Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Self, Robert T., 1941-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Tyler; Anne--Criticism and interpretation; Families in literature


Difficult familial relationships thematically dominate Anne Tyler's novels. This study attends to three significant issues raised in relation to Tyler's portraits of the troubled relationships of her characters. These issues include the difficult childhood of the characters, reciprocity in relationships, and the necessity of self-realization and responsibility in managing difficulties and limitations. Because of their vivid treatments of these issues, this study focuses on Tyler's three novels, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, and Ladder of Years, which portray the struggles of the characters in dealing with their conflicting personalities, particularly with each other's limitations and the abiding frictions in their relationships. Chapter 1, “Introduction,” gives a general overview on Anne Tyler's work as a whole, focusing on the afflicted relationships confronting her characters. Intended as a cornerstone for the succeeding discussions, Chapter 2, “Personality Characteristics Developed in Childhood,” focuses on the backgrounds of the protagonists—their early childhood and familial relationships—that give rise to their extraordinary personalities. Despite the incongruity of the unseemly couples that largely contributes to their unhappiness, this study maintains that the real concern of Tyler's depictions of their afflictions is an inability to deal with their own limitations and to reciprocate in their relationships. In other words, this study seeks to validate Tyler's advocacy for a supportive and beneficial role between couples, the lack of which underlies the troubles facing her characters. Such purpose thus becomes the major concern in Chapter 3, “Problematic and Reciprocal Relationships,” which explores the nature of relationships portrayed in these three novels. The dominant focus involves the issues regarding conflicts in the relationships of the protagonists as well as the success and failure in their management of these conflicts. Apart from revealing the inadequacies and difficulties of the characters, these three novels illustrate their ability to improve their personalities and attitudes toward life. Their success indicates that human limitations are not always, or ultimately, inevitable or unmanageable. Chapter 4, “Self-Realization and Responsibility,” therefore, concerns itself with these celebrated virtues in Tyler's novels, the qualities that enable her characters to survive their troubles and remain content with their lives.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [135]-140).


iv, 140 pages




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