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William Styron's Sophie's Choice : Poland, the South, and the Tragedy of Suicide

William Styron's Sophie's Choice : Poland, the South, and the Tragedy of Suicide William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice: Poland, the South, and the Tragedy of Suicide by Bertram Wyatt-Brown Although his revelation came late in his life, few twentieth-century writ- ers can match the candidness of William Styron regarding his inclination to depression. In recent years he seems to have relished the chance to make the recovering melancholic a figure of valor and dignity. Moreover, his novels, most especially Sophie’s Choice, show that when under artistic discipline personal issues of this kind can inform and even inspire the writing of fiction. What settings could be more suitable for a literary artist tormented by that poorly understood mental disorder than the Nazi death camps, the stark grayness of wartime Poland under occupa- tion, and the American South where the narrator, a Virginian, has to con- front the racial sins of his native land? In addition, Styron creates two memorable figures, Sophie Zawistowska and Nathan Landau. The latter is a victim of extreme madness and Sophie, a former captive of the Holocaust, is still undergoing the agony of that terror. One suspects that Styron’s concentration upon near alcoholism and the many manifesta- tions of madness, to which his characters are subject, helps him ride down http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

William Styron's Sophie's Choice : Poland, the South, and the Tragedy of Suicide

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 Department of English of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice: Poland, the South, and the Tragedy of Suicide by Bertram Wyatt-Brown Although his revelation came late in his life, few twentieth-century writ- ers can match the candidness of William Styron regarding his inclination to depression. In recent years he seems to have relished the chance to make the recovering melancholic a figure of valor and dignity. Moreover, his novels, most especially Sophie’s Choice, show that when under artistic discipline personal issues of this kind can inform and even inspire the writing of fiction. What settings could be more suitable for a literary artist tormented by that poorly understood mental disorder than the Nazi death camps, the stark grayness of wartime Poland under occupa- tion, and the American South where the narrator, a Virginian, has to con- front the racial sins of his native land? In addition, Styron creates two memorable figures, Sophie Zawistowska and Nathan Landau. The latter is a victim of extreme madness and Sophie, a former captive of the Holocaust, is still undergoing the agony of that terror. One suspects that Styron’s concentration upon near alcoholism and the many manifesta- tions of madness, to which his characters are subject, helps him ride down

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Dec 1, 2001

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