The intuitive quest in the novels of Anais Nin: A reader's guide through the "Cities of the Interior"

Irene Zubiel Knox, Fordham University


This work, a reader's guide, explores the five novels of Anais Nin's continuous novel Cities of the Interior through the underlying motif of the intuitive quest. An examination of the characters, symbols, poetic style, and structure of Nin's novels reveals the author's thematic focus on the need for intuitive forms of expression in an often overly rational modern-day society. Each novel is approached as part of a fictional odyssey that relates the theme of the intuitive quest to the three major female characters' contemporary, psychological search for selfhood. Author and reader are considered throughout as the protagonists' co-questers. In its pattern of separation, initiation, and return, as described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Myths to Live By, the course of each heroine's journey is compared to that of the mythic and romantic hero. The extent to which Nin's characters depart from society, undergo an inner initiation period, and renew their relationships with the larger human community is discussed. While similarities between Nin's quest narrative and the traditional quest tale are demonstrated, differences are also illustrated. Nin's presentation of a psychic, female rendition of the classic male quest is emphasized. In each of the five novels, the emotional nature of the adventures of the questing heroines is contrasted with the physical character of the exploits of the hero of the typical quest tale. The intended outcome of this reader's guide through Anais Nin's Cities of the Interior is a clearer understanding and better appreciation of the author's undervalued fictional achievement. In turn, familiarity with Nin's novels contributes to dispelling the mistaken notion that the author's outlook is solipsistic and affirms her belief in the necessity of establishing a meaningful interaction between self and society. This study of Cities of the Interior is an offer of assistance to the reader who wishes to embark with Nin and her heroines on a descent into the interior cities--a positive, intuitive quest that eventuates in loving inclusion of others.

Subject Area

American literature

Recommended Citation

Zubiel Knox, Irene, "The intuitive quest in the novels of Anais Nin: A reader's guide through the "Cities of the Interior"" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8809476.