Richard Yates’s Fictional Treatment of Women

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Abstract

This article is an attempt to broaden the scope of how we read Richard Yates’s work; there was far more to Yates than one, albeit exceptional, novel. Richard Yates had much to say about the difficulties both men and women have in finding a means of honest communication. He was particularly interested in how women’s lives were proscribed by the men in their lives and by the means they chose to overcome their difficulties. With his early short stories and his first novel, Revolutionary Road, Yates’s observations about life in fifties America make interesting reading and add to the growing sense that new shoots of feminism were beginning to appear well before Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963). However, interest in Yates’s work too often starts and ends with Revolutionary Road: while it remains his most significant work, his other novels and stories need attention. The role of women, the growth of a materialistic, performative culture led by the increasingly powerful advertising and movie industries and the small lives of ordinary people coming to terms with banal tragedies that suggest the complexity and pain of human existence are investigated in all his work.

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