Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The Devaluation of the American Dream

In the face of death, destruction, and political uncertainly, the American Dream has little value in “Twilight of the Superheroes.” In many respects, Lucien has already achieved the American dream: he was born and reared in America, married the love of his life, has a successful business in a field he enjoys, and has many prosperous friends. Despite his upbringing and success, however, he is still incredibly unhappy. After the death of his wife and September 11, Lucien is unable to derive joy from any of these privileges. At the end, he remains cynical despite his achievements, and it’s still unclear what could possibly breathe life or joy into him. Similarly, Nathanial’s parents, Isaac and Rose, have also achieved a devalued version of the American Dream. Having come across the Atlantic as immigrants from Eastern Europe, they have acquired adequate wealth, success in business, and a large and loving family. Nevertheless, they are still haunted by an indefinable fear and live a timid, closed-off life away from other people. On paper, they have achieved the American Dream, but it fails to make them happy. Aware of his parents’ unhappiness, Nathaniel rejects their path to success out of the realization that achieving the American Dream fails to offer anyone true happiness.

The Loss of Innocence

“Twilight of the Superheroes” documents Nathaniel and Luciens’s loss of innocence as well as the national loss of innocence after September 11. Even though Nathaniel and Lucien are in different stages of their lives and have divergent perspectives on the world, 9/11 forces both of them to mature and reflect on their lives. Lucien and Nathaniel spend the story reminiscing about their naive perspectives of the world when they were younger and contemplating the future. Lucien feels that without his wife, there is no hope for the future. Moreover, the tragedy of September 11 has prompted him to question the impact he has had on the world in general. Nathaniel, meanwhile, remembers the impact his Uncle Lucien and Aunt Charlie had on him when they visited his childhood home in the Midwest. At the time, Lucien and Charlie represented an intriguing world of glitz and glamour that Nathaniel wanted to join. Nathaniel’s and Lucien’s “innocent selves,” however, have died and have been replaced by confused and slightly jaded adults.