English 204 – Environmental Literature
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.
Consider carefully the title of this novel. Who
is delivered? And from what? Are
there various levels of deliverance in the novel? Is
the title in any way ironic?
James Dickey said, “I wrote Deliverance as a story where under the
conditions of extreme violence people could find out things about themselves
that they have no other means…Deliverance is something that could
happen…civilized men killing under primitive conditions.” The
obvious question is: “What
do these four men learn about themselves? Do
readers learn more about the men than the men learn about themselves? If
Deliverance was published in 1970, during the Viet Nam War. Do
a bit of research into the 1960s and 1970s culture in America. How
is this text a commentary or a response to Kennedy’s “New Frontier,” the
sterility of suburban life and urban work, Viet Nam, Kent State, and the
The artist Georges Braque is mentioned a few times in the text. Braque
is acknowledged as an artist who pursued an art of contemplation whose
aim was to reconcile man to himself by means of aesthetic harmony. How
does this artist (and his style) reflect Ed Gentry’s character…and perhaps
a major theme of the novel regarding the conflict between nature and civilization?
Why does Drew Ballinger die in the novel? Look
carefully at his character and determine what he signifies as an artist,
a role model, a humanitarian, a man. Choose
any of the four major characters and do an analysis of that character. What
significance do the names play in understanding the characters?
This book is arguably the most violent text we have read thus far. Three
men are murdered, one man is sodomized, two men are seriously wounded physically,
and all are scarred psychologically. What
purpose does the violence serve in the text? Does
Dickey glorify violence and exploit sexual perversion? What
other forms of violence are present in the text?
Is this a man’s book? Where
are the women in the story? How
are they portrayed? What function
do they serve? Are there definitions
of masculinity and femininity within the text? Does
the text perpetuate archetypal myths such as man’s initia6tion into the
does the woman figure into this myth?
Who is the antagonist in this novel? The
river? The Hillbillies? Deliverance
to depart from our image of the wilderness as benefactor, refuge, or purifier. If
Thoreau read Deliverance (and he too went on an extended canoe trip
with his brother on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers), what would he think
of the image of the “natural man” (the mountain men) who relied upon their
instincts apart from civilization? What
would he think of these men who lived lives of quiet desperation, and decided
to take a canoe trip one weekend?
Is this text an appropriate choice for an Environmental Literature class? Defend