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Continental Drift

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Russell Banks is a prolific writer of fiction and poetry. He was raised in the New England area, living with his parents and four younger siblings. Banks, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was the first in his family to go to college. After graduation Banks found that writing was not enough to maintain economic stability and therefore pursued additional jobs of plumbing and selling shoes. More recently Banks has taught at a variety of colleges and universities (http://www.bookbrowse.com/biographies/index.cfm?author_number=1065).

The American author has lived in a variety of places from Massachusetts to Jamaica. His global experiences have contributed to the richness of his writings. The works of Russell Banks have been translated into twenty different languages and he has received numerous international prizes and awards

(http://www.bookbrowse.com/biographies/index.cfm?author_number=1065).

Growing up in a working-class world has played a major role in shaping Bank's novels. He has made a life's work of logging causes and effects of the terrible things "normal" men can and will do. He also portrays an interest in the lives of characters, struggling to achieve the American Dream, who are at odds with economic and social forces (http://www.bookbrowse.com/biographies/index.cfm?author_number=1065).

The American Dream was once solely based on the desire to achieve freedom and individuality. This simplicity has been replaced by an intense hunger for money, at the cost of ones liberty and integrity. Continental Drift is Bank's representation of modern America. He focuses on the two complex lives of Bob Dubois and Vanise Dorsinville. The characters are from two different worlds slowly migrating towards one another in search of an escape to a better life. The distractions of greed, economic differences, and racial prejudice block their way to achieving the American Dream. The novel begins with Bob Dubois; an oil repairman from Catamount, New Hampshire who is on a mission for a new life filled with success.

Bob Dubois perceives money as the most crucial factor of being free. He believes that the lack of happiness and freedom that he is experiencing in Catamount is due to poverty. Within the first few pages of the novel the readers grasp the idea that the Bob is a troubled man. He consistently has affairs and shows a quick temper. During Bob's first epiphany, Bob explains to his wife, Elaine, that he used to dream of becoming successful or 'making a killing.'

"Me and Ave Boone, we used to talk about building a boat and going to Australia or someplace in the South Pacific and making a killing. We used to say that, 'We'll make a killing.' If I said those words now, it'd be like sand in my mouth, because I'd be lying and I'd know it. No fucking way I'll ever make a killing" (Banks 28).

This expression is used frequently in the novel to describe success. Perhaps it emphasizes Banks' idea that power and violence are necessary in obtaining the American Dream. It also may foreshadow tragic events involving violence that Bob experiences in his hunt for success. Banks also shows the readers the significance of money in Bob's life when Bob explains his family poverty as being dead.

"I saw myself, and I realized that it'll never be any different. Never. It's like all these years I've just been waiting around to win the state lottery or something. Like that's the only way my life, our life can be different. The only way it can be the way I thought it would be is if I win the goddamned state lottery. You know what that means...It means we're dead" (Banks 30).

Bobs emotional breakdown and infatuation with obtaining success leads to the decision that the Dubois family will follow their dreams, or maybe only Bob's, and move to Florida where "things can happen."

Florida, being very unfamiliar to Bob, begins on an unpleasant note. As Bob and his family become more accustomed to the new culture, climate and population, their journey only gets worse. Florida intensifies the significance of money in Bob's life as well as the meaning of 'making a killing'. Readers are introduced to Bob's brother; the shady, conniving, inappropriate, demanding Eddie Dubois. Bob holds Eddie on a platform for some time because to Bob, Eddie is the epitome of the American Dream. Yet, Eddie's problems are later acknowledged and his shady dealings lead him to the desperate need for money resulting in his suicide. This is perhaps another indicator of the false perception people have of the American Dream.

Eddie provides Bob with a job at his liquor store and offers him bogus promises of wealth and success for the both of them. In an important section of the novel, Eddie demands that Bob takes a gun to protect the earnings in the store. Bob is reluctant and responds with the explanation "I don't want to shoot anybody. Christ, I don't even like hunting" (Banks, 68). This is ironic considering Bob's frequent use of the term 'making a killing'. When Bob surrenders to taking the gun it is an implication of his change in character. Bob Dubois' reluctance to violence slowly wanes and so does his human decency.

The first even displaying the ebbing goodness is when Bob kills a burglar at the liquor store. One of the thieves he shot in self defense however after defending his decision to Eddie about allowing the other to escape he later attempts a bloodthirsty manhunt to execute the other kid. Aside from displaying his decreasing decency, Bob shows that his increasing hunger for power over others will allow him to become the hunter that he never claims he was.

Bobs family life has deteriorated. His frustration and confusion has caused severe arguments with his wife that has proved to be detrimental to his children, Ruthie and Emma, who avoid speaking to him. The fights have been particularly harmful to Ruthie who is described as socially inept in areas outside of the home as well. Bob also misses one of the most valuable moments of his life, the birth of his new baby boy. He has been looking forward to the occasion of having a son yet was busy having extramarital affairs with Margueritte Duras, his coworker George's daughter. At first Bob insists that:

"If he loves his wife; he loves other women too, but not as much as he loves his wife; if he betrays his wife by sleeping with other women, and she does not discover it, then he has not been cruel to her. And, naturally, he does not want to be cruel to her, for, as said, he loves his wife" (Banks 83).

However, Bob states many times after meeting

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