The Infamous Brothers

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Homer and Langley is Doctorow’s fictional account of the New York millionaires that diminished into poor elderly pack rats.  From Homer, the blind Collyer brother’s point of view, the reader experiences life as Doctorow imagines the brothers did.  Langley, the older brother, experiences World War I and comes back a changed man.  Having been subjected to mustard gas, his voice is plagued by coughing throughout the rest of his life.  One of the more interesting points of this book is the Homer’s recollections of his brother’s existential Theory of Replacements and Platonic Newspaper.  Throghout Langley’s thoughts pervades the idea that humans are “morally insufficient”. This notion leads him to believe that he can create a forever current newspaper based on the idea that humans continually make the same morally corrupt decisions leading to the same devastating actions.  A second theme permeating throughout the novel is the exercise of hoarding.  Langley’s lifelong obsession with resisting the morally insufficient leads him to wall himself into his own home, along with brother, with the help of many objects.  Blindness, of course, is also a theme that appears throughout the novel.  Not only are the cons of Homer’s literal blindness discussed, but through Langley and Lissy, the young hippie-boarder, the pros are divulged as well.  Both argue that without the plague of visual stimulus, the mind is free to imagine and is therefore limitless.

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