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The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay

1642 words - 7 pages

Extensive is perhaps the best word to use to describe The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Looking into such matters as anxiety, art, advertising, capitalism, Hollywood, loneliness, loss, war, physical disability, fatherhood, family, homosexuality, religion, escape, and exile, the novel covers social concerns that are almost as wide as the geographical experience of Joseph Kavalier, one of the two protagonists of the book, who in the course of the story finds himself in Prague, New York City, and Antarctica. The other protagonist, Sammy Clay, spends the bulk of the novel in New York, where most of the action takes place.The novel tracks the relationship of these two comic book artists--Joe draws, Sam writes--focusing on their lives in the 1940s and 1950s, when, on a grand scale, America was dealing with World War II and its aftermath, and on a lesser one, comic books were experiencing a Golden Age. At the beginning of their friendship, Joe and Sammy create the comic book hero the Escapist, a figure modeled after Superman. It begins as a marketing tool for novelty items for their boss, Sheldon Anapol, but more importantly as a way to make a name for themselves, and it is this character that leads to the height of their success. Because of these narrative matters, the main social concerns of the novel deal directly with characters' struggle to make their way and figure out their own identities in a world that is sometimes a Technicolor dream, but more often an everyday drama. Since Sammy and Joe are both Jewish (Joe also being an emigre and Sammy being homosexual), their opportunity for success is made slightly more difficult; in many ways, they do not fit into "normal" mainstream society, but what is most ironic and fitting is that they end up being responsible for one of the most popular superhero comics, the epitome of a mainstream medium.Chabon places his novel solidly in its historical context, using real places and names throughout. By doing this, he sets up his novel as a story about America itself, and American culture at this time. Through the characters' interactions with each other and with the history in which they are placed, he is able to explore this territory to a great extent. The most evident concern is the exploration of what it meant to be an exile, or someone only partly allowed inside society, as it was most notably for the people who fled to America to escape the war in Europe, but also for the people who were considered "different" or even "subversive." Joe is the figure that works through the specific issues of physical exile, as he copes with sneaking out of Prague, unable to look back. He gets a small taste of how other European exiles deal with similar concerns when he attends a party for Salvador Dali, one of the more famous European exiles to end up in America. At the party, he saves Dali's life by extricating him from a breathing apparatus made for diving when he begins to suffocate. Dali, like many of the...

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