Date of Award

Spring 1965

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Joseph Ward


Upon finishing any of Thomas Wolfe's novels the student finds himself overwhelmed by various dominant impressions. There is the feeling of utter chaos, of a world completely without order. There is awe at the massiveness of the world in which Wolfe's characters navigate.

Even more confusing is the mass of criticism about his work. There is one point of view which feels that Wolfe's work is too lacking in discipline and form to even be considered serious art. There is also the opposite point of view which states that Wolfe is the greatest writer of our time and will live as the greatest writer of American fiction. "With all his gigantic faults, his porlixity, his ranting, his stupefying absurdities, Wolfe is incomparably the most significant figure in three decades of American literature."

When faced with these conflicting opinions the student would be inclined to throw up his hands in despair were it not for the fact that he feels rather drawn to this strange author whose fiction is like no other. The student feels that here is an author who has spoken to his inner self, his emotional side, as well as to his mind. Almost everyone can find something of himself written into the work of Thomas Wolfe. The student is forced to retreat to his own devices and make the judgement completely by himself as to whether Wolfe is indeed the great artist he feels him to be. He can find his way out of the welter of confusion by taking one of the dominant attractions of Wolfe's work and trace this through one of Wolfe’s novels. Then he will be in a better position to decide if there is any deeper and universal meaning to Wolfe’s work.