This thesis explores how Patricia Highsmith’s novels, The Blunderer and Deep Water, critique the American suburbs and show how the American Dream is more of a fantasy, than a realistic goal that people can achieve. Her novels reveal how the American dream becomes unattainable, or one’s pursuit of it somehow goes wrong, leaving their lives unfulfilled and them resentful. Furthermore, I argue that the American Dream, itself, goes wrong for some individuals, and the pursuit of this unrealistic Dream can lead individuals to trouble in their personal or professional lives. Ultimately, through my analysis of Highsmith’s texts, it becomes clear that the American Dream is more of a hoax that nobody can ever truly attain than a reality. The popularity of both recent domestic noir novels and Highsmith’s novels, antecedents to the contemporary domestic noir genre, indicate a growing displeasure with the common narrative that anyone can achieve success through the American Dream, as these novels present an unsettling domestic setting with unmet expectations and lots of failure. These domestic noir novels compel readers to recognize the in-between space situated between the fictitious narratives that life can be either wholly good or wholly bad, and I argue that by presenting the fallacy of the American Dream, these novels show that there is no such thing as an American Dream for all individuals. The American Dream goes wrong, as it forever stays out of reach, remaining nothing but a dream.
Dr. Bill Albertini
First Advisor Department
Dr. Heath A. Diehl
Second Advisor Department
Liggett, Katie, "American Dream Gone Wrong: Patricia Highsmith’s Dark Suburban Domesticity" (2018). Honors Projects. 774.