Is it The Grapes of Wrath, by
Hold on .... Before you start naming your
favorite American novels, let's just discuss the
What about The Great Gatsby, by
Shut up, OK! The idea of the Great American
Novel is the idea that there is one story, by an
American1 that somehow sums up,
encapsulates and presents to the reader the
soul and spirit - the true essence - of America2.
What about something by Mark Twain?
Like The Adventures of
Look: the books you name certainly are great. And
they are American - written by Americans and about
life in America, the
"American condition", etc.
The point is, there is not and never will be
Great American Novel.
There are too many people,
times, experiences, places and events which make
up "America" for there to be the one that says
Still, you hear the phrase a lot. There have been
countless discussions, conversations,
arguments, nominations and refutations.
And in a sense these are all good because they
highlight the fact that there is a wealth
of great novels about this land.
You don't need one when you can have them all.
Yeah, like what about The Catcher in the Rye
*SIGH* ... Right.
Okay, then let's talk about The Great American Song!
How about Pink Houses by
John Cougar Mellencamp,
or America by Simon and Garfunkel, or ....
1. Though it should be noted that when this
phrase is used, the author is almost certainly assumed
to be from North America and, more specifically,
from the United States.
2. Again, a possibly limited sense of the