Fighting the Fear: Everyday Terror in the American Short Story Collection after 9/11 A Study of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge represent the emphatic force that can be created within a short story collection and each contain at their core what has become a fundamental aspect of American literature since September 2001: terror. In A Visit from the Goon Squad and Olive Kitteridge, characters feel and attempt to cope with terror in their everyday lives. Both Egan and Strout contextualize individual terror against the broader national and cultural form felt by the United States after the events of 9/11. The presence of the void left by the Twin Towers is a potent symbol of terror within each collection, paralleling the characters’ experiences with that of post-9/11 America while highlighting the existence of everyday terror and providing a lens for character self-reflection. This essay focusses on two categories of terror that figure into both collections, terror of the unknown and terror of being alone, and how strategies employed by Egan’s and Strout’s characters to cope with this terror correspond to the American public response to the wider terror instilled by 9/11.