John O'Hara - Biography and Works

John O'Hara (1905-1970) was born on January 31, 1905 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He was considered in his day a gifted yet controversial writer of both novels and short stories. He spent time in Pennsylvania in the early part of his childhood until his parents decided to send him off to Niagara Preparatory School in Niagara, New York. He graduated in 1924. When O'Hara's father died, his family went into poverty. For that reason, O'Hara couldn't go to college. He went to work as a reporter for various newspapers in Pennsylvania until 1926.

John O'hara

For the rest of the twenties he traveled around the country until he settled in New York and got a job with the Hollywood columnist Heywood Broun. In 1928, O'Hara's published his first short story in The New Yorker Magazine. He would eventually become a regular contributor to the magazine. In 1934, O'Hara published his first novel Appointment in Samarra. This novel was a major success along with his second novel Butterfield 8. These novels established O'Hara as a big time novelist. In 1940, one of O'Hara's novel Pal Joey was turned into a musical with the help of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

The original run wasn't successful, but another run in 1952 was a huge success. His another novel was Ourselves to Know. During World War II, O'Hara became a correspondent in the Pacific. After the war, O'Hara concentrated on becoming a screenwriter. He was involved in the writing of On Our Merry Way, and even novels that brought him success in the past. The 1950's and 1960's brought more success to the novelist. He wrote the novels A Rage To Live, From a Terrace, and Ten North Fredrick, (which won O'Hara the National Book Award in 1955). O'Hara settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where he died on April 11, 1970.

During the postwar period, there were too many sexually free novels, which became highly successful. Among such writers, the great master in the post war period was John O’Hara. He stands between the novelists of urban environment and the novel of manners. He sets most of his novels and short stories in a medium-sized Pennsylvania town he named Gibbsville. Sex and social distinction are central to O’Hara’s vision. John O’Hara usually shows sexually barren hero and loveless lust. So, sex is the center of his works. He treats sexuality as the final unveiled truth. In O’Hara’s work, we find all the qualities of realist, naturalist and novelists of manners. Like a realist, he adds intricate detail of the common class social environment of Pennsylvania, like a naturalist, he writes about sexual violence and like a novelist of manners; he shows the manner of people in society.