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Defining Genre

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This sub-genre features the "swashbuckling" hero--a character whose use of swords, acrobatics, and guile support his chivalric ideals. He rescues other.  The word, itself, was first used in the 16th century to indicate a "blustering, swaggering fighting man."  Characteristics of this genre include:

  • a known and "dastardly" villain
  • a victim in need (the "damsel in distress")
  • outstanding courage
  • unique fighting skill
  • a sense of honor/justice

The word picaresque comes from the Spanish word picaro, which was first used in the early 17th century to identify a rogue, bohemian, adventurer, or rapscallion.  A picaroon is listed as a synonym for the word pirate in many English dictionaries. In these books, the protagonist doesn't generally fit the typical model of a hero.  Characteristically, these novels include:

  • protagonist of low-class or crimnal and carefree
  • episodic adventure and a pointless quest
  • satire (comedic)
  • social criticism
  • theatrical storytelling/first person narration

Classics include:

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Moll Flanders by Daniel DeFoe
  • Cyrano de Bergerac
  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Scaarlet Pimpernetl
  • Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Modern Literary Examples:

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
  • Slaugherhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • One Hundred Years of Solitutde by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Catcher in the Rye by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • Dodger by Terry Pratchett
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  • Forrest Grump by Winston Groom
  • Zorro by Isabel Allende

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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