Introduction & Overview of The Canal by Richard Yates (novelist)

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The Canal Summary & Study Guide Description

The Canal Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on The Canal by Richard Yates (novelist).

“The Canal” is a short story by Richard Yates, an author many literary critics in the early 2000s consider one of the great fiction writers of the twentieth century, even though he was practically forgotten by the reading public at the time of his death in 1992. Yates's most famous work, his 1961 novel, Revolutionary Road, is an examination of the search for meaning in mid-1950s America. In “The Canal,” Yates visits the same terrain, presenting a man who is trying to reconcile memories of World War II combat with the mundane reality of urban socializing, a problem many veterans faced when they returned home and entered the business world.

The story concerns two couples at a cocktail party. When the two husbands discover the fact that they both were present at a certain military action in 1945, one man wants to compare the details of their war zone experiences while the other man would prefer to forget them. For Tom Brace, the fight at the canal signifies his luck and courage in the face of danger; for Lew Miller, the same proof of his fumbling, incompetence, and humiliation. With characteristic precision of detail and the peripheral bafflement of the two wives who try in vain to comprehend war, Yates portrays a man who is doomed to be haunted by events that he hardly understood at the time.

This story was not published during Yates's lifetime but was included in The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (2001), a book that increased its author's reputation in the years since his death.

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