“What had he seen? How long would it take him to puzzle it out? He was now a jigsaw loose in its box, the bullfight one of the scarlet pieces, but he would not know its meaning until the pattern itself appeared. And that he would not find. No, not anywhere, since it did not exist. The pattern - what pattern it had - he would have to create. Make it out of something that looked for all the world like something else.” - Wright Morris, “The Field of Vision.”
A family from Nebraska decide to take a vacation in Mexico. They attend a bullfight and the arena is where the novel is set. While watching the drama unfold before them, each of the family members reflect on their own lives and the circumstances which brought them up to this particular point. Told from multiple points of view, it is interesting to see what is remembered and what isn’t, what is left out of the story, and what isn’t. Meanwhile the bullfight serves as a metaphor for the drama of their lives - the arena itself being “the field of vision.”
This is one of those mid-twentieth century novels that seems simple enough on the surface but there is a whole hell of a lot taking place underneath - and it is through each character that we see the complexities, eccentricities and banalities of American cultural life in the mid-twentieth century. It’s a “deep” novel without it weighing too heavily on the reader and there is quite a bit of humor and lightheartedness in the way its told. The quote above, to me, seems to sum up the meaning of the novel very nicely, though it is one of those books that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve finished it.
Rating: * * * *