Genre of Experimental Fiction

The 1940s was a bloody decade full of violence in America history mainly due to various wars and specially the Second World War. These wars brought violence to extreme. This violence is captured in the fiction that was written in post second world war period -and so, these fictions are known as Experimental fictions.

Experimental fictions not only contain violence that kills people, but also traumatizes and brings psychological problems; it also includes the theme of fragmentariness, coolness and meaninglessness (which are the marks of modern fiction). Like modernist writes of the 1920s experimental writers of the post world war II, take life as problematic but unlike modernist they do not lament the brokenness of experiences as a sign of the decline of western civilization . Instead, experimental writers accept dislocation and displacement, as ways of dealing with the human situation.

 During the postwar period, mainly due to the wars, there was radical change in the society in all aspects political, religious, anthropological and even psychological. Now, the culture that existed before no longer prevailed, rather a counter- culture started to develop, where politically there was the division in to capitalism and communism; religiously people were losing faith from god; anthropologically people attempted to erase the colonized concept; to the fusion of modern way of life and still-existing traditional beliefs. Due to such conditions, the important characteristic of experimental fiction is to deal with the counter- culture and its influence up on individual mind and life. This developing counter- culture, as mentioned above, made people confused- they could not give up their traditional beliefs nor could they accept the modern way of life. This confusion was depicted in experimental fictions due to which the theme like fragmentariness and meaninglessness become the prime focus and these fictions embodied the acceptance of dislocation and the displacement of traditional ideas. So counter- culture plays an important role in experimental fictions. The confusion brought about by the counter culture is skillfully presented in experimental fictions through nihilism and pessimism. This pessimism further led to the depression. And therefore experimental fictions also included depression along with the use of drugs, pain killer and other narcotics. Such use of drugs is directly presented by the American experimental writers like William Burrough and Robert Stone. In this way, counter- culture is an important factor in experimental fictions. The development of counter culture after Second World War affected the people in such a way that it gave rise to aggression, passivity; fragmentation and escape; sexual confusion, pain and revolt; and also the belief that technology is the source of all the woes. All these consequences of counter culture have been depicted in experimental fictions written by Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, E. L. Doctorow, Donald Barthelme, John Updike, Thomas Pynchon etc.

WILLIAM BURROUGH and ROBERT STONE    The experimental fictions are highly influenced by wars and violence, which also brought depression along. This depression further led to the heavy use of pain-killers, drugs and various other narcotics. Such use of drugs is also included in American fiction, like in the works of William Burrough’s Naked Lunch.In his works, man’s cruelty towards man is the main cause of the use of drugs, but this did not bring end to the problems. He shows cruelty as a psychological problem, also hatred and self hatred is highly emphasized in Burrough’s works. He also focuses on ‘lack of love in his works. Another writer to use drugs in the novels is Robert Stone. In Burrough’s work the use of drugs is due to violence and cruelty; but in stone’s work the use of drugs is due to the corruption in the system. Unlike Burrough Stone believes that people can come out of this depression and can stop using drugs.Also, Burrough’s characters belong to low class, while Stone’s characters belong to middle class American family. Such drug literature from 1950 on words tried to resolve the anger and pain in heart in the life itself. This is the general idea found in the works of both Burrough and Stone. This excess use of drugs, violence, humiliation and vulnerability in experimental fiction gave rise to an entirely new genre – novel of aggression.

FLANNERY O’CONNOR    O’Connor being a southern writer makes use of the tradition of Southern Fiction, not in the service of Southern myth but as gateway to a world without myth. And as an experimental writer, she includes the agony of human needs, ties and longings in her novels, but she shows her characters free from such agonies through the emotional coldness. In the novel of Aggression, a sense of vulnerability is the central focus. It shows mainly how people try to cope up with the violence that drives them to drugs or psychological detachment. These novels , thus highlights on social problems through personal crisis , which can be resolved only when life is accepted as an example of force- this is also the way adopted by the novelists to control aggression.

JOHN BARTH    The meaninglessness of life and the fragmented personality can be found in the works of John Barth. His The End of the Road presents contemporary man paralyzed in aimlessness because he lacks emotion “he fell nothing for anything”. His character are usually identity less who are in despair at the edge of craziness due to the pain generated by the life , and in search of the solution they go looking through myth and history.

VLADMIR NOBOKOV    One of the important names in experimental fiction is Vladimir Nobokov. At the time when communist revolution was going on in Russia, he belonged to an aristocrat family so he forced to move to America due to political reasons. Now living in America, Nobakov wrote against history – he never preferred to write about social realism; rather he dealt with psychological realism using literary allusions, like modernist writers.Such writers who use allusions, to be mythical are very natural. The function of the myth Nobokov uses in his work is not to heilighten the connections and differences between post war or pre- revolutionary life and an earlier time. One of the predomination theme found in his works including Ada in incest (i.e. sexual relationship between own blood relations). Due to this very reason, he avoids social realism and psychological realism like themes of youthfulness, pastoral life, forbidden love etc. According to Page Stegner, NObakov’s fictions also have philosophical themes. He uses Hegel’s philosophy (of thesis- antithesis- synthesis. Nabokov brings a unique touch to the experimental fictions.

J.D. SALINGER    Hardship, competition and aggression are some of the predominant themes of experimental fiction. All these things come because on the one hand there is the presence of rampant violence, and on the other, the writers want to escape from the violence which is not possible. J.D Salinger highlights the contrast how childhood is full of bliss and adulthood is full of evil e.g. The Catcher in the Rye.In this novel, Holden Caulfield, the protagonist rejects all the rites that mark initiation into adolescence and adulthood: graduation from school, sexual involvement, becoming his own big brother. The protagonist is shocked when the teacher whom he admires makes a homosexual gesture towards him. He experiences this in course of entering in his adulthood from childhood. Hence sex is the one of the prime focus of most of the experimental fictions.

JOHN UPDIKE    He is one of the finest novelists to deal with the complex sexual attitudes. This attitude is found in the works like Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux. In his works, Updike defines maleness as sexual and economic responsibility for women, and connects the decline of society with the decline of masculinity. Updike brilliantly reflects the war between the sexes, the dissidence between classes and races, and the efficiency economy that undermines man’s sense of himself, in his works.

THOMAS PYNCHON    The type of experimental fictions written that of aggression; passivity; fragmentation and escape; sexual confusion, pain and revolt; etc provide the background of American imaginative experience. Above all, the most dominating American experience of that period was the belief that the technology is the source of all our human woes. Thomas Pynchan asserts his view that the only way to reduce anger and pain is to reduce one’s involvement with the modern mechanism. In V, Pinchon’s novel; technological imagery shapes religions and erotic feeling. This shows how Programmatic human life has become; and in this process, men and women want each other merely as erotic tools.