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Understanding American Culture Through Jonathan Franzen’s Novels

Understanding American Culture Through Jonathan Franzen’s Novels

American culture, especially the American Dream, can be understood best from some of the most important American literary works, such as Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and more. However, sometimes, lets be honest, we can find these books hard to read or not interesting enough, even though they are important and timeless. So, sometimes we want to see different periods of America and understand its society through the words of modern writers. Let’s accept, they are hard to find. However, THP is here to save you, again. Let us introduce Jonathan Franzen.

Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist of our day, who focuses on specific eras of American history in his novels and criticizes that era’s society by using his words as a mirror of that period of time. His immigrant roots and travel to Europe for his education, have made him realize the corruption of American myth and helped him through his writing career. He has published many works since 1988, but the key works of his success are The Corrections, Freedom, and his new novel, Crossroads.

Image Source: GIPHY

The Corrections

jonathan franzen
Image Source: Courtesy of Picador Books

The Corrections is the book that made Jonathan Franzen win a National Book Award. Published in 2011, the novel is basically about the dark side of the 21st century. By the dark side, we mean issues like globalization, overpopulation, and capitalism. The novel is also the first novel in which Franzen used family dynamics as a tool to criticize society. By giving a broken home image, Franzen tries to tell us how hard it is to keep up with old family traditions in this constantly changing, modern world. Shattered families that got lost in the shadow of modern-day problems were one of the biggest changes in the American culture back then. Jonathan Franzen definitely did a great job showing us today’s America. 


jonathan franzen
Image Source: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication

The Corrections wasn’t the only novel to bring Jonathan Franzen great success, of course. Right before the publication of Freedom, Franzen was featured on Time Magazine’s cover and with that, he became the first American writer on Time’s cover, since Stephen King, many many years before. Time Magazine even gave him the title “Great American Novelist.” But, let’s talk about this beautiful novel. Just like The Corrections, you can also see a family issue in Freedom. Remember when we said Franzen likes to embody problems through families? It’s the same in this one. Most of the book is about the destruction of war and how mass media can affect society by the smallest things. This novel will get you thinking a lot and it is definitely worth it.


jonathan franzen
Image Source: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication

Crossroads is Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, which everybody has been so excited about. It is the first book of A Key To All Mythologies trilogy. The novel was officially released on October 5 and we can’t wait to go and grab a copy! Again, we are witnessing a shattered family in Crossroads. The key theme of the novel is morality and the way the idea of the term changes from person to person, especially if those people belong to different generations. Crossroads also focuses on how American individualism and liberalism can be damaging for society’s main element, family. You will see a lot of dilemmas that will make you stop and think for a moment while reading this one. After the publication of Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen will hold a virtual event with Tony Tulathimutte on October 7th, in which they will be discussing the novel. You can get the tickets from here. The good news is, with the tickets, you will also be ordering your copy of Franzen’s new novel.

What do you think about Jonathan Franzen and his usage of the family to represent American culture in his novels? Let us know in the comments, or talk to us on Twitter over @TheHoneyPop!

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