:"This article is about the novel. For the film, see
Ironweed (film). For the plant, see Vernonia"
"Ironweed" is a 1983 novel by William Kennedy. It received the 1984
Pulitzer Prize for Fictionand is part of Kennedy's Albany Cycle. It placed at number ninety-two on the Modern Library list of the 100 Best Novels written in English in the 20th Century.
"Ironweed" is set during the
Great Depressionand tells the story of Francis Phelan, an alcoholic vagrant originally from Albany, New York, who left his family after accidentally killing his infant son while drunk. The novel focuses on Francis's return to Albany, and the narrative is complicated by the hallucinations of the three people whom he killed in the past, other than his son, Gerald, who was dropped by accident. This postmodernist novel has the elements of magic realism, the theme of misery, and metaphors, such as that Albany is Purgatory and is frequently being described as burning. A third person limited omniscient POV invades other people's minds to show their misery. The most miserable person in the book is Helen Archer, Francis Phelan's lover who has lived a life of misery. The novel features characters that return in some of Kennedy's other books.
Kennedy wrote the screenplay for the 1987 film version directed by
Hector Babencoand starring Jack Nicholsonand Meryl Streep. Major portions of the film were shot on location in Albany. The film was nominated for Academy Awardsfor Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Nicholson) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Streep).
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