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The existential drinker$
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Steven Earnshaw

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099618

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099618.001.0001

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William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983): fugitive souls and free spirits

William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983): fugitive souls and free spirits

(p.197) 10 William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983): fugitive souls and free spirits
The existential drinker

Steven Earnshaw

Manchester University Press

This chapter is the first in the final section of The Existential Drinker, and notes that while the novel has many features of an Existential drinker text, it is also beginning to look to other ways of representing characters who commit to drinking. Although the novel is set in Depression-Era America its portrayal of down-and-outs in Albany is implicitly a counterblast to the greed of the 1980s. It has identifiable Existential elements, but these compete with other responses to the puzzle of existence, including a kind of spiritual comportment to the world which overlaps with some of the religious (Catholic) aspects of the book, and an occasional deterministic outlook. As well as the central character, Francis Phelan, the chapter also gives due consideration to his sometime girlfriend Helen, who lives in an arguably more wholehearted Existential manner than Francis.

Keywords:   William Kennedy, Ironweed, free will, alienation, Catholicism

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