American Dream, American Nightmare In "The Killer Inside Me" By Jim Thompson

2253 words - 9 pages

Considered as one of the best suspense writers by many, Jim Thompson is an American hard boiled fiction author. His best known novel is The Killer Inside Me written in 1952. The novel is a first person narrative. The narrator is Lou Ford, a small town deputy sheriff in Texas. Lou appears to be nice, pleasant and somewhat simple-minded contrary to his true self, a cold-blood killer constantly fighting an urge to act violently. Throughout the novel, we can see the sheriff struggle with his sickness which prevents him from reaching freedom. Thus, Lou Ford is a typical incarnation of the American Dream "success-to-be ". The question is: does he finally reach the famous American Dream? The term "American Dream " was first used in 1931 by an American historian and writer James Truslow Adams. For some, this is the belief in the freedom that allows all citizens and residents of the United States to pursue their goals in life through hard work- and free choice. Some would say that it is the idea that the American social, economic and political systems make- success possible for every individual. The online Thesaurus dictionary defines the American Dream as the widespread aspiration of Americans to live better than their parents did. In this novel, Lou Ford could have access to more than what he has in Central City. Thus, the American Dream in the text is more like an American nightmare. Those two themes can be analyzed through different aspect of the novel: Jim Thompsons' style, the notion of freedom, the opposition between dark and light and finally Lou's sickness as an illustration to the American nightmare.Jim Thompson has written more than thirty novels. Most of his characters are losers, sociopaths or psychopaths. He writes about an opportunistic, corrupted, violent, nihilistic and abusive world. His style is unique. Ronald Verlin Cassill an American novelist once stated that "Thompson's was the rawest and most harrowing pulp fiction writer". In a sense, the structure of his novel is an example of the American Dream because he achieved success going beyond what had already been done. His style is new and innovative- contrasted with the English crime fiction, it is hard boiled fiction. For instance, we do not need to wait for the novel to end to know who the killer is and we do not need to guess who he is because it is obvious in the title. Plus, he quickly confesses on page 20 "I hesitated 'knowing Mike, we were sure he couldn't be guilty.' Because I was. Mike had taken the blame for me."Thompson named his main character Ford. This last name refers to the car manufacturing company Ford. The company is a pillar of American respectability and the values of capitalism. Ironically, Lou Ford is not successful or respected like Ford. The name of the town, Central City is ironic as well because it implies that its values are central, to Texas, to America but those values are finally corrupted and contradicted. This implies that the author thinks America is...

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