The Modern American Revenge Story

  • Kyle Wiggins


This chapter argues that a new type of revenge narrative emerges in recent American fiction and film. Contemporary writers such as Thomas Pynchon, E. L. Doctorow, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and filmmakers such as Robert Siegel and Quentin Tarantino transform the payback plot from a defense of self-worth to a measurement (and violent settling) of social, political, or economic debts. The result is a genre phenomenon I call “ultionic revenge.” Characters like John Smith in Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996), who yearns to kill the one “white man [who] was responsible for everything that had gone wrong” for Native Americans, direct their anger at personifications of diffuse injustice. This process of transference defines the challenge of exacting payback in the age of systems—an age that, I contend, has rendered vengeful satisfaction paradoxical within narrative.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle Wiggins
    • 1
  1. 1.College of General StudiesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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