Jonathan Lethem's 'The Happy Man'

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The Happy Man Literary Analysis Is there a difference between Hell and reality? If so, can you tell the difference between your Hell and your reality? The story, The Happy Man, takes place in the life of a man who was molested as a young child and has blocked out the memories of that experience. The author, Jonathan Lethem, uses the switching back and forth from Hell to reality which shows that everyone has their own personal Hell and it will affect every part of their life if they don’t learn how to successfully cope with it. Tom’s Hell. Tom, the main character, has not dealt with the past experience of being molested by his uncle as a child and therefore his “soul” goes back and forth between reality and Hell. In this story Tom said “It wasn’t supposed to matter that my soul shuttled between my living body here on earth and Hell.” (The Happy Man, p.3) Tom experienced physical and emotional pain while in Hell as Lethem describes symbolic encounters with a witch, a horse and a robot maker. Tom has pain from falling into holes he cannot see and…show more content…
Letham’s use of the term Happy Man is ironic because the Happy Man was in reality Tom’s Uncle Frank, who molested him as a child. While in his fictitious Hell, Tom “cannot leave hell until he meets the happy man” (theyoungurban). Letham creates two versions of Frank in the story, a good guy and a bad guy. The only thing the appearance of the Happy Man meant to Tom was that he got to return to life again. (The Happy Man p. 9) The bad version of Frank is given a name by Letham, which is Colonel Eagery. This is Tom’s real-life uncle, his childhood molester. While Tom was not aware of the situation of being molested, the author included this statement from Tom: “I know that all too well that Colonel Eagery, what I also call the Happy Man, is flesh and blood” (The Happy Man, p. 6). According to Bewildering Stories, Tom suffered a traumatic experience in his childhood where his uncle has abused

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