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Kay Boyle

Red, White, and Boyle: Fiction as Propaganda and Art



Entre le milieu des années trente et la fin des années cinquante, Kay Boyle fut suspectée à tort de sympathie pour le communisme ou pour le nazisme. Nombre de ses critiques américains se sont mépris sur la complexité d’un univers politique qu’elle connaissait bien. Sommée par son propre gouvernement de répondre de sa loyauté aux principes de la démocratie américaine, elle décida d’inclure plusieurs de ses nouvelles parmi les « preuves » de ses convictions anti-communistes. Les accusations auxquelles elle dut faire face portèrent non seulement atteinte sa carrière, mais mirent aussi sa condition d’écrivain en péril. Néanmoins, elle parvint à surmonter cette terrible épreuve en continuant à produire des œuvres de qualité qui témoignent de la nécessité de défendre la liberté de penser.

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  • 1  Burton Hatlen, “Introduction to the 1989 Reprint of Death of a Man,” in Critical Essays on Kay Boy (...)

1Kay Boyle was born into a politically charged home. As a child, she navigated the dissonance between the wealth of her father’s family and the liberal leanings of her mother. Later, living abroad as an expatriate foreign correspondent, her life was predictably complicated by politics. In the early 1930s, while she lived with Laurence Vail in Austria, she witnessed the first purges of Nazis and socialists from the Tyrol. Influenced by Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, she opposed Russian Communism. But from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s, Boyle was mistakenly identified both as a Nazi and a Communist sympathizer (Spanier 120). Burton Hatlen has examined the assumptions of contemporaneous reviewers of Boyle’s 1936 Death of a Man who misunderstood the complexity of her characterization, resulting in critics as distinguished as Mark Van Doren accusing Boyle of promoting fascism,1 a charge that no one familiar with her biography or the body of her work would support.

2She vehemently refuted these accusations in her correspondence, while her fiction was more nuanced. “I am not a communist,”Boyle wrote in a letter when many of her friends were passionately involved in the Spanish Revolution (Mellen 199). Boyle and Vail were living in England and later in neutral Switzerland. As the Fascists defeated the Socialists in Spain and the Communist party went underground, it became the only hope for overturning Franco, and several of Boyle’s friends, most notably Nancy Cunard, outspokenly supported the Communists in Spain, but they did not embrace Stalinist totalitarianism. Similarly, Boyle’s character in Death of a Man, Dr. Prochaska, must choose between two social evils. As Hatlen points out, in Austria at that time, “there were only two political alternatives: Hitler or Dolfuss” (Elkins 152). The choice between the lesser of these demons does not necessarily condone one. The situations in 1930s Spain and Austria were vastly different from those in 1950s America. Dr. Prochaska chooses bread and freedom from sexism, not Nazism, but to get the progress and food he desires, he must accept the Nazism one cannot swallow. The Communist Party and Stalinist Russia were interchangeable to many Americans who lumped together all versions of Communism as a single “threat,” and “Nazi” has become the English language’s worst political epithet; the frequency of its use of late has not diluted its venom. The complicated political world that Boyle knew and navigated deftly has been over-simplified by many of her American critics.

3When pressed by her own government to defend her loyalty to American democracy, she offered examples from her fiction as the final “proof” of her anti-Communist convictions. These included stories she wrote before she was accused of being a Communist as well as a novella that she wrote in her own defense. The effect of writing that novella, “Carnival of Fear,” as “Exhibit D,” as it were, is complex. Since fiction is often considered a window into the psyche of its author, Boyle realized that a significant text with Communist villains might convince her accusers that she was innately a freedom-prizing American, but what effect would such pressure to produce propaganda have on the quality of her prose? Would it hone a deeper level of symbolism, or would it transform her fiction into a manifesto? Could she take a more modernist, feminist stance and create likeable individuals on both sides of the iron curtain, yet still advance her message that freedom is germane to self expression, therefore survival?

4Boyle’s conundrum demonstrates that, indeed, the personal is political. She escaped the Second World War in 1941, as Peggy Guggenheim helped repatriate her by paying for passage for Boyle and her six children, as well as (their soon-to-be mutual ex-husband) Laurence Vail. Boyle’s intended husband at that time, Austrian citizen Baron Joseph von Franckenstein, sought alternate passage to America, where he was reunited with Boyle and immediately applied for American citizenship. Franckenstein struggled for employment in his new homeland, and worked as a farm hand, a tutor, and a camp counselor. At length, the American Army drafted him, and in February 1943 as Boyle became a military wife, the FBI opened a file on her and questioned her about her friendship with Ezra Pound, who was by then in Italy, excoriating President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the radio. A year later Boyle had become a war writer exclusively, and this is where many critics detect a shift in Boyle’s career from the subtle psychological turning points of her earlier stories and novels toward overt moralism.

5Boyle’s only best-selling novel, her 1944 book Avalanche, was denounced by Edmund Wilson as having been made for the movies. Unfortunately for Boyle, this commercially successful book was what she would become known for, but activism pumped new blood into her work, resulting in subtle and interesting theses and symbols in her writing, and she produced a body of works in the 1950s that are worthy of critical attention.

6After World War II ended, Boyle earned passage back to France as an accredited war correspondent for The New Yorker, assigned to produce fiction about occupied Germany; Franckenstein took a civilian job with the U. S. Army in Germany. As a famous writer, Boyle became a reluctant minor political celebrity, pressured to affix her name to various petitions and conferences. She was known as an activist writer, thinker, and political campaigner.

7In 1952 Joseph Franckenstein, who had faced unexplained demotions at work, was accused by the U.S. Government’s representatives in Germany of being a Communist, charges based largely on false testimony by the duplicitous snitch Louis Budenz. But the chief complaint against Franckenstein was guilt by association; the State Department accused Kay Boyle of supporting Communist front organizations and fraternizing with known Communists between 1940 and 1944, the period before her work as a war correspondent had begun. The couple called on friends and employers to help them prove the negative assertion that they were not Communists, but also the expected rebuttal that they had been anti-Communist all along.

8The New Yorker, Boyle’s sponsor for her war correspondent’s credentials, provided lame and potentially damning statements, so Boyle’s friend Janet Flanner risked her career at the magazine to travel to Bad Godesburg, Germany, in October of 1952, to testify on the Franckensteins’ behalf. Two months later Joseph Franckenstein and Kay Boyle were officially cleared, but Houston Lay, who had served as legal counsel to the Loyalty Security Board that tried their case, continued to stall due process on behalf of Franckenstein, delaying official recognition of his security clearance and thus keeping him suspended from work without pay. In the meantime, The New Yorker, wary of associating with an accused Communist, refused to renew Boyle’s press accreditations, and she came to believe that other publishers who had supported her for years had effectively blacklisted her as well (Peterson 67-70).

9Franckenstein remained suspended from his job until he was formally let go in June of 1953. When he refused to leave his post in Bad Godesberg his dismissal was downgraded from “surplus personnel” to “security risk” (Mellen 356-69), a vague re-assertion of the same charges. The impossibility of proving oneself innocent of thought crimes was daunting, but the Franckensteins wanted their names cleared. They returned to the United States once more in 1954, penniless and determined to fight McCarthyism on its own soil (Boyle, 1985 2). Boyle began her stateside campaign for exoneration by writing the story that would be published as “Carnival of Fear” later that year in The Saturday Evening Post.

10Franckenstein petitioned the State Department to reinstate him, and in April of 1954 he was “officially suspended from the Foreign Service as a security risk” (Mellen 378). This time, the Franckensteins were denied a trial and told that they could submit documents for review. Janet Flanner paid for two professionally printed pamphlets containing the Franckensteins’ loyalty statements, letters of support, and copies of Kay Boyle’s anti-communist stories.

11The Franckensteins placed a lot of hope on the letters of support contributed by Joseph’s superiors in Germany, but they already knew the futility of relying on character witnesses alone because that strategy had failed them in Germany. Naturally, they included sworn loyalty statements that center on unequivocal renunciations of Communism. Boyle vows:

I have never at any time been a member of the Communist Party. I have never at any time or at any place attended a Communist Party meeting, nor have I knowingly associated with Communists. I have always been opposed to Communism, knowing that under the precepts of Communism, a man no longer thinks or speaks for himself but for the state.

12Desperate enough to hope that Communist witch-hunters would engage in literary criticism in reviewing their case, the Franckensteins bound three of Kay’s shorter stories into the pamphlets and added an unbound copy of her newly-written novella, “Carnival of Fear” as the “Literary Exhibits of Kay Boyle Franckenstein.” In her sworn statement to the Department of State, Boyle said, “I am a writer, and my life, my character, and my beliefs, are reflected in my work” (Boyle, “The Sworn Statement” 19).

13Would the officials at the State Department, including those empanelled on the House Un-American Activities Committee, give this literary evidence its due consideration? How does a writer with, as Boyle stated on her own behalf, “more than twenty-odd books [and] magazine stories or articles [without] one line of sympathy with Communism,” choose representative fiction sufficient to defend herself against charges of having been a Communist? Boyle’s first two stories, taken from the book she edited with Vail, 365 Days, are sound ones. The anti-communist message about Russia in each of these is readily discernible to even the most skeptical bureaucrat.

14The first of her short story selections, “Moscow,” is the tightly constructed story of Olga, who is expected to content herself with a government issued stove, mattress, and bare book shelf because her husband is consumed by editing a Party newspaper and chairing his Komsomol, or “Communist Union of Youth.” Their baby is tangible proof of the family life and the developing future the couple had before Communism. But as the story begins, Olga is afraid to touch her husband when he comes home to sleep. That, and the lost freedom the wife remembers, represents the sterility of life in a totalitarian state. She sobs because she “want[s] her husband in her arms,” but more because she has no one to talk to. No one in their circle of friends could “stay to listen [to her] words, (…) emotions even, they had no time for anymore.” Boyle exaggerates the barrenness and paranoia of Communist life, but the story demonstrates her conclusion that there is no future for individuals in a Communist Society, and the extreme isolation represented in the story is faithful to Olga’s point of view. Granted, as Hatlen has noted, “the opposition between political commitment and love is not absolute, for both can cause a sense of ecstasy” (Elkins154), but there is no pleasure in Communism for Olga because politics have replaced her in her husband’s affections.

15Readers are conflicted, then, when the husband, “Comrade Bruskov,” petitions the state for divorce because Olga is “too undeveloped socially and politically to comprehend the happiness of Komsomol family life” (Boyle, “Moscow” 3). The irony, of course, is that there is no happiness for Olga to understand in Communist life. In addition to Boyle’s political values, it communicates some of her personal ones. If the bureaucratic critics to whom the Franckenstein’s pamphlets were delivered had carefully examined Boyle’s FBI files, they would have seen government evidence of her “counter-cultural” behavior in bearing children out of wedlock. They might also have concluded that, for Kay Boyle, a husband who has lost interest in procreation has given up on life. The story suggests, then, that Communism is death.

16The second story in the pamphlet, also reprinted from 365 Days, is similarly titled after its Russian location, “Siberia.” It is but a page-long description concerning a trainload of Soviet engineers who have been sent to survey for a new dam on the Angara River that will make development of the frozen region possible. As the men repeat what their superiors have told them, they imagine railroads and “cities, civilization [that] will spread over an area larger than the United States.” An astute reader will wonder why Soviet engineers use the USA as a scale of measurement and become suspicious of the political motives of the engineers’ musing on “the wilderness before them that will be altered when this tremendous thing is done,” transforming the vast regions surrounding Russia’s penal colonies into a thriving metropolis. As they imagine the natural resources they will recoup (“iron, coal, copper, silver, lead reserves”) readers get a foreboding of the insatiability of Stalinist expansion plans. Although the engineers dream only of development within Russia’s borders, “from the White Sea, from Archangel” (Arkhangelsk), the imminent danger of Stalinist greed is represented by the dream of the chief engineer who has been sleeping in a corner of the train car. He cries out and wakes shaking from his nightmare about “white wolves (…) galloping, packs of them, thirsting, with their tongues out, right across the county.” The story suggests that if Russia develops her natural resources in Siberia, she will nurture insatiable desires. The chief engineer is scared by the wolves’ greediness, “the sight of their hunger” (Boyle, “Siberia” 4) and his fear is a cautionary note to Boyle’s English-speaking, Western readers.

17Both “Moscow” and “Siberia” are marked by Boyle’s best story-telling conventions. They are lean yet evocative. They paint panoramic descriptions with a few deft details. And they turn quickly with an O. Henry ending that is at once startling and subtle. Although Boyle, always an industrious writer, hurriedly dashed off some of the stories for 365 Days to finish a project Laurence Vail had initiated, these two short pieces are the work of Boyle the artist, not Boyle the defendant. The latter two stories submitted to the State Department were written after Boyle’s attempts to place her work in prominent American magazines had begun to falter, when she was losing confidence in her abilities and writing more systematically than ever to make up for Franckenstein’s suspended income. Both concern refugees from East Germany, and they are unvarnished anti-Communist propaganda.

18The third story bound into the Franckensteins’ pamphlet, “Autobahn 1951,” begins with desperate refugees abandoning their homes in Eastern Germany for freedom. An American woman driving her station wagon picks up a young man and his mother, and the story becomes a study in contrasts. The son is a glassmaker who is hopeful of finding work, even of serving in the West German Army when the war gets that far, but his mother perseverates on the sentence, “My son couldn’t carry any more.” She wants her things back, her past, the life she has lost. She is too old, incapable of moving on. Although the son and his mother represent opposite extremes of refugees’ experiences, the prognosis for both is the same: disappointment and depression. Readers realize that the West will not welcome the hitch-hiker, and his mother will die pining for her family and things in the East. Communism has destroyed their future; they are like the local crops that will not be harvested because the refugees have abandoned them. Their lives have progressed to a point where they cannot survive this diaspora. The desolate fields symbolize the “roots” the East Germans have been forced to leave.

19Later in the story, the American woman picks up a deflated girl who perks up after eating a Western chocolate bar, symbol of plenty on the free market. The girl relates a sad story of a father who worked for the Nazis at Dachau, then fled to the East in fear when the camps were liberated. He died working in a salt mine, and his widow has sent her daughter out of East Germany to save her from a Communist work camp. Repeatedly she says of her father’s Nazi commanders and the Communists who have tried to enslave her, “I’m not saying anything against them” which demonstrates the pervasive power of propaganda and the paranoia Communism engenders, even upon those fleeing. In both of these scenarios, the women are especially broken and powerless, contrasted with the American woman who owns and drives the car.

20Joan Mellen says that Boyle knew “Autobahn 1951” was only a “character sketch,” not a fully realized short story (Mellen 326.) Yet Boyle read from the story during her trial at Bad Godesberg, and she included it again in the pamphlets for the stateside review. She knew it was clear anti-Communist propaganda, and that message is its purpose; it was never intended to compare with Boyle’s more characteristic stories with ironic endings.

21The novella that Boyle submitted is, naturally, more developed than the character sketch “Autobahn 1951.” Boyle first called it, “Carnival of the West,” a phrase that situates its connotatively joyful carnival in free West Berlin, but when The Saturday Evening Post agreed to publish it, Boyle, eager to have a typeset proof to submit to government authorities, agreed to an editorial change, changing that to the more provocative “Carnival of Fear.” After it was selected for reprint in the twenty best of The Saturday Evening Post Stories of 1954, Boyle sold the television rights to “Carnival of Fear” for $1,250 (Mellen 394). Edmund Wilson doubtlessly would have said it was made for TV, but “Carnival of Fear” is deeper than that, a narrative complicated by symbolism and inscribed over the palimpsest of Boyle’s yearning for freedom herself, even as she struggled to claim its promise.

22Boyle’s best stories hinge on sudden reversals of fate and fortune that may stretch the limits of credulity, and “Carnival of Fear” depends heavily upon that trope. It concerns Frieda Bedenbaugh, an Ohio farm wife who has never before traveled outside the borders of the Buckeye State. Regardless, she is in Berlin to rescue her nineteen-year-old Army corporal son Bill who is being held in the Communist East. A native of Cincinnati like Boyle herself, Frieda speaks German at home, although neither she nor her husband is of German descent. The narration says that Frieda “had learned little of history, or politics, or geography,” but nonetheless she confidently tells her husband: “I’m going to Berlin to find him. I’ll just stop people in the streets and ask them. You never know, William. Maybe one of them will have seen him someplace” (Boyle, “Carnival” 277). Such a naïve plan seems like a recipe for failure in a realistic story, but this is propaganda, where the same rules do not apply.

23Boyle mocks Frieda’s naivety in the Bedenbaugh’s surname, “bed in boughs” which suggests the infant in its tree tops, serenaded in “Rock-a-bye Baby,” and the story pits Frieda’s infantile sense of security against the broken cradle of Berlin where its Eastern refugees seek Western citizenship as “a chance to be born again” (294). It may also suggest the loftiness of Frieda’s unwavering belief that freedom will prevail; her optimism is in the clouds, even higher than the tree-tops.

24On her first day in Germany, Frieda learns the location of an unsecured stretch of “the imponderable line” (284) that separates East Berlin from West where thousands are said to cross nightly. Rising at four a.m. to the imaginary sound of the crowing cock in her Ohio farmyard, Frieda walks to the place where refugees are said to pile over the border, and she chances to meet, as the first entrants to freedom that night, Seigfried and Fini Mahler who have driven out of the East on a tractor pulling the wagon train that comprises their small-time carnival. Incredibly, the refugees place all of their trust in the first person they see, especially after Frieda confesses, “I just came from America….” The Mahlers have dreamed of emigrating to America where they want to buy a roller coaster and a “Tunnel of Love” amusement ride to secure their future. The heavy symbolism in the story is reflected in these goals. The roller coaster represents the Mahlers’ emotional ups and downs in their quest for freedom, while the “Tunnel of Love” evokes a peaceful space where they will be happy together.

  • 2  Suzanne Clark, “Revolution, the Woman, and the Word: Kay Boyle.” In Critical Essays on Kay Boyle, (...)

25In similarly heavy symbolism, Boyle weaves a sub-text about love into the language of the story. Freedom and love are inextricably linked through the images and names Boyle provides. Frieda hails from “a dairy farm [that] lay two miles outside of Lovetown, Ohio.” At the back of Fini and Siegfried’s caravan is a blue lovebird whose cage is covered by a green baize cloth; Fini uncovers the bird at the moment they cross the line into freedom, and releases it from its cage when Frieda steps aboard the circus wagon. When the carnival is set up in the refugee camp and Frieda and Fini have adorned their hair with flowers, they carry the lovebird with them as they go down to greet the children who have flocked to the amusements. This is the kind of detail that Suzanne Clark says, “produces an unsettling.” Boyle, she argues “is always in favor of something which illuminates the landscape with significance—call it love, something which bends the eye inescapably to the detail, apparently decorative, but now representing anaphorically the interestedness of the subject who writes.”2 The symbolism represented by the presence of the bird is as nerve-wrackingly distracting as its fluttering; readers know that it is not an incidental detail. Boyle’s frequent and specific references to it in a concentrated space force her readers to pay attention to it. We must learn from it that love flourishes in freedom but is stifled under Communism, a theme repeated from Boyle’s earlier story “Moscow.”

26The love between the characters is symbolic of the happiness and trust engendered by a free state, too. Frieda takes Fini’s hand to board the carnival wagon in a moment of sudden “intimacy” and Fini tells Frieda almost immediately, “I feel like we understand each other, you and I, so I can talk to you” ((Boyle, “Carnival” 284-286).  The certainty of Fini and Siegfried that they have seen Frieda’s son Bill just ten kilometers over the line where he performs hard labor under government supervision is even more astonishing than the women’s instant bonding, which is characteristic of many of Boyle’s female characters. Fini reveals an odd intimacy with Bill too, when she says that, of all the hungry people in East Berlin, she was curiously moved to offer bread to Bill, although she was held back by fear of alerting military police. The Mahlers whose protective instincts regarding Bill are almost parental, say they did not notice the faces of any of the other prisoners, but they singularly noted Bill’s countenance because “he looked so young and tired” (286). The Bedenbaughs and Mahlers are enmeshed as one family.

27Frieda is bound to the Mahlers in a sudden symbiosis. The Mahlers must appear before West German officials to apply for asylum. Helping them prepare their best clothing, the stiff old suit and dress worn for their East German wedding, Frieda realizes that “the lives of these people, and their years that lay ahead, seemed singularly bound to her life” (288). Then the three of them march off together to pledge an unbreakable union of shared citizenship in the free world with Frieda in the middle between the prospective bride and groom of Capitalism. When West German immigration officials refuse to admit the Mahlers with their carnival, Frieda, who has already promised to help her new friends establish themselves in America, impulsively declares herself their business partner and takes possession of the Carnival wagons, declaring them as her property. That night, Siegfried handwrites a deed, signing over his business to Frieda before he disappears behind the Iron Curtain to repay Frieda’s loyalty by finding Bill. This display of trust and loyalty is exaggerated; it is the Communist ideal of brotherhood, shown to thrive best in a capitalistic world.

28Frieda’s trip to Berlin has proven that “Ich bin ein Berliner,” too. Everywhere she notes the similarities between oppressed Communist refugees and her Ohio background. She identifies with an executed truck driver who attempted to blow through a checkpoint, imagining him as “any man, any farmer driving from one place to another with his load” (279). She thinks of Siegfried’s tractor, his greasy hands, and his good suit as comparable to those of her husband William. But most strikingly, she realizes as refugee children delight in Siegfried’s carnival rides that they are like her son Bill. At first she recognizes their cowlicks and smiles as being identical with those of American children, but then she realizes that children born into Communism are prisoners, no different from her own innocent son. Frieda accepts that this glimpse of the truth may be the spoils of her impulsive trip to Germany, and she realizes that “freedom must be given a shape with one’s own hands if it failed to emerge as the thing that it had promised to be” (298). Boyle’s personal experience demonstrates that freedom in practice doesn’t always deliver on its theoretical promises. One must act, not just to claim it, but also to shape it; citizenship in a free country does not always confer automatic privilege. Activism is incumbent upon mindful citizens, but the promises made by Communist despots cannot be realized under their leadership. It takes Capitalism and a willingness to trust one another to realize the most ardent of human dreams.

29Frieda, her name recalling the freedom she prizes, confronts the finality symbolized in Fini’s name when the Mahlers are called up for West German citizenship and Siegfried is still missing behind enemy lines, where he had disappeared three days earlier in his attempt to rescue Bill. Fini tries to declare Siegfried dead, a suicide for going back, but the authorities insist that she won’t be admitted without him. Her pessimism, born of years of denial and degradation in a totalitarian state, is balanced by Frieda’s optmism. She believes that Siegfried will return. Suddenly, a government officer shows Frieda and Fini the morning paper, its headline proclaiming that Siegfried has been wounded while liberating Bill and a private from Albany, New York, but all three are recovering in a West German hospital. In a quintessential made-for-prime-time ending, the women accept congratulations from the immigration officers and rush off to the hospital to claim their heroic men.

30Although the ending of the story seems convenient, even hokey, it is symbolic. Its sentimentality is evidence of what Clark would describe as Boyle’s disruption of the narrative to make room for female perspective (Clark 160-67). Frieda’s naïve optimism is warranted after all; her dreams of rescuing Bill and helping the Mahlers emigrate to the United States are all realized in a couple of days. Clark argues that Boyle “writes (…) in full recognition of both the possibilities of style and a need to recuperate love as the final metaphor, the best subversion” (178). The convenient ending of the story is part of its message. Love, as Frieda has exemplified, is the answer. The American Military with its rational, masculine might cannot navigate or mitigate Communist influence, but the lure of love and Capitalism will. Frieda wins the trust of Fini and Siegfried by freely offering her good name and credit. Siegfried, the former Communist, is the only one who can liberate Bill, and at the high personal cost of injury. Thus, Boyle argues that Communism cannot be controlled by war or legislation; the overthrow of totalitarian regimes must be grass-roots, arising from the desires of the people to suffer and throw off fear in favor of love.

  • 3  The author thanks Ian von Franckenstein (Kay Boyle and Joseph von Franckenstein’s son) for listeni (...)

31“Carnival of Fear” appeared in The Saturday Evening Post a few months after Boyle submitted it to the State Department, but it did guarantee a happy ending. At length the judgment against Joseph Franckenstein was vacated, and he was formally dismissed from his government job in 1957 for the substituted official reason that his position had become unnecessary. Exonerated of charges of Communism, he was, nonetheless, unemployed. Three difficult years later, Joseph Franckenstein was reinstated in a U. S. Government post, sent in 1960 as a cultural attaché to Tehran, in the administration of the newly-elected John F. Kennedy, but he soon had to resign because of his failing health.3 He died in the United States in 1963.

32Exculpating themselves from political charges imperiled, not just the Franckensteins’ careers, but also the context for Boyle’s writing itself. Still she rose above the challenge to produce good stories about taking responsibility to ensure her own freedoms. Under the circumstances, Boyle might have written more blatant propaganda equating freedom with good politicians and Communism with power-hungry megalomaniacs. Instead, she chose, in composing “Carnival of Fear,” to write subtly about an Ohio farm wife and Eastern European carnival operators. She argues that freedom is not simply a government-given right, but a personal responsibility that one must assume to direct one’s own ambitions and to extend it to others with dreams. She stands up to her accusers by arguing that suspicion and legislation cannot stem the tide of Communism in Europe; only love and the innate free will of the people can. If she relies upon coincidence or Deus ex machina too heavily, it is because she, too, needed magic to extricate her husband and herself from the on-going nightmare of accusation that had followed them from Germany back to the United States, to get off the roller coaster and onto the Tunnel of Love. Had her State Department examiners been better literary critics, they might have heard her arguments and pleas, and acted more quickly to exonerate Joseph Franckenstein and Kay Boyle.

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BOYLE, Kay. Words That Must Somehow Be Said. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1985. Print.

BOYLE, Kay. “Carnival of Fear.” In Saturday Evening Post Stories. 1954. New York: Random, 1955.

BOYLE, Kay. “The Sworn Statement  of Kay Boyle Frankenstein.” 19. Flanner/Solano Collection, Library of Congress.

BOYLE, Kay. “Moscow.” 2-3. Flanner/Solano Collection, Library of Congress.

BOYLE, Kay. “Siberia.” 4. Flanner/Solano Collection, Library of Congress.

BOYLE, Kay. “Autobahn 1951.” 10. Flanner/Solano Collection, Library of Congress.

ELKINS, Marilyn. Critical Essays on Kay Boyle, Marilyn Elkins, ed. New York: Hall, 1997. Print.

MELLEN, Joan. Kay Boyle: Author of Herself. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994. Print.

PETERSON, Rai. “A Question of Loyalty: The New Yorker and Kay Boyle.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association. 40.1 (Spring 2007): 64-74. Print.

SPANIER, Sandra Whipple. Kay Boyle: Artist and Activist. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986. Print.

WILSON, Edmund. “Kay Boyle and The Saturday Evening Post.” The New Yorker (15 January 1944): 74, 76, 78.

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1  Burton Hatlen, “Introduction to the 1989 Reprint of Death of a Man,” in Critical Essays on Kay Boyle, Marilyn Elkins, ed. New York: Hall, 1997.

2  Suzanne Clark, “Revolution, the Woman, and the Word: Kay Boyle.” In Critical Essays on Kay Boyle, Marilyn Elkins, ed. New York: Hall, 1997, 164.

3  The author thanks Ian von Franckenstein (Kay Boyle and Joseph von Franckenstein’s son) for listening to an earlier draft of this text and making suggestions.

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Rai PETERSON, « Red, White, and Boyle: Fiction as Propaganda and Art », E-rea [En ligne], 10.2 | 2013, mis en ligne le 18 juin 2013, consulté le 04 décembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Associate Professor, Department of English, Ball State University
Rai Peterson publishes mostly about American and British women writers in Paris between the World Wars, but frequently returns to the topic of her dissertation: E. E. Cummings. She is currently working on a book-length literary biography of Solita Solano as well as editing a collection of her journalism. She has held the H. D. Fellowship in American Literature at the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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