Northrop Frye's apprehension of distinct phases of tragic irony in the "Mythos of Winter" section of his Anatomy of Criticism organizes this discussion of some contemporary American novels. The movement, to use Frye's examples, is from the "sincere, explicit realism" of Tolstoy or Hardy to "the nightmare of social tyranny" such as 1984. There is a fluid interchange between the phases even while we admit enough of a phasal autonomy to provoke discussion. Therefore, it is possible to discuss the whole spectrum of contemporary irony, as I have done in the introduction, and yet go on to discover qualitative differences between the three phases. The concentration of the discussion is thematic. Only in relation to Burroughs do stylistic considerations arise and this is because the linguistic attitude in Burroughs attains a thematic significance. The perspective centrally developed is the hero's relation to the world around him. In the fourth phase of the "Mythos of Winter," or the first phase of tragic irony, the hero recognizes his isolation but must ultimately return to consecrate his connection with the community. This phase is moral, melioristic, and exhibits a commitment to this world and its salvation. The authors who are exemplary of this fictional direction and who trace the development toward the fifth phase of irony are Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, J. D. Salinger, and Philip Roth. The fifth phase presents the hero in recoil from the community. The authors discussed are J. P. Donleavy, Joseph Heller, and Ralph Ellison. This phase concentrates on the craft of the criminal, the necessity of individual determination that is opposed to the collective will. A bizarre humor motivates this phase, often culminating in defiant gestures of rebellion. The community is presented as insensitive and absurd, demanding the hero's flight into a subjective ultimacy. The sixth phase does not invest in the hero the mobility that we find in the fifth phase. The hero is, in effect, imprisoned in the terms of his existence. The community becomes tyranically ascendant, and the individual has no will save the recognition of his inevitable implication in a design beyond his comprehension. The authors used to illustrate this tendency are Nathanael West, Kirt Vonnegut, Jr., Jerzy Kosinski, and William Burroughs. This phase utilizes a vision of horror to impress the subjugation of the individual that is the essential source of irony. Violence in this phase becomes eloquent, destruction constructive. The silence of nihilism finally characterizes the farthest penetration of the phase, signalling a radical, unattached conception of freedom.