Complete Story


Winter 2006, pages 30 - 55

From the Plaint to the Comic: Kenneth Burke's Towards a Better Life

An analysis of Kenneth Burke's 1932 novel, Towards a Better Life, that draws on Permanence and Change (1935), Attitudes Toward History (1937), and Burke's unpublished notes clarifies the underlying structure and the trajectory of this intriguing and challenging novel. A consideration of its context reveals that the novel's protagonist, John Neal, whose worldview is based on "the plaint," moves toward "the comic frame," and thereby toward the good life, through "rituals and rebirth." Because the novel is an exploration of some of Burke's central theoretical concepts, this analysis also provides insight into his theoretical works.

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