Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of English
placelessness, Richard Yates, suburbanization
University of Montana
The themes of suburbanization and placelessness arise in many of Yates’ novels, exposing the continuing pattern of “conformity at any price” which accompanied the rapidly-changing era of post-World War II America. As suburbanization began to take its toll on the American landscape, a new, increasingly placeless environment started to emerge; endless subdivisions of identical houses, commercial strip developments, shopping centers, and movie plazas sprang up, places which not only looked alike, but felt alike. A cultural shift accompanied this changing environment, one which embraced a new “domestic ideal” of the suburban family, an image constantly reinforced through the media of the time. Yates’ characters, while on the surface conforming to this ideal, imagine breaking free from their mundane lifestyles, harboring visions of untapped “greatness” within themselves. Ultimately, however, they lack the autonomy or strength of character needed to accomplish this break. Having existed for so long in an empty, shallow environment providing possibilities only for commonplace and mediocre experiences, they must cling desperately to safety and security at any price.
Feder, Darcy Anne, "Reading Placelessness and Suburbanization in Richard Yates" (2007). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 798.
© Copyright 2007 Darcy Anne Feder