, Research Paper
Worlds End by T. Coraghessan Boyle
World s End is a complex historical cycle, flavored with an original pungency, set in the Old Dutch country of New York s Hudson Valley. (Eder 3) In the book World s End by T. Coraghessan Boyle, the use of knowledge about history is very important. T. Coraghessan Boyle is a native of Peekskill, New York. The towns name, Peterskill, where the book revolves around was created from his hometown. The author expands his knowledge of history and wrote this story about it. He is very familiar with the Dutch countryside of New York. He uses three time settings, 1680 s, 1720 s, and the 1960 s. In these time settings he tells a story about the history of the families of the Van Brunts, Van Warts and the Kitchawank Indians. The histories of the families reenact themselves on the time frames found later on in the novel. They all play their roles within 300 years.
In 1663, the first Van Brunt in America arrives in what is not yet Peterskill, and becomes a tenant farmer on lands owned by the Dutch patroon, the first Van Wart. The constant fights between the Kitchawank Indians and the Van Brunts were common. When people from Europe started to move to America, they forced the Indians to move away from their land. This inner tension always existed between them. Around the 1720 s Wouter Van Brunt had made fun of Jemery Mohonk, who was a half Indian because he was challenging the powers of the Van Warts house, which lead to Jeremy s hanging.
The closest time frame is the one in the 1960 s, where we meet Walter Van Brunt, a 22 yr old man who has lost his mind ever since the accident. He plays an important role in this novel, since basically all of it revolves around his mind. It had all started on his 22nd birthday. Influenced by alcohol and drugs, he takes a swim in the Hudson River with Mardi, the wealthy daughter of the Van Warts. Mardi had dared him to climb aboard one of the shipping boats. Walter takes the dare and climbs in the ship, only to discover a ghost of his deceased grandmother (She had died in the Peterskill Riots of 1949). The attack of history gets him, and he flees to his motorcycle. Speeding away, Walter cant slow down in time, hits a curb, and looses his right foot after it was amputated. This is one of the historical markers of his life. A point of his life, which keeps him remembering his ancestors. What he learned from his family, how they abandon one another. For its characters, it is a crushing machine, which limns a world without exit; nowhere in the small town of Peterskill on the Hudson River, where the action is set, does any moment of hilarity or joy or love do more than strengthen the grip of the past (Clute 927)
A trial with the Kitchawank Indians was set up to discover the real facts about the past. The Kitchawanks were the Native American tribe who first lived in Peterskill. The Dutch introduces them to capitalism as they stole their possessions. The Van Wart family during the 17th century, moved from Harlem to lay their claim on the land that is now Peterskill. The land was given to subcontract tenant farmers. The Van Brunt family had plowed that land even though suspecting it to be cursed by the Indians. In Truth, he and most of the other present-day characters are not only invaded by the past but flattened by it. Or rather, they are flattened by the awkwardness of having three centuries of fatality come to a point in them. They are not developed with sufficient strength and profundity to bear it. Fate rarely seems like something of their own; it works upon them with a gear-clashing and lever-strain (Eder 3)
It is indeed a fact, that T. Coraghessan Boyle had included his knowledge of history in his novel. From the Van Warts being the patroons of most of the land near the Hudson valley, to the Peterskill riots of 1949. He knew exactly what took place, how it did, and when. Boyle s knowledge had made it a more realistic novel to read. It felt as though I was reading a biography on Walter Van Brunt rather than a novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
Richard Eder. Kismet Comedy from New Holland to New York. In Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 11, 1987, p. 3.
Cynthia Cotts, in a review of World s End. In VLS, No. 60, November,1987. p3
John Calvin Batchelor, Hudson River Frolic. In Book World- The Washington Post, November 1, 1987, p. 4
John Clute, Van Warts and All in The Times literary Supplement. No. 4456 August 26- September 1. 1988 p 927