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Ham on Rye  
HamOnRye.jpg
Front cover, first edition
Author Charles Bukowski
Publisher Black Sparrow Books
Publication date September 1, 1982
ISBN 0-87685-558-3
OCLC Number 8553358
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3552.U4 H3 1982

Ham on Rye is a 1982 semi-autobiographical novel by American author and poet Charles Bukowski. Written in the first person, the novel follows Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s thinly veiled alter ego, during his early years. Written in Bukowski’s characteristically straightforward prose, the novel tells of his coming-of-age in Los Angeles during the Great Depression.

Contents

Setting

Like his previous works, Ham on Rye is set in Los Angeles, where the author grew up. Bukowski keeps his descriptions of his hometown grounded in its reality, paying more attention to the people that make up Los Angeles than to the city itself. This type of description does not venerate or idealize the city, a contrast to other so-called "Los Angeles Novels".[1] Scenes outside of Los Angeles show Chinaski as an intruder, as with an early scene where he and his family are chased out of an orange grove.[2]

Protagonist

Like his previous autobiographical novels, Ham on Rye centers on the life of Henry Chinaski, this time during his childhood and teenage years. Throughout the course of the novel, Bukowski develops his misanthropic anti-hero character that is seen in his other works like Post Office and Hollywood. Chinaski, growing up poor in Los Angeles during the Great Depression, is shown growing into a sarcastic loner. This stems in large part from his home life, in which he is beaten frequently (often for no reason) by his father. He becomes alienated from the children at school, first by his inability to play sports, then by disfiguring acne.

Chinaski has been compared to both Frankenstein's monster and Kafka's Gregor Samsa, because of his alienation and outcast resulting from his "monstrous" appearance. [3] He often resorts to violence when confronted with those who alienate him, giving him a tough guy image to his peers. However, he rarely is completely confident with his own abilities and often second-guesses whether he can win.

The Chinaskis

Like Henry, the rest of the Chinaskis are modeled after Bukowski’s own family. For example, Henry’s parents, like Bukowski’s, had met in Germany after World War I.

  • Emily Chinaski. Chinaski's grandmother on his father’s side. The beginning of the novel starts with his earliest memory of his grandmother; she would proclaim “I will bury all of you!” Other than that, his best memory of visiting her home involves him and his parents leaving to go visit his grandfather, who does not live with Emily. Later, she appears with a crucifix to rid him of "the devil" causing his acne.
  • Leonard Chinaski. Chinaski's grandfather, separated from Emily. Though Chinaski's father admonishes Leonard for being a drunk (his breath stinks of alcohol), Chinaski himself remembers Leonard as a beautiful man. When Chinaski meets him for the first time, he gives the boy a gold watch and a German Iron Cross. [4]
  • Henry Chinaski, Sr. Chinaski's father. He met Henry's mother overseas in Germany, where Henry, Jr. was born. At the beginning of the novel, Henry, Sr. works as a milk man. He is a harsh, cruel man who physically and verbally abuses his son from a young age. He also physically abuses his wife Katherine, particularly after she catches him cheating on her with a woman on his milk route. Henry, Sr. regards the rest of his family, particularly his brothers John and Ben, with disdain. He often disparages them for being alcoholics and womanizers, two traits his son would later develop. At the onset of the Great Depression, he loses his job but continues to spend the day driving around to appear to the neighbors as if he was still employed. His son gets more jaded to his abuse as time goes on, and the two become openly hostile towards each other by the end of the novel. Eventually, Henry, Sr. throws his son out of the house after finding Henry’s short stories.
  • Katherine Chinaski. Chinaski's mother. A native German, she met and married Henry Sr.'s father in Germany post World War I. Katherine is a loving mother, though she is subjugated by Henry, Sr.’s abuse. Chinaski initially resents his mother for not saving him from his father’s wrath, but later comes to regard her as another victim like himself. Though often disappointed with how her son lives his life, she really loves him and often displays a confidence that he will better himself. Her love for her son is perhaps best shown when she warns him that his father found his stories. Like her son, she eventually calluses to Henry, Sr.’s abuse, shown in the novel by her disregard of his later tirades.
  • Ben Chinaski. Chinaski's uncle. Ben is only present in chapter three, and Chinaski remembers him as “a very handsome man… he had dark eyes which glittered, were brilliant with glittering light.” Ben is 24 and lives in a sanitarium because he is dying of tuberculosis. Despite this, Henry Sr. treats Ben with open hostility, ridiculing him for his debauchery. Ben takes it in stride, paying more attention to his nephew and sister-in-law. [5]
  • Anna Chinaski. Chinaski aunt through marriage to John Chinaski, Henry, Sr.’s brother. In chapter four, Anna appears an abandoned wife with two children, all three on the brink of starvation. Her husband has been gone quite sometime, leaving Anna and the children penniless. Henry Sr. mercilessly belittles his brother or make light of Anna’s situation. He claims that John is wanted for rape (whether this is true or not is uncertain) and that he’ll come back “when he’s tired of the hens.” Like Ben, Anna treats Henry’s father coldly and pays more attention to Katherine, who brings her food for her children. [6]

References

  1. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3):4-8
  2. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3): 5
  3. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3): 6
  4. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 1
  5. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 3
  6. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 4

Ham on Rye  
[[File:]]
Front cover, first edition
Author Charles Bukowski
Publisher Black Sparrow Books
Publication date September 1, 1982
ISBN 0-87685-558-3
OCLC Number 8553358
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3552.U4 H3 1982

Ham on Rye is a 1982 semi-autobiographical novel by American author and poet Charles Bukowski. Written in the first person, the novel follows Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s thinly veiled alter ego, during his early years. Written in Bukowski’s characteristically straightforward prose, the novel tells of his coming-of-age in Los Angeles during the Great Depression.

Contents

Setting

Like his previous works, Ham on Rye is set in Los Angeles, where the author grew up. Bukowski keeps his descriptions of his hometown grounded in its reality, paying more attention to the people that make up Los Angeles than to the city itself. This type of description does not venerate or idealize the city, a contrast to other so-called "Los Angeles Novels".[1] Scenes outside of Los Angeles show Chinaski as an intruder, as with an early scene where he and his family are chased out of an orange grove.[2]

Protagonist

Like his previous autobiographical novels, Ham on Rye centers on the life of Henry Chinaski, this time during his childhood and teenage years. Throughout the course of the novel, Bukowski develops his misanthropic anti-hero character that is seen in his other works like Post Office and Hollywood. Chinaski, growing up poor in Los Angeles during the Great Depression, is shown growing into a sarcastic loner. This stems in large part from his home life, in which he is beaten frequently (often for no reason) by his father. He becomes alienated from the children at school, first by his inability to play sports, then by disfiguring acne.

Chinaski has been compared to both Frankenstein's monster and Kafka's Gregor Samsa, because of his alienation and outcast resulting from his "monstrous" appearance. [3] He often resorts to violence when confronted with those who alienate him, giving him a tough guy image to his peers. However, he rarely is completely confident with his own abilities and often second-guesses whether he can win.

The Chinaskis

Like Henry, the rest of the Chinaskis are modeled after Bukowski’s own family. For example, Henry’s parents, like Bukowski’s, had met in Germany after World War I.

  • Emily Chinaski. Chinaski's grandmother on his father’s side. The beginning of the novel starts with his earliest memory of his grandmother; she would proclaim “I will bury all of you!” Other than that, his best memory of visiting her home involves him and his parents leaving to go visit his grandfather, who does not live with Emily. Later, she appears with a crucifix to rid him of "the devil" causing his acne.
  • Leonard Chinaski. Chinaski's grandfather, separated from Emily. Though Chinaski's father admonishes Leonard for being a drunk (his breath stinks of alcohol), Chinaski himself remembers Leonard as a beautiful man. When Chinaski meets him for the first time, he gives the boy a gold watch and a German Iron Cross. [4]
  • Henry Chinaski, Sr. Chinaski's father. He met Henry's mother overseas in Germany, where Henry, Jr. was born. At the beginning of the novel, Henry, Sr. works as a milk man. He is a harsh, cruel man who physically and verbally abuses his son from a young age. He also physically abuses his wife Katherine, particularly after she catches him cheating on her with a woman on his milk route. Henry, Sr. regards the rest of his family, particularly his brothers John and Ben, with disdain. He often disparages them for being alcoholics and womanizers, two traits his son would later develop. At the onset of the Great Depression, he loses his job but continues to spend the day driving around to appear to the neighbors as if he was still employed. His son gets more jaded to his abuse as time goes on, and the two become openly hostile towards each other by the end of the novel. Eventually, Henry, Sr. throws his son out of the house after finding Henry’s short stories.
  • Katherine Chinaski. Chinaski's mother. A native German, she met and married Henry Jr.'s father in Germany post World War I. Katherine is a loving mother, though she is subjugated by Henry, Sr.’s abuse. Chinaski initially resents his mother for not saving him from his father’s wrath, but later comes to regard her as another victim like himself. Though often disappointed with how her son lives his life, she really loves him and often displays a confidence that he will better himself. Her love for her son is perhaps best shown when she warns him that his father found his stories. Like her son, she eventually calluses to Henry, Sr.’s abuse, shown in the novel by her disregard of his later tirades.
  • Ben Chinaski. Chinaski's uncle. Ben is only present in chapter three, and Chinaski remembers him as “a very handsome man… he had dark eyes which glittered, were brilliant with glittering light.” Ben is 24 and lives in a sanitarium because he is dying of tuberculosis. Despite this, Henry Sr. treats Ben with open hostility, ridiculing him for his debauchery. Ben takes it in stride, paying more attention to his nephew and sister-in-law. [5]
  • Anna Chinaski. Chinaski aunt through marriage to John Chinaski, Henry, Sr.’s brother. In chapter four, Anna appears an abandoned wife with two children, all three on the brink of starvation. Her husband has been gone quite sometime, leaving Anna and the children penniless. Henry Sr. mercilessly belittles his brother or make light of Anna’s situation. He claims that John is wanted for rape (whether this is true or not is uncertain) and that he’ll come back “when he’s tired of the hens.” Like Ben, Anna treats Henry’s father coldly and pays more attention to Katherine, who brings her food for her children. [6]

References

  1. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3):4-8
  2. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3): 5
  3. ^ Fontana, Ernest. 1985. Bukowski's Ham on Rye and the Los Angeles Novel. The Review of Contemporary Fiction. 5 (3): 6
  4. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 1
  5. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 3
  6. ^ Ham on Rye, Chapt. 4







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