Research Proposal for “American Gods” Focusing on Existentialism


Existentialism is a philosophy that stresses the importance of human experience by advocating for responsibility for every action that an individual undertakes (Gravil, 2007). In this concept, every individual should take responsibility for his/her actions. Through different characters, Gaiman Neil’s American Gods vividly describe how human beings can be responsible for their actions especially in scenarios where such actions are considered against societal norms. The novel explains significantly how through their ill actions various characters face the prices of the code of conduct. From the perspective of Gaiman Neil, it is possible to substantiate the school of thought held by existentialism, which proposes that every individual is responsible for his/her actions.

Statement of Fact

Gaiman Neil uses Shadow as a character to depict how his actions led him to be behind bars for three years (Neil, 2011). Shadow had to stay away from his loved wife for three years. Gaiman points out that on his way home, Shadow agreed to work for Wednesday but this was to come with its own price. Shadow blindly accepted to work for Wednesday without knowing the kind of work he was going to do (Neil, 2011). In the end, Shadow ends up working as a bodyguard, driver, and errand boy for Wednesday despite being in the company of the murderous Czernobog, the beautiful Easter, and the impish Mr. Nancy (Neil, 2011). Surprisingly, Wednesday and these other people seem to know Shadow more that he thought he knew himself. Wednesday and Shadow are swept up into a conflict, which resulted in continuous war.


Different scenarios in the novel confirm that every human is responsible for his/her own action (Neil, 2011). Notably, most of the incidences rotate about Shadow.
Neil uses Shadow to prove the existentialism philosophy.
He cannot spend time with his beloved wife since at the point of his release the wife dies in a road accident
He is blamed by Mrs. McCabe for the death of Laura
In the end, his actions brewed hatred in Mrs. McCabe’s heart
During the clever bank robbery in which he is an accomplice, Shadow is kidnapped leading to other loyalty jobs
The change of job creates tension between Shadow and Wednesday thus the continuous fight
Laura: He died during the car accident is because she was practicing oral sex with Robbie as Audrey pointed out to Shadow
Robbie: He was too drunk yet he drove the car and his death caused the collapse of the Muscle Farm
Wednesday: His conduct towards Shadow led to the fight


The above characters explicitly explain through their actions that every individual is responsible for his/her own actions. This is seen when each of the pays the price of engaging in particular behaviors. From the above characters and others in the novel, their behavior, and prices paid on each code of conduct, Neil explicitly accepts the theories and prepositions of the philosophy of existentialism. Indeed, just as Shadow and other characters pay the price of uncouthly behaving within the society, so does every individual within America and any society pays for their actions.


Gravil, R. (2007). Existentialism. Penrith, CA:
Neil, G. (2011). American Gods: The tenth-anniversary edition: A novel. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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