Table of Contents
2 Presentation of “Vernon God Little”
2.2 Main characters
2.3. The Structure of the Novel
2.4. Time and Setting
3 Comparison with “The Catcher in the Rye”
3.1. The Main Character – Vernon meets Holden
3.2. Narrative Technique
3.4. The Targets of Criticism
“Vernon God Little” was written in 2003 by D.B.C. Pierre.
It won The Man Booker Prize in in the same year. This prize is awarded annually to the best full length novel written in English by a citizen of the Commonwealth, Ireland, South Africa or Pakistan. Since the novel about the teenager Vernon Little has its setting in the United States, in Texas, to be more precise in a small town by the name of Martirio, one might assume it was written by an American author. This is not true – the author´s real name, hid behind the synonym of DBC Pierre, is actually Peter Finlay. He was born in Australia in 1961 and grew up in Mexico. Since his family belonged to the minority of fairly wealthy Mexicans, Pierre´s childhood was a good one, until his father died when he was 16.
“D.B.C.” is the abbreveation for the slogan “Dirty But Clean” (www.goodreports.com).
“Dirty But Clean” demands further explanation since Finlay´s life has not followed a straight line in recent years. He was known as a drug addict and gambler and made debts of several hundred thousand dollars in a scheme to find Montezuma´s gold in Mexico (http://news.bbc.co.uk).
Additionally, Finlay was already an internationally published cartoonist and designer before he started writing his novel.
His own statement is that his fairly messed up state of life was the motivation for him to write the novel. Pierre, respectively Finlay, says that his own story, which obviously has been colourful enough, is embedded in the plot of “Vernon God Little” – but only in the form of a code and not within the main character of Vernon (http://news.bbc.co.uk).
As a matter of fact this master in the art of living was awarded a sum of £50,000 attached to the Man Booker Prize and the fame this title supplies his name with. The money probably covers just parts of his current debts, but DBC Pierre is eager to publish a further novel soon - “I've got plenty more of that to come", he promises on BBC. (http://news.bbc.co.uk).
The novel “Vernon God Little” is a contemporary satire on American society in its first decade of the new millenium. Furthermore, it can be categorized as a novel of initiation.Its protagonist Vernon Little finds himself in the blurry state of a teenager- not yet a real grown up man, neither a boy, only just starting to be confronted with life´s realities.
Because of its recent date of publicatoin there is no secondary literature on “Vernon God Little” to be found. There are articles on the web that did provide me with at least some background information.
The Sunday Telegraph says “Vernon God Little” is “fit to rank with ´Catcher in the Rye` ” by J. D. Salinger. Moreover, there are other critics that make the comparison between this classic and Pierre´s recently released work.
Why these two novels? “The Catcher in the Rye” is probably the greatest classic of novels about adolsecents in American post-war literature. It was published in 1951, it hit its readership like a bomb because of its revolutionary character. It turned its author into one of the most valued writers in American literature. There was a remarkable impact on the young as well as on the grown up readership in the United States in addition, it gained international success:
Within ten years the novel had been translated into 20 different languages by almost 300 colleges.
The novel became mandatory reading and was included in reading lists of schools and colleges. It was very successful even in Korea and Israel, was forbidden in Australia and became a mandatory lpart of the curriculum in German schools. (vgl. Neis 1982, 8-9)
Its reception was and still is, coined by controversy. Its critics have felt offended by the liberalism and the obvious social critcism that Salinger´s work conveys.
There are still, more than fifty years after its first being publishied, new ways of interpreting Catcher.
These two novels have certain fundamental similarities. On the one hand, they both share a fairly critical outlook on the society of the time they are written in. On the other, the observer in both cases is a boy at the brink of society to the adult world. This means, subject and object in both novels share the same formal outline – I intend to compare these outlines and figure out if the classic and the newcomer have the same shape.
Since The Catcher in the Rye is widely known novel I will not discuss or reproduce its contents. Instead, I will concentrate on and offer insight into D.B.C. Pierre´s “Vernon God Little” in the first part of my work, then I will compare the two novels.
2 Presentation of “Vernon God Little”
“Vernon God Little” tells the story of fifteen-year-old Vernon who is a student at a highschool.We are introduced to him while he is sitting in the police-station of Matririo, a small town in Texas. The reason for this is Vernon´s former best friend, Jesus Navarro, who shot down 16 of his fellow students plus himself at school. Jesus had turned into an enemy of Matirio´s small-town society, which rejected and made fun of him. The result of this is the shoot-out at school, which is not described throughout the whole novel., but can be seen as the pre-tale to what is going to happen to Vernon in the novel.
The police tries to make him responsible as an accomplice of Jesus and puts him under pressure. But it is not only the police that wants to use Vernon as a scapegoat; the whole town of Martirio as well as the media, represented by the television-reporter Eulalio Ledesma, tries to make the teenage-protagonist stumble. The reader knows that Vernon is innocent since he is the narrator. Vernon decides to run away to Mexico, to escape this society that needs someone to be made responsible for its own mistakes.
Ledesma, who to this point seemed to be a person of trust, willing to help Vernon to tell the truth about his role, finds Vernon in Mexico and turns out to be the worst traitor of all of them. Vernon is tricked by Ledesma ( “Lally”): The girl (Taylor Figueroa) that Vernon considered to be the girl of his dreams is hired by Lally in order to get a false confession out of Vernon, which is recorded.
This “proof”, in which Vernon confesses to having himself killed some of the students because he wants to please Taylor, leads to the death sentence for Vernon. Ledesma is about to make a huge media event out of the Vernon´s execution…
The proof for Vernon´s actual innocence arrives comes in at the last moment: Vernon suffers from incontinentia and had to use the piece of paper that was sent to him by the school´s secretary - his alibi for the time of the shooting – as toilet-paper. Being afraid of being made fun of Vernon hides this piece of paper from everybody, luckily his lawyer finds it just before young Vernon is executed. Vernon´s life bizarely turns back to normality.