The interdependency between causality, context and history in selected works by E.L. Doctorow
Van der Merwe, Philippus Wolrad
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This dissertation focuses on the interdependency between causality, context and history in selected novels by E.L. Doctorow: The Book of Daniel (1971), Ragtime (1974), Loon Lake (1980), World's Fair (1985) and The Waterworks (1995). Doctorow' s fiction is marked by an apparent paradox: while it underscores fictionalization and sometimes distorts late nineteenth and twentieth century American history, it simultaneously purports to be a valid representation of the past. The novelist's implementation of causality which is a significant component of "the power of freedom", constitutes fiction's ability to convey truth without relying on factuality or "the power of the regime". According to Doctorow, the documented fact is already an interpretation which induces the perception that all documentation is subjective. The author composes fictional contexts that disregard the pretence of reliability in non-fictional texts. Doctorow focuses on how contexts are formed: the contexts are usually defined through the experience of characters who have been exposed to an event or events that were generated by motivations, for example, emotions of fear, racism, conviction, desire and greed, i.e., the catalysts that form history. Each of the novels discussed focuses on various aspects of society and the fate of specific individuals. The Book of Daniel proposes that a human being can only survive physically and spiritually by remaining a social entity. Ragtime focuses on the persistent illusion in history that society is fragmented. The various "faces" of society encountered by the main character in Loon Lake, mirror one another and reflect spiritual poverty. Consequently, Loon Lake demonstrates that the search for personal fulfilment does not require a physical journey, but an inner or spiritual exploration. World's Fair postulates that reality is never exclusively defined by either fortune or misfortune alone. The Waterworks offers perhaps one of the most significant evaluations of history as it perceives that the world in which we live is essentially unknown to us. We have neither the practical means to obtain a total perspective of what occurs in society (especially among politicians and the financially powerful) nor do we have sufficient skills to distinguish what the motivations of individuals' actions really entail.
- Humanities