Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Richard  Yates

Margaret  DeMoura 
The Kennedy Brothers: The Private and Public Dimensions of Camelot

Richard Yates: The Hopeless Reality of the American Dream

A youthful approach to politics embedded in seemingly-perfect marriages made John Fitzgerald, Robert Francis, and Edward Moore Kennedy the object of unwavering devotion for many Americans in the second half of the twentieth century. The Kennedys' competitive edge, instilled by their parents, Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, along with the new generation’s thirst for representation in the government, distinguished the Kennedy brothers from other politicians of their time. Both the public and private dimensions of the lives of these revered figures created the compelling compound of glory, achievement, and almost mythical tragedy that evolved into the symbol of Camelot. Jacqueline Bouvier, Ethel Skakel, and Joan Bennett’s grace and commitment to their husband’s careers and family further transformed the Kennedy era into a romantic drama that became an engaging American fairytale. Although the brothers’ private relationships, family life, and mastery of the media enhanced their public image and national influence, reoccurring scandals and emotional tribulations at times weakened their political effectiveness.

Just as the Kennedy’s presence in American culture and politics intensified the twentieth century’s focus on outwardly appealing public images, Richard Yates’ characters falsely interpret the American Dream as a personal challenge to create the superficial manifestation of happiness and success. The depressing truth presented in Yates’ novels provides a harsh depiction of the deceptive American Dream in which characters are lost in a hopeless world of self-created disillusionment and hidden insecurities. The individuals deteriorate emotionally as the painful gap between reality and expectations widens. Their failed attempts at reaching superficial success are veiled by images of false contentment, comforting allusions, and a fatal reliance on alcohol. The inability to transcend beyond their suffocating environment and uncover the idealistic fulfillment of true love is evident in Yates’ Revolutionary Road. Frank and April Wheeler, the hopeless protagonists are aware of the desperation in their actions and the intensity of their imperfections; however they rely on the false idea that they can reach perfection. Yates’ characters ultimately discover that the American Dream deceivingly lures individuals to rely on synthetic morals thus destroying their ability to reach success.

Major Works Consulted:

Goodman, Jon. The Kennedy Mystique: Creating Camelot. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006. .
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Jackie Ethel Joan: Women of Camelot. New York: Warner, 2000. .
Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road. New York: Vintage, 1961. .
---. A Special Providence. New York: Knopf, 1969.
Photo Credit: Yates, Richard. The Easter Parade. New York: Picador, 1976.