Notional manifestations of working-class identity become evident through the recurrent appearance of diners in Cormac McCarthy’s largest and most personal novel, Suttree. Sometimes they are called lunch counters, or cafeterias, or drugstores, but the appellation is not what matters. What is essential is the subsistence repast and how McCarthy conjures these places as surrogate homes for the novel’s peripatetic protagonist, Cornelius Suttree, and his cohorts. Set directly in the middle of the twentieth century, the diners of Suttree evoke suitability, affordability, and community.
After it inherited an American twist on Ernest Hemingway’s clean well-lighted place and was put to canvas by Edward Hopper, and before it became an abiding symbol of nostalgia or of efficiency or of convenience, before its instantiation in visual narratives from Grease to Happy Days, or Diner to Five Easy Pieces, or from the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese to the television series Seinfeld, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, the diner existed alongside the pool hall, the laundromat, the barroom, and the motel as one of the defining pillars of mid-century working-class iconography. These places offer shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, and shared humanity. More… “Dine and Dash”