Original Research

Hard Times as Bodie: the allegorical functionality in E.L. Doctorow’s Welcome to Hard Times (1960)

P. van der Merwe
Literator | Vol 28, No 2 | a159 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v28i2.159 | © 2007 P. van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2007 | Published: 30 July 2007

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P. van der Merwe, School of Languages, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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“Welcome to Hard Times” (1960), E.L. Doctorow’s first novel, differs from the rest of his oeuvre because it is not set in a metropolitan context like New York. References to historical events that contain an apparent “mixture” of “factual” and fictional elements that are typical of Doctorow’s oeuvre are less prominent than in his other fiction, though definitely not absent. An analysis of the pioneer setting, the town Hard Times, reveals that other settings (including metropolitan ones like New York) are not merely representations of specific contexts, but portrayals with allegorical elements. Criticism of Doctorow’s fiction does not sufficiently point out the rationale of Doctorow’s fiction in relation to his first novel: it is not just the basic level that contains the true topicality but also the underlying causal and thematic relationships. This article sets out to explore “Welcome to Hard Times” as a case in point. The objective of this article is therefore also to show that an analysis of this novel provides a valuable basis for understanding the allegorical character of his fiction. Angus Fletcher’s theoretical analysis, “Allegory: the theory of a symbolic mode” (1964), serves as a useful starting point for the analysis of the allegorical value of space and the town Hard Times as a microcosmic or symbolic society, as well as the “daemonic agents” in the town and the role of causality.


Allegory; Causality; Daemonic Agent; EL Doctorow; Oeuvre; Welcome To Hard Times; Angus Fletcher; Theory Of A Symbolic Mode; Society; Community; Space; Western


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