The Human Comedy by William Saroyan This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 7, 2009
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Have you ever read a book that makes you want to go out into your community and better yourself, that makes you want to write a letter to an old friend, to call your family, to wander into the drug store on the corner and mingle in the conversation that is taking place there? Have you ever read a book that can make you buoyantly happy and tenderly sad, that can make you long for another time and place? Published in 1943, William Saroyan's "The Human Comedy" is such a book. A relic from a more innocent time in American history, Saroyan's short, simple novel is a portrait of human beings at their very best, and a message of sincere, unabashed hope.

Saroyan takes us into the California town of Ithaca, where fourteen-year-old Homer Macauley is being pulled into manhood too early by forces he cannot control. With the father of the family dead, Homer is forced to work long hours delivering telegrams to support his family. This job brings him into contact with Mr. Grogan and Mr. Spangler, two of the warmest, kindest men ever to walk the face of the earth. They are his supervisors at the telegraph office and he learns a lot about life, work, and values from them. Homer's job also mixes him up with weighty subjects that he is perhaps too young for; as the messenger, he is responsible for delivering notices to mothers telling them that their sons have died in the war. While he is taking on all these adult responsibilities, Homer is still just a boy. He goes to school, is determined to win the track race, and is determined to woo the lovely Helen Elliot.

Despite the tragic death of his father, Homer's family remains close. His mother, Mrs. Macauley, exhibits quiet resolve and wisdom, and is there for her sons no matter what. His little brother, Ulysses, wanders innocently around the town and acts as a magnet for all the goings-on and eccentrics of Ithaca. Through his child's eyes, all the happenings and quirky encounters of a small 1940s town are recorded. Their sister, Bess, is a singer and looking for love as a young woman in the world. The oldest sibling, Marcus, is off at war, dreaming of his cherished homeland and sending letters back to his beloved family members. Homer looks up to Marcus greatly and only wishes he would come home.

Throughout "The Human Comedy," the reader is struck by the poignant human connections and above all, the strong undying force of love. There is so much love and pure human goodness in this book that it makes me, as a reader, want to go out into my world and be the best man I can be. True, the world nowadays is much more complicated than it was in the simpler time in which the book was written. Small towns are dying everywhere, a young boy can no longer wander the streets at his own pleasure, telegrams have long gone and even the heartfelt form of the letter has fallen out of fashion. Men and women everywhere have sped up the pace of their lives and are looking at the world through a materialistic perspective. But even in a changing world, we can all try to be the best human beings we can be, and maybe the beautiful portrait of a family and a community in "The Human Comedy" will not seem so far away. William Saroyan's magnificent novel will stay with you forever and ever.

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Kaavya M. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 16, 2014 at 11:33 am
This is a great review. Made me want to read the book, which I think, is the highest possible praise a review could get. :)
kyle said...
Oct. 13, 2009 at 9:51 am
this sounds like a good book ill half to read it
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