Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

Karem, Frederick

Second Advisor

Sonstegard, Adam

Third Advisor

Conti, Brooke

Subject Headings

Modern Literature, Social Psychology, Sociology


Modern literature is rife with examples of authors dramatizing the various stressors suffered by families populating the American suburbs. Within this theme, two such authors, Richard Yates and Gillian Flynn, use their craft to explore not only the social orthodoxy expected by suburban residents, but also the performative aspects applied when that conformity is challenged by these inherent pressures. The presence of these social strains as it’s examined by each author, both of whom are writing 60 years apart, furthers the commentary on the toxicities of suburban living in post-WWII America (Yates) and the modern technological age (Flynn) by surveying the changes affecting husbands and wives once they choose a neighborhood residency and find themselves struggling to manage. In this study, the analysis aims to prove how both Yates and Flynn use literary devices such as metaphor, irony, characterization, and symbolism with a subtle blend of dark humor to expose the tensions underlining suburban life. For Yates, writing in 1961, framing the social and emotional fatigue emerging steadily among suburbanites in 1950’s America offers an intimate portrait of ambition soured by conformity; and by 2012 when Flynn publishes her novel, many of those same factors bridge the years between these respective publications through a more sardonic and savage narrative that considers how media and culture further perpetuate domestic pressures.