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Carnival and Ceremony At Wright Morris's Lone Tree Hotel
Great Plains Quarterly
  • Reginald Dyck, Capital University, Columbus OH
Date of this Version

Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 1998, pp. 293-303


Copyright 1998 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Gordon Boyd, a central character in Morris's Ceremony in Lone Tree, is a self-fashioning failure at American dreaming. He presents himself this way: "In the middle of life, Morgenstern Boyd had everything to live for, everything worth living for having eluded him. He was that rare thing, a completely selfunmade man." Failed writer among other failures, Boyd in many ways contrasts with, and is defined by, his friend and nemesis Walter McKee, a man who "like Babbitt, keeps faith; he does not question anything, especially his own life. " Set in the 1950s Midwest culture of respectability, Ceremony in Lone Tree presents Boyd's strategic failures as attempts to resist that culture's conformity and repression. Boyd and McKee's relationship has been shaped by two key events. Boyd's attempt to walk on the water of a central Nebraska sandpit establishes a pattern. Outrageousness, determined by the effect it creates, becomes Boyd's modus operandi. Because McKee's role is observer rather than participant in the rebellious action, it does not hamper him from achieving considerable success. Similar in its focus on effect is Boyd's kissing McKee's girlfriend, Lois, while McKee stands by shocked. Although Lois Scanlon becomes Lois McKee, she is troubled by the repression that choice necessitated. Likewise, Boyd has continued to repress his desire for her and struggled against the middle-class respectability she and her husband represent.
Citation Information
Reginald Dyck. "Carnival and Ceremony At Wright Morris's Lone Tree Hotel" (1998)
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