Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Ronald Emerick, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

Karen Dandurand, Ph. D.

Third Advisor

Susan M. Comfort, Ph. D.

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the motifs of seeing and hearing in the novels of Anne Tyler. Tyler recurrently exposes her characters strengths and weaknesses through his/her ability, or inability, to see and/or hear. All of Tyler s main characters possess a deficiency that obstructs both his/her view of him/herself and the world that he/she resides in. As each character struggles in the search for self, the search is often obstructed by family history, the structure of the current family, and imposed societal and marriage roles. By using visual and auditory metaphors, Tyler provides each character with various coping mechanisms that prevents him/her from seeing or hearing clearly. Tyler employs photographs, physical blindness, mirrors and windows, fortunetelling, watching television, and eating disorders as the means by which these characters rely visually. As a means of hearing, or not hearing, Tyler allows her characters to be physically deaf, to wear headphones, to listen to music, and to talk over others as methods of coping. I also contend that in addition to coping mechanisms, Tyler also provides each character with various visual and auditory mediums to allow him/her to work through his/her blindness or deafness. Tyler imparts her characters with the following artistic professions: photographer, sculptor, writer, actor, musician, and chef. It is through these professions that many of the characters are able to work through their issues so that they may see or hear clearly. A portion of this study s objective is to identify the different coping methods used by male and female characters in relation to the theme of seeing and hearing. For example, men are frequently represented looking in and out of windows, while women are often looking into mirrors and often suffer from eating disorders. It is then that they see that their self-image is blurred and distorted. Furthermore, Tyler s male characters frequently require the aid of women to see or hear properly.

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