Thomas Wolfe and the Urban Night Prowl: Walking, Modernism, and Myth
American novelist Thomas Wolfe (1900–1938) explored New York on foot, and as his autobiographical characters prowl the night, they illustrate some characteristic effects of walking. Moreover, Wolfe’s pieces on walking are representative of the thematic and formal continuity between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They embody fragmentation and mourn the passing of a Golden Age of unity, his urban night prowl functioning as a symbol of modern man’s search for cohesion. There is a continuing interweaving of Romantic and modernist aspects in his mythical structure, in which walking is essential, for his works center on path narratives positing the rediscovery of unity. Yet as his famous city prowl conveys the essence of incompleteness, his night prowlers can be seen as modernist icons.