William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983)

Fugitive souls and free spirits

in The Existential drinker
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This chapter is the first in the final section of The Existential Drinker, and notes that while the novel has many features of an Existential-drinker text, it is also beginning to look to other ways of representing characters who commit to drinking. Although the novel is set in Depression-era America its portrayal of down-and-outs in Albany is implicitly a counterblast to the greed of the 1980s. It has identifiable Existential elements, but these compete with other responses to the puzzle of existence, including a kind of spiritual comportment to the world which overlaps with some of the religious (Catholic) aspects of the book, and an occasional deterministic outlook. As well as the central character, Francis Phelan, the chapter also gives due consideration to his sometime girlfriend Helen, who lives in an arguably more wholehearted Existential manner than Francis.

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