TERRORISM AND THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN NOVEL: A POSTMODERNIST APPRAISAL OF DON DELLILO’S FALLING MAN (2007) AND JOHN UPDIKE’S TERRORIST (2006)
Terrorism centres on both the tactic and strategy to commit acts of violence. It is viewed as a method of combat. It is a means to achieve certain targets. Terrorist acts aim to induce a state of fear in the victims which are not necessarily the actual targets of the terrorists. The terrorist events on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States of America on September 11, 2001 have drawn the attention of many American writers. Writing about these terrorist events evolved into a field known as terrorism and America writing. This study discusses Don Dellilo’s Falling Man (2007) and John Updike‘s Terrorist (2006) as Contemporary American novels that show awareness of terrorism. The study is a qualitative research that limits itself to two texts, Falling Man and Terrorist. This study adopts postmodernist framework as the theoretical basis for the assessment of characters and societal issues in the selected texts and how they grapple with such issues as violence, infidelity, and characters reaction to the economic state of America, poor housing and poor educational system as reasons to commit acts of violence. The study proceeds on the assumption that offering an aesthetic representation on these issues demonstrates the writers craft in creating a distinct mode of reading the event. As such using postmodernist tools in reading post 9/11 novels creates a critical view on how these events that are not only violent but appear irrational and complicated become a discourse worthy of literary study. Based on the above premise, this study finds out that most issues discussed in both texts in many ways indict America and its way of handling socio-cultural, economic and political issues. The study also finds that in order to be heard and to draw attention to America‘s way of life, terrorists resolve to commit terrorist activities.
1.0 Background of Study
Literature is a very powerful tool that has made and is still making a huge impact on the society. What happens in a society is reflected in literary works, in one form or another. This could be either through plays, poetry, and prose, etcetera. The assertion that ‗literature reflects the society‘ is as old as Plato‘s concept of imitation.One of the corrective functions performed by literature is that it mirrors the ills of the society with a view to making the society realize its mistakes and make amends. Literature also recreates what is obtainable in the society, its good values and ills. This is achieved by fictionalizing what happens in the society. Writers and philosophers such as Aristotle, Shelly, and Wilde all discuss the phenomenon of the vast effects of literature through their works and reached the conclusion that man possesses an inherent curiosity and this needs to be explored as often done by the literary artist.
What literary writers do in most cases is to recreate real life events in their society, by putting them into fictional forms and present such to the society. Ngugi Wa Thiong‘o (1972: V) states that: ―literature does not grow or develop in a vacuum; it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social, political and economic forces in a particular society…‖. Literature brings out contemporary issues inherent in the society and this according to Achebe (1974:10) is ―what you do as a writer depends on the state of your society…‖.Thus, any good writer must be committed to his/her society by demonstrating an awareness of his/her surroundings through writing. Chukwuma (1991:10) agrees with the above view as he states the function of the novelist or writer in the society as follows:
THE NOVELIST IS THE CONSCIENCE OF HIS AGE. HE MANIFESTS A HIGH SENSIBILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN SOCIETY AND SCOOPS OUT THOSE ASPECTS OF THE SYSTEM THAT CHOKE AND INTIMIDATE HIM FROM WHICH HE HAS NO RELIEF. HE SHOWS A SHARP CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE EVENTS OF HERE AND NOW, THE WORLD OF TODAY. HIS RESPONSIBILITY AS A WRITER IS TO MAKE HIS READERS MORE AWARE OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND THE ATTENDANT PROBLEMS….
Writing has become a way for literary writers to demonstrate their consciousness of the happenings around them. In this way, the novelist or literary writer draws the attention of readers to societal issues, conflicts as well as problems inherent in the society. This shows the writer‘s commitment to the society.