"Despite his lack of self assurance, you mean," Mark Frost corrected.
"No, it isn't that," Mrs Wiseman put in. "You mean the same thing that Julius does: - that, having been born an American and of a provincial middle western lower middle class family, he has inherited all the lower middle class's awe of Education with a capital E, an awe which the very fact of his own difficulty in getting to college and staying there, has increased."
"Yes," her brother agreed. "And the reaction which sheer accumulated years and human experience has brought about in him has swung him to the opposite extreme without destroying that ingrained awe or offering him anything to replace it with at all. His writing seems fumbling, not because life is unclear to him, but because of his innate humorless belief that, though it bewilder him at times, life at bottom is sound and admirable and fine; and because hovering over this American scene into which he has been thrust, the ghosts of the Emersons and Lowells and Greelys and other exemplifiers of Education with a capital E, who 'seated on chairs in handsomely carpeted parlors' and surrounded by an atmosphere of halfcalf and security, dominated American letters in its most healty American phase, 'without heat or vulgarity,' simper yet in a sort of ubiquitous watchfulness. A sort of puerile bravado in flouting while he fears," he explained.
"But," his sister said, "for a man like Dawson there is no better American tradition than theirs - if he but knew it. They may have sat among their objects, transcribing their Greek and Latin and holding correspondences across the Atlantic, but they still found time to put out of their New England ports with the word of God in one hand and a belaying pin in the other and all sails drawing aloft; and whatever they fell foul of was American. And, by God, it was American. And is yet."
"Yes," her brother agreed again. "But he lacks what they had at command among their shleves of discreet books and their dearth of heat and vulgarity: - a standard of literature that is international. No, not a standard exactly: a belief, a conviction that his talent need not be restricted to delineating things which his conscious mind assures him are American reactions."
"Freedom?" suggested Mark Frost hollowly.
"No. No one needs freedom. We cannot bear it. He needs only let himself go, let himself forget all his fetich of culture and education which his upbringing and the ghosts of those whom circumstance permitted to reside longer at colleges than himself, and whom despite himself he regards with awe, assure him that he lacks. For by getting himself and his own bewilderment and inhibitions out of the way and by describing, in a manner that even translation cannot injure (as Balzac did) American life as American life is, it will become eternal and timeless despite him. Life everywhere is the same, you know. Manners of living it may be different. - are they not different between adjoining villages? family names, profits on a single field or orchard, work influences - but man's old compulsions, duty and inclination: the axis and the circumference of his squirrel cage, they do not change. Details do not matter, details only entertain us. And nothing that merely entertains us can matter because the things taht entertain us are purely speculative.: prospective pleasures which we probably will not achieve. The other things only surprise us. And he who has stood the surprise of birth, can stand anything."