Journal Article

James Dickey's <i>Deliverance</i>: Southern, White, Suburban Male Nightmare or Dream Come True?

Pamela E. Barnett

in Forum for Modern Language Studies

Published on behalf of Court of the University of St Andrews

Volume 40, issue 2, pages 145-159
Published in print April 2004 | ISSN: 0015-8518
Published online April 2004 | e-ISSN: 1471-6860 | DOI:
James Dickey's Deliverance: Southern, White, Suburban Male Nightmare or Dream Come True?

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In James Dickey's novel Deliverance, four Southern, white, suburban male characters embark on a canoe trip that offers them one harrowing torture after another: Bobby is raped; Ed is bound, cut with a knife, threatened with rape, and later impaled by his own arrow; Drew is killed by a sniper; Lewis is tossed into the raging river and survives with a horribly fractured leg. Yet in a novel that casts Southern, white, suburban life as emasculating, this camping trip from hell is, curiously, the protagonist's dream come true. The trip gives Ed a unique opportunity to withstand great hardship, even trauma, and for a self-conscious and active orchestration of his own suffering. Such orchestration, which Kaja Silverman calls “reflexive masochism”, consolidates the male ego even as it seems to dismantle it. This phallic restoration is necessary for Ed, a man who experiences an emasculating mid-life crisis and then narrowly escapes becoming a victim of homosexual rape.

Keywords: Masculinity; Rape; Masochism; The 1960s; American South

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Literature

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