Elia Kazan's The Arrangement was the number one selling fiction book in the year of 1967. (Publisher's Weekly) Despite this immense success, the novel received a vast number of poor reviews from critics; thus it thrived due to factors other than literary merit. These include the reputation of the author, the connection of the text to the audience, the changing social values of the 1960s and the formulaic genre. While these reasons influenced the public at the time, none were effective enough for the novel to be revered in future years, showing the limited lifespan of many best sellers.
The name Elia Kazan had a deep impact on the sales of the book. Kazan is a very controversial figure due to his connection to the Communist Party. In 1934 he joined the party, though only for a year and a half. During this time he was also a founding member of the Group Theater in New York. This was a leftist organization that included many Communists. In 1952 Kazan was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). After much internal debating, he disclosed names of other associates in the Group Theater, while declaring his own hatred toward Communists. This negative publicity caused Kazan to loose his contract with Fox Studios. Kazan managed to fight his bad reputation to achieve success in directing and writing, but was never able to overcome it. Even in 1999 a public debated occurred over whether Kazan should receive a Special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was recognized with this award based on his work, not his personal life. (www.moderntimes.com) This persisting stigma further proves the magnitude of his reputation in the 1960s. As with many controversial figures, the public was enticed with Kazan, thus promoting sales through curiosity.
This intrigue was amplified with Kazan claiming the book to be partly autobiographical. In his autobiography A Life, Kazan explains this idea, "They story had to be- with this launching- about me, about my experience. There were factors that impelled these scattered pieces in a definite direction. One was the recent defeat in my own life. Another was the challenges I'd thrown at myself about my work and accomplishments, which weren't different from those Barbara had thrown at me as we parted. I recalled her tart and rebellious spirit?" (731) This shows that the plot of The Arrangement was not only based on Kazan's life, but the characters as well. To Kazan the text was deeply personal, "What I wrote had one merit: Since it never occurred to me that anyone would see it, I set down what I thought and felt without self-censoring. A true expression of anger, love, and bewilderment, it consisted of letters to myself and long explorative notes, moving ever closer to the bone." (730) Though authors do not always tell the truth with regard to their writing, simply stating that the source of a work is the author's life immediately sparks interest. Readers were curious about Kazan's work as well as his life.
The Arrangement followed the success of Kazan's first novel, America America. Even the back dust cover of the first edition advertises the novel in relation to Kazan's previous success, "Since its original publication in 1962, America America has become a modern classic, accepted as the best imaginative work ever written on the theme of immigration." Further quotes offer additional praise of what was a very popular book. By associating the two books, the publishers, Stein and Day, probably sought to have the success of America America reflect upon The Arrangement, while offering additional advertising.
The dustcover of The Arrangement also connects the work to the audience in a subtle way. The phrase, "Elia Kazan has written a major American novel," hints at this being an American text. America is known as the land of opportunity that offers the promise of success through the American Dream. This vision is open to everyone and is part of the appeal of America to immigrants. Throughout the text, Kazan emphasizes the main character, Eddie's, Greek heritage. This focus, as well as stressing Eddie's wealth, makes this the classic American Dream story. The Times Literary Supplement supports this claim, saying that The Arrangement "is fiction for the Sons of the Immigration." Even those individuals who did not immigrate to this country still have the values of those previous family members who had. Such is the case with Eddie who felt the pressure to make a lot of money from his father who believed strongly in the American Dream. The American Dream is a principle shared by everyone, with the appeal resting in the attainment of it.
Eddie fulfilled this dream and was nevertheless unhappy, showing the emptiness of material wealth. Kazan immediately presents this idea to readers in the opening paragraphs of the novel, "The riddle is not that a man as successful as I was would try to kill himself. There were reasons why I might have. I had everything, as they say, but still there were reasons." (7) This dissatisfaction forms a bridge between the upper and lower classes. Kazan aimed to break down the barriers between social classes, as he discusses in an interview, "Eddie wakes up in his house in Beverly Hills. He has $64,000 in the back. He and his wife and secretary go over the bills and document their expenses. An hour later he is $400,000 in the hole. That's what affluence is in America. A guy living in an expensive house is just as shaky as anybody else." (Young 292) In other words, despite a person's success or lack there of, there is a common humanity among them.
This humanity connects Eddie to the audience, making Eddie an every man character. Kazan's writing tactic contributed to this, "?Eddie doesn't have more of the qualities that I do have. I think he could have been deeper that way. A lot of my friends see themselves in certain characters, but that's not so, either. Actually, there's a little bit stolen from everybody I know." (Young 291) In making the characters have eclectic qualities, they become realistic which the audience can relate to.
Kazan also makes Eddie's success familiar to the audience through his occupation. Rather than portray an actor or highbrow character, Eddie works in advertising for money, though his passion is writing. Many people are in jobs where they are unsatisfied, and long to pursue another avenue, which Eddie's duel careers represent. The description of the importance of Eddie's job in advertising is expressed in such a way that the readers' heads nod in association, "Williams and MacElroy paid my running bills: the house, the mortgage, the upkeep, the maid, the lawn, the gardener, the insurance, the garages, the utilities, the appliance servicing, the premiums and monthly payments on our annuity, my wife's clothes and her goddam psychoanalyst, Dr. Leibman, my daughter Ellen's clothes and her gyp-size tuition at Radcliffe?In other words, everything." (25) While the typical reader does not share the same lavish expenses, the idea is the same, contributing to the blurring of social classes. The sentence runs on, giving an overwhelming feeling, quite the same as financial burdens give.
The significance of Eddie's work also has another meaning. The profession of advertising itself was carefully chosen as Kazan explains, "One of the things that was criticized about the book was setting it in the world of advertising- people said it was a cliché. There's a certain amount of truth to that, but it's also one of the most central and apt images of America. It typifies the split between what we profess and what we are." (Young 291) Not only is Eddie's profession one that readers can easily relate to, but it also connects to a greater theme of the book. The arrangement in the novel masks reality with an image, thus enabling Eddie to have it all. Nevertheless he still is not satisfied with his life, he desires more than the illusion. This enhances his humanity even further to awaken the aspirations within the reader.