbitt squashes this notion, but later he raises the topic of replacing the family car, only

to incite all three children and Myra into making similar arguments in favor of a more expensive,

prestigious model than he happens to prefer (B 65). Babbitt resents such incursions on his

patriarchal authority, but his old-fashioned efforts at economic discipline are at odds with the

intimate sphere's new ethos.

Third, domestic consumerism taints the material pleasures ofBabbitt's personal life with a

fear of being tricked, cheated, or sold superfluous things-in other words, overspending or

overconsuming. The same sort of corruption that pervades his own business could be at work in

the domestic goods industry, and thus entering his home. Lewis reveals this danger lurking

within the Babbitts' living room, at their sacred hearth no less: "The fireplace was unsoftened by

downy ashes or by sooty brick; the brass fire-irons were of immaculate polish; and the grenadier

andirons were like samples in a shop, desolate, unwanted, lifeless things of commerce" (B 82).

While Babbitt can be predatory and domineering as businessman, he stands powerless as

consumer:

just as the priests of the Presbyterian Church determined [Babbitt's] every religious
belief and the senators who controlled the Republican Party decided in little smoky









This conversion of some of the ostensible defects of life in the country into merits is the

accommodation that Cozzens reaches with suburbia. The Sparrowgrass Papers ends once this

process is complete. Reflecting on living in the country, Mr. Sparrowgrass declares to his wife,

"I have had my say about it. I begin to feel that the first impressions, the novelty, the freshness,

incident to change from city to country are wearing away. .. Do you not see it with very

different eyes from those you first brought with you out of the city?" (SP 244-5). He goes on to

assess the advantages and disadvantages of each place, and this long final chapter provides the

most thorough account of everyday life in early bourgeois suburbia that exists in fiction. In doing

so, he observes that the family has better learned how to keep house, cultivate a garden, and so

forth.

He also admits that his "preconceived notions" have been abandoned:

It must be confessed that turnpike roads are not always avenues of happiness; that
distance, simply contemplated from a railroad depot, does not lend enchantment to
the view of a load of furniture travelling up hill through a hearty rainstorm; that
communion with the visible forms of nature, now and then, fails to supply us with
the requisite amount of mild and healing sympathy; that a rustic cottage may be
overflowing with love, and yet overflowed with water; that, in fine, living in the
country rarely fulfils at once the idea of living in clover. (SP 251-2)

Whereas Hentz and Cary propose that suburbia's success requires the bourgeoisie to make a

moral adjustment, Cozzens recommends a more practical one of diminished expectations,

looking for distinction not through material conveniences, idyllic recreation, or social standing

but rather through aestheticized nature, humor, and the symbolic sacrifice of suburban luxuries.

Cozzens concludes by contrasting the Sparrowgrasses's experience with the pastoral ideal:

"Once understood that life in the country does not imply exemption from all the cares and

business of ordinary life; that happiness, here as elsewhere, is only a glimpse between the

clouds;" one can then properly appreciate suburbia (SP 254).63









analogy can be drawn: whereas these draft resisters challenged the senseless sacrifice of young

soldiers by the U.S. government, Richard protests the fact that he cannot satisfy his mother,

because what she wants from him, it seems, is never to have been born.

The most iconic of Oates's historical references can be found in the swimming pool scene.

The prankster who gets set on fire might seem irrelevant to the story, at most signaling the depths

of suburban boredom. In the context I am proposing, the girl's image calls to mind something

much more disturbing: the self-immolation done by war protesters in America, who were

themselves emulating the actions of Buddhist monks in South Vietnam. Perhaps Oates recalled

from her local newspapers the story of the first of these protesters: "Alice Herz, an eighty-two-

year-old refugee from Nazism, [who] set herself aflame at a busy Detroit intersection" in 1965.18

Richard detects "something forbidden" about the flaming girl, possibly her corruption of

chronology or the way she surreptitiously inserts an image of political protest into suburbia's

placid backyards.

The allusions come rapidly once the shootings commence. Oates repeatedly uses the term

"sniper," a clear reference to Detroit's highly-publicized civilian shooters, while the suburb

under siege is referred to as a "jungle," a word that for contemporary American readers would

evoke thoughts of Vietnam. Furthermore, Richard intentionally misses his neighbors, just as the

Detroit shooters seemingly intended to drive off rather than kill police and fire responders. 19 The

many possible parallels between the riot, the war, and the events of Expensive People that can be

found are compelling, but what do they ultimately tell us? In order to understand how these

references allow us to rethink Richard's disintegration and matricide, we must consider the

histories of these places and their different relationships to the process of deterritorialization.


207









Henry Cuyler Bunner's The Suburban Sage (1896) is close to the writings of Cozzens and

Coffin in form, content, and meaning.72 Mr. Sage, whose name testifies to his hard-won wisdom,

is a professional writer who moved from New York City to the Jersey suburbs some years ago.

He works out of his house, producing these autobiographical sketches.73 This sketchbook

provides another Horatian satire of everyday suburban life, focusing upon the inexperience of

newcomers as well as the minor deceptions and self-delusions that result from the desire for

distinction. The comedy of manners begins with "Mr. Chedby on a Regular Nuisance." The title

character spends much of this sketch complaining to his neighbor Mr. Sage that "the borrowing

habit is the curse of suburban life," because people do not return items or sometimes even ask

one's permission (Sage 6). Mr. Sage has come to ask Mr. Chedby to return his lawn roller,

telling him, "'if you can send your man up with it in the morning, I'll be much obliged.' (He had

no man; but it is a polite suburban fiction to assume that everybody keeps one)" (Sage 7).

Unperturbed, Chedby proclaims his surprise at learning the roller belongs to Sage, since he found

it at another neighbor's house. The fibbing on both sides exemplifies the behavior that Bunner

considers essential to middle-class suburban distinction. To admit one needs the roller to perform

one's own yardwork would be to lose face. Through such illusions, the community depends upon

its members to inflate their collective status.

The same unsubtle, comic irony that characterized the work ofCozzens and Coffin is also

present in The Suburban Sage. In "The Suburban Horse," for instance, Mr. Sage recounts the life

ofRix, a horse that passes through many hands like the lawn roller. Mr. Sage finds describing

Rix to be difficult: "he is no particular kind of horse-or he is any and every kind, as you please

to put it. His quality, character and station among horses depend almost entirely upon his

ownership and employment" (Sage 23). Because suburbanites lack any real experience with









Asian-Americans were simply refused as buyers-although legalized racial covenants did not

come into common use until around 1910-1920.21

These examples give a broad outline of the postbellum effort to associate a particular type

of space-planned residential suburbs-with the middle class and the white, Anglo-Saxon,

Protestant (WASP) identity, by excluding "undesirables" of other classes, races, ethnicities,

national origins, and religions. The strategy was largely a success. "By the 1870s," claims

Jackson, "the word suburb no longer implied inferiority or derision" to Americans.22 Of course,

the increasing fashionability of suburbia meant that it became an aspiration of the petty

bourgeoisie and even the working class, one that a new breed of real-estate developer sought to

satisfy. "From the 1870s on," Hayden writes, subdividerss of land near city centers provided a

cut-rate version of the verdant residential ideal expressed in the picturesque enclaves."23 These

"streetcar suburbs" employed mass-production techniques and other innovations in

transportation, construction, financing, and marketing to build "affordable homes for the

common man" (Jackson's phrase) in the image of bourgeois suburbia. Sam Bass Warner, Jr.,

considers the streetcar suburbs as "the attempt by a mass of people, each with but one small

house and a lot, to achieve what previously had been the pattern of life of a few rich families

with two large houses and ample land."24 Again, the expansive logic of the capitalist system

threatened the stability of the social distinctions it originated.

Teasing out these elements of anti-capitalism and classism is not sufficient to explain the

rise of the Anglo-American middle-class suburb as a strategy for distinction. The French

bourgeoisie shared the same Victorian ideals of domesticity, privacy, and class segregation,

according to Robert Fishman, "but, lacking the Puritan tradition of the Evangelicals, they saw no

contradiction between family life and the pleasures of urban culture."25 Haussmann rebuilt Paris











76 Sinclair Lewis, Kingsblood Royal (1947; reprint, New York: Popular Library, 1959), 60.

7 Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1996), 72.









(OT8). Their attempts at leisure are also plagued by embarrassing "mishaps," as when the entire

family-including the baby and its nurse-goes out to picnic at the Bronx River, where the

novice angler Mr. Gray intends to fish (OT28). Despite being warned by the village "fool" that

rain is imminent, he persists in getting the family and his excess of fishing gear down to the

river, where he proceeds to have "many misadventures," including breaking one rod and

catching his son's ear with a hook (OT29). Inevitably, a heavy shower ruins the picnic lunch.

These episodes are all occasions for humor at Mr. Gray's expense, though he maintains a

cheerful disposition, lecturing his family pedantically about the new wisdom they have gained.

The beauty of rural nature helps to compensate for the misfortunes and disappointments of

suburban life, yet Mr. Gray's bourgeois aestheticism also serves as another target for gentle

mockery. For instance, he expounds: "At this season it is a luxury to be out-of-doors; and

whether it be early in the morning while the dew still jewels the grass, at noontide when the sun

shines warmly, or at twilight when the stars begin to glimmer, the open fields, the mazy

orchards, and the silent woods possess charms for the thoughtful and observant mind" (OT 71).

Mr. Gray continues to wax poetic about apples ripening and grapes "growing purple on their

vines," but his discourse is brought up short when his own "little boy asked, 'where are the

apples and the grapes?'" (OT72). Mr. Gray's attention to nature and the seasons is less intense

than Mr. Sparrowgrass' s, and he never seems to master living in the country to the same degree.

Despite the continually lighthearted tone of Coffin's writing, a subtle uneasiness or

bitterness seems to percolate through the narrative. I sense that all is not well with the Grays'

marriage, and that Mr. Gray is more discontented about suburban domestic life than his

gentlemanly behavior would lead one to believe. In order to explore this possibility, I must first

consider Coffin's employment of the sketch form, because the sketch-far more than the









discipline as a source of moral virtue rather than an unjust repression of the desire for self-

improvement. Cary's descriptions of the setting support this interpretation. Typically very

detailed and seemingly superfluous or unrelated to the narrative, her periodic commentary

regarding the natural environment of Clovemook-focusing on its native plants, crops, and

seasons-is quite different from Hentz's aestheticized, sentimentalized description of

Cloverdale. Because Cary's narrator maintains dutiful attention to the rural setting, the reader is

regularly reminded of what many of her characters ignore at their peril. Whereas natural beauty

merely reflects the harmony of human relations in Hentz's writing, nature functions for Cary as

an aspect of the divine, to which human desire and ambition must submit. This explicitly

Christian belief permeates the long descriptive passage that concludes Clovernook, in which

Cary uses the annual cycle as a metaphor to contrast the fleeting season of Ellie's grief with

eternity. The narrator begins this passage by remarking, "It has always seemed to me one of the

most beautiful provisions of Providence, that circumstances, however averse we be to them at

first, close about us presently like waves, and we would hardly unwind ourselves from their

foldings, and standing out alone, say, let it be thus or thus, if it were possible" (C 340-1). The

humility and morbid resignation exhorted by Cary's conclusion-the book ends with the

quotation "Thou art nothing-all are nothing now"-is a far cry from the suburban impulse for

worldly distinction.

"It Is a Good Thing to Live in the Country": Cozzens and Coffin

The next pair of suburban fictions, Frederick S. Cozzens's The Sparrowgrass Papers, or

Living in the Country (1856) and Robert Barry Coffin's Out of Town: A Rural Episode (1866),

are remarkably similar. Contrasting them with the two women's texts, I notice three major shifts

in the subgenre. First, the men's suburbanites display discontent more prominently. In Lovell's

Folly, the only character to express such sentiments is Florence Fairchild, Mr. Marriwood's









I believe the picturesque aesthetic better identifies Hentz's novel and nineteenth-century

suburban fiction in general. Whereas the sentimental pastoral seems to demand the resolution or

erasure of social conflicts, the picturesque "does not press for a conclusion" and can "tolerate

some irregularity." Indeed, the picturesque often reveals its bourgeois origins and uses social

disparities to produce its aesthetic contrasts and mixtures, creating humor in Hentz's case.47 To

return to my main idea, the picturesque is better suited to address suburban indistinction. Later

nineteenth-century suburban fictions will in fact demonstrate increasingly tighter connections to

the picturesque through their more elaborate setting descriptions, their characters' artistic

vocations, their sketchbook form, and their adaptations of the picturesque tour genre. More

unambiguously than any other nineteenth-century fiction writer, Hentz endorses the early

suburban ideal associated with Andrew Jackson Downing and Catharine Beecher, whose

important writings Lovell's Folly actually predates by several years.48

The next work of suburban fiction to appear is Alice Cary's Clovernook, or,

Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (1852).49 John R. Stilgoe considers Cary the

originator of the suburban subgenre, yet her work is less representative than Hentz' s.50 Only

about one seventh of Clovernook concerns suburbanization, while the majority of the stories are

about the farming families and other country folk that inhabit the eponymous rural community.

While Cary does demonstrate an awareness of the ideology of suburbia, her opinion of the

phenomenon is not as coherent or intelligible as Hentz's. One similarity is immediately obvious:

they share a common aversion to society and fashion, which are associated with the city, though

Cary's Christian morality is more severe and punitive than Hentz's republicanism. In fact,

Clovernook's characters often come to grief because they express ambitions that conflict with the

hardships associated with farm life, whether they show dissatisfaction with the intellectual









prevent her having any life apart from him. When she is hospitalized, he realizes "that for the

first time in two years I was separated from my Lolita" (L 241). He also exerts power through

money, paying her in exchange for sex (L 184), and he even uses violence on the child. During

the quarrel that Miss East overhears, Humbert admits that he held her wrist hard as she struggled

to escape him "and in fact hurt her rather badly"-repeating his abuse of Valeria (L 205). Later,

he forcefully strikes Lolita's face for lying to him (L 227). I proposed that Lolita can be

interpreted as a disorderly lower-class figure in her suburban environment, but the responsibility

for their discord rests on Humbert. His behavior with both Valeria and Lolita is out of keeping

with his normal aversion to conflict, revealing the essential contradiction in his character. He

affirms moral minimalism to the degree that he can exploit it as a screen behind which to

dominate less powerful individuals.

Lolita seems to learn from Humbert how to take advantage of weakness, as she

manipulates him through his tendency to avoid conflicts and maintain minimal social ties. She

tricks him by proposing they leave Beardsley and take another long trip, ostensibly to remove

them from the sources of their growing animosity-namely, her interest in boys and the school

dramatics program, neither of which is approved by Humbert. In secret, Lolita schemes with

Clare Quilty to run away together after she embarks with Humbert, presumably because escaping

her jealous guardian would be easier in the midst of strangers, once Humbert had unenrolled her

from school and notified their neighbors about the move, so that hardly anyone would notice her

disappearance. Quilty follows them in an "Aztec Red Convertible," and Humbert's paranoia

about surveillance reaches a fever pitch, as he imagines the pursuer to be "a detective whom

some busybody had hired to see what exactly Humbert Humbert was doing with that minor

stepdaughter of his" (L 217). When Humbert questions Lolita about their shadow, she counsels









counterrevolutionary, anti-unionist organization, and they threaten his livelihood if he does not

conform.

After Babbitt receives the League's ultimatum, he finally abandons his protracted struggle

to maintain his suburban material privileges while enjoying an autonomous personal life. He

chooses to return to his old routine with his wife Myra, rather than abdicating the social and

economic security of middle-class suburban society for the uncertain pursuit of intimacy

elsewhere. Though Babbitt is described as weak and powerless, his surrender is not presented by

Lewis as an utter defeat. Babbitt bequeaths his idealism to the next generation, approving of his

son's romantic elopement with his sweetheart and hoping the young man will maintain his

independence from social conventions and "carry things on further" (B 355). This conclusion

underscores the novel's ambiguity: Babbitt could be read as a nostalgic elegy for the idealized

bourgeois intimate sphere, or instead as a satire of bourgeois liberal hypocrisy and self-

contradiction. In any case, Lewis seems to say that Babbitt's particular desire is impossible to

fulfill under the conditions of early-twentieth-century capitalist society. His liberal belief in the

separation of spheres is out of step with his times, especially because suburbia no longer

functions as a space of exception to capitalism to the degree it did in the Victorian era.

George Babbitt's dissatisfaction with his personal life and his desire for intimacy-which

suburbia both incites and frustrates-herald the arrival of a new type of suburban literary

complaint and a new theme of irony. His problems, I have argued, result from a structural

transformation of the bourgeois intimate sphere around the turn of the century. This change, in

turn, can be understood as the unintended side effect of suburbia' s increasing success at

providing distinction. Nineteenth-century suburban fiction, by contrast, expresses discontent

about the potential indistinction of the suburbs. In other words, the dominant anxiety of that









to its name and had evidently sold its lands, bridle paths and all, to a housing contractor" (EP

15).

Oates continues to pile on similar incidents to humorous effect, as when, only a few

months later, the Everetts move from Fernwood to Cedar Grove, another suburb that Richard

fails to recognize until his father exclaims, "Ha, you're a riot, Kid! You know very well that we

lived in Cedar Grove once before" (EP 131). Richard becomes dangerously distraught-as his

father's choice of the word "riot" foreshadows-when the two of them arrive at their new house

in Cedar Grove. Richard breaks down as the earlier scene in Fernwood is virtually repeated: the

boy remains disoriented as his father points out different houses, only to arrive at one practically

identical to their old Fernwood house (EP 137-8). By the end of the novel, Richard is completely

disoriented, accidentally returning home to their previous Cedar Grove house on one occasion

and at another moment announcing, "Everyone agrees with everyone else in Fernwood, or Cedar

Grove, wherever we are" (EP 202, 183).

Expensive People is exceptional in rendering its characters' experiences or perceptions of

suburban architecture and environs, and in these few examples, we can detect fundamental

similarities between deterritorialized spaces and Oates's suburbs, the post-WWII environment

often referred to as sprawl. In 1958, William H. Whyte, Jr., invoked the disparaging term

"sprawl" to describe "vast, smog-filled deserts that are neither city, suburb, nor country," areas

expanding, he claimed, "at a rate of some 3,000 acres a day."25 By most accounts, sprawl

originated with the rise of the American housing industry. Beginning in the early 1930s, federal

government began collaborating with several national construction and real estate associations in

an effort to end the Depression by promoting homeownership and private business.26 Through

the Federal Housing Administration, the government loaned immense sums of money to









social mechanisms that could reliably transmit bourgeois values.27 Thus, the nineteenth-century

intimate sphere did not primarily serve the ends of individual fulfillment, romantic satisfaction,

recreation, or frivolity. As Stephanie Coontz observes, "dinner table rules and other formalized

interactions emphasized the subordination of each individual's desires to the unit as a whole, the

necessity of accepting the work ethic, respecting private property, and taking responsibility for

fulfilling one's proper gender role."28 The "disinterested" personal relations of the nineteenth-

century intimate sphere, when disciplined in this way, operated as a counterbalance to the

individualism and rational self-interest of the private sphere.

The relationship between the bourgeois intimate sphere and the private sphere closely

resembles that between the nineteenth-century middle-class suburbs and the industrial city.

Indeed, the suburbs may be understood as roughly analogous to the intimate sphere, though not

all bourgeois families lived in suburbs, and suburbanites were certainly not all middle-class.29

The two spaces, one geographical and the other metaphorical, share an origin and function as

exclusions of or exceptions to features of capitalist society that threatened the bourgeoisie. In the

case of the suburbs, these threats came from the realm of production (the dangerous classes and

noxious industry), from urban culture (luxury and vice), and from the market (community

impermanence and property deterioration). In the case of the intimate sphere, the concern shifts

from proximity in space to the individual's life course over time. The intimate sphere

supplemented the private sphere by providing for the acquisition of middle-class values and

habits (building character), the transmission of vocational skills, access to white-collar positions,

and support in old age.

In a few ways, the Babbitts' domestic life appears to demonstrate the practical orientation

of the nineteenth-century intimate sphere. The self-effacing, hard-working, sexually-repressed









advertising and "the mystification of the production process" enabled this turnabout. I have

suggested a similar result came through the industrialization of the suburbs and colonization of

the domestic realm.62 "In the corporate ideology of the 1920s," writes Ewen, "the goods of the

marketplace were sold to the public with the 'liberating' and 'democratic' lingo which had up till

then been heard most loudly among those whose attack was on the corporate premise of the

market economy itself."63 Individualized consumption became the reward for and an escape from

work, paradoxically, the basis for a new pseudo-personal life, set within the family reconstituted

as merely "a community of consumers."64 Babbitt for the most part rejects this logical

consequence of his dream, as I have demonstrated, and tries to realize his desires in more

satisfactory ways.

The second alternative, Babbitt's friendship with Paul Riesling, comes closest to creating

a viable personal life that achieves real intimacy outside of the suburban intimate sphere. Their

relationship offers Babbitt much the same benefits as the dream imagines. Riesling, a friend

since college, knew Babbitt as a youth and can recall his forsaken ambitions to go into law or

politics (B 79). Riesling provides a living reminder of Babbitt's former identity underneath the

mask of adult compromises, just as Babbitt can sympathize when Riesling complains, "I ought to

have been a fiddler, and I'm a pedler [sic] of tar-roofing!" (B 54). Perhaps the most crucial

element of this friendship is their openness to sharing such feelings of discontentment, something

Babbitt does not find with other neighbors and acquaintances-and not because those others are

"entirely satisfied." When the advertisement writer Frink encounters Babbitt late one night by

accident, for instance, he confesses, "I'm a traitor to poetry. I'm drunk. I'm talking too much. I

don't care. Know what I could've been?" (B 243). Frink darts away, while Babbitt "accepted

Frink with vast apathy; he grunted, 'Poor boob!' and straightaway forgot him" (B 243). By









his childhood, and his troubling attachment to his mother could also be a result of residential

mobility, rather than due to some innate, incestuous desire.63 Because sprawl discourages

walking and public transportation, the boy is dependent upon adults with private cars, and he

often ends up isolated in the home or car with Natashya, his constant companion. A significant

amount of the time they spend together during the novel occurs while driving, which does not

necessarily make for quality time spent together-one explanation for why he seems starved for

attention. The automobile-oriented environment of sprawl, furthermore, has been strongly linked

to many physical ailments, including several Richard complains about, such as respiratory illness

and obesity.64

The global process of deterritorialization could lie behind what has often been considered

an inherently suburban pathology, one that appears in most of the genre's twentieth-century

novels. As I stated earlier, conventional wisdom locates the source of suburban fiction's

characteristic discontent and familial dysfunction exclusively within the suburb. Its monotonous

architecture, social conformism, oppressive family togetherness, and so forth are understood to

make the suburban house feel like a trap, while turning the nuclear family into a hotbed of

adulterous desires and oedipal conflicts. I am not necessarily disputing this analysis, which can

be applied to Oates's novel. To stop at this point, though, is to fail to explain why postwar

suburban geography and society take the form that they do-to fall back upon Freudian theory,

perhaps, or upon the belief that suburbs are innately bad. I am advocating a broader perspective

for understanding the postwar suburban pathology, because deterritorialization-a system that

benefits suburbanites in many ways, particularly economically-better explains how the suburbs

are flawed, yet why people nevertheless desire to live there.


220









well. Dick died during the time I was writing this dissertation, and I miss him greatly. His love of

Boston's history, where he led us on walking tours, undoubtedly influenced my interest in

American culture. If there is anyone who truly understands me (for better or worse), it is my

brother Doug Reynolds. He has always been there for me, laconic yet amenable to any sort of

nonsense I proposed, and I am not sure what I would do without his friendship or technical

support. I am also thankful to Jack and Kitty Churchill, my outstanding parents-in-law. They

graciously tolerated me doing academic work during almost every holiday and visit, and did all

they could to make it easier for me to finish this project.

The most important thing that happened to me during my doctoral program was falling in

love with Candi Churchill. She changed my life in predictable ways-we got married and had

the kid-that brought me happiness I never imagined. She may have slowed down my actual

writing progress with all the dates and "little getaways" she demanded we go on, but she

enriched my life and supported my work in so many ways that I cannot begin to count. I love her

addictive passion for fun, her courageous sense of justice, and her emotional honesty. My final

push to complete the dissertation, combined with her work and caring for our new baby,

certainly put a strain on our marriage, but in that time I discovered just how strong a partnership

we have built. I am also appreciative of the work she does as a faculty union organizer and

feminist activist. People like her make it possible for people like me to do things like study

literature, and I am in awe of her and the other activists I have met in Gainesville who volunteer

their time and energy to fight so that we can enjoy a more peaceful, democratic, fair, and

leisurely world. I dedicate this dissertation to Candi.










teaches Humbert about the futility of seeking absolute (totalitarian?) power and, perhaps more

importantly, the impossibility of social autonomy. In her absence, Humbert realizes that he

cannot cut off his feelings in the same way he avoided other ties and conflicts, that in some

depraved way he loves her.

I do not wish to imply that Humbert's turn to violence and embrace of conflict represents

an ideal state for Nabokov. In the foreword to the novel, John Ray, Jr., proposes that Humbert

writes "a tragic tale tending unswervingly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis" (L 5). Ray's

opinions are not usually shared by Nabokov, though, and Humbert's changing relationship to

power ends in a worse kind of anarchism than suburbia's, though it feels good to Humbert.


Notes

1 Vladimir Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated, ed. Alfred Appel, Jr. (New York: Vintage, 1991),
35. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as L.

2 Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 80.

3 Ibid., 79-80.

4 Ibid., 80.

5 Ibid., 80, 81.
6 Ibid., 99.

7 Ibid., 177.

8 Ibid., 180, 181.

9 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (1975; reprint, New York:
Vintage, 1995), 104-5.

10 Ibid., 105.

1 Ibid., 106.

12 Ibid., 111.

13 Ibid., 110.

14 Ibid., 113.
15 Ibid., 128-9.









Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. 1852. Reprint. New York: Penguin, 1986.

he House of the Seven Gables. 1851. Reprint. Edited by Robert S. Levine. New York:
Norton, 2006.

Hayden, Dolores. Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Gi en th, 1820-2000. New York:
Pantheon, 2003.

Hentz, Caroline Lee. Lovell's Folly: A Novel. Cincinnati: Hubbard and Edmands, 1833.

Hodgins, Eric. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946.

"Housing No. 1 in Negro Aims." The Detroit News, July 17, 1967, final edition, 1 A.

Howells, William Dean. A Hazard ofNew Fortunes. 1890. Reprint. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Suburban Sketches. 1871. Reprint. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1888.

Hudson, Edward Christopher. "From Nowhere to Everywhere: Suburban Discourse and the
Suburb in North American Literature." Ph.D. dissertation. University of Texas at Austin,
1998.

Irving, Washington. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings. New York: Barnes &
Noble, 2006.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1985.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death andLife of Great Cities. 1961. Reprint. New York: Vintage, 1992.

Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, 1981.

Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography ofJoyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998.

Understanding Joyce Carol Oates. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press,
1987.

Jurca, Catherine. White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Ti ei'ieth-Century American Novel.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Kaplan, Amy. The Social Construction ofAmerican Realism. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1988.

Kenyon, Amy Maria. Dreaming Suburbia. Detroit and the Production ofPostwar Space and
Culture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004.

Kimmel, Michael. Manhood in America: A Cultural History. New York: Free Press, 1997.


233









dashed out of the house with the heroic decision of attacking him barefisted; despite my natural

vigor, I am no pugilist, while the short but broad-shouldered Maximovich seemed made of pig

iron" (L 30). The obvious explanation is that Humbert acts only after the danger is safely passed,

salvaging his masculine self-respect by taking offense at a trivial oversight, since his formidable

opponent is of course nowhere to be found. A more original interpretation would be that

Maximovich is an unsettlingly indeterminate figure, an exiled authority (an ex-colonel) now part

of the working class (a cabbie), who confuses Humbert's expectations for how their conflict will

be resolved. By not flushing the toilet, Maximovich symbolically threatens the decorum that

sustains Humbert's perverse life. Indeed, Maximovich could confront Humbert about being an

abusive husband as well as forcing Valeria to play out a pedophiliac fantasy on their wedding

night (L 26). The incivility is what Humbert finds intolerable, not the loss of his wife. Humbert

later comes to believe the toilet was left unflushed as a gesture of "middle-class Russian

courtesy," as he hypothesizes that Maximovich attempted "to muffle his private need in decorous

silence so as not to underscore the small size of his host's domicile with the rush of a gross

cascade on top of his own hushed trickle" (L 30). Humbert raises the cab driver's social status, it

seems, in order to reassure himself that Maximovich is too genteel to expose his transgressions.

When Humbert arrives in Ramsdale, he finds Lolita, of course, but he also discovers a

society where social control seems to be minimally exercised. He is an able exploiter of

vulnerabilities, as he demonstrates with Valeria's wrist, Charlotte's loneliness, and Lolita's

dependency. Though he disparages Charlotte's genteel pretensions, he embraces her middle-class

culture of avoidance for the opportunities it provides him with Lolita-to the extent that he finds

himself practically disarmed, unable to commit violence against his wife at Hourglass Lake.

When he finally puts his foot down at Charlotte's plan to vacation in England, his argument only









suburbia is inevitably associated with the automobile, this association is a mistake. The

automobile, when it came, helped to destroy the basic conditions for classic suburbanization."21

Contrary to conventional wisdom, WWII marks for Fishman "the end of suburbia."22

In the wake of this obituary, historians, sociologists, and journalists competed to answer

the question "what replaces the suburb?" Among the many neologisms and labels proposed were

"technoburb" (Fishman), "multicentered metropolis" (Muller), "edge city," and-inevitably-

"postsuburbia."23 Only "urban sprawl," coined by William H. Whyte, Jr., has become part of the

vernacular. The other appellations are particularly unsuitable, in the opinion of Sharpe and

Wallock, because they misleadingly suggest discontinuity, and because they purport that suburbs

have appropriated the role of cities. "In our view," Sharpe and Wallock write, echoing earlier

intellectuals such as Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, "equating suburbs with cities implies that

suburbs possess a diversity, cosmopolitanism, political culture, and public life that most of them

still lack and that most cities still afford."24 Strongly critical of the renaming trend, Sharpe and

Wallock maintain that "suburbia has remained an essentially exclusive domain. For example, in

1980, blacks constituted just 6.1 percent of suburbanites, as compared to 23.4 percent of city

dwellers. That same year, only 8.2 percent of suburbanites reported incomes below the federal

poverty line, as compared to 17.2 percent of city residents."25 Sharpe and Wallock perceive

similar continuities in terms of gender norms, and thus would disagree with statements such as

Margaret Marsh's that "[t]he middle-class residential suburb, the physical expression of a set of

ideas about the nature of marriage and family life, has become an historical artifact."26

Sharpe and Wallock accuse their opponents of a "preoccupation with functional rather than

social measure of urbanity," raising the possibility of a comprehensive, qualitative definition of

suburbia based upon "social" or cultural characteristics.27 Actually, this methodology has









enjoyment. The security of distance kept suburbanites from experiencing the actual conditions of

rural life. John R. Stilgoe puts the matter concisely: "picturesqueness masked poverty."38

My retelling of nineteenth-century suburban history has stressed the role played by

distinction. By foregrounding social competition, I have tended to ignore other factors that

contributed to suburbanization, such as transportation technology, housing costs, government

policies, or real estate entrepreneurs, factors that suburban historians have considered at least as

determinate.39 My choice might also seem to condemn nineteenth-century middle-class

suburbanites as conservative, status-obsessed bigots who looked to maintain their privilege

through their every action. Suburbanization could certainly be understood in more flattering

ways. The goal of inhabiting a more sanitary environment than the polluted Victorian city seems

laudable, for instance, as does the desire to incorporate the experience of undeveloped "natural"

space into everyday life. Indeed, the suburban ethos of aestheticized space seems closer to the

romantic view of nature than to the vulgar utilitarianism of Victorian capitalism. Suburbia has an

affinity to the various practices that Jackson Lears analyzes under the rubric of"antimodernism,"

not the least of which being that all resist aspects of modern industrial capitalist life, even as they

simultaneously struggle to retain cultural hegemony for fractions of the upper- and middle

classes.40 Suburbia cannot be explained or evaluated through reference to distinction alone, but

distinction has the benefit of further illuminating the most prominent feature I find in nineteenth-

century suburban fiction, the theme ofindistinction.

"A Model of the Purest Simplicity": Hentz and Cary

The oldest work of fiction I have located that addresses American suburbia is Caroline Lee

Hentz's Lovell's Folly: A Novel (1833). The book is unusual for being the only novel in its

category and for being relatively optimistic about suburbia's effect on the middle class-related

qualities, I will later argue. Hentz presents two archetypes for suburbanites, one to avoid and the









with bourgeois apartment houses along the central boulevards, pushing industry and the poor out

to the periphery. Americans, by contrast, were more inclined to anti-urbanism, due to the Puritan

tradition that juxtaposed nature against the evils of the city, but much more so because of a

revival of Jeffersonian republican ideology.26 Moving to the suburbs to be a "gentleman

farmer"-or at least live in a rural-looking landscape-allowed the WASP middle-class man to

tap into the mythic power of the yeoman, a potent symbol for the political nativism that

developed at mid-century in reaction to industrial capitalism and the urban crisis. To construct

"true" American identity through such imagery required a disingenuous slight-of-hand, of

course, since almost all middle-class suburbanites remained bound to an urban economy-as

evidenced by the commuter phenomenon. Nevertheless, social barriers could be shored up

through such anti-urban gestures: hence, the exclusion from suburbia of saloons, tenements,

gambling dens, and prostitution houses. These institutions of urban culture were associated by

the bourgeoisie with lower-class immorality and vice. Banning them not only kept away the

undesirables but also kept out of reach temptations that might cause the middle class to abandon

its distinctive values of thrift, temperance, and industry.

The suburbs provided a space for the regeneration of middle-class manhood as well.

Describing the mid-nineteenth-century crisis in male identity, Michael Kimmel writes:

"Manhood had meant autonomy and self-control, but now fewer and fewer American men

owned their own shops, controlled their own labor, owned their own farms."27 Suburban

residence could potentially restore manhood through its semblance of rural life. In the words of

Margaret Marsh: "If a man could not be a farmer, he could at least be close to nature, on his own

plot of ground, in his own house."28 The yeoman of republican ideology thus served as a

masculine as well as nationalist figure. The same Jeffersonian rhetoric meanwhile denigrated









repeatedly creeps into Beuka's discussion, however, pulling him away from formalism and

making his work again most similar-though diametrically opposed-to Jurca's. Where she

understands suburban literature as mystification, Beuka perceives verisimilitude, as evidenced by

his basic willingness to take the fictional complaints seriously and also by a mirror motif that

runs throughout his commentary. He announces, for example, "I am looking toward fictive and

cinematic images of the suburbs as reflections of our larger sense of suburban place, reflections

of the place-specific social dynamics of the landscape."45 On the other hand, he tends to leave

criticisms of the suburbs in the mouths of writers and filmmakers, and he rarely consults

nonliterary suburban studies, making his book a relatively weak example of historicism.

Another important theoretical difference between Beuka and Jurca arises from their

common concern about mimesis. Since so many types of fictional suburbanites seem

discontented, and since Beuka accuses no group of profiting from this situation (as Jurca does),

the logical alternative is to blame the suburbs themselves.46 Beuka's style of writing promotes

this way of thinking. He regularly ascribes power to the "landscape," referring to it for instance

as "dispiriting, alienating" as well as "entrapping and debilitating."47 This perspective,

reminiscent of Michel Foucault (whom Beuka cites) and his antihumanist fascination with

institutions and social structures, contrasts sharply with Jurca's insistence upon the agency and

responsibility borne by middle-class suburbanites. Each of these viewpoints produces a

monolithic definition of the subgenre, as a narrative of suburbanites either alienated by or else

gaining privileges from their suburbs. Instead of choosing one or the other, we can choose to

read suburban fiction for both agency and structure, recognizing both benefits and problems-as

well as the irony that emerges in some twentieth-century novels from their coexistence.48









and no longer young. She shares her father's ambition of cultivating a select society in their

drawing room. As she tells a newcomer, "there are really some very genteel and even stylish

families here; and as to the rest, you are not obliged to be so very particular in the country as in

the city. One can afford to be condescending you know, and then there is so much pleasure in

imparting pleasure!" (LF46). Further demonstrating the Marriwood's lack of domestic virtue is

the symbolic absence of a mother/wife in their home. Despite the allusive last name, Penitence

risks spinsterhood and producing no heir to inherit the sizeable family fortune-reprising

Lovell's fate. Lovell and the Marriwoods demonstrate how suburban life potentially threatens

middle-class distinction by leading them into such follies.

The Rovington family, by contrast, are Hentz' s model suburbanites. The late patriarch was

an early experimenter of the type that Binford describes, providing a "country seat" for his

family while he worked in "an office of high public trust" part of each year, most likely in

Boston (LF 28, 38). The Rovington house, "designated by the modest appellation of the English

cottage, was a direct opposite to the stately pile" built by Lovell (LF 39), not least because its

principal ornamentation consisted of some carefully cultivated vines, symbolic of domesticity,

simplicity, and leisure. These vines cling to the "pure, virgin white" house in such a way that "it

was somewhat difficult to separate the work of nature and art" (LF 39), a fusion suggesting the

mixture or tension characteristic of the picturesque aesthetic and the pastoral ideal.43 Mr.

Rovington himself also demonstrates proper middle-class suburban values: "he wished his

resting place from the turmoils of business to be somewhat aloof from the gay and encroaching

many" (LF28). In other words, he preferred rural retirement to urban society. He considered

Cloverdale "an Eden," and there he enjoyed the respect of farmers and locals-a republican sort

of respect, as opposed to the awe that Mr. Marriwood seeks to inspire (LF 28). Mr. Rovington's









2). Mr. Gray calls the house they move into "'Woodbine Cottage,' from the fact that a woodbine,

or, after all, it may be a honeysuckle, grows about the front veranda" (OT8). Like the vines on

the Rovingtons' cottage in Lovell's Folly, the plant symbolizes rural domesticity, though his

potential misidentification of it reveals the relative importance to Mr. Gray of actually

experiencing and knowing nature in comparison to acquiring its conventional imagery.

In the same manner, Mr. Gray establishes a garden, which provides him with food but

more importantly with an opportunity for leisure:

I find myself continually seeking reasonable excuses for not going into town every
day. While I was engaged in planting my half-acre garden, I had no difficulty in the
matter. ... I had decided to do all the work myself, and therefore, it was really
necessary for me to stay at home to accomplish it. To be sure, after working an
hour or two of a morning, under the hot sun, I found it agreeable to my feelings to
retire within the house and take a long nooning of five or six hours, relieving the
tedium of the time with a book, an iced punch, a saucer of strawberries and cream,
and a cigar. In this way I managed to make a good many working-holidays for
myself. I saved, too, to some extent, my hands from being as blistered as they
would have been had I worked steadily on the twelve hours' rule. (OT 13)

Even this minimal exertion proves too much labor for Mr. Gray, so he hires a gardener. He

admits, "although my intentions were good in regard to doing all the work myself, after the first

day I relinquished the greater part of the labor to an older hand than mine, and with very

gratifying results, as my table, which is chiefly supplied with vegetables of my own raising,

sufficiently attests" (OT 14). In this exemplary episode, Coffin's humor resembles Cozzen's,

though Mr. Gray appears less conscious of his foibles than the self-deprecating Mr.

Sparrowgrass. We also witness a similar effort to convert the signs of rural living into bourgeois

status: Mr. Gray claims as his own the products, which are cheaper and fresher "than I could get

them in town," while keeping his hands clean (OT 14).

Mr. Gray finds life out of town to be more difficult than he anticipated, and as in The

Sparrowgrass Papers, the country rather than the city becomes the principal cause of











1 Greg Johnson, Invisible Writer: A Biography ofJoyce Carol Oates (New York: Dutton, 1998), 150.

12 Oates, "Visions of Detroit," 348.

13 Ellen Friedman, Joyce Carol Oates (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980), 62.

14 Greg Johnson, Understanding Joyce Carol Oates (Columbia, S.C.: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1987), 65.

15 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968), 86.

16 Amy Maria Kenyon has convincingly analyzed "detachment" as an endemic disposition of suburban characters.
See her Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State Univ.
Press, 2004), 41-68.

17 For a list of acts of draft record destruction, see Francine du Plessix Gray, "The Ultra-Resistance: On the Trial of
the Milwaukee 14," New YorkReview of Books 13 (1969): 125-61. See also Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars
1945-1990 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 202.

18 Wittner, Cold War America, 254

19 Although police and firefighters reported taking heavy fire on several nights, to the point of being driven from the
streets, very few were injured or killed by the snipers. Meanwhile, some of the sniper attacks occurred in a
remarkably well-organized fashion, as if coordinated with the efforts of looters and arsonists. See Locke, Detroit
Riot, 40, 125-8.

20 A third usage of deterritorialization should be noted, namely the disjunction of cultures and identities from their
traditional spaces, though this one has the least bearing upon my discussion of suburbia.

21 Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zufiiga, "Introduction," The Ai,,, ,.. '. '. ..' ofSpace and Place: I.... ,,i
Culture, eds. Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zifiiga (Malden, M.A.: Blackwell, 2003), 25.

22 See Marc Aug6, Non-Places: Introduction to an Aii. i'h. i. '..- ofSupermodernity, trans. John Howe (London:
Verso, 1995).

23 Low and Lawrence-Zifiiga, "Introduction," 25. I should note that the term "deterritorialized space" signifies a
breakdown relative to the composition of traditional places, not an absolute deterritorialization. The postwar suburb
is certainly an identifiable place (a "reterritorialization" of the classical suburb, to use Deleuze and Guattari's
terminology), yet I will argue that part of its identity lies in its distinctive relationship to deterritorialization.

24 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987), 453.

25 William H. Whyte, "Urban Sprawl," The Exploding Metropolis, ed. William H. Whyte (Berkeley: Univ. of
California Press, 1958), 133.
26 On the sprawl lobby, see Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States
(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 194 and Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban
Growth, 1820-2000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003), 125.

27 See Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier, 238 and Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the
Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 112, 122.

28 Crabgrass Frontier, 283-84.

29 I strongly disagree, therefore, with arguments such as this one by Waller: "It would be possible, but difficult, to
see the setting of Expensive People merely as an attempt to depict suburban life. Of course, the affluent suburbs of
the American metropolis Updike's television aerials and abortive friendships, marriages, conversations, or


226











2 See Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-CenturyAmerican Novel (Princeton:
Princeton Univ. Press, 2001); Edward Christopher Hudson, "FromNowhere to Everywhere: Suburban Discourse
and the Suburb in North American Literature," (PhD diss., Univ. of Texas at Austin, 1998); and Rachel Pagano,
"Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction," (PhD diss., Columbia Univ., 2001).

3 See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, N.Y.: Comell Univ.
Press, 1981), 39.

4 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1985), 19.

5 John J. Palen, The Suburbs (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), 26.

6 Henry C. Binford, The First Suburbs: Residential Communities on the Boston Periphery, 1815-1860 (Chicago:
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1985), 18.

7 Ibid., 44.

8 Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870
(New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982), 194.

9 Ibid., 195.

10 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1974; reprint, Oxford, Eng.: Blackwell,
1991), 27.

1 Halttunen, Confidence Men, 59.

12 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, M.A.:
Harvard Univ. Press, 1984).

13 Stephanie Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life: A History ofAmerican Families 1600-1900 (London:
Verso, 1988), 258.

14 Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 62-3.

15 Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003),
22.

16 Robert M. Fogelson, Bourgeois .,gih ..,. Suburbia, 1870-1930 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2005), 44.

17 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000), 18.

18 Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares, 46. John R. Stilgoe discusses West Philadelphia circa 1860-1880 as a
community that "advertised the perils of disorganized real estate subdivision" in the absence of such governance
(Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1939 [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988], 138). He records:
"Attorneys and real estate agents, butchers and plumbers, dry goods retailers and carpenters had established offices
and shops along one horsecar route, and black and immigrant families lived close by, in cramped row housing.
Many parts of West Philadelphia remained wholly upper or middle class, but others displayed a marked integration,
or rather confusion, of housing types and social classes" (Stilgoe, Borderland, 138).

19 Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier, 39, 101,109.

20 Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias, 145.

21 Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares, 96-102, 128.












any previous one. And finally, it is also paradoxical that these two tendencies should have combined
to assist the most apparently realistic of literary genres to become capable of a more thorough
subversion of psychological and social reality than any previous one. (206)

30 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 142.

31 Sennett, who remains highly critical of the rise of intimacy and the decline of public life, writes with sarcasm, "we
all know, the fundamental problem of capitalism is dissociation, called variously alienation, non-cathectic activity,
and the like; division, separation, isolation are the governing images which express this evil. ... A crowd would be a
prime example; crowds are bad because people are unknown to one another. Once this modulation occurs ... then to
overcome the unknown, to erase differences between people, seems to be a matter of overcoming part of the basic
illness of capitalism" (The Fall of Public Man, 295). In a similar vein, Christopher Lasch argues, "the glorification
of privacy .. reflected the devaluation of work. As production became more complex and efficient, work became
increasingly specialized, fragmented, and routine. Accordingly, work came to be seen as merely a means to an
end-for many, sheer physical survival; for others, a rich and satisfying personal life" (Haven in a Heartless World:
The Family Besieged [New York: Norton, 1977], 7).

32 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 74.

33 Ibid., 76.

34 Ibid., 80.

35 See David Leverenz, Paternalism Incorporated: Fables ofAmerican Fatherhood, 1865-1940 (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell Univ. Press, 2003), in particular his fifth chapter.

36 Marsh, Suburban Lives, 84.

37 Ibid., 86.

38 For a discussion of conspicuous consumption in Lewis's novel, see Clare Virginia Eby, "Babbitt as Veblenian
Critique of Manliness," American Studies 34 (1993): 5-23.

39 Leverenz, Paternalism, 16.

40 Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness: I. I., oo '.i and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (1976;
reprint, New York: Basic, 2001), 37.

41 Ibid., 35.

42 Andrew Jackson Downing qtd. in Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United
States (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 64.

43 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in (C h...,.
1873-1913 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), 12.

44 Jackson, Crabgrass, 109.

45 Sam Bass Warner, Jr., Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900 (1962; reprint, New York:
Atheneum, 1976), 37.

46 bid., 118.

47 Wright, Moralism, 34.

48 Ibid., 87.











49 Ibid., 154.


50 Ibid., 170.

51 Ibid., 182-3.

52 James M. Carter, "The Vietnam Builders: Private Contractors, Military Construction and the 'Americanization' of
United States Involvement in Vietnam," Graduate Journal ofAsia-Pacific Studies 2 (2"11 4): 44.

53 Ibid., 51.

54 Latham, Modernization as Ideology, 151.

55 Carter, "The Vietnam Builders," 48, 56.

56 For a recent study of how the U.S. has exported the suburban way of life through the design of its military bases,
see Mark L. Gillem, America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press,
2007).

57 Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990, 173.

58 Ibid., 174.

59 Wittner, Cold War America, 279.

60 Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990, 82.

61 Qtd. in Wittner, Cold War America, 279.

62 Edward Scanlon and Kevin Devine, "Residential Mobility and Youth Well-Being: Research, Policy, and Practice
Issues," Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 28 (2001), 128.

63 For Freudian readings of the novel, see Friedman, Joyce Carol Oates, 56 and Joanne V. Creighton, Joyce Carol
Oates (Boston: Twayne, 1979), 62.

64 See Howard Frumkin, Lawrence Frank, and Richard Jackson, Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing,
Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities (Washington, D.C.: Island, 2004), 189-90.

65 Several critics have addressed the novel's late 1960s context. See Daly, Lavish Self-Divisions, 27-8 and Susana
Arauijo, "Space, Property and the Psyche: Violent Topographies in Early Oates Novels," Studies in the Novel 38
(winter 2006): 411. Inevitably, they agree with Waller that "there is in Expensive People a continuing concern with
'personal' as opposed to 'public' history," the latter supposedly being the concern of Oates's follow-up novel them
(Dreaming America, 112). Eileen Teper Bender echoes this dichotomous reading: "One exposes the limits and
dangers of private authority. The other focuses upon socioeconomic forces and external constraints" (Joyce Carol
Oates, Artist in Residence [Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1987], 30).


228









naive charm ofGaston Godin" (L 179). Their names hint that these two cohabitating professors

are lesbians, while the remark about Godin reminds us ofHumbert's own confessed naivete,

implying that the women have some idea what the men are about, and have tacitly agreed to a

policy of mutual noninterference. Indeed, Humbert's pedophilia is anticipated or exposed on

more than one occasion, yet nothing results of it.

Two scenes in particular demonstrate a general tendency to avoid confrontation and the

intervention of authorities. When Charlotte Haze breaks into Humbert's writing table,

discovering proof of his aversion to her and lust for her daughter, she does not call the police to

report his criminal intentions. Instead, she apparently writes three letters, which Humbert rips up

but later tries to read. The reassembled fragments "point to Charlotte's intention of fleeing with

Lo" (L 99). One letter appears addressed to Lolita, one seems to be an application to a strict

boarding school for the girl, and the last Charlotte intended for Humbert. To him, she expresses

her heartbreak yet leaves open the possibility of reconciliation (L 99). Interestingly, Charlotte

singles out her blameless daughter, rather than her monstrous sham husband, for institutional

discipline.

The second incident, "a strident and hateful scene," takes place at the end of Humbert's

stay in Beardsley (L 205). During one of his most heated arguments with Lolita, they are

interrupted by a ringing telephone, and he realizes that not only had an eastward-facing window

been left open, but also

prude and prurient Miss East-or to explode her incognito, Miss Fenton Lebone-
had been probably protruding three-quarter-way from her bedroom window as she
strove to catch the gist of our quarrel.

". .. This racket ... lacks all sense of.. ." quacked the receiver, "we do not live in
a tenement here. I must emphatically ." (L 206)









to a young admirer who worked for a lawyer, but when Sarah heard the lawyer's name, she

became unusually agitated. The narrator only realizes after Sarah's death that she must have been

romantically involved with the lawyer, who "is forty, or nearly so, handsome, wealthy,

influential, unmarried and a universal favorite" (C 46). I would guess the "painful illness"

had something to do with a pregnancy, since beforehand Sarah "seemed to possess a constitution

that would resist the chances and changes of many years" (C 44). As in Seth Milford's case,

Sarah Worthington's initial unsociability and fatalistic resignation, far from being character

defects, were virtues that could have protected her from the desire for a middle-class romance.

Cary's stark moral vision of rigid class boundaries becomes less clear in her final six

stories, when she introduces suburbanites into Clovernook. The Harmsteads move from the city

with three servant girls and a black man, though even the wealthier farmers refuse to take

servants. Equally unheard of is the Harmsteads' practice of paying cash to their neighbors for

food. One Clovernook resident, dismayed by such behavior, predicts, "they won't have much to

do with plain farmer folks like us, for Mrs. Hamstid, they say, keeps dressed up all the time

reading books, and don't even nuss her own baby" (C 293). The confusion of the locals about

their last name is probably Cary's way of drawing attention to her play on "homestead": the

Harmsteads represent a dangerously middle-class domesticity. They also demonstrate several

familiar qualities of nineteenth-century bourgeois suburbanites. They hire "a good many"

workmen to "transform Mr. Hinton' s brier-smothered farm into Willow Dale" (C 310), the

Harmstead's new "country seat." Indeed, the Harmsteads begin to change all of Clovernook into

a bourgeois suburb. Despite the prediction of exclusivity, Mr. Harmstead takes an interest in his

neighbors' property, designing cottages and picturesque gardens for them as if he were an

apostle of Andrew Jackson Downing: "Chiefly through his instrumentality, in the course of a few











49 Gowans, Comfortable, 192.

50 Wright, Moralism, 97.

51 Hayden, Building, 97.

52 Wright, Moralism, 231.

53 Ibid., 90, 119. Gowans, Comfortable, 28. Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the
Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 18.

54 Wright, Moralism, 238.

5Jurca, White Diaspora, 57.

56 The same ironic subversion of the purported ends to which technology was applied occurred with domestic
appliances as well. As the Lynds reported in their classic Middletown, "A number [of housewives] feel that while
the actual physical labor of housework is less and one is less particular about many details, rising standards in other
respects use up the saved time" (Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in American Culture
[New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1929], 171). These standards are publicized by the same advertisers who sell
products to achieve those standards. See Ewen, Captains of Consciousness, as well as Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More
Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic
Books, 1983).

57 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 164.

58 Rather than read Babbitt's revolt as a struggle for intimacy, Jurca introduces an idea of spirituality that she derives
from the "young intellectuals" Lewis Mumford and Waldo Frank. She argues that Lewis's suburban characters voice
false lamentsns about spiritual sterility" (White Diaspora 70), "spiritual homelessness and discontent" (70), and a
"spiritual alienation from the suburban house" (74). Not only is Jurca's use of the term insufficiently explained, but I
also find no such reference in Babbitt itself.

59 Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life, xi.

60 Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. Knud Haakonssen (1759; reprint, Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 2002), 48.

61 Lears, No Place of Grace, 302.

62 Ewen, Captains of Consciousness, 105.

63 Ibid., 201.

64 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 156.

65 Sennett, The Fall ofPublic Man, 83.

66 Graham Thompson makes a compelling argument that the fairy child and Tanis Judique serve as substitutes for
Babbitt's homosexual desire for Paul Riesling. Nevertheless, I believe that the dream, the friendship, and the affair
are all rooted in a common desire for intimacy, as well as an antipathy to capitalism and to the treacherous intimate
sphere of home and family. Instead of making sex the objective for Babbitt, in other words, I see sex as merely one
means to achieve the "consolation" from the "despairs and delusions" created by corporate office work that
Thompson offhandedly acknowledges (Male Sexuality under Surveillance: The Office in Literature [Iowa City:
Univ. of Iowa Press, 2003], 48). The elusiveness of Babbitt's goal might better explain why he swings so wildly in
his efforts, moving from his tender, potentially homosexual desire for Riesling to the homosocial, "virile" camping












22 Ibid., 17.


23 See Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (New York: Doubleday, 1991) and Postsuburban
California: The Transformation of Orange County since World War II, eds. Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark
Poster (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991).

24 Sharpe and Wallock, "Bold New City," 3.

25 Ibid., 7.

26 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 188.

27 Sharpe and Wallock, "Bold New City," 11.

28 Herbert J. Gans, The Levittowners: Ways ofLife and Politics in a New Suburban Community (New York:
Pantheon, 1967), xvi.

29 Laura J. Miller, "Family Togetherness and the Suburban Ideal," Sociological Forum 10 (1995), 411.

30 Palen, The Suburbs, 18.

31 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 8.

32 J. Hillis Miller, Topographies (Stanford, C.A.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1995), 16.

33 Edward Christopher Hudson, "From Nowhere to Everywhere: Suburban Discourse and the Suburb in North
American Literature" (PhD diss., Univ. of Texas at Austin, 1998), 10-11.

34 Ibid., 69, 97-8.

35 Ibid., 103.

36 Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel (Princeton: Princeton
Univ. Press, 2001), 6, 7.

37 Ibid., 5.

38 Ibid., 161.

39 Ibid., 169.

40 Ibid., 28.

41 Rachel Pagano, "Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction" (PhD diss., Columbia Univ., 2001), 2.

42 Ibid., 2.

43 See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, N.Y.: Comell
Univ. Press, 1981), 39.

44 Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and
Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 228.

45 Ibid., 16.

46 Beuka does acknowledge in his reading of the film The Stepford Wives that men are the beneficiaries of women's
domestic oppression. Nevertheless, he does not disclose who is responsible for men's "embattled place within a
confining, alienating suburban milieu" in John Updike's Rabbit Redux or the film The Graduate (SuburbiaNation,









Despite the negative impression the narrator gives of his new home and social position,

Mr. Sparrowgrass is undoubtedly a bourgeois suburbanite. Prior to building his suburban house,

he consulted Andrew Jackson Downing's work on rural architecture (SP 240). The

Sparrowgrasses moved to Yonkers, and the husband commutes by train to New York City,

leaving early and arriving home at dusk (SP 27, 76, 183, 187). Mr. Sparrowgrass appears to live

a life of leisure and retirement because he is a professional writer, and his current project is The

Sparrowgrass Papers. He has financial means, since they retain a servant girl (SP 69), and more

significantly, he expresses a certain lack of concern about material goods and money. He rejoices

when his embarrassing horse is stolen, for example, even though he bought it for more than it

was worth (SP 151). In another case, after a neighbor's pigs trample his pea crop, and then one

gets into the house and wreaks havoc during a party, Mr. Sparrowgrass blithely asks his wife,

"Why should we repine about trifles? If we want early peas we can buy them, and as for the

vase, flowers, and confectionary, they would have been all over with, by this time, if the pigs had

not been here" (SP 93). Though their economic security keeps the various fiascoes from ever

seriously troubling the family, it does not prevent him from often feeling ashamed,

inconvenienced, and dissatisfied.

It is the beauty of rural nature, not the independence derived from wealth, that makes the

Sparrowgrasses "begin to love the country more and more" (SP 59). This sentiment is voiced in

the context of an appreciation of their first winter in the country: "To see a noble forest wreathed

in icy gems, is one of the transcendental glories of creation. You look through long arcades of

iridescent light, and the vision has an awful majesty, compared with which the most brilliant

cathedral windows pale their ineffectual fires. It is the crystal palace of Jehovah! Within its

sounding aisles a thought even of the city seems irreverent" (SP 58-9). Similar passages record









The last study of suburban literature I will discuss is Amy Maria Kenyon's Dreaming

Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (2004). Of all the critics I

have discussed, Kenyon offers the most systematic theorization of suburban geography and

literature. She begins by asserting that suburbia's primary function is disinvestment, "the

redistribution of resources, rights, and cultural-political authority away from the city and along

racist and spatially exclusive lines."49 The means to achieve this end is detachment, a complex

term that has geographical, social, and psychological dimensions. Put simply, the suburbs are

divided from the city in ways that not only promote disinvestment but also allow a willful

ignorance on the part of suburbanites, a self-delusion that Kenyon metaphorically terms

"dreaming." When detachment breaks down, suburban characters (and readers too) experience

estrangement. This state of mind is usually occasioned-in fiction at least-by out-of-the-

ordinary events, change, conflict, or violence. The suburban dream stands revealed as an unreal

fantasy, and a new, unbidden perception of the suburbs emerges. In Philip K. Dick's allegorical

science fiction novel Time Out ofJoint, for instance, suburbia is exposed as a government

conspiracy deluding suburbanites about the conflicted state of the world. She does not let

suburbanites completely off the hook: "Suburban estrangement is in part the guilt of the

conspirator," says Kenyon, "the nagging awareness that the city is at the heart of our retreat."50

The trio of disinvestment, detachment, and estrangement allows her to convincingly cross the

disciplinary boundaries between urban studies and cultural studies, as she discusses suburbia,

Detroit, literature, and film.

Disinvestment is nearly identical to Jurca's conception of the suburbs as accumulators of

material privileges, while estrangement sounds very close to Beuka's idea of alienation.

Detachment bridges the gap between agency and structure that divided those critics. Kenyon









Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan of the Apes. 1914. Reprint. New York: Ballantine, 1939.

Cain, James M. Mildred Pierce. 1941. Reprint. New York: Knopf, 1941.

Carter, James M. "The Vietnam Builders: Private Contractors, Military Construction and the
'Americanization' of United States Involvement in Vietnam." Graduate Journal ofAsia-
Pacific Studies 2 (2004): 44-63.

Cary, Alice. Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West. 1852. Reprint.
New York: John W. Lovell, 1884.

Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Second Series). New
York: Redfield, 1853.

Cheever, John. "The Enormous Radio." In The Stories ofJohn Cheever, 37-47. New York:
Ballantine Books, 1978.

"The Swimmer." In The Stories ofJohn Cheever, 713-724. New York: Ballantine
Books, 1978.

Clawson, Marion. Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and
Governmental Process. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971.

Coffin, Robert Barry. Out of Town: A Rural Episode. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866.

Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar
America. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Conron, John. American Picturesque. University Park, P.A.: Pennsylvania State University
Press, 2000.

Coontz, Stephanie. The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600-
1900. London: Verso, 1988.

Cosgrove, Dennis. "Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea." In Reading
Human Geography: The Poetics and Politics ofInquiry, eds. Trevor Barnes and Derek
Gregory, 324-41. New York: Arnold, 1997.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies ofHousehold Technology from the
Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

Cozzens, Frederick S. The Sparrowgrass Papers, or Living in the Country. 1856. Reprint.
Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969.

Creighton, Joanne V. Joyce Carol Oates. Boston: Twayne, 1979.

Cutting, Mary Stewart. "The Suburban Whirl." In The Suburban Whirl, and Other Stories of
MarriedLife, 3-112. New York: McClure, 1907.


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redefined space of the suburban house," writes Marsh, "families would ideally spend their

evenings together-reading aloud, playing word games, talking."24 Far from enforcing "the

meticulous control of the operations of the body" that Foucault envisioned, private family time

was conceived in opposition to work and school as recreational or even therapeutic. This project

revived in the postwar era: "The suburban vision of the early 1950s was less a new expression of

the domestic ideal than a feverish-and in the long run unsuccessful-attempt to erase the

depression and the war and return to the 1920s. The architecture of the new suburbs was

nostalgic; ersatz colonial and 'cape cod' styles abounded."25

The obvious exception from this image of the family at play would be the housewife. The

American suburban home has long been targeted by a variety of reformers seeking to make

housework more efficient and productive, going back at least to the publication of Catharine

Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe' s The American Woman's Home (1869). Betty Friedan

recognized how the postwar desire for the Progressive Era's type of family life led to domestic

discipline, confining women to the home: "The end of the road is togetherness, where the woman

has no independent self to hide even in guilt; she exists only for and through her husband and

children."26 Friedan provocatively calls suburbia a "comfortable concentration camp" for

middle-class women.27

Outside of the house, it seems even more difficult to contend that the suburban landscape

exerts a disciplinary power. Foucault's analysis emphasizes the importance of physical

centralization along with surveillance, yet two of the defining features of the middle-class

suburban ideal in all periods of American history are decentralization and family privacy. Low

density, residential communities of detached houses sited on relatively large plots of land simply

are not spaces well suited to panopticism, and in fact postwar automobile suburbs were on









Despite Humbert's resentment of Pratt, he employs very similar methods on Lolita. A few

chapters before the episode with Pratt, Humbert mentions "solemnly weighing the winter-

bleached lassie in the bathroom" as part of his recitation of activities that comprise their

Beardsley existence (L 189). He seems to have memorized a set of measurements made by

Charlotte on Lolita's twelfth birthday, and his purpose in collecting new information is not to

proudly track the child's growth as most parents might, but instead to coerce her into maintaining

the nymphet body type that he prefers (L 107). Thus he tells Lolita: "You should try to be a little

nicer to me. You should also watch your diet. The tour of your thigh, you know, should not

exceed seventeen and a half inches. More might be fatal (I was kidding, of course)" (L 209). He

is brutally serious, however, in his invocation of authority in order to keep her docile, telling her:

"if we two are found out, you will be analyzed and institutionalized, my pet, c 'est tout. You will

dwell, my Lolita will dwell (come here, my brown flower) with thirty-nine other dopes in a dirty

dormitory (no, allow me, please) under the supervision of hideous matrons. This is the situation,

this is the choice" (L 151). His offer of a choice seems rhetorical, since he uses every kind of

coercion to keep Lolita in line, including bribes, trickery, and violence.

Readers have noted Nabokov's penchant for including doubles in his fiction. It seems

plausible to interpret Humbert Humbert as a monstrous double of Pratt and authority figures in

general because of the way that he bends their techniques to his sinister ends. Foucault makes a

relevant comment about the pervasiveness of disciplinarity: "While, on the one hand, the

disciplinary establishments increase, their mechanisms have a certain tendency to become 'de-

institutionalized,' to emerge from the closed fortresses in which they once functioned and to

circulate in a 'free' state."20 The last phrase could be taken to mean that disciplinary techniques

become more or less ubiquitous, or it could be read as Foucault sarcastically commenting on the









The plausibility of this reading becomes more apparent after considering a later event, a

car crash Richard witnesses on the expressway. Returning home from a rare trip into the city,

Richard notices the "sleazy viaducts and overpasses where Negro children dawdled, some of

them kicking pebbles off onto the passing cars" (EP 119). The driver, his friend Gustave

Hofstadter's father, has meanwhile become tense "as if preparing for battle" with the other

motorists, whom he honks at and attempts to speed past (EP 119). Then, says Richard, "we

flashed under an overpass, and just at that moment some kids dropped something over-a length

of pipe, maybe-and it hit the windshield of a car alongside us" (EP 120). As the struck vehicle

hurtles off the road and crashes, Mr. Hofstadter announces to Richard and the other young

passengers: "It's a rehearsal. Television show" (EP 120). These are nearly the same words

Natashya used to describe the bank robbery, but Mr. Hofstadter's terse explanation is much less

believable-how could a simulated crash possibly take place in the midst of real traffic?

In separate discussions of this scene, Ellen Friedman and Greg Johnson both focus

attention on the father's road rage, which concludes when he arrives home and rams his car with

odd satisfaction into his nonfunctional electric garage door. In Friedman's opinion, such

behavior reveals the suburban men of Expensive People to be "warriors without a war, a cause,

or a visible enemy," and she proposes that "the enemy is not outside but inside."13 According to

Johnson, "maniacal driving becomes a metaphor for the cutthroat, egocentric combativeness

necessary for 'success' in Fernwood."14 These readings, which align perfectly with the

assumptions of the entrapment narrative discussed above, ignore the urban setting, the African-

American children, and the second group who cause the wreck-all the visible reasons why the

driver might become tense. To me, the expressway attack is strangely reminiscent of the action

that almost all commentators agree started the Detroit riot. A police raid was conducted upon a


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drawn to urban spectacles instead. The main idea of "Jubilee Days" recapitulates that of "By

Horse-Car to Boston." Observing the exhibition crowd of fifty thousand people, the narrator

remarks: "It was as if you were a private in an army, or a very ordinary billow of the sea, feeling

the battle or the storm, in a collective sort of way, but unable to distinguish your sensations from

those of the mass" (SS 200). Although the grand event pleases his civic pride at first, by the end

it has much the same effect on the suburbanite as his other encounters with urban diversity,

producing "the sarcastic pathos with which we Americans bear most oppressive and fatiguing

things as a good joke" (SS 211). The preamble to "Some Lessons for the School of Morals"

expresses the same outlook: "Any study of suburban life would be very imperfect without some

glance at that larger part of it which is spent in the painful pursuit of pleasure such as are offered

at the ordinary places of public amusement; and for this reason I excuse myself for rehearsing

certain impressions here which are not more directly suburban, to say the least, than those

recounted in the foregoing chapter" (SS 220).

"Flitting," the final sketch of the collection, finds the suburban family packing up and

moving out. "I profess to have all the possible regrets for Benecia Street, now that I have left it,"

comments the narrator. Nevertheless, the title and tone of this piece reinforce the sense of

previous sketches that the experiment in suburban living has been a failure, at least on Howells's

terms (SS 241). He does not mention whether the new house they have chosen is located in the

city or the suburbs. The latter seems more likely, given the changes that have taken place to

Charlesbridge during their four year tenure, as the vacant, trash-strewn lots have transformed

into freshly painted new wooden houses, and the cows have lost their pastures (SS 242-3). I

doubt it is a coincidence that they flee in the face of this development, yet Howells

characteristically does not address his suburbanites' role in these processes or the economic









Where then do Oates's suburbs fit into this picture? After all, the suburb- a place set apart

from the bustling city, a place associated with home-seems quite the opposite of those

corporate non-places, far removed from the maneuverings of global capitalism. Although

suburbia does not feature in any discussions of deterritorialization I have encountered, the two

experiences that Oates spotlights in her depictions of everyday suburban life and landscape-

uncertainty regarding value (whether economic or social) and disorientation in space-

correspond to the two facets of deterritorialization discussed above.

Expensive People commences its idiosyncratic presentation of suburbia with a short

description of a house. Richard carefully recreates the scene when, at age ten, he first arrived

with his mother and father at their new home in the suburb of Fernwood:

Now, on the far side of the street (I am considering your point of view) is a
handsome old house, set back from the sidewalk, English Tudor of an
Americanized sort, with great hunks of plate glass and standard evergreen shrubs,
etc. You've seen thousands of such houses. And now if you'll turn-notice how
cautious I am, wanting you to see and feel everything without confusion-if you'll
turn you will see what those four people are staring at. Another house. A house,
that's all. A bastardized French-American affair, brick painted white, with
balconies of wrought iron fastened somehow beneath the four big second-floor
windows, and a big double door with gold, or gold-plated brass, knobs. The house
has been built atop a hill, and all eyes are drawn to it. Banks and clumps of
expensive evergreens run down in a friendly riot along the edge of the 'circle'
driveway to the street. (EP 9)

This passage is worth examining as a concise presentation of Oates's two major themes

regarding the suburban environment. Richard begins his description respectfully enough, yet he

quickly turns dismissive, aborting the sketch of the first house abruptly once the taint of mass-

produced banality appears. Throughout the passage there exists a palpable tension between the

authentic and the derivative, between the old (world or money) and the new. Richard remains

ever conscious of such distinctions, surely emulating his status-obsessed mother in this regard,

and he repeatedly reassures us that his childhood homes were located in established suburbs,


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extension of disciplinarity into liberal democracies such as France and the U.S.-countries

Nabokov lived in after fleeing communist Russia and fascist Germany. In short, Foucault seems

to authorize us to find disciplinarity almost anywhere, and in Lolita it apparently permeates the

American suburbs while also being hijacked by a madman.

"The Spell of Absolute Security": Undisciplined Surveillance

As compelling as this interpretation of the novel may be, it fails to account for some

important details. In particular, I am not convinced that Humbert's anxieties are consonant with

the danger he faces. Almost every instance of surveillance discussed above is in fact lascivious,

and very few of these acts seem to control, regulate, or prevent sexual behavior in the way one

might expect from a disciplinary power. This surveillance does not produce "docile bodies," and

it certainly does not "capitalize the time of individuals." Humbert's misunderstanding begins in

childhood during his final attempt to have sex with Annabel Leigh. Far from protesting, the "old

man of the sea" and his brother actually offer "exclamations of ribald encouragement" when

Humbert is "on the point of possessing" the girl (L 13). Young Humbert, it seems, is discouraged

by the potential spectators interrupting his privacy. One of the great ironies of the novel is that,

despite all his bluster about his unique sexuality, Humbert remains prudishly oblivious to the

sexual desires and "deviancy" all around him-most importantly Clare Quilty' s.

Recollecting his former life, Humbert the narrator admits he "was as naive as only a

pervert can be" (L 25). Nowhere is this more evident than in his initial interactions with Lolita.

He overlooks the signs of Lolita's sexual awareness in order to "solipsize" her, making her

conform to his nymphet ideal (L 60). His caution, doubtfully necessary in the scene on the Haze

sofa, is finally rendered absurd at the Enchanted Hunters hotel. He struggles to explain their

accommodations to his new daughter, proposing, "while we travel, we shall be obliged-we

shall be thrown a good deal together. Two people sharing one room, inevitably enter into a









"suburbia." Setting can be fruitfully used in other ways for this process of classification. In

researching this dissertation, I have looked for literary texts that describe themselves as

suburban-Howells' s Suburban Sketches and Henry Cuyler Bunner' s The Suburban Sage for

instance -or that employ that term in descriptions of their settings and characters. I do not take

an author's word as the stamp certifying a text as suburban fiction, of course. Instead, setting

offers a place to begin questioning why the term is used and whether the text might fit the

classification somehow.

This approach has led me to consider several texts not previously discussed under this

rubric, including Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. In the case

of the former, the suburban setting is ultimately incidental to the character-driven moral drama

staged by Alcott's domestic fiction, despite the elements of suburban ideology that infrequently

crop up (e.g., the March girls' fantasy of living farther away from the city, out beyond their

"Delectable Mountain"). Nabokov's story seems very different from conventional postwar

suburban fiction in both style and theme, since it is often read as a late modernist or

postmodernist allegory about the relationship between decadent Europe and vulgar America.

Nevertheless, I think we should include Lolita in the subgenre because of its surprisingly

conventional portrayal of the postwar suburban landscape in relation to the novel's themes of

social control, surveillance, and obscenity.

The sheer number of credible themes found by the five critics demonstrates my second

principle, namely, that it is productive and necessary to define subgenre in multiple ways,

whether understood as comprised of sequential phases or coexisting, overlapping features. Even

a single work can demonstrate multiple genre characteristics. For instance, Beuka finds in

Updike's "Rabbit" novels that the entrapping suburbs cause a crisis of masculinity, whereas









banal young bride, she started to 'glorify the home"' in cretonnes and chintzes, consulting

"illustrated catalogs and homemaking guides" (L 77-8). When Charlotte dies in a car accident,

Humbert flees Ramsdale almost immediately, embarking on a yearlong road trip across America

with Lolita.

Humbert shows little interest in suburbia, either as a resident or as the writer of this

narrative, and his attitude is shared by literary critics. This setting is not usually considered

important to Nabokov's novel, which is often interpreted as a metafiction about art or else

discussed for the ethical problems raised by its portrayal of pedophilia. Significantly, none of the

suburban literary scholars addressed in my first chapter mention Lolita in their accounts of the

subgenre. When compared to George Babbitt, the quintessential twentieth-century suburbanite

character, Humbert does indeed appear to be "a foreigner and an anarchist," as Nabokov deems

him (L 315). Babbitt is largely a representative type: a narrow-minded, hypocritical American

businessman and civic booster who expresses himself in platitudes, remaining out of touch or at

odds with his feelings and desires. Suburbia provides Babbitt with self-affirmation through its

homogeneous community, while offering him the socially acceptable emotional outlet of family

life. Humbert, by contrast, is an abnormal, antisocial individual, committed to nurturing his

secret passion and seemingly unconcerned about his public or professional existence. The strict

normativity of post-WWII suburbia, where a childless, single adult who works at home is

morally suspect, makes Humbert feel stifled.

Surprisingly, the two characters do have a few things in common. Both are romantic

dreamers who desire a "fairy girl"-Lolita often being playfully described by Humbert as a

nymph, elf, pixie, and other similar mythological figures. The men also demonstrate a similar

confusion about their society. As I argued in the previous chapter, Babbitt maintains a nostalgia









of its rules, even though the intimate sphere as such only existed within the bourgeois private

sphere-a fundamental contradiction.21 As Stephanie Coontz observes, "the separation of home

and family from market and state represented an attempt to limit the transformation of personal

relations into commodity relations."22 These personal relations were understood as voluntary,

"disinterested," and non-instrumental, paradigmatically represented by friendship and "the

lasting community of love on the part of the two spouses."23 The notion of pure humanity to

which Babbitt still seems to subscribe corresponds to the nineteenth-century idea of

"personality."24 The belief that intimacy allows the expression of individual personality was

enshrined in what Eli Zaretsky terms "personal life," which occurs paradigmatically in the

private residence.25 The increasing value placed by the bourgeoisie on personality, privacy,

intimacy, and domesticity represented an inversion of the classical belief in the primacy of the

respublica-happening not coincidentally when the inversion of suburb and city also took place.

Ideology, of course, does not correspond exactly to the realities of everyday life. As

Habermas admits, the freedom and pure humanity of the intimate sphere remained "largely a

fiction."26 These ideals nevertheless provided the alibi for the more immediate, practical

functions that the intimate sphere served, namely the perpetuation of capitalism and the social

reproduction of the bourgeoisie. The home and the nuclear family became spaces of exception

within capitalist society, serving as an individual (rather than social) safety net protecting against

the instabilities of the private economy. To this end, a gendered division of labor was inscribed

upon the separate spheres, and women's unpaid domestic work was sentimentalized through the

new language of personality and intimacy. The moral influence of the respectable home was to

provide stability for the entire family in the face of an unpredictable economy and a disorganized

social order, allowing "the smooth reproduction of class differences" in the absence of other









The first meeting between Babbitt and Riesling in the novel takes place at the Zenith

Athletic Club. They are playfully harassed when they choose to sit apart from their regular

companions, because "privacy was very bad form" (B 53). This custom seems out of place, since

"[t]he first institution created specifically for private speech was the men's club" according to

Richard Sennett.65 He speaks of the original clubs of seventeenth-century Europe that served a

similar function to that of the bourgeois intimate sphere: providing an escape from the pressures

of impersonal urban life, a way to manage sociability by excluding strangers. By the early

twentieth century, Lewis suggests, men's clubs and associations have reorganized along the same

lines as the domestic realm, becoming just another venue of capitalist society, neither public nor

intimate. "Of a decent man in Zenith," writes Lewis, "it was required that he should belong to

one, preferably two or three, of the innumerous 'lodges' and prosperity-boosting lunch-clubs" (B

181). While at the Athletic, for instance, Babbitt conspicuously announces his purchase of the

electric cigar-lighter to other members of the club, concurs with them about the necessity of

"having the best" products, and trades "amiable insults" about their crooked business dealings-

all forms of masculine competition and status-seeking that yet again impede his desire (B 50).

Babbitt can find no place for his intimate friendship, it seems.

The third alternative, Babbitt's camping trips in Maine, has again much in common with

his dream of the fairy child and his friendship with Riesling. Babbitt idly fantasizes about

"running off' to the woods for some time, having even bought a khaki blanket "for a camping

trip which had never come off. It symbolized gorgeous loafing, gorgeous cursing, virile flannel

shirts" (B 4). He predictably envisions the wilderness as a masculine space of leisure, liberated

from the world of work as well as the feminized domestic realm. When he and Riesling

eventually go off together to a rustic hotel in Maine, their male friendship does indeed find a









female domestics, since the Everetts "rarely descended into the 'city,' though Father worked

downtown" (EP 65). His mother Natashya maintains this detachment most radically. 16 In

keeping with her declaration that, "For me, history is what is in this room, nothing more" (EP

76), she avoids television and the news, guarding her son against these disturbing influences as

well (EP 221). Nevertheless, history and its violence do slip through the filter. When Richard

happens to pick up a stray Time magazine, he is caught off guard: "my nausea rose suddenly at a

picture of a mutilated Communist riot victim (the caption read, 'After the dance, the piper to be

paid')" (EP 76). The image raises questions about the mysterious conflict it records, but the

narrator chooses this moment to shift the topic to his mother's "lack of interest in politics, in

history, in reality"-a suitably ironic way to cover up what he has almost revealed (EP 76).

At the end of Richard's digression about his mother, he notes, "I have caught her

solipsism from her, the way I used to catch colds and flu from her" (EP 76-7). Although this

admission may cause us to distrust the eighteen-year-old narrator as we might the other suburban

adults, the young boy's naivete seems different from the self-serving solipsism ofNatashya or,

more infamously, Lolita's Humbert Humbert. Richard's ignorance protects him against the pain

that comes from knowledge. The two incidents that most precipitate his disintegration, after all,

are a conversation with his drunken father, who informs Richard that his mother had attempted to

have an abortion before he was born, and Richard's subsequent discovery of his mother's

outrageous expectations regarding his I.Q. score. Sex, violence, and the world beyond the

suburbs seem conflated in his mind, because all are subjects of secrecy that pose an obscure

threat to the stability of his world. Despite Richard's fears about what he may discover, the boy

remains irrepressibly curious. He spies and eavesdrops upon his parents, particularly his mother,

even though her adulterous behavior distresses him. His quest for knowledge also explains his


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constantly reveals this connection: business letters must have "punch" and "kick" (B 43), good

advertisements are "he-literature" (B 107), and so on. Even as he blusteringly tries to check

Riesling's dissent, Babbitt remains uneasy about his hypocritical conformity.

What keeps Babbitt's discontentment with the private and public spheres in check, until his

rebellion? The answer lies within the intimate sphere, Habermas's term for the domestic realm of

the bourgeois family. In more than one way, Babbitt and his peers are working to provide the

comforts of home. Many of the men's jobs relate to the suburban housing industry: in addition to

the aforementioned professions of Babbitt, Thompson, and Riesling, Thompson also operates a

"kitchen-cabinet works" (B 60), and among Babbitt's neighbors, Dopplebrau works in bathroom

fixtures (B 21), Littlefield serves the Zenith Street Traction Company (B 22), and Swanson sells

automobiles (B 99). Babbitt takes pride in his own modern house, appointed with the most "up-

to-date" conveniences. He also seems to take more pleasure from domestic family life than in

formal society. Upon reading in the newspaper about a dance given at the home of the wealthy

Charles McKelvey, a college acquaintance of Babbitt's, he remarks to his wife Myra: "Oh,

thunder, let's not waste our good time thinking about 'em! Our little bunch has a lot liver times

than all those plutes. Just compare a real human like you with these neurotic birds like Lucile

McKelvey-all high-brow talk and dressed up like a plush horse!" (B 19-20). While a fair

amount of class-based resentment animates these comments, Babbitt and Myra are nevertheless

firmly committed to the bourgeois intimate sphere and its values, as demonstrated again in a

scene that occurs in their living room.

The scene begins when their adult daughter "Verona escaped, immediately after dinner,

with no discussion save an automatic 'Why don't you ever stay home?' from Babbitt" (B 66). As

the father reads the comic strips and the mother darns socks, their teenaged son Ted announces









paved highways" that could benefit the next suburban development scheme he and Thompson

are concocting (B 161).

Throughout the first half of the novel, Babbitt repeatedly demonstrates his psychological

adjustment to the practices of the private sphere, his willingness to participate in the cutthroat

competitiveness that Lewis believes dominates that realm. For instance, the narrator reports that

Babbitt "was conventionally honest" (B 37), meaning that at professional luncheons he would

speak sonorously of Unselfish Public Service, the Broker's Obligation to Keep
Inviolate the Trust of His Clients, and a thing called Ethics, whose nature was
confusing but if you had it you were a High-class Realtor and if you hadn't you
were a shyster, a piker, and a fly-by-night. These virtues awakened Confidence, and
enabled you to handle Bigger Propositions. But they didn't imply that you were to
be impractical and refuse to take twice the value of a house if a buyer was such an
idiot that he didn't jew you down on the asking-price. (B 38)

As Babbitt's performances demonstrate, his successes have brought him not only wealth and

business connections but also social status and a position in the public sphere. He is considered a

"Solid Citizen," a reputation confirmed through his speech making at civic and professional

functions, his political speeches for the Republican presidential candidate, and even an

occasional bit of publicity about his exploits in the local newspaper.

Habermas describes the classical bourgeois public sphere as a space of free, rational

debate, the counterpart to the free, rational commerce of the private sphere-both being

relatively autonomous from the sphere of the state. The public sphere was originally

institutionalized in print culture as well as British coffee houses and French salons during the

Enlightenment. These are the antecedents to Babbitt's banquets, political rallies, and mass-

circulation corporate newspapers, though Lewis of course satirizes the questionable rationality of

these later forms of publicity. In them, we can observe the transformation of the public sphere

that troubles Habermas, the emergence of an uncritical, commercialized "pseudo-public," or









indistinction for the remainder of the book. Several motifs are repeated from that previous work:

the neighbors' cows make their way into the Grays' garden and eat all the "tender shoots" (OT

9). Mr. Gray buys a goat that is reminiscent of Mr. Sparrowgrass's horse. The goat, Mr. Gray

says, "now eats off my turnip-tops" and otherwise makes itself an annoyance, until it escapes its

pen, devours a neighbor's cabbage crop, and gets impounded-something that never seems to

happen to his neighbors's vagrant animals (OT69). His wife has similar luck with chickens:

"every one of the fowls that Mrs. Gray bought proved to be of the masculine gender" (OT 18).

Furthermore, when word spreads among the country folks that the Grays are looking to buy hens,

"it was as if Barnum were opening a new poultry show" (OT 16). Scores of locals come eager to

sell, and some become irritable when their offers are declined. One woman, says Mr. Gray,

claims she "had come ten miles, in the broiling sun, to sell me those fowls, and that it was n't

treating her decently to refuse to buy them," and she threatens to "get even" with him (OT 16).

Haggling with the locals sometimes overwhelms the new suburbanites, who for a short time

receive milk from three separate milkmaids (OT 9), while two different ice men deliver "a

hundred pounds of ice" daily (OT 11).

Mr. Gray feels shamed, as Mr. Sparrowgrass did, during such interactions with his social

inferiors. For instance, the family retains a "maid-of-all-work," and to Mr. Gray's displeasure

she makes fun of the small size of Woodbine Cottage (OT3). The family's two appliances, a

refrigerator and a heater, are almost inconveniences, being nearly too large to move into the

cottage (OT 7). As the enormous heater sits outside day after day, passersby "began to cast

ridicule at both the heater and the owner, and the boys took to pelting it with green apples from

the neighboring orchard. One man, indeed, had the audacity to ask me what I intended to do with

my elephant. If he had not been a particular friend of mine, I should have knocked him down"









FROM INDISTINCTION TO IRONY: THE TRANSFORMATION
OF AMERICAN SUBURBAN FICTION, 1830-1970





















By

ANDREW REYNOLDS


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2010









can signify the genteel leisure characteristic of suburban life. During the Gilded Age, however,

the satirical treatment of the picturesque aesthetic by a few American authors subverts the

pastoral ideal of suburbia, while the ephemerality of the sketch comes to signify the ill-defined,

fragmentary quality of suburban life and its failure to sustain literary narration.

In the introduction to my dissertation, I faulted previous critics of the subgenre for not

always sufficiently demonstrating the specifically "suburban" quality of fiction. While

verisimilitude should not be the determining qualification for inclusion in the subgenre, literary

scholars must avoid writing about "suburbia" as an ahistorical abstraction or classifying texts

through formal literary characteristics alone, when the subgenre's name and many of its texts'

titles reference a geographical place. This subgenre is both fascinating and frustrating because of

the difficult necessity of negotiating the fiction-reality relationship. My chapter begins with a

brief history of the early suburbs, in order to demonstrate how the literary theme of indistinction

corresponds to a specific period and type of suburbanization: middle-class residential

communities circa 1830-1900. These suburbs, along with the fiction that depicted them,

functioned as part of a broader cultural effort to redefine the middle class. Without claiming that

nineteenth-century suburban fiction is or is not mimetic, I want to suggest an affinity or

"mediation" between this literature and reality.3

A Brief History of Early Middle-Class Suburbia

Through the first decades of the nineteenth century, American cities still conformed to a

pattern that had dominated in Europe and the Near East since ancient times. The premodern

suburb functioned as a distinct zone for commercial uses that were deemed inappropriate for the

city-noxious industries and nuisances such as animal slaughtering, soapmaking, and

prostitution. As a result, residence on the periphery was less desirable; as Kenneth T. Jackson

notes, "Even the word suburb suggested inferior manners, narrowness of view, and physical









informed sociological and anthropological discussions of the suburb since at least WWII. Among

the most well-known of these studies are David Riesman et al.'s The Lonely Crowd (1950) and

William H. Whyte, Jr.'s The Organization Man (1956). These two works deeply influenced

academic and popular understanding of postwar American society, describing the rise of a new

professional, middle-class, suburban "personality" based on "other-directedness," "adjustment,"

"belongingness," and "group thinking." The impulse to describe suburbia through patterns of

social behavior persists in contemporary ethnographic research, such as M. P. Baumgartner's

The Moral Order ofa Suburb (1988) and Setha M. Low's Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and

the Pursuit ofHappiness in Fortress America (2003).

The reaction against such a definition of suburbia also began to take shape during the post-

WWII years. As Herbert J. Gans recounts:

I watched the growth of this mythology with misgivings, for my observations in
various new suburbs persuaded me neither that there was much change in people
when they moved to the suburbs nor that the change which took place could be
traced to the new environment. And if suburban life was as undesirable and
unhealthy as the critics charged, the suburbanites themselves were blissfully
unaware of it: they were happy in their new homes and communities, much happier
than they had been in the city.28

Following in the footsteps of Bennett M. Berger and William Dobriner, Gans contested the

suburban "myth" by analyzing the suburb of Levittown, New Jersey. He discovered persistent

subcultures rooted in educational, religious, and ethnic differences. These writers not only refute

the environmental determinism that underlies the notion of an archetypical suburban mentality or

personality, but in doing so they also throw doubt on the very possibility of a qualitative

definition of the suburb. Revisionist scholarship during the following decades has further

fragmented suburban sociology. For example, Laura J. Miller questions whether the dominant

perception of suburbia as a family-oriented environment is not somewhat misleading. While

agreeing that suburban space encourages familial "togetherness" and privacy in a variety of









coupling of social status to economic wealth, the myth of democratic classlessnesss," the figure

of the "self-made man," and the belief in the possibility of upward mobility through seizing "the

main chance" all contributed to migration into the cities, a destabilized class structure, and

increased economic as well as social competition. In other words, the changes wrought by

industrial capitalism to society, culture, and space threatened the existing mechanisms of middle-

class "distinction," Pierre Bourdieu' s term for the process of creating social classes. In the face

of this threat, the American middle class developed several new strategies for their own self-

preservation and social reproduction as a class, including sentiment and sincerity, domesticity,

and suburbia.

Sentiment and sincerity provide an instructive example for understanding how these new

strategies of distinction functioned. A cult of sentiment and sincerity emerged in the 1830s,

according to Karen Halttunen, and its code of conduct functioned as "a barrier to be surmounted

by those who wished to enter the ranks of the genteel."8 Proper etiquette and "natural" feeling

helped to shore up middle-class identity against the threat presented by a growing number of

urban strangers and social climbers-including the confidence man, the painted woman, and the

vulgar nouveau riche. Sincerity and sentiment, like the character and virtue that they revealed,

were formerly religious concepts, invoked as substitute means of distinction, because qualities

such as economic success (or the semblance of it) were not by themselves sufficient to

perpetuate the existing middle class. As Halttunen observes, "sincerity was not an economic

category, it was a matter of morality."9 Sentiment and sincerity thus served as an exception to the

culture of capitalism, an external means to prop up the internally unstable system.

To produce distinction through sentiment and sincerity required not only a social code but

also "the social production of space," namely the creation of a new social geography centered









Durkheim's mechanical and organic social solidarities, or even the Enlightenment notions of

state of nature and state of society. Instead, Hudson considers "the artificiality of the

community's aspirations" in Blithedale, though later he describes "the artificial imposition of

houses and streets" as part of "a destructive leveling of the natural landscape" in Sinclair Lewis's

Babbitt.34 At yet another moment, Hudson analyzes the imitative suburban architecture in F.

Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in order to reveal "the artificiality of Gatsby's West Egg,"

and he even considers the green electric light in that novel to represent suburban artificiality.35

Any form of social organization or built environment could be labeled artificial in this broad

sense, rendering Hudson's interpretations a bit banal at times. I have not found this notion of

artificiality raised in other suburban studies.

Similarly, his discovery of ambiguity in all suburban narratives tends to gloss over the

particular differences underlying their praise or condemnation of the suburbs. To put my

criticisms in the terms of genre theory, Hudson takes a formalist approach, focusing upon the

purely literary features of narrative such as theme and figure of speech. Of all the literary critics I

will discuss, he remains the least interested in the element of setting or the issue of mimesis, both

of which would be foregrounded by a more historicist approach. This preference is most

apparent in his opening chapter's lengthy and well-informed review of nonliterary suburban

studies, which unfortunately is segregated from all his literary readings. This approach leads to

his insightful yet too static and monolithic definition of the subgenre.

Catherine Jurca published the first book on the topic, White Diaspora: The Suburb and

the Ti emiethi-Century American Novel (2001). Her provocative work makes the case that

suburban literature is best defined as an utterly fraudulent narrative of discontent with suburbia.

She observes that although "house ownership has provided white residents with substantial




Full Text

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1 FROM INDISTINCTION TO IRONY: THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN SUBURBAN FICTION, 1830 1970 By ANDREW REYNOLDS A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUI REMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

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2 2010 Andrew Stuart Reynolds

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3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS To say that I could not have completed this project without David Leverenz would be an understatement. I could not imagine a b etter dissertation director. His unwavering enthusiasm and prompt, incisive responses to innumerable drafts kept me from quitting and helped me to overcome my worst writing habits. Any portion of this dissertation that manages to be distilled and cogent tw o of Davids favorite terms of praise is a result of his mentoring, if not his direct assistance. In the past year, I have felt rejuvenated about this project, and it is no coincidence that during that same period I have increasingly noticed the ways in which David has helped me to improve as a writer, ranging from my general approach to literary scholarship down to the structuring of sentences. I cannot thank him enough, and I aspire to his patience and generosity as a teacher. I am also indebted to the m embers of my committee for their instruction and support. Susan Hegeman introduced me to the idea of approaching literature through setting in her stimulating seminar The City and the Country. My seminar paper for Susan was the first thing I wrote on the topic of suburbia, and her prompting me to be more rigorous in defining my subject effectively led to this dissertation. Phil Wegner similarly sparked my interests in genre and the theory of space, both through his own scholarship and also by introducing me to writers including Fredric Jameson and Henri Lefevbre. Phils dynamic ability to periodize and historicize cultural phenomena inspired my own attempts at theorization in this work. Trysh Travis shared her knowledge of suburban history with characteris tic frankness, and she boosted my confidence by inviting me to visit her class Masculinity in Suburbia as a guest lecturer. Each of them offered me valuable feedback on various parts of the dissertation, and my defense was truly enjoyable and enlightening thanks to all their efforts.

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4 I would like to thank the Department of English at the University of Florida for providing me with an Alumni Fellowship as well as a congenial intellectual atmosphere. Among the many wonderful professors, graduate students, and undergraduates I have met here, four of my Ph.D. colleagues require special mention. Aaron Shaheen and Jessica Livingston were my best friends during the first half of my graduate program. We shared an intellectual camaraderie but also a common desire for fun and adventure, a combination that I have never really experienced before or since, and I miss the meetings of our little coterie more than I can express. Ariel Gunn and Aron Pease were the two friends who sustained me through the second half of my graduate career. I enjoyed evaluating pedagogy and playing board games with Ariel, while Aron and I debated theory and played guitars. All four of these people helped me with the dissertation at various stages, and I am tremendously appreciative and luc ky to have found such good friends. I should also thank Graduate Assistants United at UF and in particular Todd Reynolds, who was co -president during the time I was a member. Because of their struggles with the UF administration, all of us graduate assist ants enjoyed health insurance and many other benefits. Todd was also part of my Ph.D. cohort; a devoted friend with a mischievous laugh that I miss hearing; and a tireless organizer who worked to make me a better union member. Our common last name is a hap py coincidence, since I consider him a brother. My family has been a great support during this process. My mother and father, Diane and Allen Reynolds, encouraged my interest in reading when I was young, pushed me to attend college, and have done their bes t to understand this strange career I have chosen. I hope to have made them proud with this accomplishment, and to be as loving and selfless a parent to my son as they have been to me. Lois and Dick Midwood, my aunt and uncle, were surrogate parents to me in the summers growing up and during my Masters degree program at SUNY Buffalo as

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5 well. Dick died during the time I was writing this dissertation, and I miss him greatly. His love of Bostons history, where he led us on walking tours, undoubtedly influenc ed my interest in American culture. If there is anyone who truly understands me (for better or worse), it is my brother Doug Reynolds. He has always been there for me, laconic yet amenable to any sort of nonsense I proposed, and I am not sure what I would do without his friendship or technical support. I am also thankful to Jack and Kitty Churchill, my outstanding parents in law. They graciously tolerated me doing academic work during almost every holiday and visit, and did all they could to make it easier for me to finish this project. The most important thing that happened to me during my doctoral program was falling in love with Candi Churchill. She changed my life in predictable ways we got married and had the kid that brought me happiness I never imagi ned. She may have slowed down my actual writing progress with all the dates and little getaways she demanded we go on, but she enriched my life and supported my work in so many ways that I cannot begin to count. I love her addictive passion for fun, her courageous sense of justice, and her emotional honesty. My final push to complete the dissertation, combined with her work and caring for our new baby, certainly put a strain on our marriage, but in that time I discovered just how strong a partnership we h ave built. I am also appreciative of the work she does as a faculty union organizer and feminist activist. People like her make it possible for people like me to do things like study literature, and I am in awe of her and the other activists I have met in Gainesville who volunteer their time and energy to fight so that we can enjoy a more peaceful, democratic, fair, and leisurely world. I dedicate this dissertation to Candi.

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6 My son Max Reynolds Churchill was born near the end of my long journey to the doct orate. Being his father will constitute the next stage in my education and my next interminable project. I thank Max for his inspiration, joy, and love.

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7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................................... 3 ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................... 11 A Review of Nonliterary Suburban Studies .............................................................................. 16 A Review of Suburban Literary Studies .................................................................................... 23 Theorizing the Subgenre ............................................................................................................. 33 A New Account of Suburban Literature .................................................................................... 36 2 THE INDISTINCTION OF NINETEENTH CENTURY SUBURBAN FICTION .............. 45 A Contrary Aesthetic .................................................................................................................. 45 A Brief History of Early Middle -Class Suburbia ...................................................................... 47 A Model of the Purest Simplicity: Hentz and Cary ............................................................... 57 It Is a Good Thing to Live in the Country: Cozzens and Coffin .......................................... 69 I t Wanted the Atmosphere of Sentimental Association : Howells ........................................ 86 Without Glory of Any Kind: Beers, Bunner, and Cutting .................................................. 101 3 BABBITT AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SUBURBAN INTIMATE SPHERE ..................................................................................................................................... 115 I Dont Know that Im Entirely Satisfied!: The Emergent Discontent of the Twentieth Century Suburban Novel .................................................................................... 115 The Old Comforts of Home: The Decline of Bourgeois Intimacy ......................................... 120 The New Comforts of Home: The Rise of Mass Consumerism ............................................. 132 The Business of Home Making ................................................................................................ 139 Home Away from Home ........................................................................................................... 144 4 LOLITA S UNDISCIPLINED SUBURBS .............................................................................. 159 A Foreigner and an Anarchist: Humbert Humbert in Postwar Suburbia ........................... 159 A Lighted House of Glass: Humbert under Surveillance ................................................... 162 Our Middle -Class Nosy Era: The Disciplinary Society ...................................................... 165 The Merciless Glare of the Common Law: Humbert and Disciplinarity ........................... 169 The Spell of Absolute Security: Undisciplined Surveillance ............................................. 172 Humbert the Terrible Deliberated with Humbert the Small: Power and Avoidance ........ 179 The Feeling Was Good: Humberts Moral Apotheosis ....................................................... 188

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8 5 A SPRAWL NARRATIVE: THE DETERRITORIALIZATION OF SUBURBIA IN JOYCE CAROL OATESS EXPENSIVE PEOPLE ............................................................... 197 The Second Corpse ................................................................................................................... 197 Allusive Violence ...................................................................................................................... 200 Deterritorialization and Sprawl ................................................................................................ 208 Detroit and Vietnam .................................................................................................................. 214 Expensive Sprawl ...................................................................................................................... 219 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................................................................................................. 229 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................................................................................... 238

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9 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Re quirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy FROM INDISTINCTION TO IRONY: THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN SUBURBAN FICTION, 1830 1970 By Andrew Reynolds August 2010 Chair: David Leverenz Major: English This st udy develops a two -part definition of the suburban subgenre of American literature based upon the perception of a break between nineteenth and twentieth -century suburban texts. Unlike previous studies, mine surveys nineteenth -century fiction, discovering a general tendency to evaluate the emergent suburban space and culture as potentially inadequate for promoting white middle -class identity and social status. This concern can be traced back to the Victorian periods rapid urban growth, industrialization, foreign immigration, and proletarianization factors that resulted in a destabilized class structure and increased economic as well as social competition. In suburban fiction of this era, a typical character, recently arrived from the city, is dismayed by t he difficulties of suburban housekeeping, the lack of genteel society and urban conveniences, the opportunity that rural leisure provides for misadventures, and the potential for shame through interactions with the rural working class. I propose that the s ubgenres first phase is characterized by a theme of indistinction, signifying an inscrutability as well as an inability to provide the desired social status. The second phase, in contrast, is distinguished by a dominant theme of irony, which evolves in r esponse to the increasingly tight association of twentieth -century suburbia with white middle class identity. No longer is discontent principally oriented toward the suburbs perceived

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10 failures. Instead, the problems portrayed in many twentieth century suburban novels can be interpreted as the unintended consequences or side effects of suburbias very success at creating an exclusive, respectable, thoroughly middle -class social geography. These problems include the collapse of the bourgeois intimate sphere, the emergence of a minimalistic social order characterized by conflict avoidance and disengaged tolerance and the spread of suburban sprawl. The irony structuring these texts is the most distinguishing and provocative characteristic of the twentieth -cent ury suburban novel. My multidisciplinary dissertation thus provides a new account of the development of a literary genre and, in doing so, also reconfigures established ideas about the American suburbs.

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11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The American suburbs are readi ly stereotyped. Unlike the city or the country, which might bring to mind cosmopolitan diversity or some distinctive regional identity, suburbia evokes the idea of a homogeneous, national culture through a series of familiar images: picture windows a nd manicured lawns, cul -de -sacs and car garages, swimming pools and barbeques, and at the heart of it all the white, middle -class, nuclear family. Suburban literature also seems rather easy to identify. Based on conversations and teaching experiences I have had in the course of writing this dissertation, I have found that casual readers believe this subgenre began in the 1950s and is best represented by John Updikes Rabbit novels and the short stories of John Cheever. The convention of this body of liter ature, it might be added, is to expose the discontent and domestic conflict hiding behind the material signs of success and public displays of conformity. In other words, the literary suburbs are inevitably home to a disgruntled organization man and his dysfunctional family. This mundane subject matter along with the recognizability of this subgenre consigns it to an inferior literary status, as a popular branch of realism lacking the aesthetic originality, social significance, or political engagement of high modernism, postmodern metafiction, and magical realism. These beliefs certainly exist for a reason, yet they are overly simplistic and even misleading. As the title of this dissertation suggests, the suburbs and the subgenre have relatively long hist ories in the context of U.S. culture. Even a brief survey of their histories reveals some fundamental conflicts. Over the last fifty years, observers have questioned whether the post WWII suburbs are truly suburbs or not, considering that these development have progressively drifted away from their traditional urban centers to create a new type of built environment, one that William H. Whyte, Jr., was already in the late 1950s calling sprawl.1 Some have argued

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12 that a term such as sprawl, technoburb, or edge city better recognizes the shift away from the old pattern of bedroom communities built along rail lines for white, middle class, male commuters and their families. The new suburbs, in this view, are independent, automobile oriented, mixed use devel opments that reintegrate residence and workplace, provide nearly urban -quality services, support the needs of professional women, and house an increasing diversity of economic, racial, and ethnic groups. Others counter that the postwar developments carry o n the old suburban ways. They point to the perpetuation of racial and class segregation at the neighborhood level despite more overall diversity, the lack of genuine public space and urban culture despite the proliferation of consumer venues, the perpetuat ion of gender norms encapsulated in the traditional suburban family despite dual wage -earners, and the negative environmental impact of leapfrog development despite the allure of a natural setting.2 More than terminology is at stake in these disputes. Competing images of suburbia continue to weigh heavily in debates about urban growth patterns, the national economy (especially in the context of the petroleum crisis and the volatile housing industry), the American Dream of home ownership, and the persi stence of racism and segregation. Though the suburban novel has only very recently come up for extended academic discussion, it has quickly engendered similar disagreements about the nature of the subject in question, and for much the same reasons. Some li terary critics have proposed that the subgenre can be characterized by its unflinching documentation of the social, aesthetic, and spiritual shortcomings of the suburbs. Others contend that the literatures true defining quality is instead the way it dupli citously presents the social and economic privileges of suburbia as a form of privation. Still others suggest that the suburbs in fiction mainly function as symbols, standing in for the nation, utopia, or dystopia. The disagreement is not merely over prope r literary

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13 classification, of course, but also about what message the subgenre provides about the suburbs, whether the fiction offers an accurate representation of reality, and how this set of narratives collectively influences cultural perceptions and bel iefs. Surprisingly, this strand of literary criticism has rarely acknowledged the definitional struggles that have occurred among historians of the suburbs, as exemplified by the debate over sprawl. Indeed, the foundational idea of suburbia that underpi ns academic discussions of the subgenre has been developed more or less independently from the fields of urban history, community sociology, domestic architecture, and so on. To some extent, this freedom is valuable, because it has allowed literary studies to make original contributions to the conceptualization of suburbia, by exploring the suburb as a metaphor, a set of symbols, or the basis of a cultural narrative (e.g., the American Dream), rather than only as a building style, a geography, or a social organization. Yet this autonomy comes with a price. Because the literary studies construct their versions of the subgenre around some common formal feature (often a different one in each account) discerned in a set of narratives, and not necessarily with re ference to actual suburbs, literary critics come to hold divergent and often contradictory views, particularly about the boundaries of the subgenre. In addition, they end up giving a different picture of the suburban phenomenon from that found in nonlitera ry suburban studies. Where one study considers the early -twentieth century suburban novel to be definitive, for instance, another favors the late twentieth -century works as representative of the mature form. Most indicatively, none of the published account s of the subgenre addresses the nineteenth century in any depth, although historians concur that the years 18701890 marked the classic period of the modern American suburb. They have even catalogued a stock of early suburban literature, mostly sketches an d short stories.

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14 Is consensus about the suburbs and the subgenre possible? I think so, if we are willing to adjust our way of thinking about categorization. Dolores Haydens Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 demonstrates a new app roach for suburban studies that could be applied to literature as well. Instead of fighting over what constitutes the authentic suburb, as scholars did through the 1980s and 90s, Hayden offers an inclusive typology of historical patterns that acknowledges the mutability and multiplicity of the suburbs. She respects the common -sense meaning behind the usage of the term suburbs in popular speech across nearly two centuries, while at the same time incorporating many of her colleagues ideas, including the wo rk of revisionist historians who have emphasized the presence of working -class and racial/ethnic minority suburbs. This sort of approach, applied to the subgenre, could help correct the tendency of literary critics to write static, monolithic accounts of s uburban fiction that privilege one feature of narratives (such as the theme of alienation) to the exclusion of others (the theme of pastoralism, for instance). Literary scholars could also profit from an engagement with modern genre theory when considerin g ways to avoid reductive definitions of the subgenre. The theories of Tzvetan Todorov, Grard Genette, and Fredric Jameson, among others, provide a means through which to rethink the concept of suburban literature as a more complex, historically evolving phenomenon. Indeed, I find it shocking that no one researching the subgenre has made substantial reference to this branch of literary theory when writing what are essentially genre studies. Suburban scholars have never explicitly raised such fundamental questions as what qualities make a piece of fiction suburban, and they have only very rarely attempted to position this corpus in relation to the rest of American letters.

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15 I am by no means suggesting that the previous academic studies all lack merit. This work has been groundbreaking and has produced many fascinating analyses and insightful readings. My hope for this dissertation is to contribute to this effort, beginning in this introduction by drawing from the existing scholarship a few basic principles for theorizing the subgenre. My chapters will then put this theoretical framework into practice, as I bring some overlooked texts into the classification and draw comparisons between suburban literature and other genres or aesthetics such as local color an d postmodernism. My ambition is to produce a new, two -part model of the subgenre, based upon a break I perceive between nineteenthand twentieth -century suburban texts. The first phase is characterized by a theme of indistinction. Playing on Pierre Bou rdieus concept of distinction, I argue that nineteenth-century fictions tend to evaluate suburban space and culture as potentially inadequate for promoting white middle -class identity. The inability of the suburbs to produce the desired social status leads to an inscrutability, which is further emphasized by the fictions use of the picturesque aesthetic as well as the sketch form. The second phase, in contrast, is distinguished by a turn to novels and a new dominant theme: an irony that emerges due to the increasingly tight association of twentieth -century suburbia with white middle -class identity. The new literary discontent targets some of the unintended consequences of suburbias success at producing distinction. In the remainder of this introduction, I will first consider the question of how the suburbs are defined by briefly surveying the efforts of nonliterary suburban studies. I will then examine the emerging field of suburban literary studies and assess the various definitions of the subgenre that have been put forth. I will offer my own model within that context.

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16 A Review of Nonliterary Suburban Studies Producing a technical definition of the American suburb has long been an aspiration of suburban studies, a multidisciplinary academic research ende avor dominated by historians and sociologists. One of the first such attempts can be found in Harlan Paul Douglasss The Suburban Trend (1925). He describes suburbia as the belt of population which lives under distinctly roomier conditions than is the ave rage lot of city people, but under distinctively more crowded conditions than those of the adjoining open country.3 Douglasss language remains imprecise and subjective, perhaps because the notion that housing density is an essential distinguishing featur e of suburbia was already so commonplace. This approach would continue to have its proponents, including Jane Jacobs, who offers a more quantitative version in her The Death and Life of Great Cities (1961) Very low densities, six dwellings or fewer to the net acre, says Jacobs, make out well in suburbs.4 (209). In contrast, she believes that successful cities have at least twenty per acre and work best with at least one hundred.5 While Jacobss numbers give her account an air of precision, these defini tions are clearly also prescriptions drawn from her idiosyncratic analysis of urban life. A similar but more influential way to define settlement spaces is via population density, a measure used by the United States Census Bureau. The census has been recording non -central city metropolitan data since 1910.6 The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) currently serves as the federal governments standard for gathering information on urban places. An MSA can roughly be defined as a county or series of counti es containing a central city of at least 50,000 persons and a total metropolitan population of 100,000 or more.7 The census does not use the term suburb, yet it is tempting to consider the area designated outside the central city as effectively the same thing. As J. John Palen points out, this residual category is a catch all for any outlying population deemed to have a significant social and economic relationship to the

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17 central city as determined by commuting patterns, per capita income changes, and other factors.8 Census data have been used to make pronouncements about suburban trends, yet this practice is questionable. The census could mislabel people who might otherwise be considered city dwellers, as Palen explains, simply because they live in a smaller city that lies near an even larger central city.9 Similarly, because the outer limits of the metropolis must correspond to county (or county equivalent) boundaries, rather than counting only incorporated suburban communities, the rural parts of co unties deemed outside the central city are lumped together with the suburbs. Additional problems with measures of density appear in comparative analyses. Although the federal census of 1920 revealed that for the first time more Americans resided in cit ies (51.4 percent) than in rural locales, writes Michael H. Ebner, the category of city as a place with 2,500 or more inhabitants was very loosely defined and obscured what was taking place in the suburbs.10 Needless to say, the city of 1920 and the c entral city of the contemporary MSA are vastly different entities. A longer and broader view further adds to the imprecision, as Kenneth T. Jackson notes: Low density, for example, means one thing for the nineteenth century, when urban densities normally ranged between 50,000 and 100,000 per square mile and newer areas often had 30,000, and another for the late twentieth century, when many inner cities have been developed at fewer than 15,000 per square mile and many suburban areas often count fewer than 1 ,000 people in the same physical space. Similarly, some countries have productive agricultural lands which feature higher population densities than the public and unproductive suburbs of the United States.11 Without a consistent universal standard, housing and population densities can tell us little about the suburbs. In the past thirty years, historians of suburbia have put forward a wide range of definitional parameters that conceptualize the suburb in terms beyond density. Perhaps the most influential

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1 8 wor k on the subject is Jacksons Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985). He begins by noting that the suburb, the site of scattered dwellings and businesses outside city walls, is as old as civilization.12 Yet suburbs were socia lly and economically inferior to cities when wind, muscle, and water were the prime movers of civilization. Even the word suburb suggested inferior manners, narrowness of view, and physical squalor.13 The American suburbs, however, represent a new ki nd of space that was produced by a spatial inversion that first occurred in London, England, as the suburbs began to compete with the central city in matters such as population growth, social status, and economic investment. Jackson establishes his work ing definition of suburbs based upon four components: function (non -farm residential), class (middle and upper status), separation (a daily journey to -work), and density (low relative to older sections).14 Jacksons outline captures the essence of subur bia for many readers. Even such complex definitions fail to account for significant portions of suburban history and reality. In the years following Crabgrass Frontier s publication, researchers have emphasized the existence of suburban diversity in terms of class composition, land usage, and commuting patterns. Although the notion of working-class suburbs goes against the grain, Dolores Hayden reveals that self -built shacks on the urban periphery and inexpensive mail -order bungalows were as much a product of the spatial revolution as the country houses of well to do Victorians.15 Substantial suburban development occurred not only in planned communities but also in industrial suburbs and unincorporated areas. According to Richard Harris, one statistical surve y of data from 1940 revealed almost as many industrial suburbs as conventional ones.16 Divergence from Jacksons norm becomes more visible in later eras. Several researchers have remarked, for instance, on the change in journey-to -work patterns in the late -twentieth -

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19 century metropolis. Critical of Jacksons account, Robert Fishman argues that by the 1970s the new city had evolved its own pattern of transportation in which a multitude of relatively short automobile journeys in a multitude of different direc tions substitutes for that great tidal wash in and out of a single urban core which had previously defined commuting.17 According to Fishman, the contemporary suburb has broken with its old residential identity to become a significant commercial location i n its own right. Peter O. Muller agrees, contending that the suburb has now evolved into a self -sufficient urban entity, containing its own major economic and cultural activities.18 In 1994, summing up the findings of these revisionists, William Sharpe an d Leonard Wallock write: todays suburbs feature corporate headquarters, high tech industries, and superregional malls. Consequently, about twice as many people now commute to work within suburbs as commute between them and cities. Rapidly expanding suburbs contain more office space than downtowns and most of the new jobs. As a result, suburbs are in the forefront of American economic development and are far less dependent upon cities than before.19 These recent transformations, when added to the historic record of diversity, throw doubt upon the possibility of defining the American suburbunless one changes strategies, as Fishman and others began to do in the early 1980s. Rather than struggle to develop a set of qualitative markers broad enough to encompass places as unalike as Boston during the Gilded Age, Long Island during the Jazz Age, post -WWII Levittown, and contemporary Orange County, California, Fishman simply restricts the term suburbia to a specific latenineteenth and early twentieth -century development that he calls bourgeois utopias. These are residential areas for middle-class commuters, oriented around a central city and containing single -family houses distributed in a parklike setting.20 Fishman adds another element to this definition, insis ting that genuine suburbs depended on a highly specific piece of industrial technology: the railroad. Although to the late twentieth century mind

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20 suburbia is inevitably associated with the automobile, this association is a mistake. The automobile, when it came, helped to destroy the basic conditions for classic suburbanization.21 Contrary to conventional wisdom, WWII marks for Fishman the end of suburbia.22 In the wake of this obituary, historians, sociologists, and journalists competed to answer the que stion what replaces the suburb? Among the many neologisms and labels proposed were technoburb (Fishman), multicentered metropolis (Muller), edge city, and inevitably postsuburbia.23 Only urban sprawl, coined by William H. Whyte, Jr., has become part of the vernacular. The other appellations are particularly unsuitable, in the opinion of Sharpe and Wallock, because they misleadingly suggest discontinuity, and because they purport that suburbs have appropriated the role of cities. In our view, Sharpe and Wallock write, echoing earlier intellectuals such as Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, equating suburbs with cities implies that suburbs possess a diversity cosmopolitanism, political culture and public life that most of them still lack and that m ost cities still afford.24 Strongly critical of the renaming trend, Sharpe and Wallock maintain that suburbia has remained an essentially exclusive domain. For example, in 1980, blacks constituted just 6.1 percent of suburbanites, as compared to 23.4 perc ent of city dwellers. That same year, only 8.2 percent of suburbanites reported incomes below the federal poverty line, as compared to 17.2 percent of city residents.25 Sharpe and Wallock perceive similar continuities in terms of gender norms, and thus wou ld disagree with statements such as Margaret Marshs that [t]he middle-class residential suburb, the physical expression of a set of ideas about the nature of marriage and family life, has become an historical artifact.26 Sharpe and Wallock accuse their opponents of a preoccupation with functional rather than social measure of urbanity, raising the possibility of a comprehensive, qualitative definition of suburbia based upon social or cultural characteristics.27 Actually, this methodology has

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21 informed sociological and anthropological discussions of the suburb since at least WWII. Among the most well known of these studies are David Riesman et al.s The Lonely Crowd (1950) and William H. Whyte, Jr.s The Organization Man (1956). These two works deeply influenced academic and popular understanding of postwar American society, describing the rise of a new professional, middle -class, suburban personality based on other -directedness, adjustment, belongingness, and group thinking. The impulse to desc ribe suburbia through patterns of social behavior persists in contemporary ethnographic research, such as M. P. Baumgartners The Moral Order of a Suburb (1988) and Setha M. Lows Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress A merica (2003). The reaction against such a definition of suburbia also began to take shape during the post WWII years. As Herbert J. Gans recounts: I watched the growth of this mythology with misgivings, for my observations in various new suburbs persuade d me neither that there was much change in people when they moved to the suburbs nor that the change which took place could be traced to the new environment. And if suburban life was as undesirable and unhealthy as the critics charged, the suburbanites the mselves were blissfully unaware of it: they were happy in their new homes and communities, much happier than they had been in the city.28 Following in the footsteps of Bennett M. Berger and William Dobriner, Gans contested the suburban myth by analyzing t he suburb of Levittown, New Jersey. He discovered persistent subcultures rooted in educational, religious, and ethnic differences. These writers not only refute the environmental determinism that underlies the notion of an archetypical suburban mentality or personality, but in doing so they also throw doubt on the very possibility of a qualitative definition of the suburb. Revisionist scholarship during the following decades has further fragmented suburban sociology. For example, Laura J. Miller questions w hether the dominant perception of suburbia as a family -oriented environment is not somewhat misleading. While agreeing that suburban space encourages familial togetherness and privacy in a variety of

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22 ways, Miller suggests that such behavior may be more t he result of external interests than suburbanites inherent desires. As she concludes: to maintain that this [togetherness] is a pure expression of internal urges ignores how this preference may be shaped by social forces, which include developers, builders, financiers, and all those marketing to the suburban consumers needs.29 Another means to define the suburb could be through attention to these economic processes, a perspective taken by the so -called new urban sociology associated with David Harvey, Manuel Castells, and Mark Gottdiener Rather than count those who live in the suburbs or analyze their way of life, these scholars explain how such places come to exist. These authors emphasize how capitalist institutions and agents such as developers, ban ks, the construction industry, real -estate agents, and the automobile industry steer the course of metropolitan land development based on profitability. Palen expresses the findings of this school of thought concisely: Suburbia is not a consequence of ind ividual homeowner choice, but a consequence of a deliberate decision by elites to disinvest in the cities.30 While many researchers have gathered compelling evidence of a longrunning capitalist conspiracy motivating suburbanization, this mode of explanati on cannot provide a comprehensive definition of the American suburb. Investment does not inexorably press outward, as witnessed in recent phenomena such as urban renewal or gentrification and the appearance of suburban rust belts. Moreover, such a perspe ctive represents the suburbs in somewhat abstract terms as a system of legal conventions and business practices, far removed from the everyday experiences of the people who inhabit such places. One final way to consider the matter is by examining the ideol ogy of suburbia, or its representations in culture. Although this ideology could be understood as a mystification of

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23 economic, social, and even physical reality, it nevertheless demonstrates a remarkable persistence. The early development of the suburban ideal has been well documented by historians, notably Kenneth T. Jackson. Recently, Dolores Hayden has put forward a concise and memorable statement of this ideal, referring to it as a triple dream, house plus land plus community.31 The desire to live in a detached residence in a park like setting among a group of ones social equals this ideal binds many seemingly contradictory forms according to Hayden, who traces its materialization through seven historic patterns of suburbanization. Yet her typology i s most interesting methodologically because it offers an example of how to imagine identity without absolute continuity. Even the suburban ideal changes across time on her account, as the community and land components disappear and reappear. As I hope to h ave demonstrated through this review of suburban studies, no single architectural design, social organization, economic system, or cultural code can hope to continuously define such a complex, changing phenomena. Therefore, we should refer to the suburbs i n the plural as a reminder of their multiplicity. We should also be open to understanding the suburbs through such a variety of perspectives. I would now like to return to my main subject, the suburban literary subgenre, and examine the elaborations on the suburban ideal to be found there. According to one literary critic, [n] o account of a novel would be complete without a careful interpretation of the function of landscape (or cityscape) within it.32 Conversely, I would propose that the study of suburbi a remains incomplete without a study of its literature. A Review of Suburban Literary Studies Five book-length critical studies of suburban literature have been written to date. I will briefly examine how the subgenre has been defined in each case, beginni ng with Edward Christopher Hudsons dissertation, From Nowhere to Everywhere: Suburban Discourse and the

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24 Suburb in North American Literature (1998). Surprisingly, Hudson does not emphasize setting, which one would presume to be the most straightforward, literal way to categorize texts under this heading. Instead, he traces the development of suburban discourse, considering the suburb primarily as a trope or metaphor. He begins with the inventive argument that Mores Utopia and Hawthornes The Blithedale Romance are precursors or perhaps the earliest examples of suburban discourse, even though neither book actually depicts suburbs of the modern American type. His provocative claim is based upon the observation that these narratives settings contain sever al parallels to real suburbs, including their geographical and social organizations. More importantly, he believes these narratives demonstrate the twin themes of artificiality and ambiguity that fundamentally define suburban discourse. He points out tha t both More and Hawthorne express reservations about the socialistic communities they portray, particularly about the excessive rationalism and regimentation of these planned societies. For instance, Hudson says that the very name Utopia suggests More had fears, not only that such a society could not exist but also that its existence, in and of itself, might create a nation of no ones, because of the standardization of Utopian life imposed on the individual by coercive neighbors and family.33 Artificia lity and ambiguity provide continuity for the entire subgenre in Hudsons eyes, since these themes are repeated in practically all the texts he considers, from William Dean Howellss Suburban Sketches to Carlos Fuentess Christopher Unborn. Hudsons work clearly differs from nonliterary discussions of suburban culture, especially in his allegorical readings of Utopia and Blithedale Each of his two master themes raises problems. His idea of artificiality remains hazy, implying the existence of a natural community or natural environment that Hudson never addresses. The concept could certainly be more rigorously developed, perhaps with reference to Tnniess Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft,

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25 Durkheims mechanical and organic social solidarities, or even the Enli ghtenment notions of state of nature and state of society. Instead, Hudson considers the artificiality of the communitys aspirations in Blithedale though later he describes the artificial imposition of houses and streets as part of a destructive lev eling of the natural landscape in Sinclair Lewiss Babbitt.34 At yet another moment, Hudson analyzes the imitative suburban architecture in F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby in order to reveal the artificiality of Gatsbys West Egg, and he even cons iders the green electric light in that novel to represent suburban artificiality.35 Any form of social organization or built environment could be labeled artificial in this broad sense, rendering Hudsons interpretations a bit banal at times. I have not fou nd this notion of artificiality raised in other suburban studies. Similarly, his discovery of ambiguity in all suburban narratives tends to gloss over the particular differences underlying their praise or condemnation of the suburbs. To put my criticisms in the terms of genre theory, Hudson takes a formalist approach, focusing upon the purely literary features of narrative such as theme and figure of speech. Of all the literary critics I will discuss, he remains the least interested in the element of setting or the issue of mimesis, both of which would be foregrounded by a more historicist approach. This preference is most apparent in his opening chapters lengthy and well informed review of nonliterary suburban studies, which unfortunately is segregated fr om all his literary readings. This approach leads to his insightful yet too static and monolithic definition of the subgenre. Catherine Jurca published the first book on the topic, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth -Century American Novel (2001) Her provocative work makes the case that suburban literature is best defined as an utterly fraudulent narrative of discontent with suburbia. She observes that although house ownership has provided white residents with substantial

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26 material benefits that have continued to place them at an economic and social advantage over nonwhites, novelists have scandalously portrayed this material privilege as a form of victimization, so that in fiction white middle -class suburbanites begin to see themselves as spiri tually and culturally impoverished by prosperity.36 According to Jurca, these characters bogus feelings of discontentment and self -pity actually serve to screen and protect their material privileges. She sarcastically names this story of spurious alienati on and displacement the white diaspora. Although Jurca only covers the early twentieth century in any depth, her readings are also more historicist than Hudsons, because she must necessarily contrast fiction with reality in order to support her thesis As she says, the suburban novel is worth examining, not as it records the experience of actual suburban Americans, but, on the contrary, because it seems to diverge so palpably from that experience.37 She positions the fictional suburbs within the conte xt of actual suburban trends, as in her discussion of how the Depression-era emergence of functionalist, mass produced architecture influences James M. Cains Mildred Pierce Like Hudson, though, Jurca is ultimately most interested in performing a formal ist analysis of how suburban fiction works as literary language. What she discovers are repeated themes, motifs, and other rhetorical characteristics, such as the semantic differentiation that several novelists make between house and home to signify their antagonism to mass -produced architecture. Jurcas tendency to define the subgenre via these literary qualities, rather than through the verisimilitude of the setting, is most apparent in her allegorical reading of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes which she considers to be a suburban narrative because of its fantasy of white nativism and African invasion.

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27 Despite the ingenuity of Jurcas arguments, some of the conclusions she draws are questionable. While I agree with Jurcas demand that we rec ognize economic privilege when reading this subgenre, to suggest that white middle class suburbanites have nothing to complain about, since their neighborhoods are spaces of relative wealth, goes too far. The argument becomes noticeably strained when Jurca attempts to move beyond the early twentieth century, as in her brief Epilogue, where she sweepingly dismisses the entire subgenre from the 1960s onward as same as it ever was (more or less) despite major changes to suburbia such as sprawl and increasi ng numbers of minority residents.38 For example, Jurcas brief discussion of Gloria Naylors Linden Hills ends with a curious equation: the experience of black homelessness is identical to what I have called the white diaspora, insofar as the suburb as suc h effectively makes the black middle class indistinguishable from white.39 In other words, blacks affect the same spiritually and culturally impoverished condition that Jurca denied as groundless in the case of whites? I doubt Jurca would wish to call fr audulent the African -American religious and cultural experiences that Naylor depicts as disappearing from the suburbs, yet such is the implication. Jurca also passes too quickly over nineteenth -century suburban fictions, not determining whether their compl aints about the inconveniences of the suburbs are spurious, nor explaining how these older works fit into her narrative pattern.40 While the white diaspora thesis is psychologically perceptive, Jurca refuses to accept any criticisms of suburban life or the capitalist system that supports it, leading her to produce perhaps the most static, monolithic definition of the subgenre. Rachel Paganos Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction (2001) is another unpublished dissertation on the subject. Pagano sta rts by rejecting the consensus among most scholars of suburban fiction that suburban fictions unilaterally hold that suburbia is

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28 conservative, tacky, stifling, and petty.41 Of course, in making this claim Pagano ignores Hudsons theme of ambiguity and h is discussion of pro -suburbia novels by suburban evangels such as B. F. Skinners Walden Two or Eric Hodginss Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Nevertheless, Pagano finds instead of a uniform genre message that American writers take vastly differen t positions on suburbia, positions that are deeply rooted in notions of class, gender, and ethnicity.42 Actually, the four basic positions her chapters explore are all uniformly negative, although they differ significantly in other respects. Rather than co nstructing the subgenre around one or two master themes, Pagano in effect delineates several phases of the suburban narrative. Each chapter groups texts based upon historical period, theme, and other formal characteristics. Her first chapter discusses the early suburbs through the dominant theme of pastoralism and the motif of transportation technology. When she turns to the WWII era, the theme changes to existential angst about the absence of tradition in the suburbs, and the motifs are drawn from Christia nity. In the sixties and seventies, the theme shifts to suburban sexism and the dominant style is humor, while the themes for the end of the century are suburban racism and ethnic assimilation. Though Pagano shares the same formalist, thematic approach a s Hudson and Jurca, she implicitly comes to theorize the subgenre as mutable and historically evolving, not monolithic and static. One could imagine inserting the white diaspora or artificiality into Paganos account without difficulty. Unfortunately, she fails to provide much of an explanation for why certain complaints emerge at specific times or how the phases of the subgenre relate to each other. The only exception is her excellent first chapter, which provides a fine historicist account of suburban lit erature. The chapter links transformations in the literary use of the pastoral to changes in suburban transportation technology, and Pagano makes substantial reference to nonliterary

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29 suburban studies as she plots a trajectory from Frederick S. Cozzenss Th e Sparrowgrass Papers through Howellss Suburban Sketches to Lewiss Babbitt. This practice of connecting literature to suburban history is much closer to Fredric Jamesons idea of mediation, for instance, than to the testing for verisimilitude that drov e Jurcas argument.43 Pagano demonstrates a different way in which formalist and historicist interests could be coordinated. Another published book on the topic is Robert Beukas SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film (2004). Although he cites Jurcas work approvingly, Beuka takes an opposite view of the subgenre, accepting at face value the fictionalized complaints about the suburbs that she debunks. Through his close readings, he seeks to demonstrate the universality of suburban alienation (his title might be a play on these words) in twentieth -century suburban fiction and film. Where Jurca dismisses the late -twentieth century novels as not worthy of serious examination, Beuka devotes the majority of his s tudy to works from this period. He discovers that fictional suburbanites across the decades no matter their class, age, gender, or race always experience discontent with suburbia. As evidence, he points to a handful of causes for complaint that perenniall y crop up in the fiction and film, including geographical mobility (i.e., dislocation), competition for social status, social control (i.e., surveillance), and normative gender roles (i.e., imperiled masculinity). He defines the subgenre through its consistent focus on suburbia as an American dystopia.44 Like the previous critics, Beuka takes a predominantly formalist approach to the subgenre. He develops his principal theme of alienation through the subthemes of mobility and surveillance, which are comparable to Paganos multiple themes though without as much historicization or textual exemplification. His analysis of the subgenres recurrent symbolism, including swimming pools and picture windows, is particularly insightful. The issue of mimesis

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30 re peatedly creeps into Beukas discussion, however, pulling him away from formalism and making his work again most similar though diametrically opposed to Jurcas. Where she understands suburban literature as mystification, Beuka perceives verisimilitude, as evidenced by his basic willingness to take the fictional complaints seriously and also by a mirror motif that runs throughout his commentary. He announces, for example, I am looking toward fictive and cinematic images of the suburbs as reflections of our larger sense of suburban place, reflections of the place -specific social dynamics of the landscape.45 On the other hand, he tends to leave criticisms of the suburbs in the mouths of writers and filmmakers, and he rarely consults nonliterary suburban studi es, making his book a relatively weak example of historicism. Another important theoretical difference between Beuka and Jurca arises from their common concern about mimesis. Since so many types of fictional suburbanites seem discontented, and since Beuka accuses no group of profiting from this situation (as Jurca does), the logical alternative is to blame the suburbs themselves.46 Beukas style of writing promotes this way of thinking. He regularly ascribes power to the landscape, referring to it for ins tance as dispiriting, alienating as well as entrapping and debilitating.47 This perspective, reminiscent of Michel Foucault (whom Beuka cites) and his antihumanist fascination with institutions and social structures, contrasts sharply with Jurcas insis tence upon the agency and responsibility borne by middle -class suburbanites. Each of these viewpoints produces a monolithic definition of the subgenre, as a narrative of suburbanites either alienated by or else gaining privileges from their suburbs. Instea d of choosing one or the other, we can choose to read suburban fiction for both agency and structure, recognizing both benefits and problems as well as the irony that emerges in some twentieth -century novels from their coexistence.48

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31 The last study of sub urban literature I will discuss is Amy Maria Kenyons Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (2004). Of all the critics I have discussed, Kenyon offers the most systematic theorization of suburban geography and literatur e. She begins by asserting that suburbias primary function is disinvestment, the redistribution of resources, rights, and cultural -political authority away from the city and along racist and spatially exclusive lines.49 The means to achieve this end is d etachment, a complex term that has geographical, social, and psychological dimensions. Put simply, the suburbs are divided from the city in ways that not only promote disinvestment but also allow a willful ignorance on the part of suburbanites, a self -delu sion that Kenyon metaphorically terms dreaming. When detachment breaks down, suburban characters (and readers too) experience estrangement. This state of mind is usually occasionedin fiction at least by out -of the ordinary events, change, conflict, or v iolence. The suburban dream stands revealed as an unreal fantasy, and a new, unbidden perception of the suburbs emerges. In Philip K. Dicks allegorical science fiction novel Time Out of Joint for instance, suburbia is exposed as a government conspiracy deluding suburbanites about the conflicted state of the world. She does not let suburbanites completely off the hook: Suburban estrangement is in part the guilt of the conspirator, says Kenyon, the nagging awareness that the city is at the heart of our r etreat.50 The trio of disinvestment, detachment, and estrangement allows her to convincingly cross the disciplinary boundaries between urban studies and cultural studies, as she discusses suburbia, Detroit, literature, and film. Disinvestment is nearly identical to Jurcas conception of the suburbs as accumulators of material privileges, while estrangement sounds very close to Beukas idea of alienation. Detachment bridges the gap between agency and structure that divided those critics. Kenyon

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32 recognizes t he determining power of space and its contribution to the suburban dream state. The ignorance of suburbanites cannot be completely conscious and intentional. Otherwise, why would guilt be disturbing or nagging? On the other hand, Kenyon delves into the h istory of suburbanization to show how detachment was promoted by specific government agencies and corporate interests, as well as suburbanites of course, for a variety of reasons that include profit and racial segregation. Revealing these multiple interest s at work more concretely explains how suburbanites could become discontented or disillusioned with suburban life and the detachment it imposes, even as they obviously enjoy many more privileges than some other groups. In effect, Kenyons three part theory begins to complicate the schema of agency and structure, fragmenting the monolithic suburban subject as well as the institution of suburbia.51 Kenyon provides an excellent theoretical framework, well substantiated through nonliterary suburban studies, bu t she has less to offer as a literary critic. Her book focuses on accounting for the suburbs, not the subgenre. Literature and film do not feature in several chapters, and she uses them only to exemplify the concepts of detachment and estrangement. Further more, estrangement as a literary theme suffers from something of the same problem as Hudsons artificiality and ambiguity. Instead of being too indefinite, estrangement is rather too broad, because it does not exclusively define suburban literature. Estrangement is considered by Darko Suvin to be an essential characteristic of the utopian and science fiction genres, for instance. One could make the case that estrangement defines the entire modern novel, as Michael McKeon implies when he argues that the fund amental instability of novelistic form and content reflects the epistemological and social uncertainty of modernity.52 The Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky even proposes estrangement or defamiliarization as the basic activity of

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33 culture. Kenyons idea of detachment seems more specifically suburban, and is a significant contribution to our list of characteristics that define the subgenre. Theorizing the Subgenre The five studies discussed above provide a wealth of ideas about suburban literature. I now wa nt to derive from them a few basic principles for theorizing the subgenre, before I introduce my own conception of it. First, the proper role of literary setting must be considered. All five of the studies rely upon the element of setting to some degree in order to categorize texts, even though they tend to prioritize theme as the defining quality. Their usage of setting sometimes reveals underexamined beliefs about what the real suburbs are, and such assumptions potentially overdetermine their definition o f the subgenre. To take an example mentioned earlier, Hudson considers Utopia and The Blithedale Romance part of suburban discourse not only because they demonstrate his key themes, but also because these narratives settings contain several parallels to t he modern American suburbs. More specifically, the land of Utopia is rationally planned and laid out with tasteful, enclosed gardens, while the rather counter -cultural beliefs of the Brook Farm (and Blithedale) inhabitants compare favorably with an earl y example of picturesque, suburban development, namely the real life suburb of Llewellyn Park.53 Hudsons assumption, that the antebellum American suburbs were geographically and socially planned communities for a wealthy cultural elite, almost predetermin es his discovery of the theme of artificiality in early suburban fiction. It also suggests a reason for his overlooking earlyand mid -nineteenth -century texts that feature middle -class suburban communities of a more spontaneous, individualistic, rural cha racter books such as Caroline Lee Hentzs Lovells Folly Frederick S. Cozzenss The Sparrowgrass Papers and Robert Barry Coffins Out of Town Because comparisons and contrasts between suburban settings and the real suburbs seem unavoidable, literary scholars should explicitly define and theorize what they mean by

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34 suburbia. Setting can be fruitfully used in other ways for this process of classification. In researching this dissertation, I have looked for literary texts that describe themselves as suburb an Howellss Suburban Sketches and Henry Cuyler Bunners The Suburban Sage for instance or that employ that term in descriptions of their settings and characters. I do not take an authors word as the stamp certifying a text as suburban fiction, of course Instead, setting offers a place to begin questioning why the term is used and whether the text might fit the classification somehow. This approach has led me to consider several texts not previously discussed under this rubric, including Louisa May Alcotts Little Women and Vladimir Nabokovs Lolita In the case of the former, the suburban setting is ultimately incidental to the character -driven moral drama staged by Alcotts domestic fiction, despite the elements of suburban ideology that infrequently c rop up (e.g., the March girls fantasy of living farther away from the city, out beyond their Delectable Mountain). Nabokovs story seems very different from conventional postwar suburban fiction in both style and theme, since it is often read as a late modernist or postmodernist allegory about the relationship between decadent Europe and vulgar America. Nevertheless, I think we should include Lolita in the subgenre because of its surprisingly conventional portrayal of the postwar suburban landscape in re lation to the novels themes of social control, surveillance, and obscenity. The sheer number of credible themes found by the five critics demonstrates my second principle, namely, that it is productive and necessary to define subgenre in multiple ways, w hether understood as comprised of sequential phases or coexisting, overlapping features. Even a single work can demonstrate multiple genre characteristics. For instance, Beuka finds in Updikes Rabbit novels that the entrapping suburbs cause a crisis of masculinity, whereas

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35 Pagano discovers in those same books that suburban sexuality expresses religious angst, and Jurca takes the idea of suburban entrapment in Updikes fiction as further evidence for her white diaspora thesis. I see no need to decide upon one correct way of reading. We should avoid defining the subgenre based upon a single, unchanging characteristic. We should consider the whole range of formal literary elements including theme, symbol, and of course setting, as well as transliterary qualities such as the texts verisimilitude and function (i.e., cultural work). We should be open to allegorical as well as literal representations of suburbia. This inclusive approach suggests that we should also consider the broadest possible historical scop e, trying to address the entire phenomenon as Hudson and Pagano do, rather than taking a more synchronic view like Jurcas and Kenyons. At the same time, we must try to avoid Paganos problem of disjointedness, not letting a diachronic perspective lead us into making a series of unrelated observations. Thus, a third principle emerges: while accepting multiple genre characteristics and the discontinuities (cf. Michel Foucault) they might introduce into any theorization, we need to attempt some articulations between the different moments. In other words, we need to produce a narrative about suburban literature as a whole. Here is the reason to historicize, or consider how the subgenre transforms over time, and we should look to the extraliterary realm to help explain such transformations. Testing fiction for its verisimilitude, however, seems unproductive. The purpose of this activity, so far as I can tell, is either to naively endorse some fiction because of its mimetic quality (Beukas tendency), or else to expose false representations as ideological mystifications (Jurcas intention). All fiction is fictional and ideological, a fact Jurca fails to remember when she surprisingly uses Richard Wrights Native Son as a kind of reality check, to gauge through W right the real injuries inflicted on those who are denied the opportunity to become upwardly

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36 mobile in the suburbs.54 She is much better at hypothesizing about the cultural work performed by the suburban novel, particularly through her memorable concept of the white diaspora. Speculating about this cultural work, or what I have called the function (as opposed to the form) of literature, is perhaps the terminal point for all genre oriented criticism. We must explain what the greater significance of the subur ban subgenre is and why we have invented such a categorization. Fredric Jameson makes the point this way: all generic categories, even the most time -hallowed and traditional, are ultimately to be understood (or estranged) as mere ad hoc, experimental co nstructs, devised for a specific textual occasion and abandoned like so much scaffolding when the analysis has done its work.55 A New Account of Suburban Literature This study takes as its point of departure the conventional wisdom that suburban literature disparages suburban life. Discontent with the suburbs, as voiced by self -critical suburbanite characters, is by almost all scholarly accounts a primary defining quality of the subgenre. I want to complicate this commonplace by looking more closely at nine teenth -century fiction. In the texts from this period that I believe belong in the subgenre the majority of which happen to be sketchbooks discontent with the nascent suburban environment certainly appears, but its causes differ from the sources of such fe elings in twentieth -century novels.56 The typical suburbanite character, newly arrived from the city, is dismayed by the difficulties of housekeeping, horticulture, and recreation. Middle -class expectations are challenged by the lack of genteel society, t he trouble of importing urban conveniences, the boredom endemic to the borderlands, the opportunity that rural leisure provides for misadventures, and the potential for shame through interactions with the rural working class. That is to say, nineteenth -c entury texts portray the early suburbs as potentially failing at their basic function: the social reproduction of the existing white middle class through various

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37 practices of distinction, to use Pierre Bourdieus term. These practices usually operate thr ough physical exclusions rooted in classism, racism, or anti urbanism. They also work by making exceptions to the dominant rules governing capitalist space. Suburbs become such alternative spaces when local governments impose restrictive covenants on land use, for instance, or when residents imagine their suburb as private space, an ideological extension of the home as haven in a heartless world. In most nineteenth century fictions, the suburbs are portrayed as insufficiently exclusive or exceptional. I n keeping with this representation, the most notable formal characteristic shared by these texts is a theme of indistinction. Fiction writers articulate their concerns about the disorganizing effects of suburban life upon middle class identity through other literary features as well. The picturesque aesthetic offers a way to convert rustic nature into a source of social status, but the satirical treatment of the picturesque aesthetic by some authors subverts the pastoral image of suburbia. The amateurish unfinished quality of the sketchbook form can indicate the leisureliness of suburban life and an ability to make light of misfortune, yet sketching also connotes the ill defined, fragmentary quality of suburban life. The appearance of characters and sett ings that are not restricted to the white middle class and their suburbs, finally, offers an opportunity for flattering social contrasts or alternatively decries the instability of social boundaries. These formal and stylistic similarities demarcate a firs t phase of the subgenre. My notion that nineteenth -century suburban fiction displays its own type of discontent differs from the view of previous literary critics, who tend to read all suburban fiction as condemning the suburbia for the very qualities that make it suburban (e.g., artificiality, an absence of tradition, detachment). By contrast, I find in nineteenth -century fiction a concern about the lack of suburban-ness of the suburbs, or what I

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38 am calling their indistinction, signifying an inscrutability as well as an inability to provide the desired social status. If the cultural work of nineteenth-century suburban fiction is to some degree the settlement, to use Amy Kaplans term, or making familiar, to use Philip Fishers phrase, of an emerging soc ial environment, then the symbolic landscape produced is not totally hospitable to suburbanites.57 Rather than allowing newcomers to make an effortless transition, the fictional suburbs pressure middle -class residents to adjust their expectations and atti tudes about their social distinctiveness. Suburban discontent gets resolved in three ways. In the antebellum texts by Caroline Lee Hentz and Alice Cary, suburbanites forego fashionable urban culture and genteel society in order to construct their group ide ntity around the suburban house, the nuclear family, and rustic nature or else they suffer the consequences. In the mid -century writings of Frederick S. Cozzens and Robert Barry Coffin, an accommodation with suburban life is reached by assuming a humorous, sarcastic, self -deprecating attitude about the suburbanites various misadventures and foiled expectations. An increasing appreciation of rural nature and particularly the seasons is also common, whether serving in the womens fiction as a sign of virtue, or else as a consolation for lessened social status in the mens. The best known author of the group, William Dean Howells, introduces a third narrative pattern for the Gilded Age. His middle class suburban narrator attempts to romanticize and aesthetici ze nearby racial and ethnic minorities as well as the homeless. The goal is to interpolate these figures into a narrative that flatters the suburbanites sense of himself and of the metropolitan social order. The result is often frustration and pessimism, because he discovers disturbing signs of social change and gritty realities that hinder his imagination. Finally, three turn of -the -century authors Mary Stewart Cutting, Henry Cuyler Bunner, and Henry A.

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39 Beers each replicate one of the established narrative patterns. The first writes a morally didactic tale opposing suburban materialism and fashionability, the second produces a Horatian satire of suburban inexperience and pretense, and the third mocks suburban romanticism and gentility in the mode of Juvena lian satire. The theme of indistinction determines each of the nineteenth -century subgenres three narrative patterns. Many traits of the subgenre change with the turn of the century, as sketches give way to novels that focus more and more exclusively upon the white middle -class suburbs and their residents. Indeed, this restricting field of vision has undoubtedly contributed to the ideological linkage of the suburbs on the whole with this one demographic group, despite the existence of other types of subu rbs and suburbanites throughout American history, as revisionist scholars have recently re -emphasized.58 Forging a link between suburbia and this group has possibly been the most successful act of cultural work performed by the suburban novel. I speculate t hat the literary change occurred partially in response to the increasing success of the real suburbs at resolving their previous shortcomings. Developments in transportation and domestic technology, for instance, allowed middle -class suburbanites to enjoy a respectable standard of living while actually increasing their distance and separation from urban centers. Legalized racial covenants, zoning regulations, the racist policies of government agencies such as the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), and other such legislation further ensured the exclusivity, stability, and distinction of the white suburbs. In light of these changes, it seems unsurprising that in the twentieth -century novels, the suburban boundary appears less permeable and the qualities d istinguishing suburban life become more obvious. The novelistic changes in both setting and field of vision seem to reflect an increasing belief in the suburbs as foundational rather than threatening to white middle -class identity and distinction.

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40 Despite the apparent success of the early -twentieth -century suburbs at performing their original function, the characteristic discontentment persists in suburban fiction, though not without significant changes too. The loose, anticlimactic narrative structure of the sketches gives way to a new suburban plot centered upon a white, middle -class mans dissatisfaction with his marriage, home, and career, leading to an adulterous affair and a family crisis that is resolved by accidental violence or death. I take the emergence of this dominant plot not found in every novel to be sure as symptomatic of a general shift in the subgenres perception of the suburbs. No longer is discontent principally oriented toward the suburbs perceived failure at consolidating middle -cl ass identity, its inability to create a distinctively middle -class way of life or to ward off threats from outside the suburb.59 Instead, the problems portrayed in many twentieth -century suburban novels seem to be caused, ironically, by the suburbs very su ccess at creating an exclusive, respectable, thoroughly middle -class social geography. Some of these problems include the collapse of the bourgeois intimate sphere, the emergence of a minimalistic social order characterized by conflict avoidance and disengaged tolerance and the growth of suburban sprawl as I will elaborate through my discussions of Sinclair Lewiss Babbitt, Vladimir Nabokovs Lolita and Joyce Carol Oatess Expensive People respectively. I explain this turnabout by proposing that the subu rbs success leads to their transformation, as additional capitalist functions such as consumerism and deterritorialization are introduced and incite conflicts over the suburbs previous exceptions to the rules governing capitalist space. Therefore, the ne w problems presented in literary treatments of the suburbs can often be interpreted as representing the unintended consequences or side effects of suburbias success at providing distinction.

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41 This irony is the most distinguishing and provocative character istic of the twentieth century suburban novel. Discontent in the face of apparent success becomes the new dominant theme, replacing the nineteenth -century one of concern about indistinction. Indeed, the beginning of the twentieth century marks a wholesale transformation of genre, as the setting and field of vision are restricted, a new master plot materializes, the symbolism changes, and ultimately the very image or symbolic landscape of suburbia changes.60 Nineteenth -century suburban fiction remains eit her guardedly optimistic or disconcertedly resigned about the future of suburbia. By contrast, the twentieth -century subgenre provides an almost uninterrupted chronicle of the contradictoriness, defectiveness, and intolerability of the suburban way of life Marking this change in attitude is the newly ubiquitous motif of the collapse of a suburban family, often through a death, the opposite of nineteenth-century domestic fictions comic ending with marriage (Susan Warners The Wide, Wide World) or family re united (Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin). Indeed, I would consider another name for the twentieth -century subgenre to be anti -domestic fiction, because of its orientation toward male characters as well as its reversal of the earlier tendency to glorify the home (to borrow a phrase from Nabokov).61 In making these generalizations, I do not want to imply that the irony I have described appears in every single twentieth-century suburban novel, nor do I intend my way of reading to completely disco unt those of previous critics. I would like to believe that my narrative could subsume these other accounts, putting their ideas into a new framework. In the end, though, mine is as partial in other words, as incomplete and biasedas any other attempt at g enre criticism. As Bourdieu observes: Attribution is always implicitly based on reference to typical works, consciously or unconsciously selected because they present to a particularly high degree the qualities more or less explicitly recognized as perti nent in a given system of classification. Everything suggests that, even among specialists, the criteria of

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42 pertinence which define the stylistic properties of typical works generally remain implicit and that the aesthetic taxonomies implicitly mobilized to distinguish, classify and order works of art never have the rigour which aesthetic theories sometimes try to lend them.62 Notes 1 William H. Whyte, Jr., Urban Sprawl, The Exploding Metropolis ed. William H. Whyte (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1958), 133156. 2 On this debate, see William Sharpe and Leonard Wallock, Bold New City or Built Up Burb? Redefining Contemporary Suburbia, American Quarterly 46 (1994): 130. 3 Harlan Paul Douglass, The Suburban Trend (New York: Century, 1925), 6. 4 Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great Cities (1961; reprint, New York: Vintage, 1992), 209. 5 Ibid., 210, 212. 6 Peter O. Muller, Contemporary Suburban America (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1981), 20. 7 E. Barbara Phillips, City Lights: Urban Suburban Life in the Global Society 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), 153. 8 J John Palen, The Suburbs (New York: McGraw Hill, 1995), 11. 9 Ibid., 12. 10 Michael H. Ebner, Re Reading Suburban America: Urban Population Deconcentration, 18101980, American Quarterly 37 (1985), 3767. 11 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States ( New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 11. 12 Ibid., 13. 13 Ibid., 19. 14 Ibid., 11. 15 Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 18202000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003), 115. 16 Richard Harris, The Making of American Suburbs, 19001950s: A Reconstruction, Changing Suburbs: Foundation, Form and Function, eds. Richard Harris and Peter J. Larkham ( London: E & FN Spon, 1999), 94. 17 Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia ( New York: Ba sic Books, 1987), 191. 18 Muller, Contemporary Suburban America, 4. 19 Sharpe and Wallock, Bold New City, 2. 20 Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias 5. 21 Ibid., 135.

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43 22 Ibid., 17. 23 See Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (New York: Doubleday, 1991) and Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County since World War II eds. Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark Poster (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991). 24 Sharpe and Wallock, Bold New City, 3. 25 Ibid., 7. 26 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Li ves (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 188. 27 Sharpe and Wallock, Bold New City, 11. 28 Herbert J. Gans, The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community (New York: Pantheon, 1967), xvi. 29 Laura J. Miller, Family To getherness and the Suburban Ideal, Sociological Forum 10 (1995), 411. 30 Palen, The Suburbs 18. 31 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 8. 32 J. Hillis Miller, Topographies (Stanford, C.A.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1995), 16. 33 Edward Christopher Hudson, From Nowhere t o Everywhere: Suburban Discourse and the Suburb in North American Literature (PhD diss., Univ. of Texas at Austin, 1998), 1011. 34 Ibid., 69, 978. 35 Ibid., 103. 36 Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the TwentiethCentury American Novel ( Princ eton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), 6, 7. 37 Ibid., 5. 38 Ibid., 161. 39 Ibid., 169. 40 Ibid., 28. 41 Rachel Pagano, Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction (PhD diss., Columbia Univ., 2001), 2. 42 Ibid., 2. 43 See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981), 39. 44 Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in TwentiethCentury American Fiction and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 228. 45 Ibid., 16. 46 Beuk a does acknowledge in his reading of the film The Stepford Wives that men are the beneficiaries of womens domestic oppression. Nevertheless, he does not disclose who is responsible for mens embattled place within a confining, alienating suburban milieu in John Updikes Rabbit Redux or the film The Graduate ( SuburbiaNation,

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44 114), or explain the alienating effects of bourgeois life on African American identity and community in Linden Hills (214). 47 Ibid., 228. 48 My suggestion draws on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, who promotes a relational sociology able to recognize the two way relationship between objective structures (those of social fields) and incorporated structures (those of the habitus), or what he calls using less technical language instituti ons and agents ( Practical Reason [Stanford, C.A.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1998], vii). This vision drives Bourdieus critique of rationalism, which overestimates the autonomous individual, fully conscious of his or her motivations, and of structuralism, which tends to reduce agents to simple epiphenomena of structure (viii). 49 Amy Maria Kenyon, Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2004), 2. 50 Ibid., 173. 51 The geographer Mark Gottdie ner stresses the need to acknowledge such complexity in theorizing urban processes. Aligning himself with Bourdieu and the structurationist school of social theory, Gottdiener faults urban ecologists, functionalists, and Marxist geographers for various reductive ideas such as demand driven development and the unity of capitalist class interests. He instead emphasizes the dialectical relation between structure and agency in order to explain the uneven, uncoordinated, and often irrational process of urban g rowth ( The Social Production of Urban Space 2nd ed. [Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1985], 206). 52 See Michael McKeon, Generic Transformation and Social Change: Rethinking the Rise of the Novel, Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach, ed. Michael McK eon (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000), 382399. 53 Hudson, From Nowhere to Everywhere, 8, 65. 54 Jurca, White Diaspora, 8. 55 Jameson, Political Unconscious 145. 56 I would like to acknowledge my debt to John R. Stilgoes Borderland: Origins of t he American Suburb, 18201939 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988) as the source for most of the early suburban literature I have located. 57 See Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of American Realism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988) and Philip Fishe r, Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel ( New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987). 58 For an overview, see Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, Introduction, The Suburb Reader eds. Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese (New York: Routledge, 2006), 1 12. 59 In keeping with this realignment, I have noticed a repeated trope of minor characters owning expensive houses that are rumored to contain no interior furnishings. This trope demonstrates the absolute centrality of the house as a marker of status and the symbolic emptiness of suburban aspirations. For an example, see Joyce Carol Oates, Expensive People (1968; reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Ontario Review Press, 1990), 44. 60 See Alastair Fowler, Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Ge nres and Modes (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1982). 61 Compare this with Jurcas similar suggestion ( White Diaspora, 11). 62 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Un iv. Press, 1984) 52.

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45 CHAPTER 2 THE INDISTINCTION OF NINETEENTH CENTURY SUBURBAN FIC TION A Contrary Aesthetic The thesis of this chapter can be stated ne gatively: nineteenth -century suburban fiction is not a premature anticipation of the properly twentiethcentury subgenre. By locating the origins of the suburban subgenre in the antebellum period, I am beginning earlier than most accounts do. Two of the th ree published books about suburban literature, Amy Maria Kenyons and Robert Beukas, do not mention any nineteenth-century texts, an absence potentially reinforcing the popular misconception that suburbia and its literature are twentieth -century phenomena .1 Furthermore, I propose that the nineteenth -century texts I will discuss in this chapter constitute a discrete phase within the larger subgenre. Unlike Catherine Jurca, Edward Christopher Hudson, and Rachel Pagano, I do not consider them as offering earl y and perhaps less -developed iterations of twentieth -century fictions themes.2 My account emphasizes discontinuity, theorizing a break within the subgenre occurring between the turn of the century and the publication of the definitive twentieth -century su burban novel, Sinclair Lewiss Babbitt (1922). Indeed, a larger argument of my dissertation is that we can better understand twentieth -century suburban novels by contrasting them with their nineteenth-century predecessors. The eight primary texts I am con sidering under this rubric are: Caroline Lee Hentzs Lovells Folly: A Novel (1833); Alice Carys Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (1852), a short story collection; Frederick S. Cozzenss The Sparrowgrass Papers, or Living in the Country (1856), a sketchbook; Robert Barry Coffins Out of Town: A Rural Episode (1866), a sketchbook; William Dean Howellss Suburban Sketches (1871); Henry A. Beerss short story A Suburban Pastoral (1894); Henry Cuyler Bunners The Suburban Sage:

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46 S tray Notes and Comments on His Simple Life (1896), a sketchbook; and Mary Stewart Cuttings short story The Suburban Whirl (1907). The primary way that I identify nineteenth -century suburban fiction is through a theme of indistinction. Playing on Pierr e Bourdieus concept of distinction, which refers to a process of class stratification through cultural mechanisms such as taste, I argue that my nineteenth -century texts tend to evaluate suburban space and culture as potentially inadequate for delineating and promoting middle -class identity. The typical suburbanite character, newly arrived from the city, is dismayed by the difficulties of housekeeping, horticulture, and recreation. Middle class expectations are challenged by the lack of genteel society, the trouble of importing urban conveniences, the boredom endemic to the borderlands, the opportunity that rural leisure provides for misadventures, and the potential of being shamed through interactions with the rural working class. This contrariness to middle -class expectations leads to suburbias indistinction, signifying a sort of inscrutability as well as an inability to provide the desired social status. The two other major defining features of nineteenth -century suburban fiction are the pictures que aesthetic and the sketch form. Both have an unquestionable affinity to middle -class suburbia; indeed, all three concepts first developed in British bourgeois culture at nearly the same time. Adapted to American literary purposes, the picturesque and th e sketch are used to articulate and sometimes alleviate suburban indistinction. The picturesque, with its celebration of mixture and irregularity, provides a way to turn the unfamiliar new space into a proper literary setting, and specifically to convert r ustic nature into a source of middle -class social status by virtue of its aestheticization as a landscape. Similarly, the amateurish, unfinished quality of the verbal sketch, a literary form well suited to narrating unexplored spaces,

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47 can signify the gen teel leisure characteristic of suburban life. During the Gilded Age, however, the satirical treatment of the picturesque aesthetic by a few American authors subverts the pastoral ideal of suburbia, while the ephemerality of the sketch comes to signify the ill -defined, fragmentary quality of suburban life and its failure to sustain literary narration. In the introduction to my dissertation, I faulted previous critics of the subgenre for not always sufficiently demonstrating the specifically suburban qual ity of fiction. While verisimilitude should not be the determining qualification for inclusion in the subgenre, literary scholars must avoid writing about suburbia as an ahistorical abstraction or classifying texts through formal literary characteristics alone, when the subgenres name and many of its texts titles reference a geographical place. This subgenre is both fascinating and frustrating because of the difficult necessity of negotiating the fiction reality relationship. My chapter begins with a br ief history of the early suburbs, in order to demonstrate how the literary theme of indistinction corresponds to a specific period and type of suburbanization: middle -class residential communities circa 18301900. These suburbs, along with the fiction that depicted them, functioned as part of a broader cultural effort to redefine the middle class. Without claiming that nineteenth -century suburban fiction is or is not mimetic, I want to suggest an affinity or mediation between this literature and reality.3 A Brief History of Early Middle -Class Suburbia Through the first decades of the nineteenth century, American cities still conformed to a pattern that had dominated in Europe and the Near East since ancient times. The premodern suburb functioned as a disti nct zone for commercial uses that were deemed inappropriate for the city noxious industries and nuisances such as animal slaughtering, soapmaking, and prostitution. As a result, residence on the periphery was less desirable; as Kenneth T. Jackson notes, E ven the word suburb suggested inferior manners, narrowness of view, and physical

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48 squalor.4 These conditions were replicated in the United States. The new homes of the wealthy in Georgian London were built cheek to jowl, and the eastern seaboard cities of the United States followed the London fashion, writes John J. Palen; Even small towns built housing side by side while surrounded by mile upon mile of vacant land.5 Americas urban fringe, according to Henry C. Binfords study of antebellum Boston, was most distinguishable by the economy particular to its liminal space. He observes that opportunity lay in roads, taverns, teaming, and the brokerage or processing of farm goods for the urban market.6 Suburban entrepreneurs attempted to turn a profit by s peculating on land along future transportation routes, building toll roads and bridges, and establishing specialized, city -oriented industries such as brickworks.7 The majority of residents were people whose business took place on the fringe. They were neither farmers nor commuters traveling to urban workplaces regular mass transportation by omnibus or rail was not established in Boston until the 1850s. The suburbs did provide residences for a small number of individuals looking for an alternative to city life, people either wealthy enough to afford private transportation to a country estate or else physically able to walk long distances. Despite the bucolic appearance of the suburbs, their role as a retreat from the city or the world of work was hardly dominant at the beginning of the nineteenth century. By the 1820s, Americas cities began to seem oppressive and uninhabitable to the middle class for several well -recognized reasons: rapid urban growth, industrialization, foreign immigration, and proleta rianization. Although U.S. cities were not as crowded or polluted as European ones, the American bourgeoisie had reasonable fears about class conflict and social revolution, fears embodied by the urban poor and foreign born workers. Ironically, the very sa me capitalist system that allowed the rise of the middle class also threatened its survival. The

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49 coupling of social status to economic wealth, the myth of democratic classlessness, the figure of the self -made man, and the belief in the possibility of upward mobility through seizing the main chance all contributed to migration into the cities, a destabilized class structure, and increased economic as well as social competition. In other words, the changes wrought by industrial capitalism to society, cu lture, and space threatened the existing mechanisms of middle class distinction, Pierre Bourdieus term for the process of creating social classes. In the face of this threat, the American middle class developed several new strategies for their own self preservation and social reproduction as a class, including sentiment and sincerity, domesticity, and suburbia. Sentiment and sincerity provide an instructive example for understanding how these new strategies of distinction functioned. A cult of sentiment and sincerity emerged in the 1830s, according to Karen Halttunen, and its code of conduct functioned as a barrier to be surmounted by those who wished to enter the ranks of the genteel.8 Proper etiquette and natural feeling helped to shore up middle -c lass identity against the threat presented by a growing number of urban strangers and social climbers including the confidence man, the painted woman, and the vulgar nouveau riche. Sincerity and sentiment, like the character and virtue that they revealed, were formerly religious concepts, invoked as substitute means of distinction, because qualities such as economic success (or the semblance of it) were not by themselves sufficient to perpetuate the existing middle class. As Halttunen observes, sincerity w as not an economic category, it was a matter of morality.9 Sentiment and sincerity thus served as an exception to the culture of capitalism, an external means to prop up the internally unstable system. To produce distinction through sentiment and sinceri ty required not only a social code but also the social production of space, namely the creation of a new social geography centered

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50 upon the parlor.10 Halttunen theorizes this room as a liminal zone between the urban street where strangers freely mingled and the back regions of the house where only family members were permitted to enter uninvited.11 The parlor provided the space in which genteel behavior was tested through the display of polite manners and heart -felt sentiment, and the convention of making social calls allowed for rude, pretentious, and hypocritical individuals to be excluded. I would therefore describe sincerity and sentiment as a strategy for distinction through practices of exception and exclusion. (By contrast, taste the subject of Bour dieus Distinction operates through naturalization and consumption.)12 Domesticity and suburbia have a surprising amount in common with sincerity and sentiment. All are strategies for distinction through exception and exclusion. The cult of domesticity, for instance, barred certain elements of capitalist production and labor from the private home, in order to provide an alternate means of stability for middle -class individuals in the face of an unpredictable economy and a transforming social order. The true middle class woman, as the Angel of the House, was responsible for creating a respectable home environment that would exert a moral influence upon the family without her performing visible work, particularly waged labor. The privatized, domesticated family, in turn, provided for the smooth reproduction of class differences in the absence of other social mechanisms that could reliably transmit middle -class values.13 All three strategies for distinction, it should be emphasized, involve the social prod uction of space. Indeed, we can imagine their spaces as nested, the parlor inside the house within the suburb. Americas middle -class residential suburbs, which emerged in the 1820s and 30s and came into vogue by the 1870s, were not only the most geograph ically extensive of these strategies, but also arguably the most socially transformative and enduring. The new suburban pattern was

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51 another invention imported from England, where this type of settlement space first developed in response to the conditions of mid -eighteenth -century London. By the beginning of the nineteenth century London was surrounded by a ring of [bourgeois] suburbs, says Robert Fishman, though language lagged behind reality. It was not until the 1840s that the word suburb lost its ol der, primarily plebian associations and became firmly attached to the middle class residential neighborhood.14 To achieve the same result, the American version deployed a complex set of exceptions and exclusions, which I will discuss under the headings of anti capitalism, classism, and anti urbanism. Similar to domesticity, middle -class suburbia attempted to expel most forms of capitalist production and exchange, these being the root of so many urban problems. The new residential communities attempted to d isplace the fringe economy and also repel larger industrial operations that sought cheap, spacious locations outside the city. Suburban space, Dolores Hayden observes, became the site of a conflict between those who viewed the landscape as a place to rest from profiting elsewhere and those who viewed it as a place to make a profit, a conflict that persists to this day.15 One ironic danger in this regard came from the new residents themselves, who were habituated by their class position to understand land a s a commodity and investment. If the price was right, most were all too willing to sell their homes and move elsewhere, no matter the impact that the sale would have on their neighbors property if a nuisance such as a tenement or business establishment was erected. To prevent the deterioration of property values and the recreation of urban conditions, legal instruments such as covenants which date back to the late eighteenth century in America and deed restrictions began to be adopted in more expensive, pl anned communities.16 These conditions governing the use of land were the forerunners of modern zoning, and by submitting to them, suburbanites sacrificed some of their property rights in order

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52 to safeguard their class position against the inherent risks of capitalism. In other words, they subordinated the principles of private ownership and exchange to the alternate values of permanence, community, unspoiled nature, and quiet. We might therefore consider suburbia as a state of exception or contradiction, t o use the more conventional Marxist term within capitalist society.17 Suburbanites did not relinquish their property rights without resistance. Fogelson records that as late as the 1880s, the imposition of restrictive covenants was very much the exception, and the use of such devices only caught on around the turn of the century.18 Excluding capitalist production and exchange had the additional benefit of excluding capitalist labor, the class of workers that was the focal point of bourgeois anxiety about distinction. Covenants, for instance, disadvantaged those who were most likely to be engaged in noxious industries, who often desired to raise livestock or lodge other nuisances on their property, and who were less able to separate work from home. Comm uting by omnibus, train, or horsecar remained relatively expensive and time-consuming, and only with the introduction of the electric trolley in the 1890s did the working class begin to adopt the riding habit.19 The cost of suburban houses was another ind irect means to achieve exclusivity, a fact that partially explains the increasing popularity of middle -class community building. Whereas the solitary villa or gentlemans estate was the dominant type of middle -class residence constructed on the antebellu m borderlands, after the Civil War the trend in suburbanization favored designed communities, or what Jackson calls romantic suburbs and Hayden terms picturesque enclaves. The working class was not the only group excluded by design. For example, suburb builders would establish Protestant churches within their developments in order to attract people of those faiths, rather than Catholics and Jews.20 In addition, Jews, African -Americans, and

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53 Asian -Americans were simply refused as buyers although legalized racial covenants did not come into common use until around 19101920.21 These examples give a broad outline of the postbellum effort to associate a particular type of space planned residential suburbs with the middle class and the white, AngloSaxon, Prote stant (WASP) identity, by excluding undesirables of other classes, races, ethnicities, national origins, and religions. The strategy was largely a success. By the 1870s, claims Jackson, the word suburb no longer implied inferiority or derision to Ame ricans.22 Of course, the increasing fashionability of suburbia meant that it became an aspiration of the petty bourgeoisie and even the working class, one that a new breed of real estate developer sought to satisfy. From the 1870s on, Hayden writes, subd ividers of land near city centers provided a cut rate version of the verdant residential ideal expressed in the picturesque enclaves.23 These streetcar suburbs employed mass -production techniques and other innovations in transportation, construction, fin ancing, and marketing to build affordable homes for the common man (Jacksons phrase) in the image of bourgeois suburbia. Sam Bass Warner, Jr., considers the streetcar suburbs as the attempt by a mass of people, each with but one small house and a lot, to achieve what previously had been the pattern of life of a few rich families with two large houses and ample land.24 Again, the expansive logic of the capitalist system threatened the stability of the social distinctions it originated. Teasing out these elements of anti -capitalism and classism is not sufficient to explain the rise of the Anglo-American middle -class suburb as a strategy for distinction. The French bourgeoisie shared the same Victorian ideals of domesticity, privacy, and class segregation, according to Robert Fishman, but, lacking the Puritan tradition of the Evangelicals, they saw no contradiction between family life and the pleasures of urban culture.25 Haussmann rebuilt Paris

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54 with bourgeois apartment houses along the central boulevards, pushing industry and the poor out to the periphery. Americans, by contrast, were more inclined to anti urbanism, due to the Puritan tradition that juxtaposed nature against the evils of the city, but much more so because of a revival of Jeffersonian republ ican ideology.26 Moving to the suburbs to be a gentleman farmer or at least live in a rural looking landscape allowed the WASP middle class man to tap into the mythic power of the yeoman, a potent symbol for the political nativism that developed at mid century in reaction to industrial capitalism and the urban crisis. To construct true American identity through such imagery required a disingenuous slight -of -hand, of course, since almost all middle -class suburbanites remained bound to an urban economy as evidenced by the commuter phenomenon. Nevertheless, social barriers could be shored up through such anti urban gestures: hence, the exclusion from suburbia of saloons, tenements, gambling dens, and prostitution houses. These institutions of urban culture w ere associated by the bourgeoisie with lower -class immorality and vice. Banning them not only kept away the undesirables but also kept out of reach temptations that might cause the middle class to abandon its distinctive values of thrift, temperance, and i ndustry. The suburbs provided a space for the regeneration of middle -class manhood as well. Describing the mid -nineteenth -century crisis in male identity, Michael Kimmel writes: Manhood had meant autonomy and self -control, but now fewer and fewer America n men owned their own shops, controlled their own labor, owned their own farms.27 Suburban residence could potentially restore manhood through its semblance of rural life. In the words of Margaret Marsh: If a man could not be a farmer, he could at least b e close to nature, on his own plot of ground, in his own house.28 The yeoman of republican ideology thus served as a masculine as well as nationalist figure. The same Jeffersonian rhetoric meanwhile denigrated

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55 urban life through accusations of luxury and d ecadence, both gendered as feminine qualities. The role of gender in the genesis of American middle -class suburbia is often overlooked, according to Marsh. Men were its first pioneers and promoters, she observes, while Victorian middle -class women generall y remained hopeful about reforming the city in line with the ideology of domesticity. Marsh contends that suburbia and domesticity developed independently, from different political needs and from different sources.29 Not until the turn of the century did these two ideologies begin to merge, producing a new suburban domestic ideal that she identifies with companionate marriages, expert mothers, and masculine domesticity.30 The reactionary agenda of middle -class white men helps to explain the emergence of this anti urban space. The suburban opposition to city life involved not only exclusion but also exception, or an alternative set of values, practices, and symbols such as the yeoman. As Hayden recognizes, Middle -class families who sought out the bord erland needed to define the material culture appropriate to new settings.31 This culture was greatly influenced by the earliest suburban architects and pattern book writers, including Andrew Jackson Downing, Catharine Beecher, and Frederick Law Olmsted. Th eir attention concentrated on two areas, the landscape and the house, each of which was densely encoded. The ideal middle -class suburban yard featured decorative plantings in asymmetrical groupings on an irregular plot of land along a curvilinear road in a parklike setting the antithesis of the urban gridiron lot. The values embedded in such a landscape and indeed, the now commonplace idea of landscape as an arranged yet natural environment, experienced visually were drawn from the picturesque aesthetic. Lying between the sublime and the beautiful, the picturesque is a principle of mixture, irregularity, naturalness, and artistic arrangement. According to John Conron, the term picturesque (like a picture) itself valorizes visual arrangements that loo k like paintings.32

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56 The Picturesque, as Sidney K. Robinson explains, tried to occupy a shifting position that mixed an obvious and conventionally geometric artifice with an irregular, less apparent artifice derived from nature.33 Robinson adds that the picturesque also dictates the use of less power than is available to compose the parts in an arrangement that does not press for a conclusion. To tolerate some irregularity, to risk withholding complete control means that the Picturesque depends on a pree xisting condition of plenitude.34 The theory, formulated in the late eighteenth century by British intellectuals, has a bourgeois and aristocratic origin (implied by the reserved power and comfortable plenitude), and the partisanship of the picturesque tow ard those classes would persist when put into practice creating the American suburbs. Understanding the suburban yard as a picturesque landscape, a space organized for aesthetic pleasure similar to a work of art, exposes the class affiliations and values o f the residents. For instance, the newly popular mid-century practices of botanizing and horticulture advertised the time and money suburbanites could afford to spend finding, identifying, acquiring, and growing ornamental flowers, shrubs, and trees.35 The suburban yard characterized by unproductiveness and irregularity contrasts with rural agricultural land featuring square houses on square farms beautified by few trees and many straight furrows.36 The yards bucolic expansiveness, furthermore, intenti onally disregards the urgency of more intensively developing and occupying space in urban areas. In opposition to both the city and the country, the suburb and its yard proclaim the luxury of aestheticized real estate.37 Although the city remained almost co mpletely antithetical because of its unavoidable associations with industrial capitalism, certain aspects of rural life could be mixed into the suburban picturesque. Old farmhouses, country churches, haystacks, and other artifacts, when viewed from an ap propriate distance, could appear quaint and rustic, providing suburbanites with material for aesthetic

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57 enjoyment. The security of distance kept suburbanites from experiencing the actual conditions of rural life. John R. Stilgoe puts the matter concisel y: picturesqueness masked poverty.38 My retelling of nineteenth -century suburban history has stressed the role played by distinction. By foregrounding social competition, I have tended to ignore other factors that contributed to suburbanization, such as transportation technology, housing costs, government policies, or real estate entrepreneurs, factors that suburban historians have considered at least as determinate.39 My choice might also seem to condemn nineteenth-century middle -class suburbanites as con servative, status -obsessed bigots who looked to maintain their privilege through their every action. Suburbanization could certainly be understood in more flattering ways. The goal of inhabiting a more sanitary environment than the polluted Victorian city seems laudable, for instance, as does the desire to incorporate the experience of undeveloped natural space into everyday life. Indeed, the suburban ethos of aestheticized space seems closer to the romantic view of nature than to the vulgar utilitarianis m of Victorian capitalism. Suburbia has an affinity to the various practices that Jackson Lears analyzes under the rubric of antimodernism, not the least of which being that all resist aspects of modern industrial capitalist life, even as they simultaneo usly struggle to retain cultural hegemony for fractions of the upper and middle classes.40 Suburbia cannot be explained or evaluated through reference to distinction alone, but distinction has the benefit of further illuminating the most prominent feature I find in nineteenth century suburban fiction, the theme of indistinction. A Model of the Purest Simplicity: Hentz and Cary The oldest work of fiction I have located that addresses American suburbia is Caroline Lee Hentzs Lovells Folly: A Novel (1833). The book is unusual for being the only novel in its category and for being relatively optimistic about suburbias effect on the middle class related qualities, I will later argue. Hentz presents two archetypes for suburbanites, one to avoid and the

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58 other to emulate. She begins with the former, exemplified by the titular Lovell, a rich old bachelor, whose affections having no legitimate channels, diverged into many eccentric courses. Architecture became his ruling passion, and having no children to transmi t his name to posterity, he determined to leave a monument in the form of a stately mansion.41 This villa he at first intended to be a model of the purest simplicity, but his taste luxuriating as the work went on, Lovells house ultimately exhibited a garish assortment of architectural styles, further accentuated by lifelike statues of Generals Washington and Bonaparte, party colored nymphs, and Adonises, and last, not least, his own figure ( LF 8 9). When the construction costs exceeded his means, Lovell fell into debt. Going mad from public ridicule, he haunts the village of Cloverdale as a vagabond.42 The notoriety of this monument to pride, known locally as Lovells Folly, attracted Mr. Marriwood, a widower, who left the city and moved himself and his adult daughter Penitence into the mansion. Marriwood envisions himself becoming the honored nabob of the country by restoring the house, renamed La Grange, in a style which was intended to dazzle the untried gaze of the villagers ( LF 10, 12). All th ese events occurred in the novels recent past; the Marriwoods have been residents of Cloverdale for a few years, and the village is gradually becoming a favorite summer retreat of some of the metropolitans ( LF 6). This influx of city folk has led to a t ransformation: Cloverdale, like a rustic beauty, inflated by the consciousness of her charms, began to assume the refinements and graces of the metropolitan belle ( LF 8). The moral coding of Hentzs language reveals the tensions within antebellum suburbi a: rustic simplicity and beauty are opposed to metropolitan luxury and refinement. Penitence, who becomes a principal antagonist, represents everything that troubles Hentz about the new middle -class suburb. Penitence is fashionable and vain, yet physicall y unattractive

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59 and no longer young. She shares her fathers ambition of cultivating a select society in their drawing room. As she tells a newcomer, there are really some very genteel and even stylish families here; and as to the rest, you are not obliged to be so very particular in the country as in the city. One can afford to be condescending you know, and then there is so much pleasure in imparting pleasure! ( LF 46). Further demonstrating the Marriwoods lack of domestic virtue is the symbolic absence of a mother/wife in their home. Despite the allusive last name, Penitence risks spinsterhood and producing no heir to inherit the sizeable family fortune reprising Lovells fate. Lovell and the Marriwoods demonstrate how suburban life potentially threatens middle class distinction by leading them into such follies. The Rovington family, by contrast, are Hentzs model suburbanites. The late patriarch was an early experimenter of the type that Binford describes, providing a country seat for his family whil e he worked in an office of high public trust part of each year, most likely in Boston ( LF 28, 38). The Rovington house, designated by the modest appellation of the English cottage, was a direct opposite to the stately pile built by Lovell ( LF 39 ), not least because its principal ornamentation consisted of some carefully cultivated vines, symbolic of domesticity, simplicity, and leisure. These vines cling to the pure, virgin white house in such a way that it was somewhat difficult to separate the wor k of nature and art ( LF 39), a fusion suggesting the mixture or tension characteristic of the picturesque aesthetic and the pastoral ideal.43 Mr. Rovington himself also demonstrates proper middle -class suburban values: he wished his resting place from the turmoils of business to be somewhat aloof from the gay and encroaching many ( LF 28). In other words, he preferred rural retirement to urban society. He considered Cloverdale an Eden, and there he enjoyed the respect of farmers and locals a republican s ort of respect, as opposed to the awe that Mr. Marriwood seeks to inspire ( LF 28). Mr. Rovingtons

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60 survivors are firmly middle class as well: the son Russel goes to Harvard University and studies law, while the older daughter Catharine teaches grade school in the village. The family upholds the fathers values: they display simplicity, sincerity, sentiment, privacy, and an appreciation of their rural environment, often to an exaggerated degree. Penitence Marriwood declares that the family headed, significan tly, by the widowed Mrs. Rovington is too shockingly domestic (LF 18). This criticism should be understood as high praise from Hentz. After Mr. Rovingtons death, Russel discovers that his father owed money, and when the lender comes to collect, the Ro vingtons are faced with the prospect of eviction from their beloved cottage. Penitence Marriwood intervenes, offering Russel the financial means to clear the debt and rescue his familys home, in exchange for his hand in marriage. The unscrupulous Penitenc e looks upon the much admired young man as a social trophy, particularly valuable because through him she can spite his true love, the beautiful and impeccably virtuous Lorelly Sutherland. Russel submits to his filial obligations and becomes engaged to P enitence, taking her money in order to dismiss his familys creditor. Russel thus risks becoming the new master of the cursed house of Lovell, becoming further enmeshed in its loveless, immoral economy of debt. As the novels title suggests, the intertwine d fates of these suburban houses provide the focus for Hentzs story, one reason why this work qualifies as a suburban fiction. Russel eventually finds an escape through a plot twist that heavy handedly recapitulates Hentzs themes. Lorelly Sutherland i s reunited with her long lost father, Mr. Savage, who she discovers was forced by his own childless relative to separate from Lorellys mother and to adopt the relatives name in order to inherit a fortune. After her parents separation, Lorellys mother w as compelled to marry Mr. Sutherland, because Lorellys grandfather had a secret obligation to Mr. Sutherlands father. These revelations reinforce the lesson taught by Lovell, the Marriwoods,

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61 and Mr. Rovingtonthat virtue, love, and the conventional trans mission of property are threatened by vanity, financial irresponsibility, and secrecy.44 To put it another way, patriarchs endanger the house, whereas true middle -class domesticity is feminine. Russels salvation finally comes when the madman Lovell sets fi re to La Grange, intending to die in its flames, and accidentally kills Penitence Marriwood in the process. Mr. Savage then offers to loan the young man enough money to pay back Mr. Marriwood the amount Russel took from Penitence, so that Russel would fina lly be able to marry Lorelly. Although Russel resists out of a sense of responsibility to meet his own obligations (and perhaps a prudent caution about founding a marriage upon another debt), he eventually accepts. Through Hentzs two archetypes, Lovells Folly maps out the possibilities for suburbia. The cautionary characters are overly attracted to luxury, society, and fashion, and suffer the consequences of debt and death. They remain too closely involved with the capitalist city, Hentzs ultimate antag onist. The model suburbanites, on the other hand, create a distinctive middle class identity based upon republican virtue, familial domesticity, and rustic nature, with love and marriage as their reward. Hentz appears optimistic about the new experiment, t hough with serious concerns and reservations her novels title is not Rovingtons Prudence after all. The Rovington men both stand on the edge, unable to extract themselves from debt and their reliance upon urban jobs despite having a desire for suburban domestic life. Information about middle class mens work and the cause of their debts is for the most part lacking, a telling omission at the heart of Hentzs narrative. The urban economy must yet cannot be excluded from suburbia. The country around Clover dale also receives little attention from Hentz, probably because it poses little threat to suburban distinction, as demonstrated in her unusual seventh chapter. The

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62 young people picnic near a wooded lake, where Hentz has them enthuse about rustic beauty in her typically sincere manner. When two of the picnickers fall in the water and are forced to borrow dry garments from a farmer and his wife, their suburban companions cannot withhold their merry cachinations in admiration of the extraordinary figur es ( C 135). The suburbanites uncharacteristic, patronizing laughter is directed at the old -fashioned clothes of the rural folk, but also at the absurd unlikelihood of this transgression of class boundaries. In contrast to urban debts, borrowing from coun try people poses little danger. The country provides the middle class with pleasure and amusement, not social anxiety. The episode at the lake might also help us to assess the relationship between Hentzs text, the pastoral, and the picturesque aesthetic. She repeatedly uses the term pastoral to describe the suburban setting of Cloverdale, yet she invokes the picturesque very rarely, perhaps because the latter was a quite recent invention. Lovells Folly does demonstrate an affiliation with the tradition al literary pastoral, which Leo Marx traces back to the poet Virgil. Hentzs fictional bourgeois suburb can be understood as a middle landscape poised between the city and the country. More specifically, her novel appears to be an example of the modern, sentimental variant that, according to Marx, narrates a withdrawal from society into an idealized landscape and expresses an inchoate longing for a more natural environment.45 Marx disparages the sentimental pastoral as a simple pleasure fantasy, and Hentzs writing does have a saccharine quality to it.46 However, the patronizing laughter at the clothing of the farmers seems out of place with the ethos of the sentimental pastoral, which tends to embrace the imagery of rural life as signs of its supe rior authenticity and so forth. Lovells Folly does not fit Marxs complex pastoral very well either, since no industrial technology appears in the novel.

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63 I believe the picturesque aesthetic better identifies Hentzs novel and nineteenth century suburba n fiction in general. Whereas the sentimental pastoral seems to demand the resolution or erasure of social conflicts, the picturesque does not press for a conclusion and can tolerate some irregularity. Indeed, the picturesque often reveals its bourgeoi s origins and uses social disparities to produce its aesthetic contrasts and mixtures, creating humor in Hentzs case.47 To return to my main idea, the picturesque is better suited to address suburban indistinction. Later nineteenth -century suburban fictions will in fact demonstrate increasingly tighter connections to the picturesque through their more elaborate setting descriptions, their characters artistic vocations, their sketchbook form, and their adaptations of the picturesque tour genre. More unambiguously than any other nineteenth -century fiction writer, Hentz endorses the early suburban ideal associated with Andrew Jackson Downing and Catharine Beecher, whose important writings Lovells Folly actually predates by several years.48 The next work of suburban fiction to appear is Alice Carys Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (1852).49 John R. Stilgoe considers Cary the originator of the suburban subgenre, yet her work is less representative than Hentzs.50 Only about one sevent h of Clovernook concerns suburbanization, while the majority of the stories are about the farming families and other country folk that inhabit the eponymous rural community. While Cary does demonstrate an awareness of the ideology of suburbia, her opinion of the phenomenon is not as coherent or intelligible as Hentzs. One similarity is immediately obvious: they share a common aversion to society and fashion, which are associated with the city, though Carys Christian morality is more severe and punitive than Hentzs republicanism. In fact, Clovernook s characters often come to grief because they express ambitions that conflict with the hardships associated with farm life, whether they show dissatisfaction with the intellectual

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64 limitations of rural society, allow themselves to experience romance and love, or simply desire new clothes and novels. The Moods of Seth Milford and His Sisters is an exemplary story. The taciturn young farmer suffers an unfortunate fate: Born and bred on the farm which he now in herited, and having never been beyond the shadows of his native hills, he had nevertheless immortal longings in him. Naturally diffident and shy, and very imperfectly educated, he grew up to manhood, dissatisfied, restless, wretched despising and scornin g the circle to which by habit and manner he belonged, and consciously fitted for no other, though gifted with a mind superior to that of thousands occupying high places in society, and looking down upon him. He was not loved even by his two sisters, with whom he lived in the old homestead, and whom he supported, not very elegantly, indeed, but according to his best ability.51 When we first meet him, Seth is listlessly leaning against the fence in a moody reverie ( C 58). His sisters, who are more educated and socially accomplished, complain to each other that Seth is improvident and thriftless ( C 60). Their homestead originally had pretensions to gentility (C 60), but now [t]he paint was beaten from the weatherboards, some of the chimneys were toppling the shutters broken, and the railings about the piazza half gone ( C 61). The sisters persistent desire for distinction is visible in the flowerbeds and snowy curtains that contrast with the structural decay ( C 61). The incompatible siblings pass thei r days in a silent unsympathizing manner that aptly describes most of Carys farm families, until a kind word from one sister breaks Seths perpetual foul mood ( C 61). Transformed in a moment, Seth gains an appetite, engages in lively talk, resolves to repair the gate hinge, and discusses plans for future improvements to the farm, including hiring hands so that he will have more time for books and thought ( C 63). The next day, Seth works plowing the fields, but he also reads a book as his horse rest s. That same night, Seth gets caught in a cold rain while completing his farm duties. Returning late, he finds the kitchen fire extinguished and his requested supper unprepared. The dining -room

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65 was in the same desolate and cheerless state, writes Cary, but the parlor was a -glow with light and warmth, and the gay chattering of voices announced the presence of strangers. Seths brow clouded unhappily, the friends of his sisters were not his friends. Belonging for the most part to a different grade of socie ty, he neither knew them nor cared to know them; and, in the present instance, he was certainly in no guise to present himself ( C 64). His failure to manage the transformation from rude farmer to gentleman proves his downfall. Unable to prepare himself fo od or find a change of clothes, he goes to bed hungry and wet, develops a fever, and dies. At his deathbed, his sister regrets her behavior, weeping and begging forgiveness, exaggerating her own faults, and magnifying all his kindness ( C 67). Seth smile d faintly, and said his own faults were much greater than hers; but if he were well, he might not do any better, and his life had been long enough ( C 67). According to the logic of Clovernook Seth must pay for fancying for himself a life in any way gente el, as he seems to recognize when he does not reciprocate her sentimentality (cf. Halttunen). Sickness and death are the typical results of entertaining ambitions to be middle class in Carys stories. The Pride of Sarah Worthington, for instance, begins with the narrator reading an obituary for her friend, the title character, who died after a painful illness, aged nineteen years ( C 39). Sarah, described as having been silent, unsocial, demonstrated in life the emotional reserve common among Carys r ural characters: Mother nor brother nor any human being seemed ever to have found the way to her heart ( C 43). A beautiful young woman, Sarah had many male admirers who were fascinated by her indifference and queen -like manner ( C 44). The narrator po intedly remarks, I could never learn that she even felt pride in anything, unless perhaps in the scorn she bestowed on her fellow creatures ( C 44). The narrator goes on to reminisce about a conversation she had with Sarah. The narrator had offered to int roduce Sarah

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66 to a young admirer who worked for a lawyer, but when Sarah heard the lawyers name, she became unusually agitated. The narrator only realizes after Sarahs death that she must have been romantically involved with the lawyer, who is forty, or nearly so, handsome, wealthy, influential, unmarried and a universal favorite ( C 46). I would guess the painful illness had something to do with a pregnancy, since beforehand Sarah seemed to possess a constitution that would resist the chances an d changes of many years ( C 44). As in Seth Milfords case, Sarah Worthingtons initial unsociability and fatalistic resignation, far from being character defects, were virtues that could have protected her from the desire for a middle -class romance. Carys stark moral vision of rigid class boundaries becomes less clear in her final six stories, when she introduces suburbanites into Clovernook. The Harmsteads move from the city with three servant girls and a black man, though even the wealthier farmers re fuse to take servants. Equally unheard of is the Harmsteads practice of paying cash to their neighbors for food. One Clovernook resident, dismayed by such behavior, predicts, they wont have much to do with plain farmer folks like us, for Mrs. Hamstid, t hey say, keeps dressed up all the time reading books, and dont even nuss her own baby ( C 293). The confusion of the locals about their last name is probably Carys way of drawing attention to her play on homestead: the Harmsteads represent a dangerousl y middle -class domesticity. They also demonstrate several familiar qualities of nineteenth -century bourgeois suburbanites. They hire a good many workmen to transform Mr. Hintons brier -smothered farm into Willow Dale ( C 310), the Harmsteads new count ry seat. Indeed, the Harmsteads begin to change all of Clovernook into a bourgeois suburb. Despite the prediction of exclusivity, Mr. Harmstead takes an interest in his neighbors property, designing cottages and picturesque gardens for them as if he were an apostle of Andrew Jackson Downing: Chiefly through his instrumentality, in the course of a few

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67 years, the neighborhood of Clovernook had been changed from a thinly inhabited and ill cultivated district, to one abounding with green lawns and spotted wi th vineyards and orchards, ridged with clipt hedges, and sparkling with public edifices ( C 320). Furthermore, his efforts have induced his wealthy friends to build houses in Clovernook, so that the original members of the village gentry now find so many equals that they rarely think of going in to town in search of society ( C 320). One would expect the locals might resent Mr. Harmsteads influence upon Clovernook (or risk fever and sudden death!). Surprisingly he is widely esteemed as an example of goo dness, though not his wife: He had earned a distinction by being the pioneer of elegance and refinement among the people, for his predecessors of the same rank had lived in selfish isolation; and no follower in his path could ever attain to the same popul arity. Mrs. Harmstead had never been so much a favorite; her neighbors never felt really at home with her, though sometimes they pretended to be so; she never loved the green lane so well as the paved street, nor our kindly but coarse hospitalities so well as the more soulless civilities to which she had been accustomed; and before any better phase of things was perceptible, the fretfulness induced by her ungenial transition wore away her life. ( C 320) In other words, her unregenerate connection to the city guarantees her demise. Mr. Harmstead is preserved, apparently, because he tries harder to be at home in the country, adopting what he supposed to be western manners and striving to put himself on a level with his neighbors ( C 310). Furthermore, Mr. Ha rmstead is already middle class, and thus fated to be free from the discipline of farming; reading books and wearing fine clothes do not portend his doom. Although sophisticated, he demonstrates an appropriate regard for rural nature, and rather than expressing the deadly desire for upward mobility, he exercised constantly on those about him a refining and elevating influence ( C 320). Mr. Harmsteads success might imply that suburbia, understood as an improvement of the country rather than an extension of urban society, could be safe and even redemptive for exurbanites.

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68 For country folks, suburbia remains as problematic as urban society. Some years after Mr. Harmsteads wife dies, he makes a decided overture toward Ellie Hadly, a farmers daughter, by s ending her some books of his that she admired ( C 321). Ellie had had but small educational advantages less even than her younger sisters; but her intellectual endowments were naturally superior. She read what chance and opportunity afforded. She was modest, diffident even, and had passed her life in the greatest retirement, for the wealthy and fashionable society of the neighborhood found no attractions in her, nor had she ever made any overtures for its recognition ( C 304). This is not to say that she lacked consciousness of class. She recalls first meeting Mr. Harmstead: I had never seen any one before who was so well bred, so refined, so gentlmanly as he; and I remember well how mortified I was for our bare feet, and our rustic appearance altoget her. In short, my idea of perfection was realized, when I saw him ( C 310). Mr. Harmsteads interest in her dissipates when her awkward performance at a party proves that she is not fitted for society, even for the coarser hospitalities of suburbia (C 324). He leaves Clovernook soon after, moving to the city to marry a woman there. Although Ellie feels anguish, that she survives to tell her tale seems indicative of the authors approval of Ellies failure. In the end, Cary appears to reconsider her optimism about suburbia, as her attention and sympathy shift from Mr. Harmstead to Ellie. Not only does this perfect gentleman behave callously toward Ellie when they meet after his marriage, but he has abandoned the community he helped to improve, recla iming his place in urban society. In the final analysis, Cary seems skeptical of any social space between the city and the country. Despite the brutality of some of her patriarchal farmers, and despite the initial pity we might feel for aspiring characters such as Seth Milford and Sarah Worthington, Cary seems to favor the rigor of rural life, imagining its

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69 discipline as a source of moral virtue rather than an unjust repression of the desire for self improvement. Carys descriptions of the setting support t his interpretation. Typically very detailed and seemingly superfluous or unrelated to the narrative, her periodic commentary regarding the natural environment of Clovernook focusing on its native plants, crops, and seasons is quite different from Hentzs a estheticized, sentimentalized description of Cloverdale. Because Carys narrator maintains dutiful attention to the rural setting, the reader is regularly reminded of what many of her characters ignore at their peril. Whereas natural beauty merely reflects the harmony of human relations in Hentzs writing, nature functions for Cary as an aspect of the divine, to which human desire and ambition must submit. This explicitly Christian belief permeates the long descriptive passage that concludes Clovernook in which Cary uses the annual cycle as a metaphor to contrast the fleeting season of Ellies grief with eternity. The narrator begins this passage by remarking, It has always seemed to me one of the most beautiful provisions of Providence, that circumstances however averse we be to them at first, close about us presently like waves, and we would hardly unwind ourselves from their foldings, and standing out alone, say, let it be thus or thus, if it were possible ( C 3401). The humility and morbid resignation exhorted by Carys conclusion the book ends with the quotation Thou art nothing all are nothing now is a far cry from the suburban impulse for worldly distinction. It Is a Good Thing to Live in the Country : Cozzens and Coffin The next pair of suburban fictions, Frederick S. Cozzenss The Sparrowgrass Papers, or Living in the Country (1856) and Robert Barry Coffins Out of Town: A Rural Episode (1866), are remarkably similar. Contrasting them with the two womens texts, I notice three major shifts in th e subgenre. First, the mens suburbanites display discontent more prominently. In Lovells Folly the only character to express such sentiments is Florence Fairchild, Mr. Marriwoods

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70 young niece who lives with the Marriwoods. A reader of romantic novels, F airchild complains to her cousin Penitence about the monotony of suburban life ( LF 15). Even Penitence, who says it was with almost unconquerable reluctance I accompanied Papa into the countryI feared I should die with ennui, and that I should find no society, comes to appreciate the benefits of suburbia, particularly her ability to condescend to the locals ( LF 45). In Clovernook, the fretful Mrs. Harmstead is the only dissatisfied suburbanite. The experiences of these minor characters are not centra l to their respective narratives and remain undeveloped. In the mens texts, by contrast, dismay with the unexpectedly rural quality of suburban life, expressed by the suburbanite narrator -protagonists, creates the rhetorical situation. Second, these work s evaluate suburbia differently. Its effect on middle -class distinction remains a dominant concern, but the republican values and Christian morality that Hentz and Cary rely on to make their judgments do not appear in Cozzenss and Coffins writings. Possi bly as a result, the men express concern about the negative effect of the country, rather than the city, on suburban identity. In the end, the men reach an accommodation with suburbia by turning its faults into virtues and adopting a humorous, sarcastic at titude about their suburbanites many misadventures. Third, the mens texts demonstrate a different kind of storytelling. In contrast to the dramatic eventfulness that characterizes Hentzs novel and Carys interconnected short stories, Cozzenss and Coffi ns sketches present everyday suburban life episodically and without artistic finish. The picturesque is more than a trait of the setting in their fiction; it influences the form of the narrative as well. The very brief first chapter of The Sparrowgrass Papers encapsulates all of these new developments. The narrative begins, It is a good thing to live in the country, yet each of the chapters five vignettes immediately contradicts this statement.52 The narrator, Mr.

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71 Sparrowgrass, remarks by way of further introduction, when Mrs. Sparrowgrass and I moved into the country, we found some preconceived notions had to be abandoned, and some departures made from the plans we had laid down in the little back-parlor in Avenue G ( SP 14). He recounts their initia l setbacks growing potatoes (Mrs. Sparrowgrass accidentally cooks the ones they intended to plant), raising chickens to get eggs (they buy all roosters), and protecting their garden and fruit trees from the neighbors grazing cows. Chasing one of the cows, Mr. Sparrowgrass tramples his own flowerbeds and trellises, and he notes to conclude the chapter, her owner has sued me for damages. I believe I shall move in town ( SP 18). His droll response is typical of the narratives tone. The Sparrowgrass Papers c ontinues in this vein, many times beginning a new topic with the ironic sentence It is a good thing to [insert topic] in the country before lightheartedly expressing the narrators discontent and thwarted expectations about that topic. For instance, Mr. Sparrowgrass buys a boat, but when he offers to take visitors on the water, he inevitably spends so much energy on its preparation and repair that he becomes too exhausted to handle the oars: Meanwhile, the poor guests sit on stones around the beach, with woe -begone faces ( SP 21). Similarly, an invitation to a country party causes the Sparrowgrasses to reminisce about the difficulty of entertainments in town. However, their frenzied preparations for this simple, old fashioned entertainment meet with a v ariety of impediments, climaxing when they finally are ready and waiting but the hired carriage never arrives ( SP 45). Mr. Sparrowgrasss home improvements a kitchen drainpipe, a dumb waiter, and a mechanical bedstead also lead to more trouble than conveni ence ( SP 51, 72, 215). Horticulture proves as difficult and unrewarding as suburban leisure. Mr. Sparrowgrass remains in continual conflict with his neighbors about their respective animals and crops. The locals often deceive the inexperienced city man, as when

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72 a neighbor argues that letting his cows eat most of the leaves off of Mr. Sparrowgrasss young fruit trees is helpful: the only way to have good trees is to have em chawed ( SP 26). The new suburbanite is sold a watchdog and a horse of guaranteed quality; both animals prove to be defective, causing him annoyance and further expenditures ( SP 17, 131). Mr. Sparrowgrasss discontent becomes most intense when these fiascos diminish his social standing. For instance, he overhears the village teamster sp reading news of the horses faults around the village, telling the neighbors, Sparrygrass got a hos got the heaves gotem real bad ( SP 1256). The narrator admits, I was so much ashamed, that I took a roundabout road to the stable, and instead of coming home like a fresh and gallant cavalier, on a hand gallop, I walked my purchase to the stable ( SP 126). He is equally irked by the teamsters failure to recognize the boundary of class between them: I must say, I have always disliked old Dockweeds famil iarity; he presumes too much upon my good nature, when he calls me Sparrygrass before ladies at the depot, and by my Christian name always on the Sabbath, when he is dressed up ( SP 1256). After all, even the duplicitous man who sold Mr. Sparrowgrass the deficient horse addressed him as squire. The teamsters insult is later repeated, says the narrator, when old Dockweed laid his mitten upon my elbow, with a familiarity that might be excusable in a small village, but which was by no means as respectful in a village so extensive as our village ( SP 199). This imprecision indicates Mr. Sparrowgrasss difficulty differentiating the genteel suburb from the rough-mannered country. He feels shame again, for instance, when visitors arrive from the city and the pitiful reality of his garden does not live up to his bragging (SP 40). Far from meeting the suburban ideal, living in the country threatens his sense of distinction.

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73 Despite the negative impression the narrator gives of his new home and social position Mr. Sparrowgrass is undoubtedly a bourgeois suburbanite. Prior to building his suburban house, he consulted Andrew Jackson Downings work on rural architecture ( SP 240). The Sparrowgrasses moved to Yonkers, and the husband commutes by train to New York C ity, leaving early and arriving home at dusk ( SP 27, 76, 183, 187). Mr. Sparrowgrass appears to live a life of leisure and retirement because he is a professional writer, and his current project is The Sparrowgrass Papers He has financial means, since they retain a servant girl ( SP 69), and more significantly, he expresses a certain lack of concern about material goods and money. He rejoices when his embarrassing horse is stolen, for example, even though he bought it for more than it was worth ( SP 151). In another case, after a neighbors pigs trample his pea crop, and then one gets into the house and wreaks havoc during a party, Mr. Sparrowgrass blithely asks his wife, Why should we repine about trifles? If we want early peas we can buy them, and as for t he vase, flowers, and confectionary, they would have been all over with, by this time, if the pigs had not been here ( SP 93). Though their economic security keeps the various fiascoes from ever seriously troubling the family, it does not prevent him from often feeling ashamed, inconvenienced, and dissatisfied. It is the beauty of rural nature, not the independence derived from wealth, that makes the Sparrowgrasses begin to love the country more and more ( SP 59). This sentiment is voiced in the context o f an appreciation of their first winter in the country: To see a noble forest wreathed in icy gems, is one of the transcendental glories of creation. You look through long arcades of iridescent light, and the vision has an awful majesty, compared with whi ch the most brilliant cathedral windows pale their ineffectual fires. It is the crystal palace of Jehovah! Within its sounding aisles a thought even of the city seems irreverent ( SP 589). Similar passages record

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74 every new season, major weather events, an d other natural wonders of the country. On the surface, he seems to concur with Hentzs and Carys disparagement of the city and alignment of nature with the Christian God. His writing also shares an apparent affinity with Transcendentalism. Cozzens repeat edly expresses what seems to be a Thoreauvian belief in the tonic of wildness, as when Sparrowgrass remarks, Thank Heaven for this great privilege, that our little ones go to school in the country. Not in the narrow streets of the city; not over the fli nty pavements; not amid the crush of crowds, and the din of wheels. Learning a thousand lessons city children never learn; getting nature by heart and treasuring up in their little souls the beautiful stories written in Gods great picture -book ( SP 184).53 Nevertheless, I would argue that, far from positioning rural nature against urban immorality or conventionality, Cozzens understands nature as the supreme luxury of living in the country, suburbias most reliable way of providing social distinction. As the picture -book image implies, natures value lies in its potential for aestheticization, or more precisely its picturesqueness. In the passages above, he evaluates country and city through sensory experience: iridescence, reverberating silence, an d extensiveness are superior to pallor, din, and narrowness. Accordingly, his writing about nature is more voluminous and detailed than either Hentzs or Carys. Suburban horticulture and landscaping may be difficult to develop and maintain, but not the wi lderness. Cozzenss description of a rainstorm demonstrates how indebted his concept of suburban nature is to the picturesque aesthetic. He writes: The Palisades stared up in the gloom, as their precipitous masses were revealed by the flashes of unearthly light that played through the rolling clouds. The river before us, flecked with snow, stretched away to the north, where it lay partly in sunshine, under a blue sky, dappled with fleecy vapors. Inland, the trees were twisted in attitudes strikingly picture sque and novel; the scud flew before the blast like spray, and below it the swells and slopes of livid green had an aspect so

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75 unusual that it seemed as if I had been transported into a strange place a far countrie. Our cottage, too, which I had planned and built, changed its walls to stark, staring white, with window panes black as ink. From room to room Mrs. Sparrowgrass flitted like a phantom, closing the sashes, and making all secure. Then the electric prattled overhead for a moment, and wound up with a roar like the explosion of a stone quarry. Then a big drop fell and rolled itself up in a globule of dust in the path; then another another another. Then I bethought me of my new straw hat, and retreated into the house, and then it rained! Reader, did you ever see rain in the country? I hope you have; my pen is impotent; I cannot describe it. ( SP 334) The rain has a sublime quality, similar to the awful majesty of the wintertime forest, yet only Mrs. Sparrowgrass feels anything approaching Burkean horror On the contrary, the narrator blithely tarries until the last moment in his customary reverie, so that he may capture the entire event in this sketch. In other words, the aesthetic value of the event takes precedence over the experience of sublimity. Mr. Sparrowgrasss rhetorical denial of artistry he spends a few pages detailing this indescribable weather is also consonant with the picturesque. More importantly, the remark serves to endorse an unmediated encounter with nature. A mere description by someo ne else will not suffice; one must live in the country in order to experience the everyday changes and create ones own art. Mr. Sparrowgrasss growing appreciation of rural natures aesthetic value partially explains his increasing love for life in the co untry. I interpret his references to God as similarly rhetorical: Cozzens demonstrates none of Carys belief that nature represents an alternative set of values, a morality at odds with capitalism. Instead, he makes the conventional association between nat ure and the divine, it seems, in order to advertise the superlative quality of the scenery. Mr. Sparrowgrass further inflates this landscapes value through seemingly offhanded references to John Frederick Kensett of the Hudson River School as well as to W ashington Irvings recently published Wolferts Roost (SP 48). The Sparrowgrass family is elated to discover that the famous author has mentioned our village once or twice; and the

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76 beloved Nepperhan river rolls along, no longer a dumb feeder of mill -ponds but a legended stream. A touch of Irvings quill, and lo, it is immortal! ( SP 64). Irving lends Yonkers literary distinction, which benefits both Cozzens and Mr. Sparrowgrass. A closely related way in which Cozzens attempts to make suburbia more distinctive is by adopting the literary form of the sketch. Sketching, as opposed to trained drawing, was a relatively stable sign of gentility among the landed gentry in Britain until the late eighteenth century.54 Around that time, sketching became associated with both romanticism and the picturesque: Hasty brushwork and shading, broken lines, roughness, and irregularity thus invite viewers to think in terms of either the artists spontaneous and authentic feelings or the naturalistic and dynamic render ing of landscape.55 Partly through these associations, the visual and verbal sketch became a way for the middle class to redefine its identity and challenge the authority of the landed gentry: Richard C. Sha states, the rising middle class would in the course of the next century appropriate the sketch and its ability to confer truth and nobility upon the artist for its own ends.56 When the sketch migrated to the U.S., it was put to a similar use. Washington Irving was the first important American sketch w riter, and his modern tourist Geoffrey Crayon instructed the young nation about the value of travel and the picturesque.57 Irving, according to Kristie Hamilton, condensed into the brevity of the sketch activities that would actually require a prohibitiv e amount of time and money.58 She concludes, The aspiration to leisure that was a mark of the middle class was thus inscribed in the genre, as Irving executed it.59 In other words, sketching could serve as another strategy for bourgeois distinction, not u nlike sincerity and sentiment, domesticity, and suburbia.60 Cozzenss invocation of Irving seems no mere coincidence. The Sparrowgrass Papers are referred to as sketches by their fictional author ( SP 30), and I believe Cozzens chooses this

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77 genre as a way to further demonstrate the suburban privilege of aestheticizing everyday life. The sketch form, at least in its early nineteenth century incarnation, emphasizes its status as amateur or artless art, performed by a person of leisure. For instance, in the beginning of one of Irvings pieces in The Sketch -Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820), the narrator belabors how he was loitering and lolling through the British Museum in an idle way, feeling listlessness and languid curiosity, until he chanc ed to blunder upon a scene.61 Irving assumes this casual posture in order to deflect criticism from his work and to stake out his own originality. Although Crayon apologizes for ignoring the conventional landmarks of Europe sought by the regular travele r, he expresses pride that never need an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of natural scenery.62 Similarly, Mr. Sparrowgrass learns not to become upset or disgruntled by the many difficulties that attend living in the coun try, because one of the distinctive luxuries of suburbia is his freedom to make light of his misadventures, to step outside his experiences so to speak and record them in art hence the suggestiveness of the term retirement to describe suburban life. Though his many amateurish failures seem to impede his leisure, they are actually proof of it, particularly when he adopts an ironic, sarcastic, self -deprecating attitude. The unfinished, fragmentary quality of the sketchbook form and especially the abrupt top ical shifts that Cozzens makes complement this sensibility. I quoted Robinson earlier as saying, To tolerate some irregularity, to risk withholding complete control means that the Picturesque depends on a preexisting condition of plenitude. The same hold s true for the Irvingesque sketch. To put it another way, Mr. Sparrowgrass can afford to laugh at his mistakes, especially because they prove that he is not a villager, that he is middle class.

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78 This conversion of some of the ostensible defects of life in the country into merits is the accommodation that Cozzens reaches with suburbia. The Sparrowgrass Papers ends once this process is complete. Reflecting on living in the country, Mr. Sparrowgrass declares to his wife, I have had my say about it. I begin to feel that the first impressions, the novelty, the freshness, incident to change from city to country are wearing away. Do you not see it with very different eyes from those you first brought with you out of the city? ( SP 2445). He goes on to assess the advantages and disadvantages of each place, and this long final chapter provides the most thorough account of everyday life in early bourgeois suburbia that exists in fiction. In doing so, he observes that the family has better learned how to keep ho use, cultivate a garden, and so forth. He also admits that his preconceived notions have been abandoned: It must be confessed that turnpike roads are not always avenues of happiness; that distance, simply contemplated from a railroad depot, does not lend enchantment to the view of a load of furniture travelling up hill through a hearty rainstorm; that communion with the visible forms of nature, now and then, fails to supply us with the requisite amount of mild and healing sympathy; that a rustic cottage may be overflowing with love, and yet overflowed with water; that, in fine, living in the country rarely fulfils at once the idea of living in clover. ( SP 251 2) Whereas Hentz and Cary propose that suburbias success requires the bourgeoisie to make a mora l adjustment, Cozzens recommends a more practical one of diminished expectations, looking for distinction not through material conveniences, idyllic recreation, or social standing but rather through aestheticized nature, humor, and the symbolic sacrifice o f suburban luxuries. Cozzens concludes by contrasting the Sparrowgrassess experience with the pastoral ideal: Once understood that life in the country does not imply exemption from all the cares and business of ordinary life; that happiness, here as else where, is only a glimpse between the clouds; one can then properly appreciate suburbia ( SP 254).63

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79 Published a decade later, Robert Barry Coffins Out of Town: A Rural Episode (1866) is quite derivative of Cozzens book. Coffin repeats several of the very same reasons for discontent with suburban life, and he reaches a comparable accommodation through sketching. Even his narrator and protagonist, Mr. Gray, closely resembles Mr. Sparrowgrass. Having become thoroughly disenchanted with town life, Mr. Gray d ecides to move out of New York City, despite his wifes apprehensions.64 He complains of [t]en years spent amid brick walls and street flagging, without getting, in all that time, a whiff of country air, or a sight of a blade of grass, save what the city parks afforded, but he also notes that they leave because house rents in town had increased enormously ( OT 1). Sensory pleasure and economy, along with the health of his wife and children, are his reasons for relocating to the village of Fordham, a quie t, unpretentious little place, nestled on and among the hills, with sundry picturesque houses, and an air of thrift pervading its people that was delightful to witness. It is poetic ground, too; for here Poe once lived, and Drake wrote charmingly of the li ttle river, the Bronx, which flows through its precincts ( OT v). The move allows the Grays to maintain the economic status that the expensive city compromises and through means beyond lower rents. My publishers want another book of mine, Mr. Gray inform s his wife, and so Ill write an account of our life in the country, from spring until mid -winter, and they shall publish it under the title of Out of Town (OT vii). Yet again, the city threatens the middle classs position, but the aesthetic and liter ary qualities of bourgeois suburbia come to the rescue. Like Mr. Rovington, Mr. Harmstead, and Mr. Sparrowgrass, Mr. Gray demonstrates a thorough familiarity with Victorian suburban ideology. He describes the various places he considered before settling upon Fordham as suburban retreats, an observation that reflects how the bourgeois form began to achieve widespread recognition and growth after the Civil War ( OT

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80 2). Mr. Gray calls the house they move into Woodbine Cottage, from the fact that a woodbine, or, after all, it may be a honeysuckle, grows about the front veranda ( OT 8). Like the vines on the Rovingtons cottage in Lovells Folly the plant symbolizes rural domesticity, though his potential misidentification of it reveals the relative importa nce to Mr. Gray of actually experiencing and knowing nature in comparison to acquiring its conventional imagery. In the same manner, Mr. Gray establishes a garden, which provides him with food but more importantly with an opportunity for leisure: I find m yself continually seeking reasonable excuses for not going into town every day. While I was engaged in planting my half acre garden, I had no difficulty in the matter. I had decided to do all the work myself, and therefore, it was really necessary fo r me to stay at home to accomplish it. To be sure, after working an hour or two of a morning, under the hot sun, I found it agreeable to my feelings to retire within the house and take a long nooning of five or six hours, relieving the tedium of the time w ith a book, an iced punch, a saucer of strawberries and cream, and a cigar. In this way I managed to make a good many working holidays for myself. I saved, too, to some extent, my hands from being as blistered as they would have been had I worked steadily on the twelve hours rule. ( OT 13) Even this minimal exertion proves too much labor for Mr. Gray, so he hires a gardener. He admits, although my intentions were good in regard to doing all the work myself, after the first day I relinquished the greater pa rt of the labor to an older hand than mine, and with very gratifying results, as my table, which is chiefly supplied with vegetables of my own raising, sufficiently attests ( OT 14). In this exemplary episode, Coffins humor resembles Cozzens, though Mr. Gray appears less conscious of his foibles than the self deprecating Mr. Sparrowgrass. We also witness a similar effort to convert the signs of rural living into bourgeois status: Mr. Gray claims as his own the products, which are cheaper and fresher than I could get them in town, while keeping his hands clean ( OT 14). Mr. Gray finds life out of town to be more difficult than he anticipated, and as in The Sparrowgrass Papers the country rather than the city becomes the principal cause of

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81 indistinction fo r the remainder of the book. Several motifs are repeated from that previous work: the neighbors cows make their way into the Grays garden and eat all the tender shoots ( OT 9). Mr. Gray buys a goat that is reminiscent of Mr. Sparrowgrasss horse. The goat, Mr. Gray says, now eats off my turnip-tops and otherwise makes itself an annoyance, until it escapes its pen, devours a neighbors cabbage crop, and gets impounded something that never seems to happen to his neighborss vagrant animals ( OT 69). His w ife has similar luck with chickens: every one of the fowls that Mrs. Gray bought proved to be of the masculine gender ( OT 18). Furthermore, when word spreads among the country folks that the Grays are looking to buy hens, it was as if Barnum were openin g a new poultry show ( OT 16). Scores of locals come eager to sell, and some become irritable when their offers are declined. One woman, says Mr. Gray, claims she had come ten miles, in the broiling sun, to sell me those fowls, and that it was nt treatin g her decently to refuse to buy them, and she threatens to get even with him ( OT 16). Haggling with the locals sometimes overwhelms the new suburbanites, who for a short time receive milk from three separate milkmaids ( OT 9), while two different ice men deliver a hundred pounds of ice daily ( OT 11). Mr. Gray feels shamed, as Mr. Sparrowgrass did, during such interactions with his social inferiors. For instance, the family retains a maid -of all -work, and to Mr. Grays displeasure she makes fun of the small size of Woodbine Cottage ( OT 3). The familys two appliances, a refrigerator and a heater, are almost inconveniences, being nearly too large to move into the cottage ( OT 7). As the enormous heater sits outside day after day, passersby began to cast ridicule at both the heater and the owner, and the boys took to pelting it with green apples from the neighboring orchard. One man, indeed, had the audacity to ask me what I intended to do with my elephant. If he had not been a particular friend of mine, I should have knocked him down

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82 (OT 8). Their attempts at leisure are also plagued by embarrassing mishaps, as when the entire family including the baby and its nurse goes out to picnic at the Bronx River, where the novice angler Mr. Gray intends to fish (OT 28). Despite being warned by the village fool that rain is imminent, he persists in getting the family and his excess of fishing gear down to the river, where he proceeds to have many misadventures, including breaking one rod and catching his son s ear with a hook ( OT 29). Inevitably, a heavy shower ruins the picnic lunch. These episodes are all occasions for humor at Mr. Grays expense, though he maintains a cheerful disposition, lecturing his family pedantically about the new wisdom they have ga ined. The beauty of rural nature helps to compensate for the misfortunes and disappointments of suburban life, yet Mr. Grays bourgeois aestheticism also serves as another target for gentle mockery. For instance, he expounds: At this season it is a luxury to be out -of -doors; and whether it be early in the morning while the dew still jewels the grass, at noontide when the sun shines warmly, or at twilight when the stars begin to glimmer, the open fields, the mazy orchards, and the silent woods possess charm s for the thoughtful and observant mind ( OT 71). Mr. Gray continues to wax poetic about apples ripening and grapes growing purple on their vines, but his discourse is brought up short when his own little boy asked, where are the apples and the grapes? (OT 72). Mr. Grays attention to nature and the seasons is less intense than Mr. Sparrowgrasss, and he never seems to master living in the country to the same degree. Despite the continually lighthearted tone of Coffins writing, a subtle uneasiness or bitterness seems to percolate through the narrative. I sense that all is not well with the Grays marriage, and that Mr. Gray is more discontented about suburban domestic life than his gentlemanly behavior would lead one to believe. In order to explore t his possibility, I must first consider Coffins employment of the sketch form, because the sketch far more than the

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83 picturesque concept of nature provides Mr. Gray his means of accommodation with suburbia. Mr. Gray uses the term sketch to describe his wr iting ( OT 14), and indeed Out of Town demonstrates many similarities to the Irvingesque sketch, especially in the digressions that begin to dominate the narrative about halfway through the book. Just as Irvings Sketch -Book jumps from contemporary England to old Dutch New York, from German folktales to plain unvarnished tale[s] of colonial -era Native Americans, Coffins Out of Town unexpectedly shifts settings from suburban Fordham to Utopia, as Mr. Gray regales his children with tales of his other, imagi nary family that lives there.65 These stories are Christmas Nights Entertainments that feature Mr. Gray celebrating the holiday in Utopia, and they include a story within a story that he tells to his Utopian children ( OT 228). Coffins reference to Santa Claus indicates Irvings influence, as does the use of the embedded narrative, a device Irving borrowed from The Arabian Nights Whereas Mr. Sparrowgrass uses sketching as a way to find the good in suburbia, Mr. Gray uses the form as a means of escapin g his everyday life. Not only does he vividly render his imaginary wife Ruth and daughters Mary and Fanny, but within the Utopian story he also reminisces about his true love from boyhood, Louise. For eight years, he claims, she was the sunshine of my days, the starlight of my nights until she died, and he incorporates into the text a sentimental poem honoring her ( OT 253). Mr. Grays attention is often absorbed by women other than his wife, such as his young literary friend who frequents Woodbine Cotta ge to discuss her writing. An explanation for such behavior may be found in another series of digressive tales, which concern a Captain Timothy Coffin who lived long ago. That Robert Barry Coffin, the author of Out of Town creates a character that shares his last name only adds another confusion to the books already convoluted series of digressions. The story of the captain begins with a

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84 description of his house, which was the prettiest in the neighborhood due to the efforts of the captains wife Sally: Such extraordinary scrubbing and cleaning as she kept up throughout the week, was enough to drive a poor man, who loved retirement and quiet, quite crazy. Mondays and Saturdays were her great days, wherein she celebrated her love for cleanliness with mor e ardor and devotion than she was wont to celebrate the anniversary of her marriage ( OT 272). Mr. Gray then tells his children, Indeed, my little ones, such an exemplary housekeeper is seldom to be found nowadays. Here I looked at Mrs. Gray, who, without looking up from her crocheting, simply said, she should hope so ( OT 272). Such interruptions and subtle provocations occur throughout Out of Town, often when Mrs. Gray questions her husbands romanticized notions about suburban life. Mr. Gray goes on to tell that the house was owned and occupied by a jolly little man by the name of Timothy Coffin; though, to tell the truth, Tim was a mere cipher in his household, as meek and patient as a lamb, though out -of -doors Captain Tim was as bold as a lion, and feared no man ( OT 273). The cipher image is fitting, since he retired from the sea and now spends much of his time telling stories to his child which sounds like Mr. Grays own domestic and literary life. Mr. Gray makes a casual comment about the captain s love of a mug of ale or good brandy. He may well be an alcoholic, since in many sketches he makes similarly enthusiastic comments about drinking, and he drinks to demonstrate his leisure and artistic temperament, yet his wife abstains and seems crit ical of his habit ( OT 273). The criticism of domesticity and women continues: The greatest plague to Captain Tim was his wifes tongue, says Mr. Gray, who then repeats a saying he heard that the reason monkeys do not talk, is, that they may not work; bu t many women, on the contrary, talk twice as much, just because they work ( OT 274). Interrupting, Mrs. Gray accuses him of the worst libel against women she has

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85 ever heard ( OT 275). This accusation is repeated when he generalizes about women often ignorin g their domestic duties to keep up with fashion ( OT 277). Mr. Grays story, bogging down in this contradictory criticism, takes a strange turn as his focus shifts from the jolly old captain and his chiding wife to their daughter Ruth, an idealized pre tty little maiden with a most loving heart ( OT 2767). The amount of detail given to describing the girls beauty and virtue is suggestive, considering that Ruth is also the name of Mr. Grays Utopian wife. At this point, the narration begins to seem a little schizophrenic, as the stories, the characters, and the author begin to blur together. Incidentally, Out of Town was published by Robert Barry Coffin under the pseudonym of Barry Gray. Confusion and diversion may be among Coffins reasons for adopting the sketch form, since these kaleidoscopic digressions and overlaps, as well as the shifts from present to past and reality to fantasy, allow him to avoid the topic of suburbia. Indeed, Out of Town concludes abruptly with the marriage of a different C aptain Coffin, this one a second or third cousin of Mr. Gray ( OT 294). The captain, settling down after his final voyage, marries the old woman from whom Mr. Gray bought the goat she turning out to have been the captains sweetheart thirty years ago. No final reflections on the Gray familys suburban experience are provided, only these odd reiterations of the themes of wistful love and retirement. Out of Town ends on a much different note than The Sparrowgrass Papers does, despite beginning as a virtual i mitation of that book. Cozzens concludes with an affirmation of male domesticity, as Mrs. Sparrowgrass declares, I have so much to be thankful for, that the children are so strong and hardy; that we keep such good hours; and that you have grown to be so domestic, at which her husband smiles in agreement ( SP 245). Mr. Gray, by contrast, attempts to lose himself and his readers in his labyrinthine narration, yet his resentment of middle -class suburban domesticity infuses even his

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86 tallest tales. In this rega rd, Out of Town provides a hint of the future of the suburban subgenre, in the domestic strife that will become a staple of the twentieth -century novel. I t Wanted the Atmosphere of Sentimental Association : Howells Both Cozzens and Coffin employ the pic turesque aesthetic and the sketch form, as well as humor and an artist protagonist narrator, in their efforts to construct a middle -class suburban identity in fiction, though these elements work somewhat differently in each text. They prefer to compose rep resentative scenes of everyday life over singular, dramatic events in order to familiarize their readers with the suburban experience. In other words, by episodically portraying the mishaps of new suburbanites, The Sparrowgrass Papers and Out of Town help set appropriate expectations about the new environment. Interpreted this way, the sketchbooks perform something like the settlement function that Amy Kaplan observes taking place in William Dean Howellss A Hazard of New Fortunes The notion of settleme nt, a way of conceptualizing urban class differences, has two related meanings: to make the city knowable and inhabitable by the middle classes and to subdue the citys unsettling foreign forces.66 Howellss Suburban Sketches (1871) could perhaps be inter preted as another attempt at settlement, but this work differs from previous sketchbooks as well as his own later urban fiction in several important ways. Despite the title, his sketchbook really performs a literary mapping of Boston. The fictitious suburb of Charlesbridge mainly provides a starting point from which to explore the city, just as his suburbanite protagonist narrator provides the point of view. Howells does not describe Charlesbridge in much detail, while suburban domestic life remains pract ically invisible. He finds large -scale urban spectacles such as a public exhibition and the theatre much more fascinating than suburban landscapes or rural nature. He comes closest to addressing something like suburban culture in the sketches about the hor se -car

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87 phenomenon and a recreational trip that his suburbanites take. Indeed, the book would be more accurately titled Sketches by a Suburbanite Just as Howellss Charlesbridge is less knowable of a community to borrow Raymond Williams phrase than are Co zzens Yonkers, Coffins Fordham, or even the New York City of A Hazard of New Fortunes for that matter, so does Howellss understanding of suburban distinction differ from that of his predecessors. His main concern is about the suburbs lack of picturesqu eness and romance. Their absence results for him in its unnarratability and thus his turn to Boston. For Howells, middle -class status is tied first and foremost to an ability to be entertained and to sentimentality. In other words, aestheticism is not mere ly a substitute means of distinction, as was the case in The Sparrowgrass Papers and Out of Town but the only operative one for Howells. The suburb and its residents simply do not provide the material for such experiences, so his attention is drawn to the urban poor, ethnic immigrants, and racial minorities that exist at the edges of suburbia. The unnamed narrator -protagonist of most of the sketches, who may likely be Howells himself and is a professional writer like his two predecessors, desires to conver t his encounters with vagabonds, ethnic ghettos, and displaced domestic artifacts into picturesque diversions.67 Though he succeeds on occasion, the sketches more often than not conclude in frustration and pessimism, because he discovers disturbing signs of social change and gritty realities that hinder his imagination. The plotless, ephemeral quality of some of Howellss sketches, along with the unusual obscurity of his suburbanite characters, further intimate a sense of failure. Like the two previous ske tchbooks, Suburban Sketches begins with a newly arrived family, and Howells seems prepared to follow their domestic adventures, making light of their difficulties through sarcasm: It was on a morning of the lovely New England May that we left

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88 the horse -ca r, and, spreading our umbrellas, walked down the street to our new home in Charlesbridge, through a storm of snow and rain so finely blent by the influences of this fortunate climate, that no flake knew itself from its sister drop, or could be better ident ified by the people against whom they beat in unison ( SS 11). This first sentence already reveals a few important differences between this and the other texts. Howellss suburbanites are rarely more distinguishable than the flakes, the narrator employing we when speaking for the anonymous, undisclosed family. They will remain at the center of the narrative and yet curiously absent from it. The failure of the snow to demonstrate its usual whiteness could also be symbolic, because race and ethnicity will p reoccupy Howells far more than any other writer in this group except Hentz. The narrator next provides a first impression of the landscapes peculiar cheerfulness, and again we are given hints as to where his attentions will fall: Here and there in the vacant lots abandoned hoop -skirts defied decay; and near the half -finished wooden houses, empty mortar -beds, and bits of lath and slate strewn over the scarred and mutilated ground, added their interest to the scene ( SS 11). Meanwhile, the struggling vegetation receives only a rare, obligatory mention. The term scene will be repeated throughout the sketches, a signal of the narrators readiness to discover the picturesque, though it will not be found in rustic nature. The familys initial assessment of suburbia reveals their predictably faulty expectations: Charlesbridge appeared to us as a kind of Paradise, says the narrator, adding, [w]e were living in the country with the conveniences and luxuries of the city about us ( SS 12). Nonetheless, much of the book is dedicated to exploring the inconveniences of living on the frontier ( SS 13). Howells briefly alludes to some by now predictable irritations, including the noisy cows and their youthful tenders who eye the suburbanites pears, the chickens and bad weather that ruin

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89 their play garden, and the general lack of excitement: It was very quiet; we called one another to the window if a large dog went by our door ( SS 13). Despite these signs of rural life, one could not confuse this streetcar subur b with the country. All around us carpenters were at work building new houses, notes the narrator, while passing trains shake the house and a horse -car irregularly stops on their street ( SS 14). Another of these annoyances associated more with city life supplies the topic for the first sketch: the trouble of finding domestic help. Unlike the Sparrowgrasses or the Grays, Howellss suburbanites actually appreciate their initial maid, Jenny, but she only stays until September, quitting due to the lack of st reet lighting, which made her fearful of traveling at night ( SS 15). When the young housekeeper goes to an intelligence office in the city and inquires whether anyone would care to do housework in Charlesbridge, there came from the maids invoked so loud so fierce, so full a No! as shook the ladys heart with indescribable shame and dread ( SS 16). Being identified with the suburb suddenly becomes a matter of reproach, yet the narrator just as quickly shifts from pathos to sarcasm, realizing the dull conventionality of this teacup tragedy: Any one who looks upon this page could match it with a tale as full of heartbreak and disaster, while I conceive that, in hastening to speak of Mrs. Johnson, I approach a subject of unique interest ( SS 17). Mrs. Johnson, who provides the sketch its name, is African-American, and the novelty of her race in a middle -class suburban context promises to fulfill the specific needs of both Howells and his characters. He writes, A Lybian longing took us, and we would hav e chosen, if we could, to bear a strand of grotesque beads, or a handful of brazen gauds, and traffic them for some sable maid with crisped locks, whom, uncoffling from the captive train beside the desert, we should make to do our general housework forever through the right of lawful purchase. But

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90 we knew that this was impossible, and that, if we desired colored help, we must seek it at the intelligence office, which is in one of those streets chiefly inhabited by the orphaned children and grandchildren of slavery ( SS 18). The rhetorical shift between these two sentences emphasizes just what the family and the writer find so interesting about Mrs. Johnson. Hiring her allows them to assume the position of master and fulfill a racist desire for power, but mo re importantly they buy a familiarity with her that enables the free play of their imaginations, as the desert fantasy demonstrates. In other words, her colorful foreignness could provide the aesthetic material that their indistinguishable white suburb n eeds in order to become interesting and literary. Bringing Mrs. Johnson into suburbia reverses the trend of metropolitan segregation that Howells observes in his discussion of the different ethnic quarters of the city. In fact, the family chooses an Afri can -American based on their perceptions of the different parts of Boston. An air not so much of decay as of unthrift, and yet hardly of unthrift, seems to prevail in the [African American] neighborhood, which has none of the aggressive and impudent squalo r of an Irish quarter, and none of the surly wickedness of a low American street. A gayety not born of the things that bring its serious joy to the true New England heart a ragged gayety, which comes of summer in the blood ( SS 20). This racial essentialis m, along with memories of the recent institution of slavery, convinces the suburbanites that Mrs. Johnson will remain appropriately unthreatening and furthermore provide them with entertainment through her picturesque juxtaposition with the white middle -cl ass suburb. Mrs. Johnson becomes their ideal domestic, since she loves to cook for them and imparts something original and authentic mingled with the accustomed flavors ( SS 21). More importantly, her person provides the narrator with pages of material, as he expounds on the

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91 topics of her mixed ancestry, her childlike tastes and savage love of sweets, her turban and mystical swathings, and her gold -bowed spectacles of massive frame ( SS 223). Mrs. Johnsons purpose becomes explicit when the narra tor remarks, she most pleasured our sense of beauty and moral fitness when, after the last pan was washed and the last dish was scraped, she lighted a potent pipe, and, taking her stand at the kitchen door, laded the soft evening air with its pungent odor s ( SS 22). Her labor, race, and personal habits all provide the suburbanites with distinction, in part by drawing attention away from their own boring middle -class conventionality. When Mrs. Johnsons son Hippolyto Thucydides visits, he disrupts the subu rbanites pleasure, or as the narrator tellingly puts it, the presence of Thucydides in our kitchen unaccountably oppressed our imaginations ( SS 32). He is a liminal figure like his mother, yet her opposite in many ways: He was a heavy and loutish youth standing upon the borders of boyhood, and looking forward to the future with a vacant and listless eye ( SS 31). Where his mothers thoughts dwell mostly on her past, Thucydides seems to suffer from thwarted ambitions. He refuses to stay in the city, run ning away from his boarding house constantly during the summer to visit his mother. Yet he does not conventionally fit into suburbia either, because he neither works nor lives there. Most strikingly, Thucydides prefers to lie half inside the house, balanc ed perhaps in homage to us, and perhaps as a token of extreme sensibility in himself upon the low window -sill, the bottoms of his boots touching the floor inside, and his face buried in the grass without ( SS 31 2). Whereas Mrs. Johnson charmingly stands f ramed by the doorway smoking her pipe, continuing to serve them as a picturesque dessert herself so to speak, her son provides an affront through his unaesthetic inactivity.

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92 Thucydides is threatening and disruptive like the Irish, not docile and aesthetic as the suburbanites believe African -Americans should be. As the narrator says: We beheld him all over the house, a monstrous eidolon, balanced upon every windowsill; and he certainly attracted unpleasant notice to our place ( SS 32). The suburbanites try to manage him by claiming he shares his mothers primitive nature, though she informs them of his industry, his courage, and his talent, claiming that there was no one so agreeable in society, or so quick -witted in affairs ( SS 32). This description of the young mans qualities makes him a potential parody of the white middle -class suburbanites. The family decides that he must go, and the sketch ends abruptly with Mrs. Johnson remorsefully quitting their service. If Mrs. Johnson serves as an exception that proves the rule of suburban exclusivity, then Thucydides, with his offensive inclination for suburban life, spoils the possibility of picturesque mixture. The next two sketches repeat Howellss themes, contrasting Bostons Italian vagabonds with the Irish residents of the Dublin community. The narrator admits, we Northern and New World folk cannot help but cast a little romance about whoever comes to us from Italy, whether we have actually known the beauty and charm of that land or not ( SS 45) The various Italian beggars, organ grinders, and scissors grinders who appear at his door could be considered nuisances, yet he finds them enjoyable because of the diversions these immigrants offer indeed, this sketch begins a trend of drifting away from the topic of suburbia that will only become more pronounced. Although the Italians are all impoverished and homeless, their need to elicit his goodwill through pleasantry allows him to imagine their lives as he wishes: I feel that they only pretend a dis gust with it, and that they really like organ -grinding, if for no other reason than that they are the children of the summer, and it takes them into the beloved open weather ( SS 35). Recording the appearance and habits of one peddler, he nonchalantly rema rks, she, too, has had

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93 her troubles, what troubles I do not remember ( SS 46). Like Mrs. Johnson, these doorstep acquaintances are liminal yet nonthreatening, allowing the suburbanite to purchase the rights of familiarity. One organ grinder, he says, s ketches me the story of his life as part of their exchange, going so far as to perform the narrators aesthetic work for him ( SS 48). The necessary relationship between class and the suburbanites romanticism is made more explicit when he interacts with a Civil War veteran who, despite begging for work, was not lacking in the fine instincts of personal cleanliness, of dress, of style ( SS 55). One of the suburbanites domestics accidentally takes the vagabond for a gentleman and leads him into the parlo r, to the amusement of all. The narrator remarks: We all know how pleasant it is to laugh at people behind their backs; but this veteran afforded me at a very low rate the luxury of a fellow being whom one might laugh at to his face as much as one liked (SS 56). As in the case of Hentzs suburbanites wearing the clothes of farmers, the transgression of the suburban class boundary in this comical way actually reinforces social differences. Yet such encounters can quickly sour for the patronizing suburbanit e as soon as the tacit rules of behavior are not followed. The sketch ends when the narrator makes fun of the veterans desire for a home, asking why the man does not get married. The veteran, who has suffered a mysterious wound, smiles sadly and turns the discussion back to the work he still owes the suburbanite. At this, the narrator proclaims, A sudden and unreasonable disgust for the character which had given me so much entertainment succeeded to my past delight. I felt, moreover, that I had bought the right to use some frankness with the veteran, and I said to him: Do you know, now, that I shouldnt care if I never saw you again? ( SS 59). The homeless mans unspoken answer would make his situation unbearably stark and unaesthetic, while his unwillingness to completely surrender his dignity despite his hardships makes his presence in suburbia impossible.

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94 The Italians are charming to the suburbanite in part because they appreciate America but do not desire to live here permanently: the population of F erry Street exists but in the hope of a return, soon or late, to the native or the ancestral land ( SS 37). They are Howellss model minority, not least because most of them agree with the opinion of one Italian scissors grinder, who viewed with inexpress ible scorn those Irish who came to this country, and were so little sensible of the benefits it conferred on them ( SS 42). The Irish immigrants are the principal subject of the next sketch, titled A Pedestrian Tour. The narrator begins by disparaging wa lking for exercise, though he admits, some sort of recreation is necessary after a day spent within doors; and one is really obliged nowadays to take a little walk instead of medicine; for ones doctor is sure to have a mania on the subject ( SS 60). His protestations contain references to his class position, as does his choice of terms for his walk. Touring, like sketching, was closely allied with the picturesque aesthetic in the late nineteenth century, and the picturesque tour was a well -established lit erary genre by this point as well. According to Beth Lynne Lueck, the picturesque tour played a significant role in enabling American writers to establish a national identity, as literary descriptions of natural wonders, battlefields, and the West were u sed to promote American independence and expansionism.68 One might expect Howells to use this genre to celebrate his middle -class suburb, therefore, but his sketch instead avoids the subject for the most part, in part because he finds the uniform neatness and prettiness of the newly built houses monotonous ( SS 61). Indeed, the negative connotation of pedestrian is intentional, as he declares, I fear that I should find these rambles dull, but that their utter lack of interest amuses me, and he further a pologizes by adding, I cannot promise to be really livelier than my walk ( SS 61).

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95 As the narrator wanders the suburban fringe, he comes upon a railroad, vast brick -yards that remind him of Egypt, and a boarding house for the brickworks French -Canadian laborers (SS 62). Each of these encounters provides fodder for his imagination and memory. These nearby sites hold exotic associations for him, yet trains, brick edifices, and industrial workers literally support and sustain his suburban world. The Irish settlement disrupts his tour, because prejudice and fear color his observations, disallowing what he sees to affirm his worldview, particularly his notion of a natural hierarchy of races. Commenting on the large number of Irish children in the streets, he declares, such increase shall together with the well known ambition of Dubliners to rule the land one day make an end of us poor Yankees as a dominant plurality ( SS 68). He also bemoans the lack of care the Irish give to the old Yankee houses they inhabi t. Howells describes one such farmhouse with a flourish of genteel rhetoric: Its gate is thrown down, and the great wild -grown lilac hedge, no longer protected by a fence, shows skirts bedabbled by the familiarity of lawless poultry, as little like the steady -habited poultry of other times, as the people of the house are like the former inmates ( SS 69). This outlook disables the suburbanites aestheticism, as when he views mourners at an Irish graveyard and reflects, I was now merely touched as a human being, and had little desire to turn the scene to literary account. I could not help feeling that it wanted the atmosphere of sentimental association, the whole background was blank or worse than a blank ( SS 66). His expression seems odd, since the wailing Irish woman there is intensely emotional, but by sentimental association the narrator seems to mean the kind of romantic daydreaming that requires disengagement. To be picturesque or sentimental in Howellss sense is to be entertaining, supportive of n ostalgia, and most of all conforming to middle -class views. The Irish settlement is none of these.

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96 The Irish community not only frustrates the narrator as a writer, but it directly assaults the suburban effort at distinction which I have been suggesting a re two parts of a single process, there being as Bourdieu says no pure aesthetic free from class struggle.69 Speaking about the common nativist prejudice, the narrator divulges: We must make a jest of our own alarms, and even smile since we cannot help ou rselves at the spiritual desolation occasioned by the settlement of an Irish family in one of our suburban neighborhoods. The householders view with fear and jealousy the erection of any dwelling of less than a stated cost, as portending a possible advent of Irish; and when the calamitous race actually appears, a mortal pang strikes to the bottom of every pocket. Values tremble throughout that neighborhood, to which the new -comers communicate a species of moral dry rot. (SS 7071) Just as the residents flee at the sight of the Irish, so does the tourist, who returns to the picturesque middle -class area of Charlesbridge. On his way home, he stops at a second -hand shop, which he announces is an enchanted place to me, and I am a frequent and unprofitable cus tomer there ( SS 778). What he finds so fascinating about the stores vast collection of cast off domestic artifacts, predictably, is their strong sentimental association. The things have little commercial value, but their age lends them a romantic aura i n the artists eye. The melancholy of ruinous auction sales, of changing tastes or changing fashions, clings to them, says the suburbanite, and in his various speculations about the past lives of these pathetic objects and their previous owners, reminisc ent of Mr. Grays fantasies, we again witness the suburban compulsion to feel socially superior. The detour does not restore the equilibrium that the tour of Dublin upset. Arriving at the Avenue, a principle thoroughfare in Charlesbridge, the suburbani te declares, it is not only handsome, but probably the very dullest street in the world, and indeed he provides an uncharacteristically concise and unembellished description of its scenes ( SS 87). Returning home at dusk, he finally gives vent to his disc ontent, becoming melodramatic about the time and place

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97 that have put an end to his tour: This is in fact the hour of supreme trial everywhere, and doubtless no one but a newly accepted lover can be happy at twilight. In the city, even, it is oppressive; i n the country it is desolate; in the suburbs it is a miracle that it is ever lived through (SS 89). He ends by further condemning his new home, In town your fancy would turn to the theatres; in the country you would occupy yourself with cares of poultry or of stock; in the suburbs you can but sit upon your threshold, and fight the predatory mosquito ( SS 90). Howellss first three sketches establish the basic themes, motifs, and narrative patterns that the remainder will only further elaborate. In By H orse Car to Boston, this new mode of transportation that greatly enabled middle -class suburbanization leads the narrator to reflect upon the change of customs that it impels, specifically a decline of public gentility. The narrator remarks, I have seen a laborer or artisan rise from his place, and offer it to a lady, while a dozen well -dressed men kept theirs ( SS 95). His long discourse on the many incivilities of riding ends with the hope: Perhaps when the ladies come to vote, they will abate, with oth er nuisances, the whole business of overloaded public conveyances ( SS 98). The issue of suffrage repeatedly crops up in this sketch, perhaps because women and their reform movement represent social change and the uncertain future, much as Thucydides and t he Irish children do. Again, he seeks out the reassurance of agreeable variety, and his eye falls upon inebriate passengers, a mender of umbrellas, a peddler of soap, and a man with a beard dyed an unscrupulous purple (SS 100). Though the narrator fi nds some parts of the spectacle enjoyable, he ultimately decides that the overcrowded horse -car as an American institution is indicative of our weakness as a public, declaring it below the level of the most uncomfortable nations of the Old World ( SS 113 4).

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98 The ironically titled A Days Pleasure addresses the topic of suburban leisure. The entire family, including the baby and its nurse, travel by horse -car to the harbor to take a ferry to the Gloucester beach. They meet with minor setbacks along the way, culminating in their decision not to disembark from the boat once they finally arrive because of a slight chill in the air. Where Coffin turned the same scenario to a humorous end, swiftly piling up outrageous accidents in order to exhibit his suburba nites ineptitude, Howellss long, tedious sketch makes the same point with his characteristic blend of pathos and sarcasm. Upon hearing a brief account of the excursion, one of the suburban women who stayed at home exclaims, I dont wish to hear anything more. Thats your idea of a days pleasure, is it? I call it a days disgrace, a days miserable giving up. There, go in, go in; Im ashamed of you all. Dont let the neighbors see you, for pitys sake ( SS 158). The next pair of sketches touch most directly upon the aesthetic problems with which Howells struggles. In A Romance of Real Life, a gaunt man named Jonathan Tinker comes to the door of a Charlesbridge resident late in the evening, claiming to be a sailor just returned from a two years voyage, trying to locate his daughter who is reputed to live nearby. The protagonist, a contributor to the magazines, takes this chance encounter as proof of his embryonic theory of literary realism: This contributor had been lately thinking, whenever he turned the pages of some foolish traveller, some empty prattler of Southern or Eastern lands, where all sensation was long ago exhausted, and the oxygen has perished from every sentiment, so has it been breathed and breathed again, that nowadays the wise adventur er sat down beside his own register and waited for incidents to seek him out ( SS 172). The contributor helps the sailor canvass the neighborhood, and in learning more of Tinkers adventures rejoiced in him as an episode of real life quite as striking and complete as anything in fiction. It was literature made to

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99 his hand ( SS 181). As in previous sketches, Howells ends by mocking his suburbanites aesthetic notions as well as the literary potential of suburbia. The contributor discovers the sailor was r ecently released from a prison sentence for bigamy, that the daughter is hiding from her father, and that Tinkers cover story was likely lifted from Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. The narrator reports, However Jonathan Tinker had fa llen in his esteem as a man, he had even risen as literature. The episode which had appeared so perfect in its pathetic phases did not seem less finished as a farce ( SS 186). Yet the unrelenting desire for pathos that animates Suburban Sketches cannot be satisfied by such substitute pleasures, especially when the joke is on the suburbanite because of his inability to recognize the confidence man. The shortest sketch, simply titled Scene, most strikingly demonstrates the contributors vexed relationship w ith realism. When he hears that a young woman in the Irish community has drowned herself, that literary soul fell at once to patching himself up a romantic story for the suicide, after the pitiful fashion of this fiction -ridden age ( SS 191). The contributor cannot build up much sympathy, though, because he can only imagine the suicide in terms of the very tiresome figure of the Fallen Woman ( SS 191). He continues to fantasize about the lovers, attempting to lend the event interest, until his imagination is checked by the narrators uncharacteristic one sentence paragraph: And now they were bringing her in a wagon ( SS 193). His intrusions are silenced, and the sketch ends with an uninterrupted description of the corpses progress, offering neither a c onventional conclusion nor a definitive answer as to what compelled the suicide. This second trip to the Irish ghetto is the most unsettling moment in the sketchbook. Both Jubilee Days, concerning a massive public exposition, and Some Lessons for the School of Morals, about the theatre, make little pretense of discussing suburbia, Howells being

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100 drawn to urban spectacles instead. The main idea of Jubilee Days recapitulates that of By Horse Car to Boston. Observing the exhibition crowd of fifty thou sand people, the narrator remarks: It was as if you were a private in an army, or a very ordinary billow of the sea, feeling the battle or the storm, in a collective sort of way, but unable to distinguish your sensations from those of the mass ( SS 200). Although the grand event pleases his civic pride at first, by the end it has much the same effect on the suburbanite as his other encounters with urban diversity, producing the sarcastic pathos with which we Americans bear most oppressive and fatiguing t hings as a good joke ( SS 211). The preamble to Some Lessons for the School of Morals expresses the same outlook: Any study of suburban life would be very imperfect without some glance at that larger part of it which is spent in the painful pursuit of p leasure such as are offered at the ordinary places of public amusement; and for this reason I excuse myself for rehearsing certain impressions here which are not more directly suburban, to say the least, than those recounted in the foregoing chapter ( SS 2 20). Flitting, the final sketch of the collection, finds the suburban family packing up and moving out. I profess to have all the possible regrets for Benecia Street, now that I have left it, comments the narrator. Nevertheless, the title and tone of this piece reinforce the sense of previous sketches that the experiment in suburban living has been a failure, at least on Howellss terms ( SS 241). He does not mention whether the new house they have chosen is located in the city or the suburbs. The latt er seems more likely, given the changes that have taken place to Charlesbridge during their four year tenure, as the vacant, trash -strewn lots have transformed into freshly painted new wooden houses, and the cows have lost their pastures ( SS 2423). I doubt it is a coincidence that they flee in the face of this development, yet Howells characteristically does not address his suburbanites role in these processes or the economic

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101 aspect of their decision. Instead, the sketch vainly persists in seeking out sen timental associations. The narrator watches his daughter pack up her dollhouse, declaring: Nothing real in this world is so affecting as some image of reality, and this travesty of our own flitting was almost intolerable. I will not pretend to sentiment a bout anything else, for everything else had in it the element of self -support belonging to all actual afflictions ( SS 244). Sentimentality, understood as escapism, entertainment, and the essence of literature, cannot be sustained by suburbia. Without Glo ry of Any Kind: Beers Bunner, and Cutting The suburban fictions of Hentz, Cary, Cozzens, Coffin, and Howells demonstrate many commonalities, centered around the theme of indistinction. The nineteenth-century subgenres identity is further consolidated by the repetition of the three narrative patterns in the work of three turn of -the -century authors. Henry A. Beerss short story A Suburban Pastoral (1894) should be read as a response to or extension of Howellss sketches for many reasons. The story begin s with the protagonist Clitheroe and his friend Sproat walking for exercise, and their pedestrian tour takes them through a setting that quite resembles Howellss suburban fringe. The narrator prefaces a lengthy description of their ramble with the dispara ging comment: There is one glory of the country and another glory of the town, but there is a limbo or ragged edge between which is without glory of any kind.70 His vivid description is worth quoting at length: Hither are banished slaughter pens, chemical and oil works, glue factories, soap boilers, and other malodorous nuisances. Here are railroad shops and roundhouses, sand lots, German beer gardens, and tenement blocks. Land, which was lately sold by the acre, is now offered by the foot front; and no p iece of real estate is quite sure whether it is still part of an oil field or has become a building lot. Rural lanes and turnpikes have undergone metamorphosis into boulevards, where regulation curbstones prophesy future sidewalks, and thinly scattered l amp -posts foretell a coming population. Far out on the sandy plains the ear is startled by the tinkle of horse -car bells. Here is a smart new corner grocery in red brick, center of a

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102 growing trade, and deriving its patronage from rows of little new w ooden houses, to whose front yards and turf borders the lawn mower and the rubber hose have already given a municipal smugness. The frequent baby carriage and the swarms of children hanging upon the music of that suburban minstrel, the organ grinder, justi fy the enterprise of the grocer and the faith of the real estate speculator. On the opposite corner is a decayed farmhouse, with its cow sheds and outbuildings. (Pastoral 5 6) Despite the intervening generation between Howells and Beers, middle -class sub urbia appears nearly the same. The industrial city is inescapable, while the old countryside fades into oblivion, and a few new conveniences contrast with the disorder of development. Beers also returns to his famous predecessors obsession with aesthetici sm, romance, and sentimentality, which Beers makes the subject of his more direct, almost Juvenalian satire. As they grew familiar with this outcast region, he writes, our peripatetic philosophers found a picturesqueness in its peculiar scenery, and Sp roat even accuses Clitheroe of getting points of view from Mr. Howells Suburban Sketches (Pastoral 7). Signaling how trite and conventional the picturesque aesthetic had become by the end of the century, Sproat ridicules his friend: theres an old hen -house with the sunset shining through the laths; and theres an abandoned omnibus, and two or three red cedars, and some ducks in a puddle in the foreground, and two niggers with a scoopnet going across the middle distance. Cant you get up some fluff about that? Effet de soleil or something? Come, give us a frenzy! (Pastoral 7). Nevertheless, Beers ultimately offers nothing particularly new or different in terms of his setting, theme, or story, and his parody of Howells often reads like a simple copy. Clitheroe takes Sproats cousin Miss Venable on a sort of date to Shuttle Pond Meadow, where he had been collecting orchids. After he describes it to her as a splendid wild place, she requests to take along her drawing equipment in order to make sket ches (Pastoral 19) Sproat provides the counterpoint to these romantics, reviling the place as a collection of ditches surrounded by pig-pens and slaughter houses (Pastoral 19). The intrepid seekers after beauty persist, enduring the noxious smell of

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103 the place. When Clitheroe drops his glasses in the bog, Miss Venable rescues them, and when the potential lovers accidentally touch, he pulls away abashed at his own secret temerity (Pastoral 27). Whereas Howells identified with his protagonist despi te his reservations about such romantic tendencies and aestheticism, Beers appears quite unsympathetic and hostile. He transfers Howellss rather complacent racial anxieties onto gender, suggesting that middle class men risk feminization by failing to acknowledge reality.71 As Clitheroe and Miss Venable walk back from their sketching expedition, the pair are harassed by a group of corner boys outside a liquor saloon (Pastoral 28). The lower -class men, who speak in dialect, go so far as to spit tobacco on Miss Venable, yet Clitheroe strode on with a feeling of utter helplessness (Pastoral 29). After this encounter, Beerss writing shifts from a parody of Howellss genteel rhetoric to language reminiscent of Frank Norris: It had been one of those jun ctures where the carefully spun fictions of civilization are torn aside and the brutal facts of human nature stand out in their nakedness: the demand of the female upon the male for protection; her instinctive choice her absolute needof physical strength and prowess (Pastoral 30). Beers is no naturalist, though, and his story resolves in Howellsian minor key sentimentality, as the bud of promise between Clitheroe and Miss Venable never blooms, though she remains as gracious as ever toward him (Past oral 31). Clitheroe continues to fantasize in dreams that he had acted differently, imagining himself being shockingly bullied, beaten, perhaps killed? (Pastoral 31). The final lines echo with perhaps only more bitterness Howellss assessment of subur ban fiction: Awaking from such a dream, Clitheroe would wonder whether melodrama is any more essentially tragical than farce (Pastoral 32).

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104 Henry Cuyler Bunners The Suburban Sage (1896) is close to the writings of Cozzens and Coffin in form, content and meaning.72 Mr. Sage, whose name testifies to his hard -won wisdom, is a professional writer who moved from New York City to the Jersey suburbs some years ago. He works out of his house, producing these autobiographical sketches.73 This sketchbook provid es another Horatian satire of everyday suburban life, focusing upon the inexperience of newcomers as well as the minor deceptions and self -delusions that result from the desire for distinction. The comedy of manners begins with Mr. Chedby on a Regular Nui sance. The title character spends much of this sketch complaining to his neighbor Mr. Sage that the borrowing habit is the curse of suburban life, because people do not return items or sometimes even ask ones permission ( Sage 6). Mr. Sage has come to a sk Mr. Chedby to return his lawn roller, telling him, if you can send your man up with it in the morning, Ill be much obliged. (He had no man; but it is a polite suburban fiction to assume that everybody keeps one) ( Sage 7). Unperturbed, Chedby procla ims his surprise at learning the roller belongs to Sage, since he found it at another neighbors house. The fibbing on both sides exemplifies the behavior that Bunner considers essential to middle -class suburban distinction. To admit one needs the roller t o perform ones own yardwork would be to lose face. Through such illusions, the community depends upon its members to inflate their collective status. The same unsubtle, comic irony that characterized the work of Cozzens and Coffin is also present in The Suburban Sage In The Suburban Horse, for instance, Mr. Sage recounts the life of Rix, a horse that passes through many hands like the lawn roller. Mr. Sage finds describing Rix to be difficult: he is no particular kind of horse or he is any and every kind, as you please to put it. His quality, character and station among horses depend almost entirely upon his ownership and employment ( Sage 23). Because suburbanites lack any real experience with

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105 horses, they base their assessments of Rix upon such super ficialities as the look of his harness or the cart he pulls. Mr. Sages friend Mr. Fornand shows an interest in buying Rix, until the animal changes hands from a sporty butcher to a shabby clergyman. After the horse becomes the property of a fashionable undertaker, Mr. Fornand bids a good deal more money than he would have previously paid to buy Rix at an auction. In other sketches, the same sort of social competitiveness and self delusion marks such suburban activities as golf or church attendance. Altho ugh Bunners use of the sketch form is less interesting than any of the previous sketch writers, and he does not significantly engage with the picturesque aesthetic, he does employ self -deprecating humor to reach an accord with suburbia as The Sparrowgrass Papers and Out of Town did. His humor continues to address the social construction of value through pretense, his prime fascination. The two sketches that best demonstrate this, The Pointers and The Sporting Scheme, address techniques used to sell sub urban houses. The first is named for the urbanites who make a pastime of visiting the suburbs in order to loiter and gawk ( Sage 71). These pointers are lured by real estate agents offering them free carriage rides, cakes and ale in it, free, too; and more than this, there is consideration and respect and even deference and delicate flattery undeserved it is true ( Sage 75). The crafty salesmanship inevitably turns the tables on the pointers, who originally look down upon benighted suburbanites but end up buying property. Similar to Mr. Chedby, each party attempts to deceive the other with a polite suburban fiction based on the pointers desire for status. The Sporting Scheme refers to a more dubious ploy that Mr. Sage discovers. A suburban realto r hires poor Irish men to dress up as sports and pose near railway stations. When the pointers catch sight of these phony golfers and hunters, they are mistakenly convinced that middle class suburbia supports a patrician life of leisure. The realtor defend s his practice by

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106 condemning the pointers: The people who are attracted by that sort of thing are every bit as bad fake -sports as my bog -trotters here. These poor fellows of mine are honest laboring men out of employment. They do this thing for their boar d and lodging you see I feed them well and theyre a good deal better men than most of the dudes who think they cant live without white boxcoats and balloon riding -breeches ( Sage 163). Most damning is the realtors claim that former pointers perpetuate his hoax: The people who are caught want to catch others. Ive known them to go out in their own sport clothes and drill with my boys when the express trains came in ( Sage 1634). Bunner thus portrays suburbia as a kind of mass delusion, and experienced h ands such as Mr. Sage can laugh at the process, having paid the price of admission to this society being duped oneself. Although Mary Stewart Cuttings The Suburban Whirl (1907) lies outside of my grouping by strict chronology, her long story surprisingl y demonstrates more affinities with the texts written by my two antebellum female authors than with much of the twentieth -century subgenre. Her protagonist, Hazel Fastnet, faces a moral dilemma as she must choose between two suburban lifestyles, one materi alistic and caught up in fashionable society, the other characterized by the retirement, domesticity, and simplicity Hentz and Cary prescribed. Cuttings story begins with Hazel showing two of her wealthy, older neighbors around her new home: Hazel was su blimely unconscious of the fact that this interior, which she proudly showed each visitor, was to her not the reality of bare floors and empty rooms, but a spot ideally endowed by the imagination with all the luxuries of the future.74 She is young, ambitio us, and eager to emulate her neighbors, admiring Mrs. Stryker in particular because her clothes were always little short of magnificent (Whirl 5). The problem the Fastnets discover about living in the country, as Hazel describes it, is not the inconv eniences that provide Cozzens and Coffin so

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107 much literary material. Hazel does have trouble learning to operate a coal oven, being accustomed to the gas range in their urban apartment, but the real shock to her husband is the coal bill. The Fastnets have u nderestimated the expense of operating the new house, and moving had taken more than the last penny of the reserve fund, leaving little money for the furnishings and club memberships that Hazel desires (Whirl 17). The Fastnets begin to resume the lifes tyle that they apparently left the city to escape. Speaking of their earlier married life, Cutting writes, they could hardly be said to have begun housekeeping there; they took most of their meals out, and the period had been so fragmentary that it was ha rd to get a focusing point. In that year they had lived in a jumble of ornaments and invitations to dinner, and returning calls (Whirl 16). Now they have a baby and Hazel is learning to keep house. Her husband made another important change during this t ime: From a boy Hollister had been over a desk, with results that had nearly been disastrous. He owned to a weak throat, if nothing worse; a couple of months after his marriage, and none too soon, he had made the change to a firm where he could have outdoor work, though the salary was not large. Hazel thought he had never looked so well (Whirl 20 1). After they move to the suburbs, she begins pressuring him to ask for a raise or find a better paying job. A seemingly ideal opportunity appears when Mr. St ryker dies suddenly, since Hollister knows his business and has made influential connections through his neighbors. Cuttings opinion of this opportunity should be obvious to the reader. One of her few comments about the deceased Mr. Stryker is that he w as immersed in the cares of business, was never visible by daylight in winter, and was only seen on summer Sundays (Whirl 5). This description contrasts with his strikingly conspicuous wife, who is the closest thing to an antagonist in the story. A true creature of society, she is childless and reluctant to even hold the

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108 Fastnets baby (Whirl 38). Following her husbands untimely death, Mrs. Stryker plunged fiercely for distraction into the drapings of her widowhood, inaugurating what Cutting derides as a revel of dressmaking inside and out of the house (Whirl 84). The Fastnets are quickly caught in the same trap. Before Hollister even has Strykers job, Hazel begins planning to buy new clothes and talks to her husband about moving to a more fashi onable house (Whirl 95). As the Fastnets go off to a party, she placidly leaves the baby with its new nurse, a more subtle shift away from her previous domesticity (Whirl 96). Hazel turns from her course when she discovers the conditions of the office where Hollister will work, a cave of industry artificially lit and steam heated (Whirl 48). With melodrama suitable to the Victorians, she professes her unwillingness for her husband to suffer this extreme oppression, and her speech to him also recall s the pastoral values of early Victorian suburban fiction: I couldnt be happy it would kill me! to be in the sunlight and the fresh air every day and know you were cooped up there, going so early, staying so late! (Whirl 1089). Cutting even returns t o the religious morality that characterizes her female literary predecessors, as Hazel informs her husband of her realization that they do not need more money: God has been helping me to find that out, to -night. Its all spending and striving after more a nd more, without any peace or rest in it (Whirl 110). The three narratives examined in this concluding section demonstrate the repetition that is necessary to establish a genre. Most of the features that describe this body of fiction change function or simply disappear in the twentieth century. Gone are the notions of living in the country, along with extended descriptions of picturesque nature as well as any serious consideration of suburbia as pastoral. F. Scott Fitzgeralds fresh, green breast of the new world in The Great Gatsby (1925) is a vision of the receding past, while Edith Whartons description of

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109 the Van Osburgh marriage in The House of Mirth (1905) as a simple country wedding and sylvan rites drips with sarcasm.75 Also gone are non -whites, who are banished from suburbia until the 1980s. While Tom Buchanan may echo the spurious racial theories of Howellss narrator, no such characters as Mrs. Johnson or her son Thucydides are featured in The Great Gatsby or novels of its period. Sincl air Lewiss Kingsblood Royal (1947) features an apparently white suburban protagonist whose great great -great -grandparents are discovered to have been an Indian and a full blooded Negro, and even such a seemingly insignificant revelation leads to hysteri a.76 Gone as well are representations of non upper or middle -class neighbors or visitors to suburbia, as the fear of their threatening or shaming suburbanites dissipates. The mechanic George Wilsons surprising behavior at the end of The Great Gatsby provi des a rare exception, while George Babbitt is far more representative of the new attitude. When his te enaged son Ted announces that he would like to learn boxing and self -defense in case he needs to defend the familys honor in public (presumably from the same type of fellows who harass Clitheroe in Beerss story), Babbitt dismisses his sons desire as unnecessary: Nobodys going to pass no slighting remarks on nobody, Babbitt observed, not if they stay home and study their geometry and mind their own a ffairs instead of hanging around a lot of poolrooms and soda -fountains and places where nobodys got any business to be! 77 Home, the suburb, is where the middle class person is finally somebody. All of this is to say that the theme of indistinction no lon ger defines suburban fiction. Notes 1 See Amy Maria Kenyon, Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2004); and Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth Century Am erican Fiction and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

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110 2 See Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the TwentiethCentury American Novel ( Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001); Edward Christopher Hudson, From Nowhere to Everywhere: Subur ban Discourse and the Suburb in North American Literature, (PhD diss., Univ. of Texas at Austin, 1998); and Rachel Pagano, Depictions of Suburbia in American Fiction, (PhD diss., Columbia Univ., 2001). 3 See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981), 39. 4 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 19. 5 John J. Palen, The Suburbs (New York: McGraw Hill, 1995), 26. 6 Henry C. Binford, The First Suburbs: Residential Communities on the Boston Periphery, 18151860 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1985), 18. 7 Ibid., 44. 8 Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle Class Cultur e in America, 18301870 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982), 194. 9 Ibid., 195. 10 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space trans. Donald NicholsonSmith (1974; reprint, Oxford, Eng.: Blackwell, 1991), 27. 11 Halttunen, Confidence Men 59. 12 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1984). 13 Stephanie Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600 1900 (London: Verso, 1988), 258. 14 Robe rt Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia ( New York: Basic Books, 1987), 623. 15 Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 18202000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003), 22. 16 Robert M. Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 18701930 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2005), 44. 17 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000), 18. 18 Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares, 46. John R. Stilgoe discusses West Philadelphia circa 18601880 as a comm unity that advertised the perils of disorganized real estate subdivision in the absence of such governance ( Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 18201939 [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988], 138). He records: Attorneys and real estate agents, bu tchers and plumbers, dry goods retailers and carpenters had established offices and shops along one horsecar route, and black and immigrant families lived close by, in cramped row housing. Many parts of West Philadelphia remained wholly upper or middle cla ss, but others displayed a marked integration, or rather confusion, of housing types and social classes (Stilgoe, Borderland 138). 19 Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier 39, 101,109. 20 Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias 145. 21 Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares 96102, 128.

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111 22 Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier 71. 23 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 71. 24 Sam Bass Warner, Jr., Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 18701900 (1962; reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1976), 14. 25 Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias 110. 26 Ibid., 127. 27 Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1997), 83. 28 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 5. 29 Ibid., xiii. 30 Ibid., 83. 31 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 245. 32 John Conron, Ame rican Picturesque (University Park, P.A.: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2000), 9. 33 Sidney K. Robinson, Inquiry into the Picturesque (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991), 3. 34 Ibid., xi xii. 35 Stilgoe, Borderland 34, 107. 36 Ibid., 114. 37 The apparent disregard for economic value inherent in suburban landscaping is ironic, considering the roots of the landscape concept as a mathematically based, visual means of ordering and managing land for the developing capitalist economy. Dennis Cosgrove says, Ori ginally landscape was composed and constructed by techniques which were considered to ensure the certainty of reproducing the real world (Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea. Reading Human Geography: The Poetics and Polit ics of Inquiry eds. Trevor Barnes and Derek Gregory [New York: Arnold, 1997], 336). 38 Stilgoe, Borderland 30. 39 See Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier 287 and Hayden, Building Suburbia, 5. 40 T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 18801920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981). 41 Caroline Lee Hentz, Lovells Folly: A Novel (Cincinnati: Hubbard and Edmands, 1833), 8. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as LF 42 Lovell s role as a grotesque reminder of the dangers of luxury and public display seems to fit within the moral framework of the traditional gothic narrative. In the late eighteenth century British gothic novel, according to Richard Lehan, the world of the lande d estaterooted in aristocratic inheritance is disrupted by the evils of the urban commercial class ( The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1998], 37). My interpretation of Lovell as representing a conservative critique of urban capitalism might then also complement Gillian Browns unusual reading of the gothic in Nathaniel Hawthornes The House of the Seven Gables. Brown proposes that the hysteria and mesmerization of Hepzibah Pyncheon signals a f ear of capitalism subjecting the aristocratic body to public labor ( Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in NineteenthCentury America [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990], 812). Proper domesticity, for both Hawthorne and Hentz,

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112 would remedy this danger of exposure or alienation, as Brown terms it, by making work invisible. Perhaps most interesting in this connection is Browns discussion of Andrew Jackson Downings Gothic Revival architecture, which she analyzes as promoting leisure, privacy, i ndividuality, and the romantic past as opposed to work, the marketplace, and family inheritance ( Domestic Individualism 714). Although Brown does not recognize the necessity of a suburban setting to Downings vision, she shows how the Gothic Revival codi fies the suburban values that Hentz and perhaps Hawthorne too most favors: in fact, Lovells Gothic pillars are the feature that demonstrate his houses original severity and simplicity ( LF 8). 43 See Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964; reprint, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000). 44 This theme anticipates Nathaniel Hawthornes The House of the Seven Gables (1851). In Hudsons dissertation, From Nowhere to Everywhere, he discusses The Blithedale Romanc e as the first instance of American suburban discourse. 45 Ibid., 15. 46 Ibid., 10, 5. 47 I therefore disagree with Hudsons statement that [t]he literary equivalent and predecessor of the picturesque is the pastoral (From Nowhere to Everywhere, 60). 48 On the suburban ideal, see Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier 4572. On the triple dream of house plus land plus community, see Hayden, Building Suburbia, 8 49 Cary wrote a sequel titled Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Second Series) (1853), which has very little to do with suburbanization. 50 Stilgoe, Borderland 168. 51 Alice Cary, Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (1852; reprint, New York: John W. Lovell, 1884), 5960. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as C 52 Frederick S. Cozzens, The Sparrowgrass Papers, or Living in the Country (1856; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), 13. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as SP. 53 Henry D. Thoreau, Walden and Resistance to Civil Government 2nd ed., ed. William Rossi (New York: Norton, 1992), 211. 54 Richard C. Sha, The Visual and Verbal Sketch in British Romanticism (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 23. 55 Ibid., 4. 56 Ibid., 23. 57 Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings introduction and notes Peter Norberg (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), 51. 58 Kristie Hamilton, Americas Sketchbook: The Cultural Life of a Nineteenth Century Literary Genre (Athens, Ohio: Ohio Univ. Press, 1998), 42. 59 Ibid., 42. 60 Like those other strategies, sketching may have involved the social production of space. Sha writes, By the early nineteenth century, the English countr y house often had rooms designated specifically for drawing. According to the OED, drawing rooms were both rooms to which ladies would withdraw after dinner and rooms where their drawing

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113 equipment would be set up ( The Visual and Verbal Sketch, 75). After Irving, the sketch would go on to perform other kinds of cultural work, according to Hamilton, serving conservative and progressive agendas, as did the picturesque. On the latters transforming role, see Beth Lynne Lueck, American Writers and the Picturesq ue Tour: The Search for National Identity, 17901860 (New York: Garland, 1997). 61 Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 100. 62 Ibid., 501. 63 At the very end of The Sparrowgrass Papers the conventional symbol of Leo Marxs complex pastoral makes its appear ance, as a train darts past the familys house while they stand admiring the wonderous scene of a winter evening ( SP 2601). 64 Robert Barry Coffin, Out of Town: A Rural Episode (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866), 1. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as OT 65 Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 144. 66 See Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of American Realism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988), 45. 67 The narrator claims to have served as a United States official in an Italian city where the sea flows in the streets. The brief description of his work is reminiscent of the authors activities as a consul in Venice (William Dean Howells, Suburban Sketches [1871; reprint, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1888], 91). Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as SS. In addition, the Howellses bought a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1866 (Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, William Dean Howells: A Writers Life [Berke ley: Univ. of California Press, 2005], 110). 68 Lueck, American Writers and the Picturesque Tour 194. 69 Bourdieu, Distinction 4. 70 Henry A. Beers, A Suburban Pastoral, A Suburban Pastoral and Other Tales (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1894), 4, 5. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as Pastoral. 71 Beerss story therefore follows the path of later Howellsian realism, which has been interpreted as a revolt against art and style, made to allay Howellss own fears about masculinity. See Michael Davitt Bell, The Problem of American Realism: Studies in the Cultural History of a Literary Idea (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993). 72 Bunner also wrote Jersey Street and Jersey Lane: Urban and Suburban Sketches (1896). Two of its three pieces about suburbia are dominated by nostalgia for landmarks of his boyhood, namely a section of woods and a footpath, which have suffered from suburbanization. The sentimentality in these writings is more personal than Howell ss flights of fancy. The final sketch is very similar to the concluding section of The Suburban Sage describing how people become suburbanites and pragmatically acquiescing that suburbanization seems inevitable. 73 Henry Cuyler Bunner, The Suburban Sage: Stray Notes and Comments on His Simple Life (1896; reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), 11. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as Sage 74 Mary Stewart Cutting, The Suburban Whirl, Th e Suburban Whirl, and Other Stories of Married Life (New York: McClure, 1907), 16. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as Whirl. 75 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby: The Authorized Text (New York: Simo n & Schuster, 1953), 189. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905; reprint, New York: New American Library, 2000), 90.

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114 76 Sinclair Lewis, Kingsblood Royal (1947; reprint, New York: Popular Library, 1959), 60. 77 Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922; reprint, New Y ork: Penguin, 1996), 72.

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115 CHAPTER 3 BABBITT AND THE TRANSFORMATI ON OF THE SUBURBAN I NTIMATE SPHERE I Dont Know that Im Entirely Satisfied!: The Emergent Discontent of the Twentieth Century Suburban Novel In the 1920s, suburban fiction developed mos t of the characteristics that readers have thereafter understood as defining the subgenre. Novels began to feature not only a recognizably suburban setting (the automobile being important to this recognition) but also a new set of themes, motifs, symbols, and other formal characteristics. In particular, two related qualities mark this transition period: first, a focus on the white middle class, with the decreasing visibility of other types of people, and second, an attention to domestic family life, with the decreasing visibility of urban space and waged work. These features may seem self -evident, considering the name of the subgenre, but as I demonstrated in the previous chapter, they do not describe nineteenth -century suburban fiction. The nineteenth -cent ury fictions portrayal of discontent was rooted in a perceived failure of the suburbs. Throughout the nineteenth century, the twin forces of industrialization and urbanization benefited and expanded the middle class, yet also threatened its stability. Thr ee causes of suburban migration stand out. First, proletarianization, immigration, and the self -made man myth raised fears and doubts among the existing white, native -born middle class about its ability to socially reproduce itself. Second, the proximity o f middle -class residences to noxious industries or other nuisances (e.g., tenements or traffic from businesses) raised concerns about deteriorating sanitation, local communities, and property values.1 Third, urban culture presented moral dangers from above and below on the social scale: aristocratic decadence and effeminacy were thought to be inevitable consequences of urban luxury, just as the intemperance and blind assertiveness of laboring men were believed the result of concentrated poverty.2

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116 Suburbs seemed to promise a way for the middle class to negotiate these hazards, through the emulation of respectable upper -class residential styles in a virtuous rural setting that evoked the republican values associated with the yeoman. Yet no matter how well d esigned the landscape, architecture, or interior spaces, which were the primary concerns of the earliest suburban advocates such as Andrew Jackson Downing and Catharine Beecher, literary authors inevitably found this new environment to be an imperfect synt hesis of city and country. William Dean Howells and other fiction writers created an image of the suburbs through a theme of indistinction, in order to criticize the shortcomings of the nineteenth-century space. In other words, fiction betrays an anxiety a bout the uncertain effects of suburbs on middle -class status and identity. Around the turn of the century, by contrast, suburbia had turned from being a potential failure to an assured success. After a brief competition against the urban apartment during the early Progressive era, the detached, single -family, suburban house was overwhelmingly adopted by the middle class as their ideal. The suburbs triumphed in part by resolving the social or cultural shortcomings perceived by authors like Howells. The aut omobile, for instance, allowed greater physical distances between middle -class residences and the threatening urban center, while providing a more convenient and respectable mode of commuting than public transportation. Car ownership also enabled another m eans of marking social status. Advances in transportation and domestic technology let suburbanites enjoy independence and a respectable standard of living despite their increasing distance from urban amenities.3 Alan Gowans, who describes the years 18901930 as the era of the comfortable house, notes, Indoor plumbing, built in gas and electric facilities, central heating, all that had been luxuries available only to the well -to -do just a few decades earlier, now became standard features for all.4 Rest rictive

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117 covenants dictating land use, including racial covenants, further ensured the exclusivity, stability, and distinction of suburban residence. Such covenants, appearing in only the most expensive nineteenth -century developments, were a standard featu re of many middle -class communities by 1910.5 These and other innovations made suburban residence difficult to associate with social inferiority any longer. Success had its price, however, at least in the imagination of 1920s fiction, coming in the form o f new problems and fears. Although early -twentieth -century suburbs provided stability for the middle class within industrial capitalist society, the evolving physical and social structure of these suburbs unintentionally resulted in the erosion of certain aspects of middle -class life not organized through capitalism.6 To put it more schematically: with one hand, the suburbs offered group security; with the other, they diminished individual freedoms. New suburban problems, no longer rooted in a fear of proxi mity or similarity to other classes, arose as unintended consequences or side effects of building such a radically exclusive, homogeneous environment. This shift in the source of trouble from the threatening city to the treacherous suburbs may help to expl ain the newly introspective orientation of the subgenre, or in other words the increasing attention paid to white, middle -class, domestic, family life. These several changes can be observed in the two best known suburban narratives of the early twentieth c entury: Babbitt (1922) and The Great Gatsby (1925) The problem for all three suburban men in The Great Gatsby middle class Nick, social climber Jay, and upper class Tom does not involve finding a place in the suburbs, but instead belonging to that place. As Robert Beuka has argued in SuburbiaNation, the geographical transformation and individual mobility associated with rapid growth of and migration to the automobile suburbs created anxiety about dislocation, rootlessness, disconnection from the past,

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118 and inauthenticity. While attaining a respectable suburban residence helps certify ones class status, F. Scott Fitzgerald suggests this achievement comes through the sacrifice of previous sources of identity such as family or geographical region, the loss of other sources of meaning and belonging besides wealth and status. Babbitt also addresses the unintended difficulties or demands of belonging in suburbia, as Sinclair Lewiss protagonist George Babbitt rebels against excessive conformity and standardizatio n. These pressures too stem from the success of the twentieth -century suburbs. With their original function as a space of distinction firmly established, less reason existed to maintain the antagonistic, contradictory relationship between the suburbs and i ndustrial capitalism. The middle class would continue to socially reproduce itself, perhaps even more successfully, when the nineteenth -century state of exception was revised, opening the suburbs up completely to mass consumerism (though continuing to excl ude the world of waged labor and industrial production) and allowing the suburb itself to become a mass produced commodity. Babbitt experiences this change negatively, as the colonization or loss of his personal life, a source of meaning and identity forme rly separated from industrial capitalism and its products. I want to discuss Babbitt in greater detail for two reasons. In addition to allowing me to articulate this theory about unintended consequences or side effects, the novel provides an excellent e xample of the sort of irony through which I am defining the twentieth -century phase of the subgenre. This irony becomes apparent when George Babbitts discontent is closely examined, as Catherine Jurca does in White Diaspora. What right does he have to com plain about suburban conformity and standardization, she asks, since living in an environment purged of the nuisances and dangers of the nineteenth-century city, as Babbitt does, and owning a comfortable, modern house are actually privileges, not problems? For instance, Jurca repudiates

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119 the novels implication that such things as comfortable mattresses, window shades that dont crack, and standard lamps are somehow intrinsically alienating for the consumer and legitimate sources of middle class dissa tisfaction.7 She contends that Babbitts discontent is in fact a ruse that serves to guard his privilege from envy and provide a subtle boost to his status dissatisfaction being the advertisement of his affluence.8 Discontent even brings a sort of perve rse pleasure, Jurca suggests, concluding: The challenge of being middle class, for Lewis, is to enjoy the trap, not to escape it, to feel sorry for oneself as one struggles in and benefits from it.9 Babbitt certainly has less to complain about than poor people or racial and ethnic minorities who did not have the means or freedom in that era to live in such housing or enjoy such material privileges.10 While Jurcas reading is psychologically insightful and provocative, I do not agree that Babbitts discont ent is wholly a matter of self advancement or somehow empowering.11 Though Babbitts complaints may indeed make him feel superior, his egotistical kicking against the eras suburban conventions civic boosterism, Republican party politics, mass consumeri sm, and the proprieties of marriage unquestionably endangers his business and his marriage, the foundations of his economic and social standing. Jurca is wrong to dismiss his rebellion on the basis that he eventually submits and suffers no lasting consequences.12 Indeed, he gives up because his privileges are genuinely imperiled. Why then does he take such a risk? As long as competition for class position or social status remains the only frame of reference, we are bound to agree with Jurcas judgment tha t since Babbitt enjoys more privileges, he has no basis for complaint. I dont see, however, that Babbitts real worry regards the amount of material privileges he enjoys relative to those outside the suburbs; such thinking

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120 seems closer to the concerns of nineteenth -century suburban fiction. While a general labor strike does momentarily threaten Babbitts home city of Zenith, his own middle -class security is never in question. The only Red he ever encounters is his old college friend Seneca Doane, a radic al lawyer, while people outside the middle class are of little concern to Babbitt except in so far as they do work for him quite different from the experience of Howellss suburbanites. Babbitts discontent more immediately regards a feature of the suburbs that is transforming, a privilege that is not a tangible material or economic benefit: his personal life. He rebels because the relative autonomy of the intimate sphere is being eroded by the consumer culture that colonizes the early twentieth -century suburbs. Here lies the novels great irony: Babbitt as a suburban resident loses his space for privacy and intimacy due to the kind of work he himself does as a real -estate agent, suburban land speculator, and community developer, the Babbitt who represents i ndustrial capitalisms encroachment into the suburbs. Sinclair Lewis positions his protagonist to experience both sides of this transformation. I agree with Jurca, therefore, in understanding Babbitt as not simply a victim of his environment. Babbitt exper iences suburban life as a trap, but the trap, ironically, is one of his own devising. The Old Comforts of Home: The Decline of Bourgeois Intimacy The best way to explain Babbitts discontent begins with an examination of his different roles that come to be at odds. I will start with his work persona, because it dominates his character and determines most of his important actions through the first half of the novel, prior to his rebellion. Babbitts occupation is real -estate broker; he operates the Babbitt T hompson Realty Co. in the city of Zenith with his partner and father in law, Henry Thompson.13 They manage rental properties, negotiate land transactions, and on the side sell suburban homes built in a high -class restricted development called Glen Oriole (B 34). Babbitts work occupies what

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121 Jrgen Habermas terms the private sphere. Habermas describes the economic behaviors of production and exchange in capitalist societies as private because: In a certain fashion commodity owners could view themselves as a utonomous. To the degree that they were emancipated from governmental directives and controls, they made decisions freely in accord with standards of profitability. In this regard they owed obedience to no one and were subject only to the anonymous laws fu nctioning in accord with an economic rationality immanent, so it appeared, in the market. These laws were backed up by the ideological guarantee of a notion that market exchange was just, and they were altogether supposed to enable justice to triumph over force.14 In Babbitt of course, Sinclair Lewis harshly satirizes the liberal idealism of the bourgeois private sphere through his unflattering portrayal of American business, and Babbitt stands indicted as representative of his class. Nowhere are Babbitts business ethics more apparent than in the Glen Oriole project. Although his advertised business is as a broker, he and Thompson secretly own the majority share of the Glen, violating the trust of other developers who do not expect competition from real -est ate agents acting as builders themselves. As a result, Babbitt can underhandedly steer homebuyers toward his own properties and, on top of that, earn a commission for doing so. Babbitt also engages in land speculation several times in the novel, buying and raising the price on land to make a profit ( B 42, 210). I would also surmise that he cherry-picked the land on which Glen Oriole was built, illegally gaining advance knowledge of where commuter railways were to be placed a common tactic of streetcar compa nies, as Dolores Hayden observes.15 As evidence of this possibility, the minority partners of the Glen are the president and purchasing agent of the Zenith Street Traction Company and a notorious local politician who bribed health inspectors and fire ins pectors and a member of the State Transportation Commission ( B 401). Later in the novel, Babbitt trades political favors for advance information about the extension of

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122 paved highways that could benefit the next suburban development scheme he and Thomps on are concocting ( B 161). Throughout the first half of the novel, Babbitt repeatedly demonstrates his psychological adjustment to the practices of the private sphere, his willingness to participate in the cutthroat competitiveness that Lewis believes dom inates that realm. For instance, the narrator reports that Babbitt was conventionally honest ( B 37), meaning that at professional luncheons he would speak sonorously of Unselfish Public Service, the Brokers Obligation to Keep Inviolate the Trust of His Clients, and a thing called Ethics, whose nature was confusing but if you had it you were a High -class Realtor and if you hadnt you were a shyster, a piker, and a fly -bynight. These virtues awakened Confidence, and enabled you to handle Bigger Propositions. But they didnt imply that you were to be impractical and refuse to take twice the value of a house if a buyer was such an idiot that he didnt jew you down on the asking -price. ( B 38) As Babbitts performances demonstrate, his successes have brought h im not only wealth and business connections but also social status and a position in the public sphere. He is considered a Solid Citizen, a reputation confirmed through his speech making at civic and professional functions, his political speeches for the Republican presidential candidate, and even an occasional bit of publicity about his exploits in the local newspaper. Habermas describes the classical bourgeois public sphere as a space of free, rational debate, the counterpart to the free, rational comme rce of the private sphere both being relatively autonomous from the sphere of the state. The public sphere was originally institutionalized in print culture as well as British coffee houses and French salons during the Enlightenment. These are the antecedents to Babbitts banquets, political rallies, and mass circulation corporate newspapers, though Lewis of course satirizes the questionable rationality of these later forms of publicity. In them, we can observe the transformation of the public sphere that troubles Habermas, the emergence of an uncritical, commercialized pseudo -public, or

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123 what Michael Warner terms a mass public.16 In any event, the hypocritical idealism of Babbitts public activity complements his private occupation, and vice versa. In bo th spheres of life, Babbitt appears to others as well adjusted and complacent. He undoubtedly enjoys triumphing in business: he celebrates as a manly battle his extorting of ten thousand dollars of pure profit from a grocer for a piece of land that Babbi tt bought on speculation in anticipation of the grocers interest ( B 44). He also takes a distinct pleasure in feeling important in front of an audience and hearing himself utter platitudes. Due to the omniscient third person narrator, however, we learn that Babbitt has flashes of inarticulate discontent. As he casually confesses to his best friend Paul Riesling, in a rare moment of candor, Ive pretty much done all the things I ought to; supported my family, and got a good house and a six -cylinder car, an d built up a nice little business, and I havent any vices specially And yet, even so, I dont know that Im entirely satisfied! ( B 53). To Babbitts surprise, Riesling not only sympathizes but openly questions their hustling, boosting, and pep. Mocking his own occupation, Riesling declares: The roofing business! Roofs for cowsheds! Oh, I dont mean I havent had a lot of fun out of the Game; out of putting it over on the labor unions, and seeing a big check coming in, and the business increasing. But whats the use of it? You know, my business isnt distributing roofing its principally keeping my competitors from distributing roofing. Same with you. All we do is cut each others throats and make the public pay for it! ( B 56) Although Babbitt acts affronted by this seditious questioning of the rules of the Game, we witness his own occasional uncertainty about its demands, in particular through his weariness with the strenuous masculinity that underpins the dominant codes of private and public beh avior for men. Babbitts response to Riesling unwittingly reveals this gendered code of conduct: a man who doesnt buckle down and do his duty, even if it does bore him sometimes, is nothing but a well, hes simply a weakling. Mollycoddle, in fact! ( B 57). Babbitts colloquial language

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124 constantly reveals this connection: business letters must have punch and kick ( B 43), good advertisements are heliterature ( B 107), and so on. Even as he blusteringly tries to check Rieslings dissent, Babbitt remain s uneasy about his hypocritical conformity. What keeps Babbitts discontentment with the private and public spheres in check, until his rebellion? The answer lies within the intimate sphere, Habermass term for the domestic realm of the bourgeois family. I n more than one way, Babbitt and his peers are working to provide the comforts of home. Many of the mens jobs relate to the suburban housing industry: in addition to the aforementioned professions of Babbitt, Thompson, and Riesling, Thompson also operates a kitchen -cabinet works ( B 60), and among Babbitts neighbors, Dopplebrau works in bathroom fixtures ( B 21), Littlefield serves the Zenith Street Traction Company ( B 22), and Swanson sells automobiles ( B 99). Babbitt takes pride in his own modern house, appointed with the most upto -date conveniences. He also seems to take more pleasure from domestic family life than in formal society. Upon reading in the newspaper about a dance given at the home of the wealthy Charles McKelvey, a college acquaintance of Babbitts, he remarks to his wife Myra: Oh, thunder, lets not waste our good time thinking about em! Our little bunch has a lot liver times than all those plutes. Just compare a real human like you with these neurotic birds like Lucile McKelvey all h igh -brow talk and dressed up like a plush horse! ( B 1920). While a fair amount of class -based resentment animates these comments, Babbitt and Myra are nevertheless firmly committed to the bourgeois intimate sphere and its values, as demonstrated again in a scene that occurs in their living room. The scene begins when their adult daughter Verona escaped, immediately after dinner, with no discussion save an automatic Why dont you ever stay home? from Babbitt ( B 66). As the father reads the comic strip s and the mother darns socks, their teenaged son Ted announces

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125 he would like to learn boxing and self -defense by mail. Ted reads to his parents the advertisement, headlined Can You Play a Mans Part? He asks: And then suppose I was walking with you Ma, and somebody passed a slighting remark Nobodys going to pass no slighting remarks on nobody, Babbitt observed, not if they stay home and study their geometry and mind their own affairs instead of hanging around a lot of poolrooms and soda -fountains and places where nobodys got any business to be! But gooooooosh, Dad, if they DID! Mrs. Babbitt chirped, Well, if they did, I wouldnt do them the honor of paying any attention to them! Besides, they never do. You always hear about these women that get followed and insulted and all, but I dont believe a word of it, or its their own fault, the way some women look at a person. ( B 72) As revealed in such passages, Georges and Myras ideas of propriety regarding public and private space and by contra st the intimate sphere were formed in the late Victorian milieu of their childhoods. Babbitt, who is forty -eight at the end of the novel ( B 351), came of age in the 1880s. In the nineteenth century, industrial capitalism disrupted the existing codes of public behavior. According to Richard Sennett, Enlightenment societies dealt with the problems of the urban stranger and class instability by creating elaborate public costumes and impersonal manners in order to distinguish people. In the nineteenth century, the mass production of clothing renewed anxieties about the unmanageability of social signs. Social distinctions had to be based upon such minor details as whether a gentlemans coat buttons were decorative or could actually unfasten. Myra Babbitts commen t may refer to this public disorder in which even the slightest gesture could have consequences, such as an impolite look marking a woman as dishonorable. Sennett remarks about the period: [not] in street behavior do loose women show themselves specially. They give off small clues only, a glance held too long, a gesture of languor, which a

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126 man who knows how to read will understand.17 In the face of this social difficulty, Sennett argues, Gradually the will to control and shape the public order eroded, and people put more emphasis on protecting themselves from it. The family became one of these shields. During the 19th Century the family came to appear less and less the center of a particular, nonpublic region, more an idealized refuge, a world all its own, with a higher moral value than the public realm.18 As we see, George and Myra assume that public and private spaces are not proper or rewarding except for conducting business. A good time occurs at home with family, where one can be a real human, le aving off the impersonal mask that Mrs. McKelvey dons for society.19 For Babbitt, the intimate sphere has a particular allure as a feminized haven from the heartless world of other men. Although Babbitt might desire the comforts of home he recalls from ch ildhood, the earlytwentieth -century intimate sphere does not provide the same benefits to him, and this inability I argue is ironically tied to the successfulness of the suburbs. In order to explain this claim, I must first look more closely into the inti mate spheres function in relation to the suburbs and then consider their mutual transformation around the turn of the century. The intimate sphere developed in bourgeois society within the private sphere as an extension of its liberal ideology. Habermas writes, In the intimate sphere of the conjugal family privatized individuals viewed themselves as independent even from the private sphere of their economic activity as persons capable of entering into purely human relations with one another.20 Habermas s somewhat idiosyncratic terminology may be confusing, since common usage would label family rather than work as part of private life, but his differentiation of the intimate from the private is essential to understanding the formers eventual transformat ion. The intimate sphere, therefore, was opposed to capitalism to a degree, a space of exception to some

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127 of its rules, even though the intimate sphere as such only existed within the bourgeois private spherea fundamental contradiction.21 As Stephanie Coont z observes, the separation of home and family from market and state represented an attempt to limit the transformation of personal relations into commodity relations.22 These personal relations were understood as voluntary, disinterested, and non instru mental, paradigmatically represented by friendship and the lasting community of love on the part of the two spouses.23 The notion of pure humanity to which Babbitt still seems to subscribe corresponds to the nineteenth-century idea of personality.24 The belief that intimacy allows the expression of individual personality was enshrined in what Eli Zaretsky terms personal life, which occurs paradigmatically in the private residence.25 The increasing value placed by the bourgeoisie on personality, privacy, intimacy, and domesticity represented an inversion of the classical belief in the primacy of the res publicahappening not coincidentally when the inversion of suburb and city also took place. Ideology, of course, does not correspond exactly to the realiti es of everyday life. As Habermas admits, the freedom and pure humanity of the intimate sphere remained largely a fiction.26 These ideals nevertheless provided the alibi for the more immediate, practical functions that the intimate sphere served, namely th e perpetuation of capitalism and the social reproduction of the bourgeoisie. The home and the nuclear family became spaces of exception within capitalist society, serving as an individual (rather than social) safety net protecting against the instabilities of the private economy. To this end, a gendered division of labor was inscribed upon the separate spheres, and womens unpaid domestic work was sentimentalized through the new language of personality and intimacy. The moral influence of the respectable home was to provide stability for the entire family in the face of an unpredictable economy and a disorganized social order, allowing the smooth reproduction of class differences in the absence of other

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128 social mechanisms that could reliably transmit bourge ois values.27 Thus, the nineteenth-century intimate sphere did not primarily serve the ends of individual fulfillment, romantic satisfaction, recreation, or frivolity. As Stephanie Coontz observes, dinner table rules and other formalized interactions empha sized the subordination of each individuals desires to the unit as a whole, the necessity of accepting the work ethic, respecting private property, and taking responsibility for fulfilling ones proper gender role.28 The disinterested personal relations of the nineteenthcentury intimate sphere, when disciplined in this way, operated as a counterbalance to the individualism and rational self -interest of the private sphere. The relationship between the bourgeois intimate sphere and the private sphere closely resembles that between the nineteenth -century middle -class suburbs and the industrial city. Indeed, the suburbs may be understood as roughly analogous to the intimate sphere, though not all bourgeois families lived in suburbs, and suburbanites were ce rtainly not all middle -class.29 The two spaces, one geographical and the other metaphorical, share an origin and function as exclusions of or exceptions to features of capitalist society that threatened the bourgeoisie. In the case of the suburbs, these thr eats came from the realm of production (the dangerous classes and noxious industry), from urban culture (luxury and vice), and from the market (community impermanence and property deterioration). In the case of the intimate sphere, the concern shifts from proximity in space to the individuals life course over time. The intimate sphere supplemented the private sphere by providing for the acquisition of middle -class values and habits (building character), the transmission of vocational skills, access to whit e -collar positions, and support in old age. In a few ways, the Babbitts domestic life appears to demonstrate the practical orientation of the nineteenth -century intimate sphere. The self -effacing, hard -working, sexually repressed

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129 Myra provides a caricatu re of the Victorian matron, as revealed more than anywhere in her brief yet extraordinary outburst at the end of the novel ( B 313). Meanwhile, George feels a very middle class responsibility about his childrens futures. He worries about his son Ted in par ticular. The high-school boy takes drives with friends whom his mother worries may not be nice decent girls, and he aspires to be a car mechanic ( B 77). Babbitt announces his other intentions for his son: Ive told him a hundred times, if hell go to co llege and law -school and make good, Ill set him up in business ( B 11). This comment reveals how the times have changed, despite Georges and Myras lagging attitudes. If Ted were to earn a law degree at the state university Babbitt attended, he would not require paternal assistance, because he would have acquired an impersonalized, standardized set of skills enabling him to enter the professional or corporate world something more widely marketable than his or his familys reputation. The public educationa l system is only one element of the new social sphere that emerged during the Progressive era, removing from the family and the home much of the responsibility for the middle classs social reproduction. The social sphere, as Habermas describes it, collaps ed the boundaries between the private sphere, the public sphere, and the state through practices such as economic interventionism and social legislation.30 The social sphere is therefore related to the corporation and the wage system, which also introduced more regularity to the class structure, reducing the dynamic social mobility associated with the entrepreneurial private sphere of the nineteenth century. The Babbitts domestic life, as one might expect, reflects the increasing influence of the social sp here and the resulting transformation of the intimate sphere in the early twentieth century. While Babbitt realizes it is important to encourage his children to be formally educated, he does not bother himself with training them at home in middle -class val ues such as the

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130 Protestant work ethic. Indeed, he enjoys a secret pride that his son Ted does not perform any chores around the house ( B 64), although he still hypocritically invokes the work ethic as an excuse to avoid paying a bonus to his young employee Stanley Graff (B 62). Babbitt also avoids the responsibility of moral authority and instruction. Although both parents are vaguely troubled by the possibility that Ted is having premarital sex, Babbitt only makes an empty promise to his wife that Yes sir by golly, Im going to take Ted aside and tell him why I lead a strictly moral life, to which Myra doubtfully responds, Oh, will you? When? ( B 78). Teds socialization does not seem to depend upon the intimate sphere; neither does Verona Babbitt follow her mothers path. Verona, just out of Bryn Mawr College ( B 13), works as a filing-clerk at the Gruensberg Leather Company offices, with a prospect of becoming secretary to Mr. Gruensberg and thus, as Babbitt defined it, getting some good out of your expensive college education till youre ready to marry and settle down ( B 14). Babbitts assumptions about a womans proper trajectory are matched by his inability to comprehend his daughters interest in the social sphere, what he derides as all this uplift and flipflop and settlement -work ( B 14). The gendered determinism of the separate spheres retains a powerful hold on Babbitts imagination. Just as the Babbitt familys domestic life does not adhere to the nineteenth-century pattern, so does Georg e Babbitts experience of the suburbs reveal a significant difference from their portrayal by Howells and other Victorian fiction writers. The discontent of nineteenthcentury suburbanite characters came from their perception that the suburbs failed to rei nforce a precarious middle -class identity by unsuccessfully excluding threatening aspects of the industrial city. On the contrary, Babbitt reveals no such concern about the suburbs of Zenith. The opening paragraphs of the novel reflect his confidence in th e modern, class -segregated metropolis:

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131 The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. They were neither citadels nor churches, but frankly and beautifully office -buildings. The mist took pity on the fretted structures of earlier generations: the Post Office with its shingle tortured mansard, the red brick minarets of hulking old houses, factories with stingy and sooted windows, wooden tenements colored lik e mud. The city was full of such grotesqueries, but the clean towers were thrusting them from the business center, and on the farther hills were shining new houses, homes they seemed for laughter and tranquillity. ( B 1) These houses glitter on the inside a s well, being outfitted with all sorts of up to -date domestic technology and amenities. Lewis describes at length Babbitts material privileges, his royal bathroom (4), his triumphant modern mattresses ( B 12), his hot -water radiator of exactly t he proper scientific surface for the cubic contents of the room ( B 12), his electric lamps, vacuum cleaner, electric percolator and the electric toaster ( B 13). Such conveniences helped to resolve the nineteenth -century dismay with suburban life as infe rior to urban standards. Lewis presents Babbitts house as perfectly standardized, right out of Cheerful Modern Houses for Medium Incomes ( B 12), and Babbitt himself betrays no anxiety about his suburban residence failing to make him feel middle class. F inally, covenants and deed restrictions, such as those he established in Glen Oriole, legally ensured the exclusivity of the earlytwentieth -century suburbs, providing yet another reassurance. These changes show that, although George and Myra appear nosta lgic for Victorian ideals of intimacy and personal life, their domestic situation does not conform to the nineteenthcentury pattern of behavior that made those ideals achievable. Without the familys taking part in socialization through moral authority an d discipline, creating bonds outside the medium of market exchange, a sense of duty and mutual dependence among family members remains weak. In other words, the more the Babbitt family members make their own way in the world, the less likely they will be t o experience the noninstrumental relations and pure humanity they desire.

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132 Thus, we need to examine the twentieth -century intimate sphere in more detail in order to understand Babbitts discontent. The New Comforts of Home: The Rise of Mass Consumerism Wit h the emergence of the social sphere and the success of the suburbs, little reason remained for the intimate sphere to continue serving its original function of socialization. The ideal of intimacy did not as a result suddenly cease to compel belief, howev er. The intimate sphere had been the subject of an extensive ideological campaign throughout the nineteenth century. Intimacy had provided the alibi not only for womens domestic labor but also for mens participation in capitalism as well, their consolati on and compensation, as demonstrated by the intense sentimentalization of Home Sweet Home. I see two possible explanations for what happened. The first possibility is that when the practical need for the family to indoctrinate, coerce, and inhibit its me mbers diminished, the radical potential implicit in the intimate spheres opposition to capitalism could be unleashed. The intimate sphere as a prop could be pulled out from under the private and public spheres, and the structure of the spheres stood on it s head, with the intimate sphere at the apex and the new social sphere providing support. What before had been mostly ideology, an alibi, could potentially become realized as a genuine end in itself, in what Sennett calls the intimate society of the twen tieth century.31 Such a structural transformation would help to explain why the intimate sphere did in fact reorganize during the Progressive Era around an ethos of personal fulfillment, romantic satisfaction, and leisure. New practices that distinguished this incarnation of the intimate sphere included masculine domesticity, the companionate marriage, and family togetherness.32 All three can be understood as attempts to turn sentimental Victorian ideals about intimacy into reality. Margaret Marsh defines the first as not equivalent to feminism but instead a behavioral model in which fathers agreed to take on increased responsibility for some of the day-

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133 to -day tasks of bringing up children and spend their time away from work in playing with their sons an d daughters, teaching them, taking them on trips.33 The purpose of such leisure activities was not to instill values of obedience and discipline, as the Victorian patriarch attempted, but to achieve intimacy as its own end and reward. Marsh writes, father s were encouraged to be chums with their children, especially, but by no means exclusively, with their sons.34 In the post -Victorian world, sharply dichotomized gender roles remained normative, even as their foundations were melting into air. Fathers thu s took special interest in their sons out of fear that, without a masculine presence in the intimate sphere, boys risked feminization, yet also because their own manhood needed a place for regeneration due to their perceived emasculation by bureaucratic, corporate, and managerial work.35 By no coincidence does Georges son happen to be named Theodore Roosevelt Babbitt. Domestic interior architecture also embodied the new ethos, and again, the intimate sphere finds its analogue in the suburbs. Whereas Vict orian houses had been designed for separation, Marsh determines, [t]he most striking thing about early twentieth -century suburban houses was their design for togetherness.36 Popular open floor plans featured living rooms or family rooms, which replaced t he numerous spaces for individual privacy: the sewing room, the sitting room, the library, the den, and the smoking room.37 The Babbitts value time spent together in their living room, as weve seen, and George might adhere to the new masculine domesticity as well. For instance, he takes his son along on a business trip to Chicago, and once away from the familiar implications of home, they were two men together, smoking cigars, telling jokes, and acting chummy ( B 215). The flaw in this explanation, at le ast as far as Babbitt is concerned, is that his domestic life does not really satisfy him. He experiences the same flashes of irritation and gnawing discontent

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134 at home as in his private business or his public performances. Indeed, the majority of the domes tic scenes in the novel portray skirmishes in the greatest of Great Wars, which is the family war ( B 17). Among the many points of contention, Babbitt repeatedly harasses Myra about the familys diet, Ted and Verona regularly bicker with him about who wi ll use the family car, and Babbitt becomes indignant about the state of the bathroom towels: He was raging, By golly, here they go and use up all the towels, every doggone one of em, and they use em and get em all wet and sopping, and never put out a dry one for me of course, Im the goat! ( B 5). Family seems a source of irritation rather than a balm. Babbitts commitment to masculine domesticity, meanwhile, is summed up concisely by Lewis: Though he saw them twice daily, though he knew and amply dis cussed every detail of their expenditures, yet for weeks together Babbitt was no more conscious of his children than of the buttons on his coat -sleeves ( B 200). George and Myras marriage has little to recommend it as companionate either. During their awk ward courtship, Of love there was no talk between them ( B 79), and afterward Myra made him what is known as a Good Wife. She was loyal, industrious, and at rare times merry she existed only for him and the children ( B 80). While she remains dully dutiful, he matures into a domestic tyrant who bullies his wife, yet expects her attention and sympathy. They show little genuine interest in each other, especially as companions outside of the house. Babbitt clearly prefers the male company found at the Elks Lodge, the Boosters Club, and the Zenith Athletic Club. The most telling failure of the intimate sphere is exposed by the narrator. At the end of one long passage, surveying the modern domestic comforts the family owns, comes the observation, In fac t there was but one thing wrong with the Babbitt house: It was not a home (B 13).

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135 The reason for Babbitts discontentment, I believe, is that a second explanation exists for the persistence of intimacy in the twentieth century. Given the intimate sphere s abdication of its task of social reproduction, and the suburbs success at the same, little reason remained for either to maintain their antagonistic, contradictory relationship with industrial capitalism. Successful and firmly entrenched, this ideology and this space could both be turned to a different purpose. The intimate sphere and the suburbs, if no longer organized as spaces of exception, could shift functions from protecting capitalism to expanding it, by allowing Fordist mass production to enter v ia an industrialized housing business and mass consumerism of domestic goods. The intimate sphere and the suburbs could therefore become new markets. In this view, suburban domesticity can be understood as providing an alibi for consumer capitalism. Econom ic life would no longer be subordinated to the radical potential of intimacy and personal life. Neither of these explanations is exclusively true, I believe. Together, they renew the contradiction that animates the intimate sphere. Recognizing this contrad iction provides the best insight into Babbitts very confusing, love -hate relationship with his own domestic life. Committed to working for the new comforts of home, seemingly more readily obtainable than ever, Babbitt nevertheless cannot enjoy them becaus e his modern house and family unceasingly remind him of the industrial capitalist world he wants to escape. The novel suggests three such ways in which he is frustrated. First and most obviously, the intimate sphere provides a key site for conspicuous cons umption, so that domestic life becomes a perpetuation of the competition that also dominates Babbitts private and public life.38 A multitude of examples in the novel demonstrates how much the Babbitts live their personal lives in constant reference to cons umer culture and out of concern for their social status. When Babbitt looks out at his yard, for instance, he spies the corrugated iron garage. For the three -hundred and -sixty -fifth time in a year he

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136 reflected, No class to that tin shack. Have to build m e a frame garage. But by golly its the only thing on the place that isnt up -to -date! ( B 4). This sort of unbidden awareness, repeated ad nauseam with the thousands of commodities Babbitt owns or considers buying, shapes the pattern of his neurotic cons ciousness. Second, domestic relations assume a more instrumental character when consumerism provides the setting and medium for intimacy. The Babbitt children, for example, attempt to trade on their parents love in order to acquire nicer things. Ted begi ns by comparing himself to his high -school classmates: Say, gee, I ought to have a car of my own, like lots of the fellows (B 16). Babbitt squashes this notion, but later he raises the topic of replacing the family car, only to incite all three children and Myra into making similar arguments in favor of a more expensive, prestigious model than he happens to prefer ( B 65). Babbitt resents such incursions on his patriarchal authority, but his old -fashioned efforts at economic discipline are at odds with the intimate spheres new ethos. Third, domestic consumerism taints the material pleasures of Babbitts personal life with a fear of being tricked, cheated, or sold superfluous things in other words, overspending or overconsuming. The same sort of corruption that pervades his own business could be at work in the domestic goods industry, and thus entering his home. Lewis reveals this danger lurking within the Babbitts living room, at their sacred hearth no less: The fireplace was unsoftened by downy ashes or by sooty brick; the brass fire irons were of immaculate polish; and the grenadier andirons were like samples in a shop, desolate, unwanted, lifeless things of commerce ( B 82). While Babbitt can be predatory and domineering as businessman, he stands power less as consumer: just as the priests of the Presbyterian Church determined [Babbitts] every religious belief and the senators who controlled the Republican Party decided in little smoky

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137 rooms in Washington what he should think about disarmament, tariff, and Germany, so did the large national advertisers fix the surface of his life, fix what he believed to be his individuality. These standard advertised wares toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot -water heaters were his symbols and proofs of excellence; at first the signs, then the substitutes, for joy and passion and wisdom. ( B 85) Though Babbitt himself never becomes quite so articulate or conscious of the forces determining the texture of his personal life, he feels a constant, uneasy guil t about his domestic consumerism, especially when it comes to literal consumption. He complains about the familys diet to Myra, preaching to her about the virtues of oatmeal and apples because, hypocritically, he cannot resist the temptation of commercial ly produced foods and tobacco products. Babbitt, who is exceedingly well fed ( B 2), has a typical experience at the dinner party he and Myra throw for their friends: since all really smart dinners ended, as on a resolving chord, in Vecchia Neapolitan ic e cream ( B 97), of course Babbitt ends up lamenting, Had too much grub; oughtnt to eat this stuff, he groaned while he went on eating, while he gulped down a chill and glutinous slice of the ice -cream brick ( B 110). The dinner demonstrates the influe nce of social status on his consumption, as does his addiction to tobacco. Though he perpetually plans to quit, the prestige of owning an electric lighter for his car or displaying a new silver cigarette case return him to the habit against his will. After buying the lighter, Thrice its novelty made him use it, and thrice he hurled half -smoked cigarettes from the car, protesting, I got to quit smoking so blame much! ( B 60). The comforts of home that Babbitt craves are ultimately the elusive, interperson al, and largely psychological rewards of intimacy, not the purchasable material privileges and consumer conveniences that industrial capitalism offers to excess. Although mass produced commodities promise to facilitate intimacy by providing the glue for to getherness and companionship, they also tend to agitate Babbitts family relationships, place an unwanted standard of living upon

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138 his personal life, and degrade his health as well. I am suggesting, therefore, that Babbitt struggles against the the const riction of male middle -class desire that David Leverenz attributes to corporate capitalism, a constriction to a drive for upward mobility in workplace hierarchies that I argue finds its counterpart outside the workplace in consumerism.39 At this point, two questions remain: how did intimacy become mixed up with consumerism, and how does Babbitts revolt attempt to disentangle them? I will deal with these in turn in the following two sections. To begin with the first: commercial advertising, which grew ex plosively in America after WWI, provides one already-well -explored avenue of explanation. Stuart Ewen argues that advertisers, in an attempt to increase demand through the creation of desires and habits keyed to new products, shifted away from appeals ba sed on product utility and began playing on fears and aspirations rooted in intimacy and the family.40 Halitosis could prevent fathers morning kiss; appliances could save time for mother; dangerous germs could be carried to baby. According to Ewen, The us e value of prestige, of beauty, of acquisition, of self adornment, and of play were all placed in the service of advertisings basic purpose to provide effective mass distribution of products.41 Sinclair Lewis remained sharply attuned to the new language of the poetry of industrialism in writing Babbitt (B 107), and the protagonist himself produces several examples, including a form letter that begins with an appeal based on intimacy: SAY, OLD MAN! I just want to know can I do you a whaleuva f avor? Honest! No kidding! I know youre interested in getting a house, not merely a place where you hang up the old bonnet but a love -nest for the wife and kiddies ( B 32). Babbitts ad employs informal, familiar speech for business purposes, but his busin ess itself provides another, less commonplace answer to the above question. As I will argue, the transformation of the intimate sphere was caused by the commodification and mass

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139 production of suburbs. Through this recognition, the constitutive irony of the novel crystalizes: Babbitt wants his own love nest where he can be a real human, yet his work as a suburban real -estate developer contributes to the capitalist colonization of the intimate sphere that jeopardizes this possibility. The Business of Home Making In Babbitts professional capacity as a real -estate agent, and even more so in his surreptitious business as a speculative builder, he represents the newly emerged suburban housing industry that helped change the relationship between the suburbs an d capitalism. Before the 1880s, suburban housing was relatively autonomous from both industry and the markets influence. Some of the most influential early promoters of American suburbanization, to begin with, were not professional builders but instead popular authors and public figures such as Nathaniel Parker Willis, Catharine Beecher and her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, Andrew Jackson Downing, and Sarah Josepha Hale. These advocates favored the individual home in a pastoral setting as an alternative to the turmoil of cities and commerce.42 They preferred simple, functional designs for cottages and villas that would foster democratic, republican values, eschewing the taste for luxury and expense associated with the wealthy and their architects.43 Thr ough their popular writings, especially pattern books of model homes, they influenced the mass of carpenters and amateur builders who actually constructed the great majority of mid -nineteenth -century middle -class housing. Although suburban land speculatio n became a source of large profits soon after the Civil War for subdividers and the robber barons of the street railways, the building of houses remained a very small -scale, fragmented enterprise.44 As Sam Bass Warner, Jr., discovered in his landmark stud y of Bostons suburbs: The 22,500 new dwellings of Roxbury, West Roxbury, and Dorchester were the product of separate decisions made by 9,000 individual builders. Some

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140 of these builders were carpenters, some real estate men, but most were not professional s at all. The vast majority were either men building houses for their own occupancy or small investors who built a house nearby their own residence in order to profit from the rents of one to three tenants.45 The financing of the suburbs also remained high ly individualized prior to the 1880s. Warner writes, In the absence of widespread bank participation, thousands of private investors made up the mortgage market. They lent money to homeowners and builders in small quantities for terms of six months to ten years.46 Not only was the suburban house imagined by its cultural promoters in terms antithetical to the industrial city and capitalist marketplace, therefore, but the business of house construction also lacked organization and profitability, further limi ting its influence. This situation of relative autonomy allowed the suburbs, and by extension the intimate sphere, to operate as a space of exception. The 1880s proved the turning point for the industrialization and commodification of the suburbs. While t he same values and iconography continued to hold sway, their material expression became more and more the product of commerce and industry, inside and out. Through the 1870s, Gwendolyn Wright notes, middle -class housewives filled their presentation room s with household elegancies or ladies fancy work of their own making, which included objects such as hand -crocheted pillows and rustic furniture, knotted rugs and hand -painted screens, gilded rockers and laminated bric a -brac stands.47 In the 1880s, however, factory -produced furniture and ornamentation began to replace such handmade items. That decade also introduced a greatly increased output and variety of prefabricated, ornamental woodwork and other building materials, such as plaster and plate glass.48 As a result, the contradiction implicit in the suburbs and the intimate sphere, always present, reached a peak, as industry and the market provided the means to achieve forms of

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141 domesticity that progressively abandoned the core values of simplicit y and functionality. For instance, the High-Victorian Picturesque architectural style became popular at this time; individual personality was thought to be expressed through its profusion of functionally useless ornament borrowed indiscriminately from ot her styles ornamentation that was mass produced, furthermore.49 As Wright observes, In order to have the home seem to be a haven from the world of business and industry, it was necessary to bring in industrially produced furniture, bric a -brac, curtains, a nd wallpapers, and to learn from department -store displays, manufacturers advertisements, and books of advice how to arrange these things.50 Industrialization did more than replace handicraft; it opened the way for a significant transformation of the hous e and the suburbs. The change occurred more straightforwardly in the building of houses, as the subdivider was succeeded in importance by the speculative developer. Previously only suburbs for the wealthy had been methodically designed and laid out. Due t o the advances in the manufacture and distribution of construction materials, along with the slow rationalization of the building trades, Fordist efficiencies of scale could be achieved, and the first large-scale builders of middle class communities arose in the 1880s, such as Samuel Eberly Gross in Chicago. Their projects were often widely advertised, effectively creating local suburban brands and turning houses into standardized commodities. Most importantly, they showed that mass suburbanization could be a profitable industry. As Dolores Hayden reflects, Developers like Gross had demonstrated that housing could be a very broad business spanning land subdivision, construction, and mortgage lending.51 The most visible sign of change came with a shift in s uburban architectural styles after the turn of the century. A new aesthetic of minimalism became dominant, embodied most notably in

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142 the bungalow.52 On the surface, the minimal house seems completely at odds with its Victorian predecessor, yet they share an underlying commitment to domesticity and intimacy, rearticulated by the minimal house in terms of comfort and togetherness rather than simplicity and virtue. The various agents of capitalism backed this change, because the minimal house, despite its name, was a more profitable product. Minimalism, according to Wright, refers to the houses exterior outline and ornament, as well as its square footage and the number of rooms inside. Reductions in all these categories were made to accommodate a rapidly increas ing investment in domestic technology. New additions to middle -class suburban homes between 1890 and 1920 included indoor plumbing, central heat, bathrooms, electricity, appliances such as vacuums and toasters, and materials such as porcelain and linoleum.53 According to Wright, such additions were estimated to have increased construction costs by a quarter to a half in the period between 1890 and 1905, resulting in the need for aesthetic minimalism simply in order to keep housing affordable.54 The crucial ef fect of these new conveniences was not increased prices though they did rise steadily but the greater industrialization of the suburbs. A typical middle -class suburban house could no longer be had independent of developers, manufacturers, and advertisers. Even the less expensive self built houses of the period between 1910 and 1929 were often prefabricated products bought from mail -order companies such as Sears, Roebuck and Co. In short, the nineteenth -century individual home had become Babbitts standa rdized house. Where exactly lies the problem with this intervention of industrial capitalism into the suburbs, in which Babbitt is implicated? Does Lewis believe mass -produced domestic goods are essentially bad? Catherine Jurca makes this very accusation, taking Babbitts message to be that such things as comfortable mattresses, window shades that dont crack, and standard lamps are

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143 somehow intrinsically alienating for the consumer and legitimate sources of middle -class dissatisfaction, as though li ving in a very good hotel were some kind of terrible penalty.55 Lewiss critique has more to it than she acknowledges, though admittedly his writing can be inconsistent and imprecise. I believe Lewis generally targets capitalist exchange rather than indu strial production in his satire. When Lewis demeans the Babbitts bedroom, for instance, saying, It had the air of being a very good room in a very good hotel ( B 12), he is not concerned about a hotel rooms quality, but the commercial nature of a hotel. The passage continues, One expected the chambermaid to come in and make it ready for people who would stay but one night ( B 12). The figure of the maid embodies the problem Lewis detects not how the room functions according to technical measurements, but whose interests are represented (or obscured and reified) in the room, or to put it another way, what purposes a commodity serves in a consumers life. This last concern appears clearly in an example that ties directly to the matter at hand, industrial capitalisms penetration of the suburbs, an intervention that Lewis suggests falls short of pure beneficence: In nothing as the expert on whose advice families moved to new neighborhoods to live there for a generation was Babbitt more splendidly innocent t han in the science of sanitation. When he laid out the Glen Oriole acreage development, he righteously put in a complete sewage -system. It made him feel superior; it enabled him to sneer privily at the Martin Lumpsen development, Avonlea, whic h had a cesspool; and it provided a chorus for the full page advertisements in which he announced the beauty, convenience, cheapness, and supererogatory healthfulness of Glen Oriole. The only flaw was that the Glen Oriole sewers had insufficient outlet, so that waste remained in them, not very agreeably, while the Avonlea cesspool was a Waring septic tank ( B 40). The novelists point is that expensive, upto -date, status -signifying innovations might serve the developers interests more than those of the residents.56 The Glens plumbing malfunction

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144 demonstrates this point, but in fact, most consumer goods featured in the novel work flawlessly. Lewis remains far less critical of commodities than of the social relations embedded in them through mass -market ex change. Most importantly, he seems worried that commercial relations may disrupt intimacy and turn personal life into the material for an advertising campaign, in the same manner that Habermas finds the public sphere being replaced by the culture industry s administered conversation.57 In other words, the problem with the extension of industrys reach into the suburbs is really the intrusion of capitalism into the intimate sphere.58 Babbitt, as a real -estate agent and developer, is to a degree responsible for the general commercialization of suburban domestic life that frustrates him personally. He is caught in a trap of his own devising. In order to appreciate better why Lewis positions his protagonist so, and what Lewis thinks about the fate of the intimate sphere in the twentieth century, I will conclude by analyzing Babbitts rebellion, which constitutes most of the novels main plot. Home Away from Home Babbitts rebellion should be read as a series of attempts to create opportunities for personal life and intimacy somewhere other than the suburban intimate sphere, to reinstate their former idealized opposition to consumerism and capitalism in general. His revolt begins innocuously with incoherent feelings of dissatisfaction and climaxes much later in his w illful flouting of the beliefs and demands of his wife, his neighbors, and his friends. Four moments spanning the spectrum from passive discontentment to active rebellion are worth examining: his dream of the fairy child, his friendship with Paul Riesling, his camping trips to Maine, and his affair with Tanis Judique. In all four cases, Babbitt seeks to attain the rewards that domestic life fails to provide him, searching for a space outside of the family and the suburban house in which to enjoy them. These rewards are, respectively, the experiences of romantic love, friendship,

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145 leisure, and domesticity, all liberated from the burdens of capitalist exchange and status competition. Through Babbitts struggles, Lewiss thoughts about the possibilities for inti macy and personal life can be explored. The first alternative featured in the novel is the most radical though insubstantial, Babbitts dream of a fairy child, a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea ( B 2). Lewiss description of the dream reveals its relationship to the topic at hand: For years the fairy child had come to him. Where others saw but Georgie Babbitt, she discerned gallant youth. She waited for him, in the darkness beyond mysterious groves. When at last he could slip away from the crowded house he darted to her. His wife, his clamoring friends, sought to follow, but he escaped, the girl fleet beside him, and they crouched together on a shadowy hillside. She was so slim, so white, so eager! She cried that he was gay and val iant, that she would wait for him, that they would sail Rumble and bang of the milk truck. ( B 2) The romantic quality of his dream has to do first with its blend of the exotic (e.g., pagodas) and archaic (e.g., gallantry), which contrast sharply with the world to which he is awakened. The dream is thus a vision of personal life, experienced as something outside work and society.59 In addition, the fairy child is a romantic figure as a love object and potential sexual fantasy. She clearly stands apart fro m the intimate sphere of the family and home. This imaginary personal life outside of the intimate sphere can easily be interpreted as Babbitts psychological compensation for the inadequacy of his domestic situation. By helping Babbitt run away from every thing, the fairy child paradoxically uncovers his personality. What the fairy child does not provide, though, is intimacy. As a mere dream, she remains a narcissistic projection rather than a relation of genuine intimacy and love, which are fundamentally social experiences. Indeed, this difference might help clarify Babbitts further stages of rebellion. In the classical liberal formulation, the intimate sphere provided a refuge, but not for the purpose of solitude; a person was instead most individualize d in the impersonal private sphere.

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146 The intimate sphere instead sheltered a distinctive form of society, separated from economic activity and unmotivated by rational self -interest or instrumental calculation. Only in such voluntary, disinterested personal relations could sympathy, intimacy, and love be experienced. Babbitts dream of the fairy child cannot provide such pleasures, because it is mere escapism, an imagined freedom from all forms of society. The desirability of personal relations comes not fr om any potential utility. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith proposes, there is a satisfaction in the consciousness of being beloved, which, to a person of delicacy and sensibility, is of more importance to happiness, than all the advantage tha n he can expect to derive from it.60 Smiths notion of sympathy as a good in itself and a foundation for moral behavior had a profound influence upon the Victorian culture of sentiment. The reward or value of personal life is found not merely in the approbation of others, but even more in the belief that ones personal life is most truly human because freely entered, not born of necessity or self interest. The freedom associated with personal life is thus not individualistic. Personal relations can involve obligations, dependency, and even self -sacrifice, the last considered perhaps the truest expression of love. To actively pursue Babbitts dream, however, would be to seek complete individual freedom and collapse the liberal distinctions. Replacing the imp ersonal self -interest of the private sphere on the one hand and the disinterested personal life of the intimate sphere on the other would be their bastard union, narcissistic individualism and its therapeutic quest for self fulfillment.61 As Lears, Sennet t, and others observe, the therapeutic culture that emerged in the early twentieth century began as a reaction against industrial work, seeming to align it with the original values of the suburban intimate sphere, yet the goal of self -fulfillment was readily harnessed to consumerism and thereby neutralized. Stuart Ewen explains how modern

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147 advertising and the mystification of the production process enabled this turnabout. I have suggested a similar result came through the industrialization of the suburbs a nd colonization of the domestic realm.62 In the corporate ideology of the 1920s, writes Ewen, the goods of the marketplace were sold to the public with the liberating and democratic lingo which had up till then been heard most loudly among those whos e attack was on the corporate premise of the market economy itself.63 Individualized consumption became the reward for and an escape from work, paradoxically, the basis for a new pseudo-personal life, set within the family reconstituted as merely a commun ity of consumers.64 Babbitt for the most part rejects this logical consequence of his dream, as I have demonstrated, and tries to realize his desires in more satisfactory ways. The second alternative, Babbitts friendship with Paul Riesling, comes closes t to creating a viable personal life that achieves real intimacy outside of the suburban intimate sphere. Their relationship offers Babbitt much the same benefits as the dream imagines. Riesling, a friend since college, knew Babbitt as a youth and can reca ll his forsaken ambitions to go into law or politics ( B 79). Riesling provides a living reminder of Babbitts former identity underneath the mask of adult compromises, just as Babbitt can sympathize when Riesling complains, I ought to have been a fiddler, and Im a pedler [sic] of tar roofing! ( B 54). Perhaps the most crucial element of this friendship is their openness to sharing such feelings of discontentment, something Babbitt does not find with other neighbors and acquaintances and not because those others are entirely satisfied. When the advertisement writer Frink encounters Babbitt late one night by accident, for instance, he confesses, Im a traitor to poetry. Im drunk. Im talking too much. I dont care. Know what I couldve been? ( B 243). Fr ink darts away, while Babbitt accepted Frink with vast apathy; he grunted, Poor boob! and straightaway forgot him ( B 243). By

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148 contrast, the friendship between Babbitt and Riesling, based on mutual care and consolation, offers an alternative to the impe rsonal self interest that animates the private sphere as well as the impersonal sociability of the public sphere. Lewis cannot help but describe their intimacy in familial terms: He was an older brother to Paul Riesling, swift to defend him, admiring him with a proud and credulous love passing the love of women ( B 50). The problem with this friendship lies in finding an appropriate space in which to express such emotions. As with the dream of the fairy child, the intimate sphere appears inimical to male friendship, especially because wives are implicated in the commercialization of the domestic realm. Whereas the men in Babbitt facilitate this intervention insidiously through their work, women such as Zilla Riesling represent the consummate consumers for Lewis. He unleashes his venom upon these modern, middle -class wives: their houses were so convenient that they had little housework, and much of their food came from bakeries and delicatessens. They worked perhaps two hours a day, and the rest of the time they ate chocolates, went to the motion pictures, went window -shopping, went in gossiping twos and threes to card-parties, read magazines, thought timorously of the lovers who never appeared, and accumulated a splendid restlessness which they got rid of by nagging their husbands. The husbands nagged back. ( B 109) Paul Rieslings complaints to Babbitt put the blame for domestic intimacys failure squarely upon his wifes shoulders: I dont mind sitting down to burnt steak, with canned peaches and stor e cake for a thrilling little dessert afterwards, but I do draw the line at having to sympathize with Zilla because shes so rotten bad tempered that the cook has quit, and shes been so busy sitting in a dirty lace negligee all afternoon, reading about so me brave manly Western hero, that she hasnt had time to do any cooking ( B 56). Intimacy cannot coexist with all these reminders of the world of economic activity, so Babbitt and Riesling run away from the feminized, commodified domestic realm.

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149 The first meeting between Babbitt and Riesling in the novel takes place at the Zenith Athletic Club. They are playfully harassed when they choose to sit apart from their regular companions, because privacy was very bad form ( B 53). This custom seems out of place, since [t]he first institution created specifically for private speech was the mens club according to Richard Sennett.65 He speaks of the original clubs of seventeenth-century Europe that served a similar function to that of the bourgeois intimate sphere: providing an escape from the pressures of impersonal urban life, a way to manage sociability by excluding strangers. By the early twentieth century, Lewis suggests, mens clubs and associations have reorganized along the same lines as the domestic realm, becoming just another venue of capitalist society, neither public nor intimate. Of a decent man in Zenith, writes Lewis, it was required that he should belong to one, preferably two or three, of the innumerous lodges and prosperity boosting lunch-club s ( B 181). While at the Athletic, for instance, Babbitt conspicuously announces his purchase of the electric cigar lighter to other members of the club, concurs with them about the necessity of having the best products, and trades amiable insults abou t their crooked business dealings all forms of masculine competition and status -seeking that yet again impede his desire ( B 50). Babbitt can find no place for his intimate friendship, it seems. The third alternative, Babbitts camping trips in Maine, has again much in common with his dream of the fairy child and his friendship with Riesling. Babbitt idly fantasizes about running off to the woods for some time, having even bought a khaki blanket for a camping trip which had never come off. It symbolized gorgeous loafing, gorgeous cursing, virile flannel shirts ( B 4). He predictably envisions the wilderness as a masculine space of leisure, liberated from the world of work as well as the feminized domestic realm. When he and Riesling eventually go off toge ther to a rustic hotel in Maine, their male friendship does indeed find a

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150 place to blossom. However, this situation can only be temporary for Babbitt, because he is unwilling to give up his middle class life, as he discovers while on his second, solo trip to Maine. This realization is essential to understanding his character: Babbitt wants both bourgeois intimacy and his material privileges. His determination to embody a contradiction leads to his characteristic frustration: Wish Id been a pioneer, same as my grand -dad. But then, wouldnt have a house like this. I Oh, gosh, I dont know! ( B 78). As in the case of the intimate sphere and mens clubs, capitalism encroaches upon his recreation. The hand of the emerging twentieth -century leisure industry be comes visible in his preparatory shopping expedition to the Sporting Goods Mart ( B 123), in the rustic hotel complete with log cottages at which he vacations, and in his fellow tourists ( B 133). They give the newcomer a critical examination, perhaps resentfully because his appearance undoubtedly reminds them of themselves and of the closing of the frontier as an escape from corporate capitalism: Babbitt in khaki shirt and vest and flapping khaki trousers. It was excessively new khaki; his rimless spe ctacles belonged to a city office; and his face was not tanned but a city pink ( B 133). The fourth alternative, Babbitts romantic affair with Tanis Judique, materializes after Paul Riesling is sentenced to prison for the attempted murder of his wife Zi lla. Without this unique friendship to sustain him, Babbitt is forced to reconsider his life: What did he want? Wealth? Social position? Travel? Servants? Yes, but only incidentally. I give it up, he sighed. But he did know that he wanted the presence of Paul Riesling; and from that he stumbled into the admission that he wanted the fairy girl in the flesh. ( B 244) Babbitt spirals into open rebellion, and his extramarital affair with Judique stands as his most thorough attempt to create the contradictory l ife he wants. Like the fairy child and Paul Riesling,

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151 Judique provides him the comforts normally associated with home and family, though in a setting decidedly different from the conventional suburban intimate sphere.66 She lives in an apartment in a distri ct of hard little bungalows ( B 286), little shops, and apartment houses, yet at their first romantic rendezvous she serves him tea, admires his knowledgeability in the matter of her leaky roof, listens to his various complaints, and puts him in a glorio us state of being appreciated ( B 287). Judiques ready sympathy makes her far more attractive and satisfactory than the prostitutes, office workers, and neighbors in whom Babbitt had previously tried to discover the incarnated fairy girl. Although Babbitt makes a rhetorical apology to Judique, Im probably boring you to death with my troubles! ( B 288), her obliging attention provides the intimacy for which he has been searching, and they share the burden of personality in their relationship of mutual s elf -disclosure.67 The affair satisfies Babbitt for other reasons as well. Because he is not married to Judique, and because they attempt to keep their affair a secret, he manages to divide his personal life from his public and private (i.e., economic) life in a way he never hoped to achieve with his wife and children. Unlike the dream and his leisure activites, which are inevitably temporary outlets for Babbitt, the affair becomes a part of his everyday routine with no predetermined ending. In addition, the affair takes on characteristics of the companionate marriage, particularly when Judique introduces him to her bohemian friends The Bunch, and the relationship becomes the basis for a new, separate social life for Babbitt. At about the same time as he be gins the affair, a general labor strike occurs in the city of Zenith, and Babbitt chose this time to be publicly liberal ( B 277). Indeed, much of Babbitts first intimate conversation with Tanis revolves around his complaints about the prejudices of his associates against the strikers and her admiration for his liberalism. Although the term liberal

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152 seems to refer to his political position in Zeniths dispute over unions, wages, and work hours, it more accurately describes the individual revolution that Babbitt stages in defense of a separate personal life. After all, he only wants to voice his personal opinions about the strike, not to do anything publicly in support of it. He does not march with his old acquaintance Seneca Doane in defense of the strike rs, though he speaks out in the company of his associates at the Athletic Club, saying, Strikes me its bad policy to talk about clubbing em ( B 281). He never considers changing his work ethics or political affiliations; he only stands up for the right to think differently in his personal life than he acts in his private business. He wants to lead two separate, contradictory lives. As Babbitt tells Doane, Ive always aimed to be liberal ( B 269). Unfortunately for Babbitt, others refuse to let him achieve his goal. From Tanis Judique, he wants sentiment on his schedule, when his bruised ego needs ministrations, and he does not appreciate that she begins to make demands upon his sympathies: when he forced himself to ask, Well, honey, hows things with you she took his dutyquestion seriously, and he discovered that she too had Troubles ( B 322). She turns intimacy into an obligation that intrudes into his other life, calling him at work to make sure he still cares for her. He breaks off the relationsh ip, therefore, saying, I want us to be friends but, gosh, I cant go on this way feeling I got to come up here every so often ( B 326). In addition, Babbitts individual revolution, like the general strike, runs into strong opposition from his associates in the business community. They refuse to tolerate the political independence that he expresses in his personal life, even though his actual commitment to business has not perceptibly changed. They are equally upset that he seems to be abandoning the clas s affirming rituals of the suburban intimate sphere for the bohemian lifestyle of Taniss Bunch, even though he has already broken off the affair by the time they confront him. They pressure him to join The Good Citizens League, a

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153 counterrevolutionary, anti unionist organization, and they threaten his livelihood if he does not conform. After Babbitt receives the Leagues ultimatum, he finally abandons his protracted struggle to maintain his suburban material privileges while enjoying an autonomous persona l life. He chooses to return to his old routine with his wife Myra, rather than abdicating the social and economic security of middle -class suburban society for the uncertain pursuit of intimacy elsewhere. Though Babbitt is described as weak and powerless, his surrender is not presented by Lewis as an utter defeat. Babbitt bequeaths his idealism to the next generation, approving of his sons romantic elopement with his sweetheart and hoping the young man will maintain his independence from social conventions and carry things on further ( B 355). This conclusion underscores the novels ambiguity: Babbitt could be read as a nostalgic elegy for the idealized bourgeois intimate sphere, or instead as a satire of bourgeois liberal hypocrisy and self contradiction In any case, Lewis seems to say that Babbitts particular desire is impossible to fulfill under the conditions of early-twentieth century capitalist society. His liberal belief in the separation of spheres is out of step with his times, especially becaus e suburbia no longer functions as a space of exception to capitalism to the degree it did in the Victorian era. George Babbitts dissatisfaction with his personal life and his desire for intimacy which suburbia both incites and frustrates herald the arriv al of a new type of suburban literary complaint and a new theme of irony. His problems, I have argued, result from a structural transformation of the bourgeois intimate sphere around the turn of the century. This change, in turn, can be understood as the u nintended side effect of suburbias increasing success at providing distinction. Nineteenth century suburban fiction, by contrast, expresses discontent about the potential indistinction of the suburbs. In other words, the dominant anxiety of that

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154 earlier p hase of the subgenre regards class and status, not intimacy and love. One could argue that a more autonomous personal life along with a deepened appreciation of nature is actually part of the consolation that romantic suburbia offers, the way it attempts t o rehabilitate middle class distinction. Features of the turnof -the -century intimate sphere such as family togetherness and male domesticity, for instance, are foreshadowed in the Civil War -era sketchbooks of Frederick S. Cozzens and Robert Barry Coffin. Babbitt in effect reverses the nineteenth -century narrative, and in doing so inaugurates the twentieth -century suburban novelistic tradition. Notes 1 Robert M. Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 18701930 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2005), 37. 2 T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 18801920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981), 85. 3 See Marina Moskowitz, Standard of Living: The Measure of the Middle Class in Modern America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004). 4 Alan Gowans, The Comfortable House: North American Suburban Architecture 18901930 (Cambridge M.A.: MIT Press, 1986), 2528. 5 Robert M. Fogelson, Bourgeois Nightmares, 68. 6 This thesis can be taken as an extension of Jackson Learss argument about the rise of antimodernism in No Place of Grace He argues that the official culture of progressi vism created an age of confidence from 1880 1920 (4), yet it simultaneously caused a crisis of cultural authority that first struck the cultural elites and then the bourgeoisie (5). While these groups certainly gained from the advances of industrializa tion, rationalization, and secularization, they lost traditional sources of authority, morality, and identity, leaving them to experience modern life in terms of unreality, weightlessness, and helplessness. Thus, the beneficiaries of modern culture began to feel like they were its secret victims (xv), being cut off from authentic experience, intense emotion, and the primal, irrational forces in the human psyche (57). 7 Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the TwentiethCentury American Novel (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), 57. 8 Ibid., 58. 9 Ibid., 68. 10 Recent scholarship has acknowledged a broadening participation in suburbanization between 1900 and 1930, due to less expensive, mail order suburban houses being self built us ing prefabricated components. For an overview, see Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 18202000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003). 11 Ibid., 48. 12 Ibid., 68.

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155 13 Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1996), 60. Fur ther references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as B. 14 Jrgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (1962; reprint, Cambridge, M.A.: MIT Press, 1989), 46. 15 Hayden, Building Suburbia, 76. 16 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 160. See Michael Warner, The Mass Public and the Mass Subject, The Phantom Public Sphere ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1993): 23456. 17 Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York: Norton, 1976), 166. 18 Ibid., 1920. 19 Babbitts speech describing the Ideal Citizen reiterates these values ( B 162). Although Babbitt does briefly entertain a desire for upward mobility, forcing himself into the McKelveys social circle ( B 173), he consoles himself for his failure there by renewing his commitment to intimacy, successfully befriending Sir Gerald Doak one of the McKelveys prized social ornaments. As Babbit t announces in triumph, Jerry, youre a regular human being! ( B 221). 20 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 47. 21 For an interpretation of Harriet Beecher Stowes vision of an anti capitalist form of domesticity, see chapter one of Gillian Brown, Domes tic Individualism: Imagining Self in NineteenthCentury America (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990). 22 Stephanie Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600 1900 (London: Verso, 1988), 210. 23 Allan Silver, Two Different Sorts of Commerce Friendship and Strangership in Civil Society, Public and Private in Thought and Practice: Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy eds. Jeff Weintraub and Krishan Kumar (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997), 49. Habermas, Structur al Transformation, 46. 24 On the differences between natural character and personality, see Sennett, Fall, 1503. 25 Eli Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life revised and expanded ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1986). 26 Habermas, Structural Tr ansformation, 47. 27 Coontz, Social Origins 258. 28 Ibid., 269. 29 Ian Watts The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1959) suggests that the very origins of the intimate sphere, the suburbs, and the modern novel were intertwined. In a chapter on the literary innovations of Samuel Richardson, an early participant in British suburbia who felt a great need for a kind of emotional security and understanding which only the shared intimacies of personal relationships can supply (186), Watt concludes by observing Richardsons legacy: It is paradoxical that the most powerful vicarious identification of readers with the feelings of fictional characters that literature had seen should have been produced by exploiting the qualities of print, the most impersonal, objective and public of the media of communication. It is further paradoxical that the process of urbanization should, in the suburb, have led to a way of life that was more secluded and less social than ever before, and, at the same time, helped to bring about a literary form which was less concerned with the public and more with the private side of life than

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156 any previous one. And finally, it is also paradoxical that these two tendencies should hav e combined to assist the most apparently realistic of literary genres to become capable of a more thorough subversion of psychological and social reality than any previous one. (206) 30 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 142. 31 Sennett, who remains highl y critical of the rise of intimacy and the decline of public life, writes with sarcasm, we all know, the fundamental problem of capitalism is dissociation, called variously alienation, noncathectic activity, and the like; division, separation, isolation are the governing images which express this evil. A crowd would be a prime example; crowds are bad because people are unknown to one another. Once this modulation occurs then to overcome the unknown, to erase differences between people, seems t o be a matter of overcoming part of the basic illness of capitalism ( The Fall of Public Man 295). In a similar vein, Christopher Lasch argues, the glorification of privacy reflected the devaluation of work. As production became more complex and ef ficient, work became increasingly specialized, fragmented, and routine. Accordingly, work came to be seen as merely a means to an end for many, sheer physical survival; for others, a rich and satisfying personal life ( Haven in a Heartless World: The Famil y Besieged [New York: Norton, 1977], 7). 32 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 74. 33 Ibid., 76. 34 Ibid., 80. 35 See David Leverenz, Paternalism Incorporated: Fables of American Fatherhood, 18651940 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 2003), in particular his fifth chapter. 36 Marsh, Suburban Lives 84. 37 Ibid., 86. 38 For a discussion of conspicuous consumption in Lewiss novel, s ee Clare Virginia Eby, Babbitt as Veblenian Critique of Manliness, American Studies 34 (1993): 523. 39 Leverenz, Paternalism 16. 40 Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (1976; reprint, New York: Basic, 2001), 37. 41 Ibid., 35. 42 Andrew Jackson Downing qtd. in Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 64. 43 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 18731913 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980), 12. 44 Jackson, Crabgrass 109. 45 Sam Bass Warner, Jr., Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 18701900 (1962; reprint, New York: Atheneum, 1976), 37. 46 Ibid., 118. 47 Wright, Moralism 34. 48 Ibid., 87.

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157 49 Gowans, Comfortable 192. 50 Wright, Moralism 97. 51 Hayden, Building 97. 52 Wright, Moralism 231. 53 Ibid., 90, 119. Gowans, Comfortable 28. Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 18. 54 Wright, Moralism 238. 55 Jurca, W hite Diaspora, 57. 56 The same ironic subversion of the purported ends to which technology was applied occurred with domestic appliances as well. As the Lynds reported in their classic Middletown, A number [of housewives] feel that while the actual physica l labor of housework is less and one is less particular about many details, rising standards in other respects use up the saved time (Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in American Culture [New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1929], 171). These standards are publicized by the same advertisers who sell products to achieve those standards. See Ewen, Captains of Consciousness as well as Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983). 57 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 164. 58 Rather than read Babbitts revolt as a struggle for intimacy, Jurca introduces an idea of spirituality that she derives from the young intellectuals Lewis Mumfo rd and Waldo Frank. She argues that Lewiss suburban characters voice false [l]aments about spiritual sterility ( White Diaspora 70), spiritual homelessness and discontent (70), and a spiritual alienation from the suburban house (74). Not only is Jurc as use of the term insufficiently explained, but I also find no such reference in Babbitt itself. 59 Zaretsky, Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life xi. 60 Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments ed. Knud Haakonssen (1759; reprint, Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), 48. 61 Lears, No Place of Grace 302. 62 Ewen, Captains of Consciousness 105. 63 Ibid., 201. 64 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 156. 65 Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, 83. 66 Graham Thompson makes a compelling argument that the fairy child and Tanis Judique serve as substitutes for Babbitts homosexual desire for Paul Riesling. Nevertheless, I believe that the dream, the friendship, and the affair are all rooted in a common desire for intimacy, as well as an antipathy to capi talism and to the treacherous intimate sphere of home and family. Instead of making sex the objective for Babbitt, in other words, I see sex as merely one means to achieve the consolation from the despairs and delusions created by corporate office work that Thompson offhandedly acknowledges ( Male Sexuality under Surveillance: The Office in Literature [Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Press, 2003], 48). The elusiveness of Babbitts goal might better explain why he swings so wildly in his efforts, moving from his tender, potentially homosexual desire for Riesling to the homosocial, virile camping

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158 trips to his heterosexual liaisons with working class women and prostitutes. 67 Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, 265.

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159 CHAPTER 4 LOLITA S UNDISCIPLINED SUB URBS A Foreigner and an Anarchist: Humbert Humbert in Postwar Suburbia Lolita is not considered a suburban novel, nor does its protagonist -narrator Humbert Humbert conform to the stereotype of the American suburbanite. Yet one of its most important settings is described as a suburb. When Humbert searches for a new home in America, he says, I cast around for some place in the New England countryside or sleepy small town.1 He decides upon green and -pink Ramsdale, arriving by train at the toy station and patronizing the only hotel ( L 35). Humbert is informed that he can rent a room from Charlotte Haze, and his chauffeur almost runs over a suburban dog on Lawn Street where her house is located ( L 36). Humbert describes his arrival in terms that reveal his preconceived disgust for American suburbia and its middle -class resid ents: the Haze house, a white -framed horror, appeared, looking dingy and old, more gray than white the kind of place you know will have a rubber tube affixable to the tub faucet in lieu of a shower ( L 36). He similarly disparages Hazes dcor: The front hall was graced with door chimes, a white -eyed wooden thingamabob of commercial Mexican origin, and that banal darling of the arty middle class, van Goghs Arlsienne ( L 36). His first conversation with Haze, in which they discuss the privilege of liv ing in Ramsdale, confirms his prejudices: She was, obviously, one of those women whose polished words may reflect a book club or bridge club, or any other deadly conventionality, but never her soul; women who are completely devoid of humor; women utterly indifferent at heart to the dozen or so possible subjects of a parlor conversation, but very particular about the rules of such conversations, through the sunny cellophane of which not very appetizing frustrations can be readily distinguished ( L 37). In short, Humbert considers himself vastly superior to the rather

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160 ridiculous Mrs. Haze, with her blind faith in the wisdom of her church and book club, her mannerisms of elocution, and her suburban house that so transparently exposes her lack of taste and originality ( L 75). Humbert is an outsider to the society of Ramsdale in several ways. He is a cosmopolitan, European intellectual, having been educated in London and Paris, currently writing a comparative history of French literature for English-speaking students ( L 32). His most alien attribute is his pedophilia; Humbert harbors a secret desire for the young girls he deems nymphets. He chooses Ramsdale only because he discovers that the McCoos, the family he initially contacts about summer lodging, hav e a twelve -year -old daughter. When their house burns down on the night Humbert arrives in Ramsdale, Mr. McCoo redirects him to Charlotte Haze. Humbert is repulsed by what he finds at Lawn Street, until he spies twelve year -old Dolores Haze, or Lolita. Humbert expends most of his attention and narration on Lolita her body, her habits, her activities as he recalls the ten weeks spent as Hazes lodger. Toward his new American environment Humbert remains as condescending and dismissive as he is toward Charlotte Near the end of his stay, Humbert finally describes his suburban street as he surveys it while cutting Hazes grass. He observes two little girls with a bicycle, old Miss Opposites gardener, and a station wagon being chased by a neighbors dog (73) This tableau seems intentionally commonplace in order to counterpoint the drama occurring, as Humbert anxiously watches for Charlotte to arrive home so that he can propose marriage she having declared her love for him in a letter and commanded him to lea ve while she is away. The marriage is merely his scheme to remain near Lolita, and after it takes place, he again mocks Charlottes domestic behavior as a way to reiterate her oblivious ignorance via her poor taste: With the zest of a

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161 banal young bride, s he started to glorify the home in cretonnes and chintzes, consulting illustrated catalogs and homemaking guides ( L 778). When Charlotte dies in a car accident, Humbert flees Ramsdale almost immediately, embarking on a yearlong road trip across Americ a with Lolita. Humbert shows little interest in suburbia, either as a resident or as the writer of this narrative, and his attitude is shared by literary critics. This setting is not usually considered important to Nabokovs novel, which is often interpre ted as a metafiction about art or else discussed for the ethical problems raised by its portrayal of pedophilia. Significantly, none of the suburban literary scholars addressed in my first chapter mention Lolita in their accounts of the subgenre. When comp ared to George Babbitt, the quintessential twentieth -century suburbanite character, Humbert does indeed appear to be a foreigner and an anarchist, as Nabokov deems him ( L 315). Babbitt is largely a representative type: a narrow -minded, hypocritical Ameri can businessman and civic booster who expresses himself in platitudes, remaining out of touch or at odds with his feelings and desires. Suburbia provides Babbitt with self affirmation through its homogeneous community, while offering him the socially accep table emotional outlet of family life. Humbert, by contrast, is an abnormal, antisocial individual, committed to nurturing his secret passion and seemingly unconcerned about his public or professional existence. The strict normativity of post -WWII suburbia where a childless, single adult who works at home is morally suspect, makes Humbert feel stifled. Surprisingly, the two characters do have a few things in common. Both are romantic dreamers who desire a fairy girl Lolita often being playfully describe d by Humbert as a nymph, elf, pixie, and other similar mythological figures. The men also demonstrate a similar confusion about their society. As I argued in the previous chapter, Babbitt maintains a nostalgia

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162 for the Victorian separate spheres, not realiz ing that the kind of intimacy he craves from his fairy girl is undermined by the commodification of suburbia that he facilitates as a real -estate developer. Humbert also seems out of touch with his time and place, imagining his desire for Lolita constraine d by a disciplinary power not unlike the panopticism analyzed by Michel Foucault. While Humbert relentlessly exerts this type of power over Lolita, he actually operates within a middle -class social order characterized by conflict avoidance and disengaged t olerance. Suburbia is the place where Humberts confusion is most apparent, particularly because he is less of an outsider there than he would care to admit. A Lighted House of Glass: Humbert under Surveillance Humbert Humberts brief account of his earl iest sexual experiences focuses upon his first love, Annabel Leigh, whom he describes as the prototype for Lolita ( L 40). He taunts his readers with the possibility that his childhood romance with Annabel in some way led to his adult pedophilia. These ex periences also seem to provide a precedent and explanation for his adult paranoia about surveillance. In his unsuccessful first tryst with Annabel, the two youngsters managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family, meeting in a mimosa grove behind her house at night ( L 14). They masturbate each other and Humbert almost ejaculates, but he is interrupted by a sudden commotion in a nearby bush probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mothers voice calling her, with a frantic r ising note and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden ( L 15). Humbert states that after this rather theatrical interruption, the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight, while their families stay together at the beach. In their unsuccessful second tryst, the children deceive their guardians and seclude themselves in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, where they almost manage to have sex until two bearded brothers, the old man of th e sea and his twin, came out of the sea, interrupting the ill -fated lovers ( L 13).

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163 These experiences seem to shape Humberts consciousness, because when his Annabel returns to him in the form of Lolita, so does his belief that he is persecuted by a vici ous vigilance. Indeed, his brief stint in Ramsdale becomes increasingly pervaded by an atmosphere of surveillance. Soon after Humbert joins the Haze household, a trip to Hourglass Lake is planned, with Humbert, Charlotte, and Lolita all harboring secret m otives for going. He tellingly mishears name of the lake as Our Glass, which suggests some kind of communal transparency. Humbert hopes to reenact the beach episode from his childhood, but his plan is thwarted by Charlotte, who invites along Lolitas fri end Mary. Charlotte desires to get her handsome lodger alone in the seminude, far from prying eyes, while the children go off and play together ( L 56). Incidentally, eyes did pry and tongues did wag, reports Humbert, who must have later learned from Lo lita that she and Mary spied upon him and Charlotte that day ( L 56). This offhand remark provides an early hint of Lolitas desire for Humbert, completing the odd love triangle. Not recognizing the young girls interest, Humbert fears Lolita will detect hi s ardor, and his cautious attempts to experience her sexually without her knowledge he toys with the idea of drugging and raping her first succeed in a chance encounter some time later in the Haze living room. Sitting there on the sofa, says Humbert, I managed to attune, by a series of stealthy movements, my masked lust to her guileless limbs. It was no easy matter to divert the little maidens attention ( L 58). He believes that he successfully evades her notice as he masturbates, yet we have ample reas on to doubt his judgments about Lolita. After Humbert marries Charlotte, she informs him of her intentions to enroll Lolita in a boarding school and afterward Beardsley College. He reacts to this frustrating impediment by plotting to drown Charlotte in Hourglass Lake. He lures her out into the water, yet cannot bring himself to act. Returning to the beach, Charlotte removes her bathing suit top in order to tan her

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164 back, and hearing a nearby noise, she reproves [t]hose disgusting prying kids ( L 88). The n oise turns out to come from their neighbor Jean Farlow, an amateur painter. Humbert quips, Jean said she had been up there, in a place of green concealment, spying on nature (spies are generally shot) ( L 88). Jean informs Humbert that she noticed he wore his watch while swimming. Impressed at this minute perception, Charlotte remarks, You could see anything that way ( L 89). Indeed, Jean would have seen the drowning too from her vantage point. As if summing up the situation in Ramsdale, Humbert, reflecti ng on his aborted murder, remarks, in our middle class nosy era it would not have come off ( L 87). The most nosy person in Ramsdale, of course, may be Humbert himself. In reminiscing about his childhood, Humbert makes a characteristically revealing of fhand comment: I wanted to be a famous spy ( L 12). This seeming oxymoron, conjoining celebrity and secrecy, might well describe Humberts existence in Ramsdale. Though he appears subjected to various gazes as a handsome, sophisticated, exotic newcomer, h e conducts the most extensive surveillance in his clandestine pursuit of Lolita. His narrative is sprinkled with instances of him eavesdropping or spying on her. At one point, he describes himself as a pale spider: My web is spread all over the house as I listen from my chair where I sit like a wily wizard ( L 49). Humbert even compares his recollection of the contents of his old diary to the memory of a spy ( L 41). Although Charlotte Haze seems to be the least observant character, she ultimately performs the most dramatic, effectual spying when she rapes Humberts locked table and discovers proof of his pedophilia in that same diary ( L 96). Surveillance continues to be a motif after Charlotte dies, as Humbert takes Lolita on a road trip crisscrossing Ame rica. When he goes shopping to outfit his young ward, he reports: I realized I was the only shopper in that rather eerie place where I moved about fish-like, in a

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165 glaucous aquarium. I sensed strange thoughts form in the minds of the languid ladies that es corted me from counter to counter, from rock ledge to seaweed, and the belts and bracelets I chose seemed to fall from siren hands into transparent water ( L 108). His feeling of living in a fishbowl persists as the pair travel by automobile. When Humbert pulls to the side of the road for their first passionate kiss, he recounts that blessed intuition broke our embrace a split second before a highway patrol car drew up alongside ( L 113). He continues to worry about being confined with the alluring girl in a glass -windowed box: At inspection stations on highways entering Arizona or California, a policemans cousin would peer with such intensity at us that my poor heart wobbled ( L 160). After a year of living out of hotels and motels, Humbert and Lolita re turn to suburbia, settling down in Beardsley, a mellow academic townlet and home to Beardsley College ( L 179). In one of his most revealing comments regarding the scrutiny under which he seems to live, Humbert declares, I often felt we lived in a lighte d house of glass, and that at any moment some thin -lipped parchment face would peer through a carelessly unshaded window to obtain a free glimpse of things that the most jaded voyeur would have paid a small fortune to watch ( L 180). Our Middle -Class Nosy Era: The Disciplinary Society It is tempting to read Lolita s depiction of postwar Americas suburbs and highways through the theory of the disciplinary society that Michel Foucault describes in his highly influential Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975), and to read passages such as the one about Humberts glass house in relation to the panopticon that Foucault made famous. A precedent for such readings exists in Robert Beukas SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Ce ntury American Fiction and Film (2004). He declares that the titular device of John Cheevers short story The Enormous Radio reminds one of a latter -day

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166 incarnation of Benthams panopticon.2 In Beukas view, this radios magical capability for eavesdro pping suggests the increasing power of surveillance in postwar America and the impact such surveillance may have on community dynamics. Concerns about the increasing visibility of private lives were to become part of the critique of suburbia in the cold wa r era, as the picture window, a standard feature of the postwar suburban house, symbolically eliminated the distinction between the public and private sectors. Tawdry behavior viewed through the picture window was to become a staple image in critiques of the suburban lifestyle, and most works of fiction and film set in the suburbs play on the heightened sense of visibility fostered by the suburban environment.3 Beuka makes more specific claims about the function of such surveillance. He argues that the p aranoid fears of the radios owner about unintentionally broadcasting her own private life demonstrates Foucaults idea that panopticism serves to induct individuals into societys matrix of power relations.4 In addition, Beuka claims, we might conside r the nature of Foucauldian internalized discipline in terms of its relationship to class position; although Jim scoffs at Irenes fear of being heard by the radio, he too has internalized a pervasive form of self -discipline that drives Jim to work hard a nd buy material goods in order to maintain the appearances of an upper -middle class lifestyle.5 Beuka also discovers Foucauldian themes in Cheevers more famous story The Swimmer, in which the public pool is characterized by its strict disciplinary su perstructure and the penetrating, panoptic gaze of the lifeguards.6 In his analysis of the 1975 film The Stepford Wives Beuka perceives an image of the suburb as an intensely visual landscape, a terrain marked by a compromised subjectivity brought abo ut by the breakdown of distinctions between public and private spaces.7 Again, he suggests that picture windows are responsible, but the surveillance in Stepford is much more wide ranging, insidious, and gender specific: Indeed, the town itself becomes a veritable grid of surveillance that serves to entrap the few remaining human women in a seemingly omnipresent male power structure.8 In these

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167 readings, Beuka makes some provocative, occasionally sweeping arguments about the relationships between landsc ape, perception, and power. Might Lolita also be interpreted as a commentary on disciplinary society, with Humberts nympholepsy serving as a metaphor on the order of the enormous radio or the robotic wives of Stepford? To consider this option, we need t o thoroughly understand Foucaults theory. The origins of disciplinarity, according to Foucault, can be located in France during the Enlightenment with a reform movement directed at the justice system. Opposed to the arbitrariness and obscurity of monarc hical justice, these reformers believed [t]he ideal punishment would be transparent to the crime that it punishes.9 They sought to establish a fixed code of punishments that would appear rational, fitting, and natural rather than the capricious whim of a uthority; thus, murder would be punished by death, usury by a fine, and so forth.10 As Foucault puts it: The punishment must proceed from the crime; the law must appear to be a necessity of things, and power must act while concealing itself beneath the gentle force of nature.11 In addition, the reformist jurists wanted punishment to enjoy a new visibility. If punishment was made public in the Ancien Rgime, it was as a spectacle designed to instill fear of the sovereign. The reformers held that in order to actually reduce crime, punishments must be a school rather than a festival; an ever -open book rather than a ceremony.12 They hoped that [i]n the penalty, rather than seeing the presence of the sovereign, one will read the laws themselves.13 Foucault desc ribes their ideal space as a punitive city, throughout which hundreds of tiny theatres of punishment would be exhibited everyday for the peoples edification.14 This dream of an internalized authority gives rise to disciplinarity, which Foucault asso ciates with the modern prison institution developing in the late eighteenth century. The

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168 discipline of the prison does not attempt to reach the criminals humanity through reason and representation, as the reformist jurists demanded. Instead, it strives to create docile bodies through techniques and exercises: time -tables, compulsory movements, regular activities, solitary meditation, work in common, silence, application, respect, good habits. And, ultimately, what one is trying to restore in this techn ique of correction is not so much the juridical subject, who is caught up in the fundamental interests of the social pact, but the obedient subject, the individual subjected to habits, rules, orders, an authority that is exercised continually around him an d upon him, and which he must allow to function automatically in him.15 The prisons machinery operates through a meticulous organization of space and time, surveillance being integral to maintaining order and control. Indeed, Foucaults most well known e xample of disciplinarity is a model prison, Jeremy Benthams panopticon, in which a centralized observer could see every inmate without being seen in turn. The panopticon twists the Enlightenment ideal of transparency as a kind of public knowledge into an ominous form of power. The inmates cannot be sure when they are actually being observed, yet the prisons structure habituates them to assume perpetual visibility. In the nineteenth century, disciplinary power escapes the prison. No longer simply a means t o punish, it becomes instrumental in the positive constitution of subjects, and its techniques are employed to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars and idlers to work.16 The role played by capitalism in the creation of the disciplinary society cannot be overemphasized. One of Foucaults initial descriptions of discipline speaks of methods, which made possible the meticulous control of the operations of the body, which assured the constant subjection of its forces and imposed upon them a relation of docility utility.17 While he foregrounds docility throughout his analysis, utility might be the ultimate objective that motivates the entire system. Foucault poses the rhetorical questions: How can one capitalize the time of individuals, accumulate it in each of them, in their bodies, in

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169 their forces or in their abilities, in a way that is susceptible of use and control? How can one organize profitable durations? The disciplines, which analyse space, break up and rearrange activities, must also be understood as machinery for adding up and capitalizing time.18 The difference between panopticism and Taylorism, or the domination of prisoners and the management of workers, is not as great as one might hope. The Merciless Glare of the Common Law: Humbert and Disciplinarity Does Lolita represent the postwar U.S. as a disciplinary society? Humbert Humbert most frequently fears the informal surveillance of his nosy neighbors and fellow highway travelers, who might unwittingly discover his pedophilia. Yet he also occasionally worries about official authorities and the states power. He seems to believe that the police and society [are] cracking down on so -called aberrant behavior ( L 88). Nevertheless, he admits to his thorough ignorance of the law, particularly in regards to his guardianship of Lolita. He wonders how it would appear that he, a brand -new American citizen of obscure European origin, had taken no steps toward becoming the legal guardian o f his dead wifes daughter ( L 105). He cleverly manages to preempt the neighbors questioning of his legal rights. Around the time of his marriage to Charlotte, he spreads the rumor that they had been lovers thirteen years earlier ( L 75). After Charlotte s death, John Farlow Jeans husband and Charlottes legal adviser demands to know what Humbert intends for Lolita. Jean rushes to Humberts aid, exclaiming, Humbert is Dollys real father ( L 101). John apologizes, I am sorry. Yes, I see. I did not reali ze that. It simplifies matters, of course. And whatever you feel is right ( L 101). Humbert is not able to secure his position with the authorities so easily. Although he surreptitiously researches the matter, he says, I somehow never managed to find out quite exactly what the legal situation was ( L 171). This admission prefaces a page long review of the scattered facts Humbert has learned about American justice and when it intervenes in such

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170 situations. The best policy, he concludes, seemed to be to refrain from any application [for guardianship]. Or would some busybody, some Humane Society, butt in if I kept too quiet? ( L 1723). Humbert displays some psychopathological traits in his treatment of Lolita, yet he still appears socialized enough to exh ibit a generalized apprehension of authoritythough he, like most of us, does not know its true scope or power. While this internalization may be the effect of disciplinarity, Humbert is no docile body. Instead, his wariness of being hemmed in by mysterio us statutes in the merciless glare of the Common Law leads to his life in flight with Lolita, as he tries to evade the system that would apprehend him in its grid of knowledge and power ( L 106). The Beardsley School for girls, in which Humbert enrolls Lolita upon their settling down, provides the most recognizable and unequivocal example of disciplinarity in the novel. When headmistress Pratt calls in the new father for a conference about his childs poor report, Humbert imagined all sorts of horrors, a nd in this instance his anxieties about detection are reasonable (L 193). Pratt, whose name when reversed suggests her power to ensnare and confine, bluntly questions him about Lolita and their home life. Pratt is concerned that the onset of sexual maturi ng seems to give her trouble, and the headmistress reads from a series of teacher reports on Lolitas habits, interests, vocabulary, health, and so on ( L 193). The surveillance that Beardsley School performs on its students situates them in a network of writing, to borrow Foucaults words; it engages them in a whole mass of documents that capture and fix them.19 Indeed, the school uses this knowledge to exert power not only over the students but also their parents. Pratt interferes in Humberts old -fas hioned Continental tutelage, insisting that Lolita be allowed to act in the upcoming school play.

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171 Despite Humberts resentment of Pratt, he employs very similar methods on Lolita. A few chapters before the episode with Pratt, Humbert mentions solemnly we ighing the winter bleached lassie in the bathroom as part of his recitation of activities that comprise their Beardsley existence ( L 189). He seems to have memorized a set of measurements made by Charlotte on Lolitas twelfth birthday, and his purpose in collecting new information is not to proudly track the childs growth as most parents might, but instead to coerce her into maintaining the nymphet body type that he prefers ( L 107). Thus he tells Lolita: You should try to be a little nicer to me. You should also watch your diet. The tour of your thigh, you know, should not exceed seventeen and a half inches. More might be fatal (I was kidding, of course) ( L 209). He is brutally serious, however, in his invocation of authority in order to keep her docile, telling her: if we two are found out, you will be analyzed and institutionalized, my pet, cest tout. You will dwell, my Lolita will dwell (come here, my brown flower) with thirty -nine other dopes in a dirty dormitory (no, allow me, please) under the sup ervision of hideous matrons. This is the situation, this is the choice ( L 151). His offer of a choice seems rhetorical, since he uses every kind of coercion to keep Lolita in line, including bribes, trickery, and violence. Readers have noted Nabokovs pe nchant for including doubles in his fiction. It seems plausible to interpret Humbert Humbert as a monstrous double of Pratt and authority figures in general because of the way that he bends their techniques to his sinister ends. Foucault makes a relevant c omment about the pervasiveness of disciplinarity: While, on the one hand, the disciplinary establishments increase, their mechanisms have a certain tendency to become de institutionalized, to emerge from the closed fortresses in which they once functioned and to circulate in a free state.20 The last phrase could be taken to mean that disciplinary techniques become more or less ubiquitous, or it could be read as Foucault sarcastically commenting on the

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172 extension of disciplinarity into liberal democracie s such as France and the U.S. countries Nabokov lived in after fleeing communist Russia and fascist Germany. In short, Foucault seems to authorize us to find disciplinarity almost anywhere, and in Lolita it apparently permeates the American suburbs while a lso being hijacked by a madman. The Spell of Absolute Security: Undisciplined Surveillance As compelling as this interpretation of the novel may be, it fails to account for some important details. In particular, I am not convinced that Humberts anxietie s are consonant with the danger he faces. Almost every instance of surveillance discussed above is in fact lascivious, and very few of these acts seem to control, regulate, or prevent sexual behavior in the way one might expect from a disciplinary power. T his surveillance does not produce docile bodies, and it certainly does not capitalize the time of individuals. Humberts misunderstanding begins in childhood during his final attempt to have sex with Annabel Leigh. Far from protesting, the old man of the sea and his brother actually offer exclamations of ribald encouragement when Humbert is on the point of possessing the girl ( L 13). Young Humbert, it seems, is discouraged by the potential spectators interrupting his privacy. One of the great iron ies of the novel is that, despite all his bluster about his unique sexuality, Humbert remains prudishly oblivious to the sexual desires and deviancy all around him most importantly Clare Quiltys. Recollecting his former life, Humbert the narrator admits he was as nave as only a pervert can be ( L 25). Nowhere is this more evident than in his initial interactions with Lolita. He overlooks the signs of Lolitas sexual awareness in order to solipsize her, making her conform to his nymphet ideal ( L 60). His caution, doubtfully necessary in the scene on the Haze sofa, is finally rendered absurd at the Enchanted Hunters hotel. He struggles to explain their accommodations to his new daughter, proposing, while we travel, we shall be obliged we shall be throw n a good deal together. Two people sharing one room, inevitably enter into a

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173 kind how shall I say a kind, at which point the girl frankly interjects: The word is incest (L 119). He then spends the night on pins and needles attempting to surreptitiously rape the girl after giving her an ineffectual sedative, but in the morning, he claims, it was she who seduced me ( L 132). He soon learns that Lolita had already been introduced to sex with boys and girls at summer camp. Thus, we should be doubly skeptica l of Humberts announcement early in the novel: You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super -voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cr inge and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs, a nymphet ( L 17). He is not as exceptional as he presumes, and his whimpering caution (concealed within parentheses!) also seems unnecessary. To put it another way, not only does Humbert di splay a terrible incuriosity about other people, as Richard Rorty notes, but he also misinterprets surveillance as portending punishment rather than merely being prurient inquisitiveness.21 This nosiness about sexual matters is ubiquitous. After Charlott e Haze appreciates Jean Farlows veritable panopticon at Hourglass Lake, Jean replies by recalling the children she had previously spotted at sunset, right here, making love ( L 89). She goes on to gossip about other neighbors and their observed or imagin ed indiscretions. The proliferation of transgressions that Jeans surveillance sparks runs counter to the purpose of panopticism. In addition, Jeans own potential impropriety should be noted. Though a married woman, she may have been watching Humbert in t he water so intently because she finds him attractive, or so he insinuates making Charlottes assumption of disgusting prying correct, though misattributed ( L 104). The Farlows are first cousins, mentions Humbert in passing, and he similarly comments on several

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174 other divergences from sexual norms that are somehow common knowledge yet not penalized ( L 79). The most notable character in this regard is Gaston Godin, the professor who invites him to Beardsley College. H.H. has much in common with G.G., who i s a European migr and pedophile. Humbert discusses his counterpart because his Beardsley existence had such a queer bearing on my case. I need him for my defense. There he was, devoid of any talent whatsoever, a mediocre teacher, a worthless scholar, a glum repulsive fat old invert, highly contemptuous of the American way of life, triumphantly ignorant of the English language there he was in priggish New England, crooned over by the old and caressed by the young oh, having a grand old time and fooling ev erybody; and here was I ( L 183). Humberts resentment is a bit paradoxical, because Godin is not so very successful, in fact. Clearly, Humbert is aware of his colleagues sexual desire for boys, and both mens secrets have likely been suspected by others, though they have not been confronted about their behavior. Humberts relationship with Godin in Beardsley suggests an alternative to the notion of this society as disciplinary. Humbert declares: The main reason why I enjoyed or at least tolerated with r elief his company was the spell of absolute security that his ample person cast on my secret. Not that he knew it; I had no special reason to confide in him, and he was much too self -centered and abstract to notice or suspect anything that might lead to a frank question on his part and a frank answer on mine ( L 181). The implication is that Humbert is not the only person absorbed in his own sexuality, and for all the surveillance in this society, there is nearly as much tolerance and aloofness. Thus, Humbe rt similarly appreciates his neighbors tweedy and short haired Miss Lester and fadedly feminine Miss Fabian, whose only subject of brief sidewalk conversation with me was (God bless their tact!) the young loveliness of my daughter and the

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175 nave charm of G aston Godin ( L 179). Their names hint that these two cohabitating professors are lesbians, while the remark about Godin reminds us of Humberts own confessed navet, implying that the women have some idea what the men are about, and have tacitly agreed t o a policy of mutual noninterference. Indeed, Humberts pedophilia is anticipated or exposed on more than one occasion, yet nothing results of it. Two scenes in particular demonstrate a general tendency to avoid confrontation and the intervention of autho rities. When Charlotte Haze breaks into Humberts writing table, discovering proof of his aversion to her and lust for her daughter, she does not call the police to report his criminal intentions. Instead, she apparently writes three letters, which Humbert rips up but later tries to read. The reassembled fragments point to Charlottes intention of fleeing with Lo ( L 99). One letter appears addressed to Lolita, one seems to be an application to a strict boarding school for the girl, and the last Charlotte intended for Humbert. To him, she expresses her heartbreak yet leaves open the possibility of reconciliation ( L 99). Interestingly, Charlotte singles out her blameless daughter, rather than her monstrous sham husband, for institutional discipline. The second incident, a strident and hateful scene, takes place at the end of Humberts stay in Beardsley ( L 205). During one of his most heated arguments with Lolita, they are interrupted by a ringing telephone, and he realizes that not only had an eastward -fac ing window been left open, but also prude and prurient Miss East or to explode her incognito, Miss Fenton Lebone had been probably protruding three -quarter -way from her bedroom window as she strove to catch the gist of our quarrel. . This racket lacks all sense of . quacked the receiver, we do not live in a tenement here. I must emphatically . ( L 206)

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176 Nabokovs oxymoronic description of the neighbor reinforces the oddness of the womans behavior to wit, she seems offended by the fight ing and noise, which she considers inappropriate for a middle -class suburb, rather than by whatever titillating information she strains to overhear. In short, surveillance in Lolita does not appear motivated by disciplinary power except in the case of driv ing infractions, when the police appear with frightening efficiency, as happens upon Humberts high-speed return to Beardsley as well as during his final reckless jaunt ( L 171, 306). It seems that Humbert largely imposes disciplinarity on U.S. society, jus t as he imagines that he reincarnates Annabel in Lolita. We might wonder whether Humbert has solipsized the suburbs along with Lolita, projecting onto others his own perverse lustfulness as well as his style of power. He regularly seems to assume more than he could reasonably know about the erotic desires of others, as in the case of Jean Farlow and Miss East, and his narration is particularly unreliable when it comes to understanding emotional lives besides his own. An intriguing example of this projected prurience comes as Humbert, bringing Lolita to the Enchanted Hunters hotel, exclaims: Ah, gentle drivers gliding through summers black nights, what frolics, what twists of lust, you might see from your impeccable highways if Kumfy Kabins [a fictitious mo tel chain] were suddenly drained of their pigments and became as transparent as boxes of glass! ( L 1167). Humbert presumes a knowledge for which we would require a panoptic view, which is impossible except through the magic of his imagination, and indeed his claim may be a solipsistic fabrication based upon his later experiences with Lolita. During the same scene, Humbert declares that countless motor courts are ready to accommodate salesmen, escaped convicts, impotents, family groups, as well as the most corrupt and vigorous couples ( L 116). Every item on this grotesquely diverse list could in fact describe Humbert: he briefly worked in New York as an ad writer for his

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177 deceased uncles perfume company ( L 32); he could figuratively be described as an e scaped convict, being on the run from suburbia and having committed himself to a few mental institutions; he experiences impotence with Charlotte ( L 74); and finally, he and Lo constitute a family group as well as a corrupt and vigorous couple. Beyond the lack of evidence within the novel, little research suggests that postwar American suburbia or automobile culture is particularly characterized by disciplinarity or panopticism. Humbert makes a pertinent observation about Clare Quiltys suburban house Pavo r Manor, as he locks all the interior doors to preclude Quiltys escape: The house, being an old one, had more planned privacy than have modern glamour -boxes, where the bathroom, the only lockable locus, has to be used for the furtive needs of planned par enthood ( L 294). Humbert is correct, in that a change took place around the turn of the century regarding domestic interior architecture. Margaret Marsh examined popular suburban house pattern books from the 1860s and 70s: The design and function of the rooms suggested not only a separation between the family and outsiders, but also a good deal of internal family segregation.22 By contrast, a so called open floor plan became popular around the turn of the century: the important new idea about domestic space was that the house should express togetherness and family activities, not provide special spaces for individual activities.23 Indeed, the houses latent role as a site of production and instruction continued to diminish with the increasing institutionalization of such activities during the Progressive Era via the corporate capitalist market and the public education system. Spaces such as a basement kitchen run by servants, a sewing room, or a study were abandoned in favor of a living room and family k itchen. Despite Humberts worry that modern suburban houses lack privacy, the turn of -the century rearrangement had little to do with instituting disciplinarity or panopticism. In the

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178 redefined space of the suburban house, writes Marsh, families would ideally spend their evenings together reading aloud, playing word games, talking.24 Far from enforcing the meticulous control of the operations of the body that Foucault envisioned, private family time was conceived in opposition to work and school as re creational or even therapeutic. This project revived in the postwar era: The suburban vision of the early 1950s was less a new expression of the domestic ideal than a feverish and in the long run unsuccessful attempt to erase the depression and the war an d return to the 1920s. The architecture of the new suburbs was nostalgic; ersatz colonial and cape cod styles abounded.25 The obvious exception from this image of the family at play would be the housewife. The American suburban home has long been target ed by a variety of reformers seeking to make housework more efficient and productive, going back at least to the publication of Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowes The American Womans Home (1869). Betty Friedan recognized how the postwar desire for the Progressive Eras type of family life led to domestic discipline, confining women to the home: The end of the road is togetherness, where the woman has no independent self to hide even in guilt; she exists only for and through her husband and chil dren.26 Friedan provocatively calls suburbia a comfortable concentration camp for middle class women.27 Outside of the house, it seems even more difficult to contend that the suburban landscape exerts a disciplinary power. Foucaults analysis emphasizes the importance of physical centralization along with surveillance, yet two of the defining features of the middle -class suburban ideal in all periods of American history are decentralization and family privacy. Low density, residential communities of detac hed houses sited on relatively large plots of land simply are not spaces well suited to panopticism, and in fact postwar automobile suburbs were on

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179 average almost half as dense as older railway suburbs.28 Along with housing density, other popular architectu ral features such as picket fences, enclosed garages, and cul -de -sacs ward off unwanted intrusions. Although Robert Beuka discovers several examples of picture windows in suburban fiction and film functioning as symbols of panoptic power, privacy fences an d hedges are mentioned in Lolita almost as often as windows. For instance, when Humbert and Lolita move to Beardsley, he looks forward to spying on her schools playground, located across a vacant lot from their house, until a wooden fence is erected on the first day of school, blocking his magic vista ( L 179). It is possible to make too much of such details, as in Beukas reading of Cheevers The Swimmer. Although the idea of comparing lifeguards to prison guards is interesting, a public pool is ultim ately a place of recreation, not punishment or productivity.29 I am skeptical of Beukas reliance upon such imagery to argue for a collapse of public and private boundaries in postwar suburbia. Looking for confirmation of a theory like Foucaults in fiction (and vice versa) can be a questionable pursuit. With this caveat in mind, I would like to speculate about what type of power Lolita represents if not a disciplinary society. Humbert the Terrible Deliberated with Humbert the Small: Power and Avoidance On e of the few studies to examine suburbia as a society defined by its organization of power is M. P. Baumgartners The Moral Order of a Suburb (1988). She argues that middle -class suburban communities can be characterized by a type of order that she calls moral minimalism. Within such a society, individuals make efforts to deny, minimize, contain, and avoid conflicts. People shun confrontations and show great distaste for the pursuit of grievances or the censure of wrongdoing. In fact, only when they can be assured that someone else will bear the full burden of moral authority, allowing them to remain completely anonymous and uninvolved, do suburbanites approve the exercise of social control. This syndrome of conflict aversion and moral restraint has as hal lmarks a great deal of tolerance and frequent resort to avoidance when tensions arise.30

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180 Baumgartners perspective allows us to reconsider the behavior of Lolita s characters, beginning with Charlotte Haze, Miss East, and Misses Lester and Fabian. These s uburban women demonstrate a notable reluctance to exercise social control over Humbert, though they all know about his indecency with Lolita to some degree. Their failure to act might not be a capricious choice on Nabokovs part, but instead could reflect his awareness of the social disorganization of suburban communities. Baumgartner contends that moral minimalism stems from a lack of cohesive and enduring ties to a community.31 People are more likely to face rather than flee conflicts when they are bound by necessity to remain in a relationship, or when their reputations or honor within their larger community are at stake. Suburbs do not foster strong ties for several reasons, as Baumgartner summarizes: Suburbs are physically and socially structured in ways that allow a great deal of privacy and separation, and it is not uncommon for people to know few of their fellow residents. More important, suburban households often are separated by a great deal of social distance. High transiency rates truncate conn ections between them in time, for instance. In addition, even while they exist, most suburban relationships encompass only a few strands of peoples lives. Such ties usually arise from residential proximity or common membership in an organization, an d they are only rarely buttressed by shared employment, joint ownership of possessions, participation in a closed social network, or economic interdependence.32 Class seems the most critical single factor to consider, since it serves as a rough index of the amount of autonomy a person can afford. In fact, Baumgartner claims that the working -class members of her sample community were likelier to use more confrontational modes of conflict management especially violence and the use of the local court than the ir wealthier neighbors.33 While behaviors such as conflict avoidance certainly take place outside the confines of suburbs, suburbia appears to be a separate social order within capitalist society because of the pervasiveness of tolerance and avoidance there or what amounts to the same thing, its concentration of wealth. In the terms I have been using, moral minimalism can be understood as

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181 another side effect of the successful creation of a distinctive, homogeneously middle class environment. While Baumgartne rs analysis of suburbia as atomized and unsociable may not apply to all middle class communities equally, it illuminates certain aspects of Lolita Charlotte Haze most resembles Baumgartners portrait of the disconnected, nonconfrontational suburbanite. S he moved to Ramsdale less than two years before Humbert arrives ( L 46), or as he mockingly observes: she had lived in coy Ramsdale, the gem of an eastern state, not long enough to know all the nice people ( L 78). Charlottes relationship with her twelve -year old daughter is not overly placid and affectionate. Humbert remarks on common noises around the Haze household, including Lolita banging the refrigerator door or screeching at her detested mama ( L 49). Their relationship further sours with the arriv al of the handsome new lodger. As Humbert considers it, mother Haze hated my darling for her being sweet on me ( L 54). Rather than brawl with her daughter in front of him, Charlotte maintains a gentility that Humbert finds affected and ridiculous. When L olita imposes herself on the adults excursion downtown, for instance, Charlotte reacts by telling Humbert to ignore the girl, and she refuses to directly discipline her daughter. It is intolerable, said Haze, violently getting into second [gear], that a child should be so ill -mannered. And so very persevering. When she knows she is unwanted. And needs a bath ( L 51). Baumgartner observes that youths take the place of an underclass in suburban communities, because they create disturbances, congregate improperly in public places, and are disorderly.34 Lolita, who is loud, confrontational, rude, and dirty, can be understood as a lower class interloper in Charlottes house. Charlottes passive aggressive driving, as she jerks her two passengers around, foreshadows her style of conflict resolution, which is strongly marked by avoidance. After

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182 Charlotte marries Humbert, she informs him of her plan to remove her irritating daughter from the household: Little Lo goes straight from camp to a good boarding sc hool with strict discipline and some sound religious training. And then Beardsley College ( L 83). When Charlotte reads Humberts diary, her immediate reaction is to want to flee Ramsdale, ceding him the house that was hers prior to their very recent marri age ( L 96). Humbert intercepts her writing the three letters, but rather than make a scene, Charlotte expels him from the room. As he ponders how to deny his wrongdoing, she races to the mailbox to send her letters, preferring to write him rather than argu e in person though she fails to avoid being struck by a neighbors car in the street. The curious behavior of Miss East also might demonstrate moral minimalism. Overhearing Humbert and Lolitas quarrel, the neighbor does not call the police to report a noise disturbance, a domestic dispute, or something more unsavory. Perhaps she cannot contact the authorities and still remain anonymous, since she is the neighbor most obviously affected by Humberts east -facing open window. Miss Easts disgruntled phone call nevertheless substitutes for a face to -face confrontation, and she chastises Humbert in what seems an attempt to contain rather than rectify his conflict with Lolita. Similarly, Lester and Fabian do not investigate or interfere, whatever they may susp ect, perhaps because their new neighbors will soon be leaving Humbert rents the house of a professor on sabbatical as in fact they do ( L 176). Humberts management of conflict and power is the most complex and dynamic, as befits his characters position i n the narrative. He provides a self analysis early in his pursuit of Lolita: Despite my manly looks, I am horribly timid. My romantic soul gets all clammy and shivery at the thought of running into some awful indecent unpleasantness. Those ribald sea mons ters ( L 53). Although he insinuates that his childhood experience influenced his aversion to conflict,

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183 while also attributing it to an innate tenderness, the invocation of decency suggests social class or status as a possible source of his behavior instea d, as further evidenced by his account of his first marriage. When his wife Valeria tells him she cannot move from France to America with him because shes seeing another man, Humbert thinks: To beat her up on the street, there and then, as an honest vulgarian might have done, was not feasible. Years of secret sufferings had taught me superhuman self -control. So I ushered her into a taxi which had been invitingly creeping along the curb for some time, and in this comparative privacy I quietly suggested she comment her wild talk. A mounting fury was suffocating me ( L 27). Valeria tells of her plans to divorce as they ride in the Parisian taxi, and he strikes her knee. Humbert is upset not because he loves his wife he disdains her in fact but because she ch allenges his authority. As Humbert recounts: matters of legal and illegal conjunction were for me alone to decide, and here she was, Valeria, the comedy wife, brazenly preparing to dispose in her own way of my comfort and fate ( L 28). Indeed, her only tw o positive qualities in his eyes are the imitation she gave of a little girl and her muted nature which did help to produce an odd sense of comfort in our small squalid flat ( L 25, 26). In other words, he appreciates her approximation of the lack of power possessed by a young girl. In an often-quoted passage, Humbert declares: I am not concerned with so-called sex at all. Anybody can imagine those elements of animality. A greater endeavor lures me on: to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphet s ( L 134). Erotic attraction in Humberts case is perversely bound up with the idea of dominating another human being. He has no ethical compunction about using violence to achieve this end, being mainly concerned about its unseemliness for a gentleman in public. Later in the narrative, he impudently brags of having domestically abused his first wife: In the good old

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184 days, by merely twisting fat Valechkas brittle wrist (the one she had fallen upon from a bicycle) I could make her change her mind instantl y ( L 83). Though his claim of being romantic seems dubious, Humbert is correct in describing himself as horrible and a coward. He is a self -described monster, but he is also middle class, meaning that he not only publicly acts in accordance with the re serve and civility appropriate to his class position, but he also rather cravenly fears those who might exert power or authority over him almost always men, incidentally. His public propriety serves as a screen for his domestic depredations, but these aspe cts of his personality also disagree on occasion. When Valerias lover, who is their taxi driver, introduces himself, Humbert immediately stops trying to maintain his control over her and suggests that she pack up her belongings and depart. He shifts from violence to avoidance in the presence of this intimate stranger, yet he describes his inner self as unusually conflicted: Humbert the Terrible deliberated with Humbert the Small whether Humbert Humbert should kill her or her lover, or both, or neither ( L 29). He seems slightly disarmed by the taxi driver Maximovich, because the stocky White Russian ex -colonel probably accompanies Valeria in order to prevent further physical abuse, yet the man demonstrates a discreet old -world civility, punctuating his movements with all sorts of mispronounced apologies ( L 28, 29). Humbert the Small proves the more powerful psychic figure in this instance, and Humbert Humbert withdraws like a sulky child for the remainder of the encounter, fantasizing about acts of viol ence against Valeria as the new couple ready her things. Once the lovers leave, Humbert becomes enraged as he discovers alien urine and a cigarette butt in the toilet. He takes these remnants as a crowning insult by Maximovich ( L 30). This gesture, of all things, pushes Humbert the Terrible to the fore or so the narrator claims. I

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185 dashed out of the house with the heroic decision of attacking him barefisted; despite my natural vigor, I am no pugilist, while the short but broad -shouldered Maximovich see med made of pig iron ( L 30). The obvious explanation is that Humbert acts only after the danger is safely passed, salvaging his masculine self respect by taking offense at a trivial oversight, since his formidable opponent is of course nowhere to be found. A more original interpretation would be that Maximovich is an unsettlingly indeterminate figure, an exiled authority (an ex-colonel) now part of the working class (a cabbie), who confuses Humberts expectations for how their conflict will be resolved. By not flushing the toilet, Maximovich symbolically threatens the decorum that sustains Humberts perverse life. Indeed, Maximovich could confront Humbert about being an abusive husband as well as forcing Valeria to play out a pedophiliac fantasy on their we dding night ( L 26). The incivility is what Humbert finds intolerable, not the loss of his wife. Humbert later comes to believe the toilet was left unflushed as a gesture of middle -class Russian courtesy, as he hypothesizes that Maximovich attempted to m uffle his private need in decorous silence so as not to underscore the small size of his hosts domicile with the rush of a gross cascade on top of his own hushed trickle ( L 30). Humbert raises the cab drivers social status, it seems, in order to reassur e himself that Maximovich is too genteel to expose his transgressions. When Humbert arrives in Ramsdale, he finds Lolita, of course, but he also discovers a society where social control seems to be minimally exercised. He is an able exploiter of vulnerabi lities, as he demonstrates with Valerias wrist, Charlottes loneliness, and Lolitas dependency. Though he disparages Charlottes genteel pretensions, he embraces her middle -class culture of avoidance for the opportunities it provides him with Lolita to t he extent that he finds himself practically disarmed, unable to commit violence against his wife at Hourglass Lake. When he finally puts his foot down at Charlottes plan to vacation in England, his argument only

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186 emphasizes his newfound domestic timidity: I love being bossed by you, he tells her, but every game has its rules. I am not cross. I am not cross at all. Dont do that. But I am one half of this household, and have a small but distinct voice ( L 91). Humbert the Small is ascendant, and fate side s with him for a time. After Charlottes fortuitous death, Humbert even borrows some of her ideas, such as fleeing Ramsdale and taking Lolita to Beardsley. On the road, he makes suburban transiency a permanent condition, and when they settle down again, H umbert masters the art of maintaining weak ties with his neighbors: I prided myself on the exact temperature of my relations with them: never rude, always aloof ( L 179). Taking a cross -cultural perspective, Baumgartner claims that avoidance seems to hav e been common among hunting and gathering peoples but to have been greatly overshadowed in virtually all more developed societies.35 Suburbias moral order, she determines, most resembles that of nomadic tribes: Few other groups have ever left so simultan eously undeveloped both the means for aggressive retaliation and those for the nonviolent airing and resolution of disputes.36 Baumgartner concludes by calling suburbia a kind of limited anarchy.37 If Humbert is a foreigner and an anarchist, as Nabokov sa ys, then he blends into his adopted home surprisingly well. In this context, Humberts relationship to Lolita stands out for its contentiousness. According to Baumgartners research, suburban families practice conflict avoidance among their own members as much as with neighbors. Baumgartner claims these relatively weak families spend a great deal of time apart following individual routines, are often dispersed within the space of the house, and strive to minimize joint ownership of possessions.38 In cont rast, Lolita does not enjoy much independence from Humbert. He not only pesters her for sex constantly, but he also jealously tries to discipline her activities and friendships, using surveillance in order to

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187 prevent her having any life apart from him. Whe n she is hospitalized, he realizes that for the first time in two years I was separated from my Lolita ( L 241). He also exerts power through money, paying her in exchange for sex ( L 184), and he even uses violence on the child. During the quarrel that Mi ss East overhears, Humbert admits that he held her wrist hard as she struggled to escape him and in fact hurt her rather badly repeating his abuse of Valeria ( L 205). Later, he forcefully strikes Lolitas face for lying to him ( L 227). I proposed that Lo lita can be interpreted as a disorderly lower -class figure in her suburban environment, but the responsibility for their discord rests on Humbert. His behavior with both Valeria and Lolita is out of keeping with his normal aversion to conflict, revealing t he essential contradiction in his character. He affirms moral minimalism to the degree that he can exploit it as a screen behind which to dominate less powerful individuals. Lolita seems to learn from Humbert how to take advantage of weakness, as she manip ulates him through his tendency to avoid conflicts and maintain minimal social ties. She tricks him by proposing they leave Beardsley and take another long trip, ostensibly to remove them from the sources of their growing animosity namely, her interest in boys and the school dramatics program, neither of which is approved by Humbert. In secret, Lolita schemes with Clare Quilty to run away together after she embarks with Humbert, presumably because escaping her jealous guardian would be easier in the midst o f strangers, once Humbert had unenrolled her from school and notified their neighbors about the move, so that hardly anyone would notice her disappearance. Quilty follows them in an Aztec Red Convertible, and Humberts paranoia about surveillance reaches a fever pitch, as he imagines the pursuer to be a detective whom some busybody had hired to see what exactly Humbert Humbert was doing with that minor stepdaughter of his ( L 217). When Humbert questions Lolita about their shadow, she counsels

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188 avoidance: If hes really a cop, she said shrilly but not illogically, the worst thing we could do, would be to show him we are scared. Ignore him, Dad ( L 219). Through such manipulations, Lolita finally manages to escape from Humbert. The Feeling Was Good: H umberts Moral Apotheosis Over the next few years, Humbert seems to undergo a change of heart and behavior. He takes up with a woman named Rita, but she is not another girl -substitute like Valeria, another powerless woman to be controlled and abused. Inste ad, he shows surprising respect for her, considering his disgust with almost every other female character, saying, she was the most soothing, the most comprehending companion that I ever had ( L 259). With Rita, he cruises the highways for two years searc hing for Lolita, rather than simply extricating himself from the entanglements of the past. Humberts change during this period can be detected in minor details, such as his decision to fistfight with a drunken man at a bar who tries to retain Rita somethi ng he failed to do in the episode with Maximovich and Valeria ( L 263). By the time Humbert hears from Lolita again, he seems ready to abandon moral minimalism. He prepares to visit his former lover by waking at six in the morning. Then, with the stern an d romantic care of a gentleman about to fight a duel, Humbert recounts, I checked the arrangement of my papers, bathed and perfumed my delicate body, shaved my face and chest, selected a silk shirt and clean drawers, pulled on transparent taupe socks, and congratulated myself for having with me in my trunk very exquisite clothes a waistcoat with nacreous buttons, for instance, a pale cashmere tie and so on ( L 268). More to the point, he carries along a gun. This dramatic effort to prepare for conflict is somewhat thwarted by the setting: he finds Lolita and her husband living in a clapboard shack on the edge of a small industrial community called Coalmont ( L 269, 267). Humbert appears silly and weak next to Lolitas husband and his friend, both workin g -class, combat -wounded WWII veterans, who simply

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189 looked at her fragile, frileux diminutive, old -world, youngish but sickly, father in velvet coat and beige vest, maybe a viscount ( L 273). The men treat Humbert with [t]he exquisite courtesy of simple f olks, another echo of his encounter with Maximovich, and in the face of these fine manners and his own foppish weakness, Humbert the Small momentarily surfaces again. Humbert tries to reassert his power by reverting to the old tactic of extortion, withholding the money Lolita asked for until she reveals the identity of the man in the Aztec Red Convertible (L 271). She almost refuses to give up Quilty, then finally submits, seemingly unconcerned about what Humbert might do with the information. As if to un derline her assumption that Humbert always avoids conflicts except with her, Lolita informs him that Quilty [h]ad rocked with laughter when she confessed about [Humbert] and her, and said he had thought so. It was quite safe, under the circumstances, to t ell him . ( L 275). She seems to believe that since Quilty suspected yet tolerated Humberts pedophilia, Humbert will probably not try to punish him since both men are equally guilty and vulnerable to the law. Humberts odd imitation of a European duel ist may be irrelevant to the outcome of his encounter with Lolita, yet the performance can be read as another sign of his ongoing repudiation of certain aspects of American society. Leaving Coalmont, Humbert observes: Now and then cars passed me, red tail lights receding, white headlights advancing, but the town was dead. Nobody strolled and laughed on the sidewalks as relaxing burghers would in sweet, mellow, rotting Europe ( L 281). Though he has traveled from coast to coast, he only now seems aware of h ow social isolation is structured into postwar U.S. culture through its automobiles, motels, televisions, and suburban houses. Similarly, he becomes increasingly self aware and self -critical about his brutal treatment of Lolita, as demonstrated throughout chapters 31 and 32. These epiphanies are related, I would argue, in that Humbert loses his taste for the minimalist society

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190 that enabled his terrible abuse. The absence of laughter will be connected to Lolitas lost childhood in the poignant memory at the very end of the novel. Humberts final symbolic break with suburbias social order occurs, ironically, when he returns to Ramsdale to elicit Clare Quiltys whereabouts from the mans uncle, Ivor Quilty. Driving directly from Coalmont through the night, Hu mbert takes a shortcut and his car gets stuck in the mud. He changes out of his fancy outfit into some old clothes and extricates the car. Arriving in Ramsdale, he decides to visit the former Haze residence. Forgetting that in an American suburban street a lone pedestrian is more conspicuous than a lone motorist, Humbert says, I left the car in the avenue to walk unobtrusively past 342 Lawn Street ( L 288). He tries to speak with a young girl who apparently lives in the old Haze house, but she runs and f etches a violent -looking dark man. Humbert recounts: I was on the point of identifying myself when, with a pang of dream -embarrassment, I became aware of my mud -caked dungarees, my filthy and torn sweater, my bristly chin, my bums bloodshot eyes ( L 288 9). It only takes him a short time to walk back to the avenue, yet he discovers: A red ticket showed between wiper and windshield; I carefully tore it into two, four, eight pieces ( L 289). This entire scene demonstrates his disregard for the rules tha t make moral minimalism possible. Although Baumgartner considers suburbia to be a kind of limited anarchy, suburbs are nevertheless relatively peaceful and orderly, in part because the lack of individual responsibility for maintaining order is compensated for by a strict social code governing the use of public space, a code applied by residents and enforced by authorities. To begin with, residential suburbs especially postwar ones do not typically have much public space beyond parks, streets, and perhaps si dewalks. Partly because there are no destinations along most roads except private houses, and partly because residents drive when they have errands to do, there is very

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191 little street life, says Baumgartner, echoing Humberts observation of deadness.39 Ped estrians are inherently suspicious in such a setting. Even though suburban neighbors may have weak social ties, they recognize each other as Humbert demonstrates with his nicknames such as Miss East and Miss Opposite and they notice strangers. The homogeneity of suburban communities also allows residents to assess order on the basis of appearances. Baumgartner writes, those who appear to be outsiders by virtue of race or unconventionality deviate by their very presence.40 These conventions have largely to do with class, of course, and Humbert realizes that his resemblance to a homeless person is highly alarming on Lawn Street.41 Finally, the lack of avoidance or aloofness, to use Humberts preferred term, can itself be another sign of disorder in suburb ia. It is expected that strangers will not impose themselves upon others, Baumgartner notes, and Humbert breaks this rule by approaching the girl, an obvious infraction that reveals just how little he cares to blend in anymore.42 Humberts repudiation of avoidance explains a few curious encounters he has in Ramsdale. He meets Mrs. Chatfield, a former acquaintance, and reports: She attacked me with a fake smile, all aglow with evil curiosity. (Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a fifty year -old mechanic, had done to eleven year -old Sally Horner in 1948?) Very soon I had that avid glee well under control ( L 289). Previously, he would have been terrified and sought an immediate escape, but instead Humbert engages in conversation, exaggerating Lolitas success in marriage as a good father might. Then he does something shocking, after Chatfield said she disapproved of such early marriages, she would never let her Phyllis, who was now eighteen Oh yes, of course, I said quietly. I remember Phy llis. Phyllis and Camp Q. Yes, of course. By the way, did she ever tell you how Charlie Holmes debauched there his mothers little charges? ( L 290)

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192 This excessive response to Chatfields rude comment strips away the delusion that Ramsdales adults operate under as Humbert once didregarding their childrens supposedly nonexistent sexual activity. Humberts insult is rather daring, considering Chatfields possible suspicions about him, and it is soon followed by another, equally surprising breach of proprie ty. Under the pretext of consulting about some dental work, Humbert obtains Clare Quiltys location from his uncle Ivor, at which point he says: On second thoughts, I shall have it all done by Dr. Molnar. His price is higher, but he is of course a much be tter dentist than you. I do not know if any of my readers will ever have a chance to say that. It is a delicious dream feeling. ( L 291) Humberts new willingness to ignore decorum and incite conflict is the counterpart to his diminishing need to exert abs olute control over one person. His pointless insults can be understood as inversions of the superficial forms of politeness, which to a large degree maintain order in suburbia. Humberts confrontation with Clare Quilty could possibly be read as a recapitul ation of the scene with Maximovich. Quilty has an indeterminate social status, comparable to that of the Russian ex -colonel turned-cab driver. He is a famous playwright who lives in a mansion, having both cultural and economic capital it would seem, yet he also makes pornographic movies with boys, girls, and men according to Lolita ( L 276). In addition to his cultural bankruptcy, Quilty appears economically insolvent, declaring: I have not much at the bank right now but I propose to borrow ( L 301). Indeed he initially takes Humbert for a bill collector from the phone company. Humbert describes Quilty as being in a fog, perhaps intoxicated, and Quiltys reactions to his threats are as hazy and mutable as his status. He begins with denial, disbelieving Humb erts obvious intentions as he pulls his gun, then wrestles with his assailant to gain control of the weapon, and finally tries reasoning with Humbert while also offering him bribes, the most

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193 extravagant being his mansion just as Charlotte Haze turned over her house when she tried to escape him ( L 301). Quilty can be considered Humberts double for their many similarities. In this scene, he mirrors Humberts slippage from one mode of conflict resolution to another. Humbert has settled upon his own method, however, and murders Quilty just as he came to do, finally committing violence against a man. Humberts last important act is another symbolic gesture of his shift toward a more unlimited anarchism, so to speak. He announces, since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good ( L 306). This behavior can be read in several ways. We might take it as a suicide attempt, Hu mbert having completed his vengeance and being left with only his painful memories of Lolita. Alternatively, we could interpret his driving as revealing a desire to be caught and punisheda definite possibility, since his confession of the murder to Quilty s sarcastic, insouciant guests failed to have any effect. While both of these options are quite plausible, I read Humberts driving on the left side as another reference to Europe, and thus as a symbolic repudiation of American society and its peculiar we akness a society where, at least in his experience, traffic violations are more effectively regulated than child abuse.43 Therefore, I disagree with John Haegerts idea of the Americanization of Humbert. His thesis is that Humberts evolving attitude tow ard Lolita reflects (to use no stronger a word) his creators changing and generally much -improved estimate of American life. Humberts ambivalent search for his lost Lolita in the last third of the book enacts an migrs quest for a truer vision of his host environment an America no longer seen as a nubile nymphet in need of European refinement, but as an estimable independent spirit requiring (and deserving) a national identity of her own.44 Instead, I believe Lolitas escape

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194 teaches Humbert abou t the futility of seeking absolute (totalitarian?) power and, perhaps more importantly, the impossibility of social autonomy. In her absence, Humbert realizes that he cannot cut off his feelings in the same way he avoided other ties and conflicts, that in some depraved way he loves her. I do not wish to imply that Humberts turn to violence and embrace of conflict represents an ideal state for Nabokov. In the foreword to the novel, John Ray, Jr., proposes that Humbert writes a tragic tale tending unswervi ngly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis ( L 5). Rays opinions are not usually shared by Nabokov, though, and Humberts changing relationship to power ends in a worse kind of anarchism than suburbias, though it feels good to Humbert. Notes 1 Vladimir Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita: R evised and Updated e d. Alfred Appel, Jr. (New York: Vintage, 1991), 35. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as L. 2 Robert A. Beuka, SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in TwentiethCentury American Fiction and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 80. 3 Ibid., 7980. 4 Ibid., 80. 5 Ibid., 80, 81. 6 Ibid., 99. 7 Ibid., 177. 8 Ibid., 180, 181. 9 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (1975; reprint, N ew York: Vintage, 1995), 1045. 10 Ibid., 105. 11 Ibid., 106. 12 Ibid., 111. 13 Ibid., 110. 14 Ibid., 113. 15 Ibid., 1289.

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195 16 Ibid., 205. 17 Ibid., 137. 18 Ibid., 157. 19 Ibid., 189. 20 Ibid., 211. 21 Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge, Eng .: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), 158. 22 Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), 29. 23 Ibid., 834. 24 Ibid., 88. 25 Ibid., 185. 26 Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963; reprint, New York: Norton, 1997), 47. 27 Ibi d., 282. 28 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States ( New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 239. 29 Keith Gandal is similarly critical of the loose usage of Foucaults theory by Mark Seltzer, who according to Gandal red uctively deduces the realist and naturalist novel from the general phenomenon of disciplinary society ( The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane, and the Spectacle of the Slum [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997], 18). 30 M. P. Baumgartner, The Moral Order of a Suburb ( Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 127. 31 Ibid., 12. 32 Ibid., 9. 33 Ibid., 12. 34 Ibid., 110. 35 Ibid., 128. 36 Ibid., 128. 37 Ibid., 127. 38 Ibid., 160, 161. 39 Ibid., 102. 40 Ibid., 104. 41 Elsewhere in the novel, Humberts presence in su burbia is questioned on the basis of race, namely the Jewish heritage that is mistakenly attributed to him. See Alfred Appel, Jr.s annotations on the anti Semitism theme ( L 448).

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196 42 Baumgartner, Moral Order 104. 43 Lynn Saccos Unspeakable: Father Daught er Incest in American History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2009) finds evidence that might support such a claim. Her research discovers a systematic effort by doctors between the 1890s and WWII to cover up an epidemic of gonorrhea among girls of the white middle and upper classes. 44 John Haegert, Artist in Exile: The Americanization of Humbert Humbert, ELH 52 (1985), 77980.

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197 CHAPTER 5 A SPRAWL NARRATIVE: THE DE TERRITORIALIZATION O F SUBURBIA IN JOYCE CAROL OATESS EXPENSIVE PEOPLE The bombs in Vietnam explode at home. Martin Luther King, Jr.1 The Second Corpse Expensive People was published in the fall of 1968, at the height of the Vietnam Wa r and about a year after a catastrophic riot in Detroit, Michigan, where Joyce Carol Oates had lived for the previous six years. Yet one would hardly suspect that these events ever happened or that these places existed when reading her novel. Set almost en tirely within the confines of affluent suburbia, Expensive People tells the commonplace story of a family falling apart. The narrator is an eighteen year -old named Richard Everett, and his memoir reconstructs the traumatic events that occurred around his e leventh birthday in 1960. He begins with the surprising admission that in his youth he committed a murder, a mystery about which he promises a full confession though his playful, digressive, and occasionally surreal narration continually defies the reader s desire for answers. This plot device and his style are only two of Oatess many intertextual references to Vladimir Nabokovs Lolita Indeed, the lonely, immature boy is troublingly devoted to his mother Natashya, an aloof intellectual and fiction writer who resents her unfulfilling life as a suburban housewife and mother. After she repeatedly attempts to leave the family and very likely cheats on her husband as well, the already insecure Richard suffers a self described mental and physical disintegratio n and purchases a rifle. Rather than killing the mysterious rival for his beloveds affections, as Nabokovs Humbert Humbert does, Richard claims to have murdered his mother and vows to commit suicide after concluding his confession, though his potential insanity throws doubt upon his entire, convoluted account.

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198 Nabokovs novel is, of course, not the only touchstone for Oates. Expensive People appears to follow a certain narrative pattern established by Babbitt and elaborated on by Lolita Sloan Wilsons The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) John Updikes Rabbit, Run (1960), and Richard Yatess Revolutionary Road (1961) not to mention a host of subsequent novels that comprise the suburban genre. The common plot that has developed across these works should be familiar: the stultifying conventionality and conformism of suburban life, combined with the nuclear familys repressiveness and suffocating togetherness, cause a nebulous malaise that expresses itself through adultery or some other sexual intr igue and occasionally through mental illness as well, all terminating in a spontaneous, inept act of domestic violence.2 In keeping with the theme of entrapment, furthermore, the action takes place almost exclusively within the confines of a generic, indet erminately located, nearly mythic landscape: Suburbia, USA.3 Oatess book can easily be made to fit this mold, as one of her critics reveals by claiming: there is in Expensive People a continuing concern with personal as opposed to public history, wit h stifling family ties.4 Expensive People does not fall in line as neatly as might appear on first glance. In later writings, Oates contradicts the presumption of geographical non -specificity that readers could reasonably make about her book, given its lack of real -world place markers. She admits, Much of my novel Expensive People did occur, if not in Birmingham, Michigan, strictly speaking, then in one or another Detroit suburb.5 She adds, So much of my writing from approximately 1963 to 1976 centers upon or has been emotionally inspired by Detroit and its suburbs (Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, to a lesser degree Grosse Pointe) that it is impossible for me now to extract the historical from the fictional.6 Rather than being trivia, this information provides an indispensable means by which to locate certain historical elements within her fiction for public

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199 history also lies hidden within this tale of one familys domestic life, buried away like a second enigmatic corpse. The novel contains several cryp tic moments of violence that allude to the Detroit riot of July, 1967, as well as to the escalated Vietnam conflict during the Johnson administration. Several surprising points of similarity, which include sniping by civilians, self immolation, and the des truction of documents in records rooms, imply that Richards disintegration and his mothers death may have some connection to those larger events from the narrators (and Oatess) contemporary moment. This possibility becomes more comprehensible when we c onsider Oatess descriptions of suburban geography. Much has been made of Expensive People s satirical caricature of the suburbs, yet analysis has focused upon isolated details such as place names or architectural descriptions, with little attention paid to her depiction of the broader suburban landscape. For instance, Richard distinguishes his own exclusive suburb, where the country houses of the past had been built for the wealthy of the city many horse -drawn miles away, from what encroaches, those a bsurd new towns and villages, row after row of clean, respectable houses and maze after maze of buff -brick housing developments, all overpriced and treeless, the slums of tomorrow.7 What Oates describes in such passages is sprawl, a distinctive form of suburban space appearing in the post WWII era, generated by the process known as deterritorialization a process Richard implicitly recognizes by its hallmarks: accelerated development, inflated value, and quick depreciation. Deterritorialization describe s a contemporary mode of the production of space, one that various contemporary theorists have invoked as a way to define phenomena as sweeping as postmodernity, globalization, and Empire.8 It has created suburban sprawl, reshaped Americas postwar citie s, and even influenced American interventions in places such as Vietnam.

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200 Deterritorialization can thus be understood as a common process connecting these sites, impacting each differently. City dwellers are often hurt by deterritorialization, for instance, while most suburbanites including Richards parents stand to gain. Many of the Everett familys seemingly private problems, particularly Richards disintegration, can also be traced back to deterritorialization, or more specifically the way of life associ ated with sprawl. The echoes of Detroit and Vietnam therefore suggest an interpretation of the murder as another symptom of or perhaps a form of opposition tothe deterritorialization of suburbia. Richard may have killed his mother because she epitomizes t he expensive people who dominate and exploit others via the production of deterritorialized space, a geography that has caused him suffering. By following this chain of associations, my reading of Expensive People calls into question a common assumption ma de by readers and writers suburban fiction: that the everyday, personal troubles of suburbanites come from within, that the confining natures of the suburbs and the nuclear family are principally to blame for suburban discontent, dysfunction, and conflic t. The suburbs should be held responsible, but not only in the ways most suburban novels would lead us to believe. Allusive Violence One of the deadliest, most destructive episodes of urban violence in U.S. history started in Detroit on July 23, 1967, duri ng which 43 persons were killed, 7,200 were arrested, and $45 million worth of property was destroyed.9 Expensive People, Oatess third published novel, was conceived and composed in that same city, where she resided from mid1962 to mid1968.10 The Detro it riot affected Oates deeply; it was one of her reasons for moving away, and even served as an important backdrop for her fourth novel, them (1969).11 In later writings, Oates claims both novels developed out of her romance with Detroit (EP 242), calling the city my great subject.12 Discerning this influential presence can be quite difficult in the case of Expensive

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201 People The narrator, Richard Everett, thoroughly describes the fictional suburbs of his childhood, yet he fails to identify the famous A merican city near which he grew up or the one in which he now lives, for that matter ( EP 15). Further complicating matters, Richards memoir focuses almost exclusively on the past, specifically the period from January to July, 1960, and provides only a fe w glimpses of his present life. Oatess assertions are puzzling, yet they may make more sense when we observe that the novels scenes of violence contain unexpected references to the Detroit riot as well as the Vietnam War. The first such moment begins wi th a disturbance witnessed by Richard and his mother Natashya while driving. Drawn to the scene by a crowd gathered there, they observe three men run out of a bank only to be gunned down by trench -coated figures waiting outside. After the shooting, One of the men who had fallen jumped up and brushed off his clothes. He began to argue with the trench -coated men, and another man joined them from somewhere to the side. Oh, Christ, said Nada [Richards pet name for Natashya] faintly, its a television show or something. A rehearsal ( EP 67). The Everetts drive away, and the event is never discussed further. Although Natashyas interpretation seems valid, the robbery could be an allusion to the looting and shooting that took place during the riot of 1967. Contrary to the mainstream medias descriptions, what happened in the Motor City that summer does not strictly fit the pattern of a race riot. Instead of violence occurring between racially homogeneous mobs, crimes against property arson and especially loo ting dominated the chaotic scene. In addition, the majority of the deaths that occurred during the riot were caused by law enforcement officers attempting to apprehend suspected looters and snipers. Finally, the scene on the Detroit streets was filmed by t elevision crews, the last of three possible parallels with the bank robbery.

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202 The plausibility of this reading becomes more apparent after considering a later event, a car crash Richard witnesses on the expressway. Returning home from a rare trip into the city, Richard notices the sleazy viaducts and overpasses where Negro children dawdled, some of them kicking pebbles off onto the passing cars ( EP 119). The driver, his friend Gustave Hofstadters father, has meanwhile become tense as if preparing for ba ttle with the other motorists, whom he honks at and attempts to speed past ( EP 119). Then, says Richard, we flashed under an overpass, and just at that moment some kids dropped something over a length of pipe, maybe and it hit the windshield of a car alo ngside us ( EP 120). As the struck vehicle hurtles off the road and crashes, Mr. Hofstadter announces to Richard and the other young passengers: Its a rehearsal. Television show ( EP 120). These are nearly the same words Natashya used to describe the bank robbery, but Mr. Hofstadters terse explanation is much less believable how could a simulated crash possibly take place in the midst of real traffic? In separate discussions of this scene, Ellen Friedman and Greg Johnson both focus attention on the fath ers road rage, which concludes when he arrives home and rams his car with odd satisfaction into his nonfunctional electric garage door. In Friedmans opinion, such behavior reveals the suburban men of Expensive People to be warriors without a war, a caus e, or a visible enemy, and she proposes that the enemy is not outside but inside.13 According to Johnson, maniacal driving becomes a metaphor for the cutthroat, egocentric combativeness necessary for success in Fernwood.14 These readings, which align perfectly with the assumptions of the entrapment narrative discussed above, ignore the urban setting, the African American children, and the second group who cause the wreck all the visible reasons why the driver might become tense. To me, the expressway a ttack is strangely reminiscent of the action that almost all commentators agree started the Detroit riot. A police raid was conducted upon a

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203 12th Street drinking establishment patronized by African -Americans, and when the action drew many outraged bystande rs, an unidentified black youth incited the crowd to riot by smashing the rear window of a police car with a bottle.15 The nearly identical parental responses exemplify an important theme that develops in the novel: suburban adults shielding children from t he disturbing realities of violence and death. Despite their efforts, incidents such as the robbery and the crash reveal an historically resonant atmosphere of violence and social unrest seething in the background of Richards narrative. Car travel is almo st the only occasion during which Richard achieves any contact with the conflicts being waged outside the suburban sphere, such as when he passes by a drive in restaurant in front of which sullen Negro women, of middle age, were walking with picket signs ( EP 193). These figures are presumably representatives of the Civil Rights Movement, but young Richard does not comprehend or relay the meaning of what he fleetingly sees. Instead, the narrator only records the absurd, misleading reaction of his white, up per -middle -class chaperone: That is one thing you would never see me doing, never, Mrs. Hofstadter declared. I would never in my life carry a picket sign! (EP 193). In failing to acknowledge the protesters identity or purpose, the narrator seems to adopt the perspective of his younger self, who was quite nave. The boys ignorance is palpable when he encounters a family friend who makes small talk, mentioning the names of people I should have known, mentioning a sensational news event elaborated upon daily in the papers Isnt it just a shame? A shame and something about football ( EP 109). The adult narrator leaves such references obscured in his memoir, making it difficult to know what the boy might be overlooking. Young Richards lack of worldly awareness can be attributed to his upbringing and the sheltering suburban environment. The only people of color he ever personally encounters are

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204 female domestics, since the Everetts rarely descended into the city, though Father worked downtown ( EP 65). His mother Natashya maintains this detachment most radically.16 In keeping with her declaration that, For me, history is what is in this room, nothing more ( EP 76), she avoids television and the news, guarding her son against these disturbing influence s as well ( EP 221). Nevertheless, history and its violence do slip through the filter. When Richard happens to pick up a stray Time magazine, he is caught off guard: my nausea rose suddenly at a picture of a mutilated Communist riot victim (the caption re ad, After the dance, the piper to be paid) ( EP 76). The image raises questions about the mysterious conflict it records, but the narrator chooses this moment to shift the topic to his mothers lack of interest in politics, in history, in reality a sui tably ironic way to cover up what he has almost revealed ( EP 76). At the end of Richards digression about his mother, he notes, I have caught her solipsism from her, the way I used to catch colds and flu from her ( EP 767). Although this admission may cause us to distrust the eighteen-year old narrator as we might the other suburban adults, the young boys naivet seems different from the self -serving solipsism of Natashya or, more infamously, Lolita s Humbert Humbert. Richards ignorance protects him against the pain that comes from knowledge. The two incidents that most precipitate his disintegration, after all, are a conversation with his drunken father, who informs Richard that his mother had attempted to have an abortion before he was born, and Ric hards subsequent discovery of his mothers outrageous expectations regarding his I.Q. score. Sex, violence, and the world beyond the suburbs seem conflated in his mind, because all are subjects of secrecy that pose an obscure threat to the stability of hi s world. Despite Richards fears about what he may discover, the boy remains irrepressibly curious. He spies and eavesdrops upon his parents, particularly his mother, even though her adulterous behavior distresses him. His quest for knowledge also explains his

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205 mail -order purchase of a rifle. The weapon may represent a misguided attempt to achieve sexual maturity, since it is described in blatantly phallic terms. More importantly, Richard seems to create through the gun a bizarre relationship with those two forbidden subjects, the Vietnam War and the Detroit riot. Indeed, references to these events become more frequent and recognizable once he acquires the rifle. On the night of July 23, 1960, Richard begins stalking the backyards of his suburb. He discovers a surreal world while spying on his neighbors through his rifles telescopic sight. The main oddity he witnesses takes place at a pool party: By the steps to the diving board a group of young people were anointing a girl, who jumped up daintily onto the b oard. Then someone clicked a cigarette lighter and touched the flame to her ankle and she burst all at once into flames! And as I stared in bewilderment and from all parts of the patio came a wondrous murmuring, the girl walked on tiptoe to the end o f the board, aflame, and did a perfect dive into the pool. When her golden head appeared once more the fire was extinguished and only a few people applauded. I felt as if I had gazed on something forbidden. ( EP 213) Immediately after observing this, Richar d begins a several -day long shooting spree, intentionally missing his human targets every time. Once the sniper becomes a topic of public discussion, one panicked suburbanite comments, Theres no protection, its like a jungle ( EP 216). This section prov ides an unmistakable link between Oatess suburban world and Detroit. The date of Richards first shot echoes the date the riot began: July 23, 1967. Moreover, this same critical passage in the text authorizes the unusual way of reading I have been pursuin g. A moment before Richard sees the girl on fire, he looks up at the night sky and makes a curious digression, as he recalls a teacher saying the stars did not exist but they did represent they represented stars from the past ( EP 212). He goes on to mu se that, since You are only looking into a concept of the past which is your concept of the past, its rather whimsical to suggest that you are looking into a past that is anyones past, let alone a historical past ( EP

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206 212). It seems likely that Ri chard, consciously or not, has infused his memory of childhood with traces of his adult experiences. If we are willing to follow this cue, further references and anachronisms crop up throughout the text. Only one other date is mentioned in the novel. This critical date marks the beginning of Richards mental and physical problems, when he vomits and then bursts out in tears while taking a prep school entrance exam in order to please his mother. Richard says, I want to preserve a phony but convincing chronology, so that there is the impression of development wrong word: degeneration in the child -hero. So lets arbitrarily fix the date as January 20, 1960, when I began to disintegrate ( EP 44). His announcement all but begs us to consider possible allusions. In fact, this date anticipates that of John F. Kennedys presidential inauguration speech in 1961, which effectively declared his administrations position on Vietnam a neat analog for Richards own inaugural moment of madness, when he commits to winning his mothers heart and mind at what is eventually a terrible price. Another compelling reference to Vietnam appears on Richards eleventh birthday in March, when he breaks into the schools Records Room to discover the results of his I.Q. tests, numbers t hat have disappointed his mother. Finding scores of 153 and 161, Richard says, the hot kernel of fire burst in my stomach and I began to sob. I sobbed with rage. What did she want from me then? What more could she want? I tore the paper in pieces ( EP 99). He proceeds to trash the room, throwing a jar of ink against a wall and finally vomiting all over. This behavior is reminiscent of other symbolic protests that were made with young mens birthdays in mind: namely, the destruction of Vietnam draft r ecords. From 1966 through 1968 (the period when Oates was writing this novel), anti -war activists raided draft board offices and destroyed their files using black paint, human feces, pigs blood, and even homemade napalm.17 Again, an

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207 analogy can be drawn: w hereas these draft resisters challenged the senseless sacrifice of young soldiers by the U.S. government, Richard protests the fact that he cannot satisfy his mother, because what she wants from him, it seems, is never to have been born. The most iconic of Oatess historical references can be found in the swimming pool scene. The prankster who gets set on fire might seem irrelevant to the story, at most signaling the depths of suburban boredom. In the context I am proposing, the girls image calls to mind something much more disturbing: the self immolation done by war protesters in America, who were themselves emulating the actions of Buddhist monks in South Vietnam. Perhaps Oates recalled from her local newspapers the story of the first of these protester s: Alice Herz, an eighty -two year -old refugee from Nazism, [who] set herself aflame at a busy Detroit intersection in 1965.18 Richard detects something forbidden about the flaming girl, possibly her corruption of chronology or the way she surreptitiousl y inserts an image of political protest into suburbias placid backyards. The allusions come rapidly once the shootings commence. Oates repeatedly uses the term sniper, a clear reference to Detroits highly -publicized civilian shooters, while the suburb under siege is referred to as a jungle, a word that for contemporary American readers would evoke thoughts of Vietnam. Furthermore, Richard intentionally misses his neighbors, just as the Detroit shooters seemingly intended to drive off rather than kill police and fire responders.19 The many possible parallels between the riot, the war, and the events of Expensive People that can be found are compelling, but what do they ultimately tell us? In order to understand how these references allow us to rethink R ichards disintegration and matricide, we must consider the histories of these places and their different relationships to the process of deterritorialization.

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208 Deterritorialization and Sprawl The term deterritorialization has taken on a fairly wide range o f meanings in geography, anthropology, and sociology. As the term implies, deterritorialization can describe the act of restructuring space through the removal or destruction of whatever gives a place its perceived identity or value. Alternately, the term can describe a way of occupying space that does not conform to traditional notions of place. This second meaning has gained the most attention in recent academic work, particularly because of interest in the related phenomenon of globalization.20 According to Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence Ziga, global space is conceived of as the flow of goods, people, and services as well as capital, technology, and ideas across national borders and geographic regions resulting in the deterritorialization of space, that is, space detached from local places.21 A frequently invoked example is the commercial airport, which has been analyzed as a non place between actual destinations, circulating crowds of isolated travelers who experience minimal social interaction.22 Similarly, a c hain store or restaurant franchise demonstrates the architectural homogeneity and simulation that tend to characterize deterritorialized space. In short, deterritorialization signifies a breakdown in the isomorphism of space, place, and cult ure.23 When considered in this second sense, deterritorialization appears to be a phenomenon of comparatively recent history, promoted in particular by revolutionary technologies such as the automobile. Yet we should not overestimate its newness or technol ogys influence. Indeed, Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari first introduced the concept in their account of Western political and economic history According to these two philosophers, each political economic system has had its own particular way of (de)te rritorializing space, but capitalism represents a new threshold of deterritorialization, because it not only allows but also rewards the systematic transformation or creative destruction of space, much more so than previous systems.24

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209 Where then do Oat ess suburbs fit into this picture? After all, the suburb a place set apart from the bustling city, a place associated with home seems quite the opposite of those corporate non-places, far removed from the maneuverings of global capitalism. Although subur bia does not feature in any discussions of deterritorialization I have encountered, the two experiences that Oates spotlights in her depictions of everyday suburban life and landscape uncertainty regarding value (whether economic or social) and disorientat ion in space correspond to the two facets of deterritorialization discussed above Expensive People commences its idiosyncratic presentation of suburbia with a short description of a house. Richard carefully recreates the scene when, at age ten, he first arrived with his mother and father at their new home in the suburb of Fernwood: Now, on the far side of the street (I am considering your point of view) is a handsome old house, set back from the sidewalk, English Tudor of an Americanized sort, with great hunks of plate glass and standard evergreen shrubs, etc. Youve seen thousands of such houses. And now if youll turn notice how cautious I am, wanting you to see and feel everything without confusionif youll turn you will see what those four people are staring at. Another house. A house, thats all. A bastardized French -American affair, brick painted white, with balconies of wrought iron fastened somehow beneath the four big second-floor windows, and a big double door with gold, or gold-plated brass, knobs. The house has been built atop a hill, and all eyes are drawn to it. Banks and clumps of expensive evergreens run down in a friendly riot along the edge of the circle driveway to the street. ( EP 9) This passage is worth examining as a concise presentation of Oatess two major themes regarding the suburban environment. Richard begins his description respectfully enough, yet he quickly turns dismissive, aborting the sketch of the first house abruptly once the taint of mass produced banality appears. Throughout the passage there exists a palpable tension between the authentic and the derivative, between the old (world or money) and the new. Richard remains ever conscious of such distinctions, surely emulating his status -obsessed mother in this regard, and he repeatedly reassures us that his childhood homes were located in established suburbs,

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210 nestled among the old country estates ( EP 28). The Everetts persistent concern betrays a fear of being unable to distinguish a respectable home from its cheaper, ma ss-produced imitators. Richard carries this wariness forward into his summary of the second houses attributes. He insinuates his superiority over the engrossed participants as well as his readers, who might be unable to detect the buildings illegitimate background and structural deceptions though his qualifying comments betray his own lingering uncertainty. His indecisiveness increases in the penultimate sentence, as he reverses course, conjuring up a sense of pride and unity among the assembled by introducing a hint of nationalist rhetoric (cf. John Winthrops city upon a hill). This mood too gets undercut by the playful disorder in the front yard, as the oxymoronic phrase friendly riot provides another ominous allusion to Detroit. Through such rhetorical moves, Oates consistently signals that these suburbs defy easy valuation, whether economic or social. As the passage quoted above demonstrates, disorientation also occurs on a physical level. Despite Richards seemingly gratuitous consideration for his audience, his focus on the first house causes the reader to momentarily assume it as the focal point of the scene, when the second house turns out to be the one his family has come to purchase. The narrators trick forces us to adopt the perspective of the child, who perhaps does not know which house to admire until told by the adults. Richard intends his reader to experience suburbia as he did, and over the course of the novel, it becomes more apparent why one could become disoriented. Once the Everetts move in, they discover that there was a family from Brookfield over on the other street, who had apparently moved at the same time we had; and not one mile away was the same house we had lived in for the last three years in Brookfield, present here in Fe rnwood like a miracle; and the Hunt Club was the same Hunt Club as Brookfields, except that it had Valley prefixed

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211 to its name and had evidently sold its lands, bridle paths and all, to a housing contractor ( EP 15). Oates continues to pile on similar incidents to humorous effect, as when, only a few months later, the Everetts move from Fernwood to Cedar Grove, another suburb that Richard fails to recognize until his father exclaims, Ha, youre a riot, Kid! You know very well that we lived in Cedar Gro ve once before ( EP 131). Richard becomes dangerously distraught as his fathers choice of the word riot foreshadows when the two of them arrive at their new house in Cedar Grove. Richard breaks down as the earlier scene in Fernwood is virtually repeated : the boy remains disoriented as his father points out different houses, only to arrive at one practically identical to their old Fernwood house ( EP 1378). By the end of the novel, Richard is completely disoriented, accidentally returning home to their pr evious Cedar Grove house on one occasion and at another moment announcing, Everyone agrees with everyone else in Fernwood, or Cedar Grove, wherever we are ( EP 202, 183). Expensive People is exceptional in rendering its characters experiences or percept ions of suburban architecture and environs, and in these few examples, we can detect fundamental similarities between deterritorialized spaces and Oatess suburbs, the post -WWII environment often referred to as sprawl. In 1958, William H. Whyte, Jr., invoked the disparaging term sprawl to describe vast, smog -filled deserts that are neither city, suburb, nor country, areas expanding, he claimed, at a rate of some 3,000 acres a day.25 By most accounts, sprawl originated with the rise of the American hous ing industry. Beginning in the early 1930s, federal government began collaborating with several national construction and real estate associations in an effort to end the Depression by promoting homeownership and private business.26 Through the Federal Hous ing Administration, the government loaned immense sums of money to

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212 builders, just as homebuyers were subsidized through the Home Owners Loan Corporation.27 These agencies established the financial and regulatory conditions necessary to allow developers, bui lders, and lenders to begin operating on a regional or even national scale, undertaking much larger projects than were previously feasible. As Kenneth T. Jackson observes, Between 1950 and 1970, the [U.S.] suburban population doubled from 36 million to 74 million, and 83 percent of the nations total growth took place in the suburbs. In 1970, for the first time in the history of the world, a nation -state contained more suburbanites than city dwellers or farmers.28 From the perspective of the late sixties, therefore, Oatess vision of endless suburbia seems more a matter of prescience than caricature.29 If the new scale of spatial production is a first sign of the shift to postmodern deterritorialization, the new economic geography of America is a second one Even suburbanites who did not buy one of the many new, inexpensive tract houses using a government -backed loan stood to benefit financially from pro-sprawl legislation, which actually favors the wealthiest of homeowners. Since the 1940s, the Internal Revenue Code has been structured to give substantial tax breaks to mortgage holders and property owners, with fatter rewards going to those with bigger homes.30 Added to these inducements are the relatively low property taxes that suburban dwellers enjoy. Thes e and similar benefits mean that suburban properties, especially sizable ones, are less expensive to build, buy, and occupy than they otherwise would be. Sprawl construction, meanwhile, remains quite lucrative for builders, in part due to the implementatio n of advanced mass production techniques. Land conversion also became a much greater source of profits for sprawl developers and speculators. As Marion Clawson reports: The average market value of a building site for single -family homes, according to data from the Federal Housing Administration, rose from $761 in 1946 to $3,725 in early 1967.31 According to Mark

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213 Gottdiener, During the 1970s, the real estate and construction industries were the largest in the United States, with $100 billion in revenue com pared to $13 billion for the auto industry.32 The movement of housing dollars to the suburbs, of course, tends to establish a vicious cycle of depreciation and flight in more established, urbanized areas. The economically -motivated destruction and migration of housing resources on a national scale, systematized and industrialized after WWII, is clearly a form of deterritorialization. Oates demonstrates her keen awareness of the economics of sprawl in her chronicle of the Everetts. The family picks up stake s every year or so, presumably because of the fathers frequent changes of employer. The Everetts profess a desire to be part of established society and put down roots near venerable country estates, yet they unhesitatingly shuttle from suburb to suburb, buying a three story house for $78,000 in Fernwood that they sell for $88,000, a fine profit ( EP 14, 128), in order to buy one in Cedar Grove worth $95,000 ( EP 229), only to move to a more expensive house at the end of the novel ( EP 233). While the gran d estates give their neighborhoods the distinction of age and the illusion of stability, only A few were left, but most of the land had been divided up into, say, three acre plots for other houses ( EP 29). Though we are never informed if the Everetts ho uses are part of this new construction, clearly their upward mobility economically and socially is tied to the suburban real estate game. Oates also makes incisive observations about the experience of sprawl as a deterritorialized non -place. Although cl aims about the monotony of suburban architecture began appearing in the late nineteenth century, it was not until the establishment of the postwar housing industry that suburban space began to be truly mass -produced, reaching whole new levels of indistinct ion. Jackson goes so far as to credit sprawl with destroying Americas regional vernacular architecture, claiming: by the 1960s the casual suburban visitor would have a difficult time

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214 deciphering whether she was in the environs of Boston or Dallas.33 Oate s references this phenomenon succinctly by having a friend of Natashyas, visiting from New York City, inquire, Is this the Midwest? ( EP 186). Expensive People refuses to ever explicitly answer the question or geographically locate its anonymous miles of suburban wasteland ( EP 67). Richard Everett refers to another now -familiar phenomenon when he mocks the suburb of Pleasure Dells, as bereft of dells as Oak Woods was bereft of oaks ( EP 68). As he observes, sprawl often destroys the topography and natu ral attractions that, in a postmodern manner, reappear nostalgically in a subdivisions name, a last remnant of the old pastoral desire to blend city and country life. As Robert Fishman remarks, The great American postwar housing boom was perhaps the pure st example of the suburban dream in action, yet its ultimate consequence was to render suburbia obsolete.34 Detroit and Vietnam Deterritorialization can also be discovered at work in the disinvestment of Americas cities as well as in the capital investmen ts made by the U.S. in South Vietnam. The signs in a place like Detroit, an exemplary American city of the postwar period, are too obvious. In 1950, Detroit was the nations fourth largest city; The Motor Citys population peaked in 1952 at 1.85 million. By 1960 the number of people residing in the central city had fallen to 1.67 million. During the next 20 years Detroit lost nearly half a million people, while surrounding suburban counties gained over a million new residents.35 This change in the location of housing was matched by an equally remarkable shift in property values within Metro Detroit. In 1960, the total value of property in the city stood at $5 billion, almost equal to that of its suburbs.36 By 1970, city properties showed almost no change, while the value of suburban properties had increased to $12 billion.

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215 The impact of deterritorialization can also be witnessed through Detroits commercial decline in the immediate postwar years. Between 1947 and 1958, writes Thomas J. Sugrue, the Big Thr ee [Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler] built twenty -five new plants in the metropolitan Detroit area, all of them in suburban communities, most more than fifteen miles from the center city. The lions share of new plants, or runaway shops, as Detroiters called them, however, went to small and medium -sized cities in the Midwest and to the South and West, especially California.37 Sugrue estimates that the three corporations together spent approximately $7 billion on plant relocations in that period. Sugrue concludes, the number of shops and factories constructed or modified in Detroit fell tenfold between 1951 and 1963.38 By no coincidence, therefore, did urban decline occur at the same time as the massive investment in residential and commercial sp rawl.39 The link between deterritorialization and the rioting that struck Detroit and elsewhere in the 1960s should be apparent. Those who could not buy houses out in the suburbs or follow the flow of jobs were physically and economically left behind, unabl e to enjoy the advantages conferred by mobility. African -Americans were especially victimized by this process because of the institutionalized racism that permeated the suburban housing industry.40 Detroits situation exemplifies the rapidly increasing segr egation and ghettoization of U.S. cities during this period.41 Sidney Fine writes, Of the 330,000 new housing units built in the Detroit metropolitan area between 1950 and 1960, only 3 percent were made available to blacks.42 Exacerbating the problem was t he loss of affordable housing caused by Detroits urban renewal projects: Between 1960 and 1967, 25,927 dwellings were demolished in the city and only 15,494 new housing units were built. The new units, moreover, were mainly for middle or upper inc ome households.43 Just as often, old housing was replaced with freeways and corporate office

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2 16 towers, recreating Americas downtowns as deterritorialized spaces. The net result of these changes was the residential confinement of a poorer, mostly African-Ame rican population to a few shrinking, decaying areas of the inner city that were increasingly disconnected from the rest of the metropolis. In the months before the riot, the vacancy rate in Detroit was at an alarming 1 percent.44 Is it any wonder, then, tha t most of the rioters were African -American?45 Deterritorialization has not affected American cities and suburbs alone; it describes a recent trend in the capitalist mode of production of space and, as such, has had a global influence. Indeed, Michael Hard t and Antonio Negri adopt the term for this very reason, relying on the concept to define and explain what others call globalization and they name Empire. They claim: Through the decentralization of production and the consolidation of the world market, t he international divisions and flows of labor and capital have fractured and multiplied so that it is no longer possible to demarcate large geographical zones. If the First World and the Third World, center and periphery, North and South were ever really separated along national lines, today they clearly infuse one another, distributing inequalities and barriers along multiple and fractured lines.46 Interestingly, Hardt and Negri consider the Vietnam War to be a crucial event, the last gasp of imperialism before the turn to the program of deterritorialization and post -Fordism that characterizes Empire.47 I believe, however, that this shift can already be detected within Vietnams lesser known yet remarkable history of spatial investment by the U.S. durin g the 1960s. Before U.S. intervention, South Vietnam was almost completely rural, with an agrarian based economy. During 1962 and 1963, the U.S. made an attempt through Diems government to thwart the communist revolutionaries by herding the rural populati on out of their villages and into new, government approved settlements. According to Michael E. Latham, the Strategic Hamlet Program was the centerpiece of the Kennedy administrations Vietnam policy and a

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217 prime example of the influence of modernization theory on the Americans approach to problems in the Third World.48 The intention of this counterinsurgency program was to create defended outposts that could be more easily subjected to military control and social engineering.49 In other words, the prod uction of space was used to introduce capitalist habits to the Vietnamese people. Land was divided into plots on which families were expected to build new homes and raise poultry, farm animals, and fruit trees, records Latham; During the day, peasants w orked on rice fields up to three miles away, a new hardship, and villagers bitterly resented being driven from their homes and forced to pay rent for their new property.50 The Strategic Hamlet Program created several thousand new communities and resettle d several million Vietnamese at a cost of about $100 million a year to the U.S., yet it failed in its mission of physically and ideologically fortifying the peasants of the South against Communist insurgency, with the result of an Americanization of the conflict under President Johnson.51 To support the arrival of U.S. combat personnel, a different investment in Vietnams geography had to be made. Again, the prejudices of the Americans are apparent in the way they developed the country not only to accommodate their immediate needs, but also to inculcate their way of life. According to James M. Carters revealing history of this second, equally short -lived construction project, Johnson authorized in 1964 a consortium of private firms to begin an epic progr amme of military construction designed to create the kind of physical infrastructure that would make escalation possible.52 Just as in the case of sprawl back home, the American government provided private enterprise with quite an economic opportunity; by the fall of 1966, they were putting up $40 million of work in place per month, and with no lack of humility, the consortium in 1966 renamed itself the Vietnam Builders.53 They continued the ideological project of modernization begun with the Strategic H amlets, though in a different modality. At

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218 this point in the war, U.S. officials believed that improving the cities and herding rural refugees in would make them aware of the material benefits to be found in a thriving, capitalist, metropolitan center and accelerate the development of a new set of modern values, loyalties, and ties between the South Vietnamese state and its citizens.54 Thus, the Vietnam Builders created airfields, ports, canals, and hospitals in addition to military installations. The over all costs of the construction project at the end of the contract were finally estimated at $1.8 billion.55 The counterpart to this benevolence was a staggering assault on rural Vietnam, the conventional war that infrastructure construction facilitated. In conceiving of ways to drive peasants and insurrectionists out of the uncontrollable countryside, U.S. officials expressed a vision of Vietnam that is strangely reminiscent of suburban sprawl and perhaps the most surprising way that Americans attempted to e xport their familiar mode of production of space during this era.56 According to Marilyn Young, Westmoreland and his staff devised a new approach in 1966 and 1967: destroy everything in an area known to be largely under NLF control, whether or not there ha d been an attack trees, houses, crops and then withdraw, taking the population out with the troops, leaving the burned-over district as a free field for bombs and artillery.57 The scale of this geographical deterritorialization would have impressed even th e suburban developer William Levitt. In one instance, The entire Iron Triangle area, within a 32-mile perimeter, was first to be pulverized by B 52 and artillery fire, then flattened with giant bulldozers.58 By October, 1968, U.S. forces had dropped alm ost 3 million tons of bombs on North and South Vietnam nearly 50 per cent more than they had dropped in both the European and Asian theaters during World War II.59 This figure does not include napalm or other weapon systems used to clear the countryside of all traces of life; for instance, one hundred million pounds of

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219 herbicides would be dropped on over four million acres of South Vietnam between 1962 and 1970.60 In the words of Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, We seem to be proceeding on the assumption that the way to eradicate the Vietcong is to destroy all the village structures, defoliate all the jungles, and then cover the entire surface of South Vietnam with asphalt.61 Here we have a striking expression of what I would call the deterr itorialized capitalist imaginary. McNaughton pictures a whole country developed into a giant parking lot, that icon of postwar American capitalism and of sprawl. Given the tenacity of this imaginary throughout all phases of the conflict, it comes as less than a surprise that his boss, Robert S. McNamara, the acknowledged architect of the war, had served as the president of Ford Motor Company in Detroit, immediately prior to becoming Secretary of Defense in 1961. Expensive Sprawl A specific history lies bu ried within the unusual imagery and allusions of Expensive People The concept of deterritorialization can connect this public history to the novels suburban setting and to its protagonists everyday experiences in unexpected ways. Now I want to consider what purpose these allusions serve and suggest how we might reinterpret Richard Everetts disintegration and matricide. The deterritorialization of suburbia provides an alternate explanation for many of Richards problems. He experiences the geography of sprawl as disorienting, and he suffers both psychologically and physically due to the hypermobility and social isolation that Oates attributes to suburban life. The boy recalls moving residences at least six times before age twelve, and this sort of life c hange has a measurable impact upon young peoples self -concept and esteem. Extensively mobile children are more likely to be psychiatrically hospitalized, according to recent research, and are more prone to depression and suicide all tendencies that Richard demonstrates.62 Constant uprooting means Richard is able to maintain only one friendship during

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220 his childhood, and his troubling attachment to his mother could also be a result of residential mobility, rather than due to some innate, incestuous desire.63 Because sprawl discourages walking and public transportation, the boy is dependent upon adults with private cars, and he often ends up isolated in the home or car with Natashya, his constant companion. A significant amount of the time they spend together during the novel occurs while driving, which does not necessarily make for quality time spent together one explanation for why he seems starved for attention. The automobile -oriented environment of sprawl, furthermore, has been strongly linked to many physical ailments, including several Richard complains about, such as respiratory illness and obesity.64 The global process of deterritorialization could lie behind what has often been considered an inherently suburban pathology, one that appears in most of t he genres twentieth -century novels. As I stated earlier, conventional wisdom locates the source of suburban fictions characteristic discontent and familial dysfunction exclusively within the suburb. Its monotonous architecture, social conformism, oppress ive family togetherness, and so forth are understood to make the suburban house feel like a trap, while turning the nuclear family into a hotbed of adulterous desires and oedipal conflicts. I am not necessarily disputing this analysis, which can be applied to Oatess novel. To stop at this point, though, is to fail to explain why postwar suburban geography and society take the form that they do to fall back upon Freudian theory, perhaps, or upon the belief that suburbs are innately bad. I am advocating a br oader perspective for understanding the postwar suburban pathology, because deterritorializationa system that benefits suburbanites in many ways, particularly economically better explains how the suburbs are flawed, yet why people nevertheless desire to l ive there.

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221 The necessity of this perspective for reading Expensive People becomes apparent when we consider one last feature of the pathology: psychological detachment. Natashya expresses this attitude most radically; she avoids television and the news, a lso guarding her son from such disturbing influences. She reveals her reasoning in an outburst near the novels conclusion, exclaiming: Most of the world is swimming in a cesspool, trying to keep their heads up, and Im sick of it, Im sick of knowing it, God, how Im sick of living and thinking and being what I am! But I wont live any other way. This is heaven. This is heaven, Ive found it, they dont torture you or back you in ovens here, in 1960 I am Natashya Everett and I am out of history (197 8). Similarly, Elwood maintains an unusual detachment from his job, keeping its nature a secret from his family. When Richard pries, Elwood confesses that he oversees the manufacture a certain device that well, has immense value in determining the security of America ( EP 131). Richard asks if the device is a bomb, at which his father laughs, saying maybe and maybe not and then repeatedly advising the boy to forget it ( EP 131). These moments obliquely reveal what remains suppressed throughout most of the novel: global conflict and political violence. Richards parents, like most of the adults, practice deception and detachment to enjoy life in the suburbs, to repress consciousness of the effects of deterritorialization elsewhere. For instance, Richard learns after her death that his mother Natashya Romanov Everett was born Nancy June Romanow, that her parents were not political migrs from Russia as she hinted but just ordinary people still living in North Tonawanda, New York ( EP 2301). Na tashya was never threatened by the Gulag or the Holocaust, yet her unfounded fears rationalize her life of luxury, just as Elwood too lives a double life, disowning the ominous work that helps make suburbia a paradise. No other explanation for their behavi or makes as much sense.

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222 The culminating event of Richards disintegration, the murder of Natashya, can be interpreted as symptomatic of, or even a reaction against, sprawl and the culture of deterritorialization. When he sneaks out of the house at night to stalk his neighborhood, Richard not only brings violence into the suburban haven, but he also symbolically engages with the history that his mother represses. As we saw earlier, he becomes the sniper, adopting the guerrilla tactics and nocturnal activity cycle of Detroits rioters and the Vietnamese insurgents as he attacks the suburban architecture itself, shooting into random houses with the intention of only scaring the occupants just as the riots snipers seemed to fire warning shots at emergency res ponders in order to drive them away. The numerous invocations of Detroit and Vietnam suggest that Richards attacks make a symbolic challenge to the suburban fantasy of disconnection that threatens him. If we read these references as aligning his actions w ith the violence done by rioters and revolutionaries, part of a generalized resistance to deterritorialization, then the murder of his mother also takes on a new significance. Rather than being the culmination of their familial conflict, a twist on the Fre udian oedipal drama, the murder could be interpreted as a political act, punishing Natashya because she articulates the most radical, intellectualized argument for the culture of deterritorialization. This interpretation of Richards violence raises a few problems. Comparing a white, upper middle class, suburban childs actions to those of a Detroit rioter or a Vietnamese combatant is problematic. Not only are the experiences and struggles of each very different, but Richard also does not demonstrate any r eal consciousness of the potential significance of his actions or the sources from which he seems to draw inspiration. The idea of his emulation without comprehension may seem unlikely, yet millions of disaffected white suburban youth in the

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223 following deca des maintained a similar relationship to urban black culture, becoming consumers of rap and hip -hop music, appropriating the street idiom, and glorifying gang culture. A more serious complication with this reading is that Richard may be lying when he clai ms to have murdered his mother. Many readers have had their suspicions raised by the postmodern style of the novel, particularly due to the narrators metafictional asides and admissions of fabrications. If we reconsider the evidence, his father Elwood see ms the most probable culprit. Elwoods boot prints were the primary evidence found at the crime scene, though his son claims to have been wearing the boots at the time. In addition, the murder weapon was never discovered where Richard claims that he hid it to his surprise. More importantly, Elwood has several motives: he fights viciously with his wife about many things, as Richard enumerates ( EP 74 5). Moreover, Elwood informs Richard, I almost lost my top [security] clearance because of your mother, per haps due to her bohemian behavior or her invented Russian backgrounda likely liability in Cold War America ( EP 131). By killing her, Elwood could make room for a more advantageous spouse. Indeed, Richard enters a psychiatric hospital upon collapsing after his mothers death, and a week after his discharge, his father presents the boy to his new step -mother (EP 234). He moves the reconstituted family to new, more expensive house, which he can afford having recently been hired as a company president, and he probably collected life insurance money as well. Statistically, acts of domestic violence are overwhelmingly committed by adult men, and Natashyas not -so -secret sexual affairs provide a final, banal reason to suspect her husband. If Richards matricide th e lynchpin of the entire narrative is another lie, it only reinforces my reading of the novel as a sprawl narrative. Richards memoir is unquestionably an attempt to make sense of his past, though as an adult he still does not know all that really

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224 occurred While he tries to create some meaning for his mothers murder by claiming it as his own deed, making himself into a powerful agent rather than passive victim, he expresses reservations about this effort to the end. He concludes his memoir by stating, wh atever single ghastly act I did manage to achieve, it was done out of freedom, out of choice. This is the only consolation I have in the face of death, my readers: the thought of my free will. But I must confess that there are moments when I doubt even thi s consolation . ( EP 236). As part of his creative process, the narrator incorporates many of the adult matters that threaten or confuse him, particularly violence and sexual behavior, into his story. Thus, his memoir of childhood is infused with historical anachronisms from the late 1960s. Even his intended suicide could be a response to the threat of his own adulthoods arrival, his inevitable indoctrination into a world of violence manifested in the form of the Vietnam draft, for which he might now be eligible. In the end, Richards account, by virtue of its very dubiousness and incompleteness, demonstrates the characteristic disconnectedness or historical amnesia of postmodern culture that is one effect of deterritorialization. The novels form rein forces its meaning. At the same time, Oatess allusions provide her readers with material to perform the work that Fredric Jameson calls cognitive mapping and reach their own conclusions. Oatess dual agenda is what makes Expensive People an exciting yet difficult work to interpret. My reading of the novel suggests one direction in which suburban narratives have developed away from the confinement paradigm developed in the early-twentieth -century and often repeated in postwar fiction. In Expensive People the most important problem with post WWII suburbia is not architectural homogeneity, social conformism, or a sexually repressive code of behavior. Instead, the problem can be summed up in the word sprawl, a system that

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225 sells nicer, more affordable, socially advantageous housing as the American Dream, for the price of potentially increased geographical segregation, residential mobility, and social isolation not to mention economic exploitation, violence, psychological detachment, and the suppression of h istorical consciousness. Reading Oatess novel this way demonstrates the possibility of theorizing late twentieth -century suburbanization through the rhetorics of postmodernism and globalization, rather than consigning the phenomenon to a separate, domesti c history.65 Finally, this chapter has proposed the broad value of deterritorialization as a concept that bridges different domains and disciplines. It links in this case the production of space to the experience of place as a part of everyday, domestic lif e. Notes 1 Martin Luther King, Jr., The Casualties of the War in Vietnam, speech, February 1967. See Records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 19541970, Part 1: Records of the Presidents Office Bethesda, M.D.: University Publications of America, 1995. Microform Reel 21, Box 28, File 33. 2 For a seminal discussion of postwar suburban discontent, see David Ri esman, The Suburban Sadness, The Suburban Community: A Sourcebook of the Sociological Patterns That Shape the Lives of Forty Million Americans ed. William Mann Dobriner (New York: Putnam, 1958), 375402. For a skeptical appraisal of the literary discont ent narrative, see Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the TwentiethCentury American Novel (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001). 3 For a discussion of the suburbs portrayal as a trap, particularly for men, see Robert Beuka, Suburbi aNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in TwentiethCentury American Fiction and Film (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 10748. 4 G. F. Waller, Dreaming America: Obsession and Transcendence in the Fiction of Joyce Carol Oates (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1979), 113. 5 Joyce Carol Oates, Visions of Detroit, ( Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988), 349. 6 Ibid., 348. 7 Joyce Carol Oates, Expensive People (1968; reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Ontario Review Pres s, 1990), 28. Further references are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text as EP. 8 On the last, see Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000). 9 Lawrence S. Wittner, Cold War America: From Hiroshima to Watergate (New York: Praeger, 1974), 284. Hubert G. Locke also reports that 1,680 fires were set ( The Detroit Riot of 1967 [Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1969], 30). 10 Oates, Visions of Detroit, 347.

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226 11 Greg Johnson, Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates (New York: Dutton, 1998), 150. 12 Oates, Visions of Detroit, 348. 13 Ellen Friedman, Joyce Carol Oates (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980), 62. 14 Greg Johnson, Understanding Joyce Carol Oates ( Columbia, S.C.: Univ. of South Car olina Press, 1987), 65. 15 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968), 86. 16 Amy Maria Kenyon has convincingly analyzed detachment as an endemic disposition of suburban characters. See her Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2004), 4168. 17 For a list of acts of draft record destruction, see Francine du Plessix Gray, The Ultra Resistance: On the Trial of the Milwaukee 14, New York Review of Books 13 (1969): 12561. See also Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars 19451990 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 202. 18 Wittner, Cold War America 254 19 Although police and firefighters reported taking heavy fire on several nights, to the point o f being driven from the streets, very few were injured or killed by the snipers. Meanwhile, some of the sniper attacks occurred in a remarkably well organized fashion, as if coordinated with the efforts of looters and arsonists. See Locke, Detroit Riot 40, 1258. 20 A third usage of deterritorialization should be noted, namely the disjunction of cultures and identities from their traditional spaces, though this one has the least bearing upon my discussion of suburbia. 21 Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence Z iga, Introduction, The Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture eds. Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence Ziga (Malden, M.A.: Blackwell, 2003), 25. 22 See Marc Aug, NonPlaces: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity trans. John Howe ( London: Verso, 1995). 23 Low and Lawrence Ziga, Introduction, 25. I should note that the term deterritorialized space signifies a breakdown relative to the composition of traditional places, not an absolute deterritorialization. The postwar suburb is certainly an identifiable place (a reterritorialization of the classical suburb, to use Deleuze and Guattaris terminology), yet I will argue that part of its identity lies in its distinctive relationship to deterritorialization. 24 Gilles Deleuze and F lix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987), 453. 25 William H. Whyte, Urban Sprawl, The Exploding Metropolis ed. William H. Whyte (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1958), 133. 26 On the sprawl lobby, see Kenneth T Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 194 and Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 18202000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003), 125. 27 See Jackson, Crabgrass Fro ntier 238 and Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 112, 122. 28 Crabgrass Frontier 28384. 29 I strongly disagree, therefore, with arguments such as this one by Waller: It would be possible, but difficult, to see the setting of Expensive People merely as an attempt to depict suburban life. Of course, the affluent suburbs of the American metropolis Updikes television aerials and abortive friendships, marriages, conversations, or

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227 R iesmans suburban sadness remain a parlour game obsession for both sociologists and novelists. But Oatess technique is not to analyze but to distort and caricature ( Dreaming America 114). 30 Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier, 293. 31 Marion Clawson, Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and Governmental Process (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1971), 131. 32 Mark Gottdiener, The Social Production of Urban Space, 2nd ed. [Austin, T.X.: Univ. of Texas Press, 1994], 242. 33 Crabgrass Frontier 240. 34 Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 192. 35 Joe T. Darden, Richard Child Hill, June Thomas, and Richard Thomas, Detroit: Race and Uneven Development (Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press 1987), 19. 36 Ibid., 21. 37 Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1996), 128. 38 Ibid., 149. 39 As early as 1963, observes Jackson, industrial employment in the U nited States was more than half suburban based ( Crabgrass Frontier 267). Corporate headquarters also relocated to suburban campuses in significant numbers during this period. Meanwhile, Lizabeth Cohen notes the rapid growth of suburban shopping centers a nd the tremendous increase in suburban share of total metropolitan retail trade from 4 percent in 1939 to 31 percent by 1948; by 1961 it would total almost 60 percent in the ten largest population centers ( A Consumers Republic: The Politics of Mass Cons umption in Postwar America [New York: Knopf, 2003], 257). 40 See Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis 3356 and 181258 for a historical account of Detroits struggles over housing segregation. 41 For Detroit, the index of dissimilarity tracking the lev el of unevenness in the spatial distribution of blacks and whites was 17 percent in 1940, 26.6 percent in 1950, 44.4 percent in 1960, 32.8 percent in 1970, and 75.3 percent in 1980 (Darden et al., Detroit, 778). 42 Sidney Fine, Violence in the Model City (Ann Arbor, M.I.: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1989), 1011. 43 Ibid., 57. Jon C. Teaford remarks on the recognized failure of urban renewal to adequately treat those displaced: Between 1949 and 1964, only 0.5 percent of all federal renewal money was expended on relocation of individuals and families ( The Metropolitan Revolution: The Rise of Post urban America [New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2006], 118). 44 Fine, Violence in the Model City 57. 45 Days before the riot, a front page article titled Housing No. 1 in Negro Aims appeared in The Detroit News (July 17, 1967; final edition; 1A), written by a reporter touring Michigans cities to discover the sources of racial tensions; he found housing to be the primary cause of hostility. 46 Empire 335. 47 Ibid., 260. 48 Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and Nation Building in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2000), 1534.

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228 49 Ibid., 154. 50 Ibid., 170. 51 Ibid., 1823. 52 James M. Carter, The Vietnam Builder s: Private Contractors, Military Construction and the Americanization of United States Involvement in Vietnam, Graduate Journal of AsiaPacific Studies 2 (2004): 44. 53 Ibid., 51. 54 Latham, Modernization as Ideology 151. 55 Carter, The Vietnam Builders, 48, 56. 56 For a recent study of how the U.S. has exported the suburban way of life through the design of its military bases, see Mark L. Gillem, America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2007). 57 Young, The Vietnam Wars 19451990, 173. 58 Ibid., 174. 59 Wittner, Cold War America 279. 60 Young, The Vietnam Wars 19451990, 82. 61 Qtd. in Wittner, Cold War America 279. 62 Edward Scanlon and Kevin Devine, Residential Mobility and Youth Well Being: Research, Policy, an d Practice Issues, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 28 (2001), 128. 63 For Freudian readings of the novel, see Friedman, Joyce Carol Oates 56 and Joanne V. Creighton, Joyce Carol Oates (Boston: Twayne, 1979), 62. 64 See Howard Frumkin, Lawrence Fran k, and Richard Jackson, Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities (Washington, D.C.: Island, 2004), 18990. 65 Several critics have addressed the novels late 1960s context. See Daly, Lavish Self Divisions 278 and Susana Arajo, Space, Property and the Psyche: Violent Topographies in Early Oates Novels, Studies in the Novel 38 (winter 2006): 411. Inevitably, they agree with Waller that there is in Expensive People a continuing concern with personal as opposed to public history, the latter supposedly being the concern of Oatess follow up novel them ( Dreaming America 112). Eileen Teper Bender echoes this dichotomous reading: One exposes the limits and dangers of private authority. The other focuses upon socioeconomic forces and external constraints ( Joyce Carol Oates, Artist in Residence [Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1987], 30).

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229 LIST OF REFERENCES Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1869. Reprint Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Arajo, Susana. Space, Property and the Psyche: Violent Topographies in Early Oates Novels. Studies in the Novel 38 (winter 2006): 397413. Aug Marc. Non Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity Translated by John Howe. London: Verso, 1995. Baumgartner, M. P. The Moral Order of a Suburb. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Baxandall, Rosalyn and Elizabeth Ewen. Picture Windo ws: How the Suburbs Happened. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Beecher, Catharine and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The American Womans Home, or, Principles of Domestic Science: Being a Guide to the Formation and Maintenance of Economical, Healthful, Beautiful and C hristian Homes. 1869. Reprint. Watkins Glen, N.Y.: American Life Foundation, 1979. Beers, Henry A. A Suburban Pastoral. In A Suburban Pastoral and Other Tales 1 32. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1894. Bell, Michael Davitt. The Problem of American Realis m: Studies in the Cultural History of a Literary Idea Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Bender, Eileen Teper. Joyce Carol Oates, Artist in Residence Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Beuka, Robert A. SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Binford, Henry C. The First Suburbs: Residential Communities on the Boston Periphery, 18151860. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. Bourdieu, Pierre. Dis tinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 1984. ______. Practical Reason Stanford, C.A.: Stanford University Press, 1998. Brown, Gillian. Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in Nineteenth -Century America Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Bunner, Henry Cuyler. Jersey Street and Jersey Lane: Urban and Suburban Sketches New York: Scribners, 1896. ______. The Suburban Sage: Stray Notes and Comments on His Si mple Life 1896. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969.

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230 Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan of the Apes. 1914. Reprint. New York: Ballantine, 1939. Cain, James M. Mildred Pierce. 1941. Reprint. New York: Knopf, 1941. Carter, James M. The Viet nam Builders: Private Contractors, Military Construction and the Americanization of United States Involvement in Vietnam. Graduate Journal of AsiaPacific Studies 2 (2004): 4463. Cary, Alice. Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the Wes t 1852. Reprint. New York: John W. Lovell, 1884. ______. Clovernook, or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Second Series) New York: Redfield, 1853. Cheever, John. The Enormous Radio. In The Stories of John Cheever 37 47. New York: Ballant ine Books, 1978. ______. The Swimmer. In The Stories of John Cheever 713724. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978. Clawson, Marion. Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and Governmental Process. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Pre ss, 1971. Coffin, Robert Barry. Out of Town: A Rural Episode New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866. Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumers Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America New York: Knopf, 2003. Conron, John. American Picturesque Univers ity Park, P.A.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. Coontz, Stephanie. The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600 1900. London: Verso, 1988. Cosgrove, Dennis. Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Ide a. In Reading Human Geography: The Poetics and Politics of Inquiry eds. Trevor Barnes and Derek Gregory, 324 41. New York: Arnold, 1997. Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave New York: Basic Books, 1983. Cozzens, Frederick S. The Sparrowgrass Papers, or Living in the Country 1856. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969. Creighton, Joanne V. Joyce Carol Oates Boston: Twayne, 1979. Cutting, Mary Stewart. Th e Suburban Whirl. In The Suburban Whirl, and Other Stories of Married Life 3 112. New York: McClure, 1907.

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231 Dana, Richard Henry, Jr. Two Years before the Mast. 1840. Reprint. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007. Darden, Joe T., Richard Child Hill, June Thomas and Richard Thomas. Detroit: Race and Uneven Development Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987. Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Dick, Philip K. Time Out of Joint. 1959. Rep rint. New York: Bluejay, 1984. Douglass, Harlan Paul. The Suburban Trend. New York: Century, 1925. Ebner, Michael H. Re-Reading Suburban America: Urban Population Deconcentration, 1810 1980. American Quarterly 37 (1985): 36881. Eby, Clare Virginia. Ba bbitt as Veblenian Critique of Manliness. American Studies 34 (1993): 5 23. Ewen, Stuart. Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture 1976. Reprint. New York: Basic, 2001. Fine, Sidney. Violence in the Model City Ann Arbor, M.I.: University of Michigan Press, 1989. Fisher, Philip. Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Fishman, Robert. Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia. New York: Basic Books, 1987. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby: The Authorized Text 1925. Reprint. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953. Fogelson, Robert M. Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870-1930. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison 1975. Reprint. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1995. Fowler, Alastair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 1982. Friedan, Betty. The Fem inine Mystique 1963. Reprint. New York: Norton, 1997. Friedman, Ellen. Joyce Carol Oates New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Frumkin, Howard, Lawrence Frank, and Richard Jackson. Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities Washington, D.C.: Island, 2004.

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238 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Andrew Stuart Reynolds was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1974. He earned three degrees in English: a Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana State University, an Master of Arts from The State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Florida. He published an essay in the edited collection The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guins The Dispossessed, as well as a book review in t he journal American Quarterly He worked as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Languages at McNeese State University, teaching composition and American literature courses. At the University of Florida, he worked as a teaching assistant for the Englis h Departments American literature courses, as a tutor at the Reading and Writing Center, and as a mentor in the University Writing Program, where he cotaught the freshman composition series with inexperienced teaching assistants. His academic interests i nclude nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, the novel, science fiction, genre theory, literary criticism, and critical theory.