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A review and exploration of Graham Swifts 1983 novel, Waterland.Shortlisted for the Booker prize, Graham Swift’s 1983 nove...
and while this can sometimes seem to detract from the main narrative strands, each aside has its own crucial part to play ...
make herself miscarry, and although he has an inkling that she is drifting away from him, he is certainly notprepared for ...
Ironically, in this passage Tom speaks of himself in the third person; his reality becomes a story and hebecomes a charact...
His mothers family came from Russia and Poland around the turn of the century -- "classic Jewish tailors, and rather      ...
[Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Waterland well begins our course because it concerns ...
"What is a history teacher" Hes someone who teaches mistakes. While others say, Heres how to do it, he says, Andheres what...
Waterland examines and finds wanting the Neoclassical view nature that takes it to be divine order, theRomantic one that t...
I turn the key in the lock. I hear what sounds like a babys cry. I think: our golden retriever, Paddy, has some whine-indu...
relationship with Mary has fundamental implications through the book, whether it be her inability to conceive,Freddie Parr...
history teacher named Tom Crick, recounts the history of three time periods. The earliest time period begins with thelives...
which can encompass...seeming contradictions in style and content" (Shinn 164). Shinn describes the tension betwenmetaphor...
efforts of the Fens to reclaim land. Dicks caring for his motorcycle can be related to the care which the Fenlandersmust t...
The Theory of Knowledge in Waterland   Barry J. Fishman 89, Brown University                                              ...
Reclaiming Family Values   Maitri Patel 96 (Fall, 1992)                                                             [Victo...
between Marys thighs, on which at that moment broad Fen sunlight was genially smiling, had, on close inspection, a       c...
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A review and exploration of graham swift

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A review and exploration of graham swift

  1. 1. A review and exploration of Graham Swifts 1983 novel, Waterland.Shortlisted for the Booker prize, Graham Swift’s 1983 novel Waterland (London; Picador, 2008) is an expansive andengaging tale that explores the notion of history, including its relevance, progression and cultural significance. The novelfocuses in particular on the changing fortunes of narrator and history teacher Tom Crick, whose story unfolds in the form ofan unusual history lesson given to his reluctant pupils.Crick relates an epic, historical tale set against the backdrop of the marshy Fens of East England, which includes his ownpersonal narrative, a detailed family history and numerous historical side plots. While the narrative is in this waychronologically fragmented, there are still two distinct time frames that the novel focuses on: the present day in which Crickis giving his history lesson, and the year 1943, when a fifteen-year-old Tom Crick discovers the washed-up body of FreddieParr, a local boy who has been murdered. The historical focus of Waterland is emphasised by the huge time-span covered –the history of the Atkinson family stretches back into the 18th Century – and the inclusion of significant historical events likeWorld War I and II, which are closely bound to the main narrative.Waterland and the Circularity of HistoryAds by GoogleeBook Publishing Services Get Your eBook Published With Us Request A Free eBook Publishing Kit www.E-BooksPublishing.com/eguideApp Publishing at 99$ Objective C Library for Developers. Awesome Page Flip Effects and more! www.apperplace.comOne of the main strengths of Waterland is Graham Swift’s ability to balance the personal nature of Tom Crick’s story with thenovel’s wider, historical significance. Swift deftly weaves Tom Crick’s emotionally touching narrative with a plethora ofhistorical events, without either of these aspects of the novel feeling forced or out of place. Tom Crick’s position as a historyteacher makes this interwoven narrative possible – Crick becomes a conduit for history, relating his own tale while at thesame time linking it to the repeating patterns found in history. In fact, as opposed to making the novel feel too fragmented ordense, the parallels drawn with historical events and the chronological jumps give Waterland an intriguing feeling ofcircularity.There is a sense that everything is linked, so that just as Crick’s troubled family history returns to haunt him, there are alsotraumatic historical events which refuse to be confined to the past. An example of this would be the soldiers who fought inWWI and suffered trauma which meant they ‘would never get out of the past’ (p.235) – this is one of the many ways in whichthe novel suggests that history is in fact non-linear, and moves continually in a repeating, circular pattern. This idea is evendirectly articulated by Crick, who asks: ‘How do we know [...] that we are not moving in a great circle?’ (p.139).Waterland – Final ThoughtsREAD THIS NEXT• Graham Swifts The Light of Day• The Man Booker Prize• An Overview of Gullivers TravelsIn Waterland, Graham Swift offers the reader a novel of fantastic depth and insight, which is both an interesting explorationof history and an emotionally engaging look at the struggle of a single family, stretching back through time and generations.There are numerous comparisons drawn between the history of the Crick/Atkinson family and the common tropes found in afairy tale. However, this simply serves to create a contrast between the quaint stories associated with fairy tales and theoften grim family history outlined in Waterland, which includes themes of murder, incest and madness.This personal and often gruesome narrative is combined with historical, cultural and biological asides, which gives the novela wider sense of awareness and context. These asides include chapters on the history of the eel and the nature of phlegm,
  2. 2. and while this can sometimes seem to detract from the main narrative strands, each aside has its own crucial part to play inthe themes and structure of Waterland. Ultimately, Graham Swift’s novel feels very complete; it is an impressively detailed,well-rounded tale that offers a powerful insight into the lives of a troubled family, and a unique look at the passage of history.Read more at Suite101: Graham Swift, Waterland – Review |Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/graham-swifts-waterland---review-a325845#ixzz1S5nJ4ymY [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorian Authors —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Like Great Expectations, Waterland is an entirely retrospective narrative. Looking back over the events of his life,Pip recounts the story of his enlightenment. For Tom Crick, on the other hand, the process of telling his storyenlightens him. History (his story) is an attempt at reclamation, to "discover how youve become what you are. Ifyoure lucky you might find out why. If youre lucky — but its impossible — you might get back to where you canbegin again." (Waterland, 235) Although Pip can cleanly construct a linear account of his progress, Crick must jumpback and forth through narrative time, unable to reconstruct a grand metamorphosis of history for himself, only topiece together a story which might be meaningful, if not necessarily simple or clear. So I began to demand of history an Explanation...Can I deny that what I wanted all along was not some golden nugget that history would at last yield up, but History itself: the Grand Narrative, the filler of vaccuums, the dispeller of fears in the dark? (Waterland, 62) Yet there is no such thing, as Price says, "Explainings a way of avoiding the facts while you pretend to getnear to them..." (Waterland, 126) These thoughts challenge the idea of growth in a Bildungsroman: the postmodernworld has become too complex to pretend that we can seriously progress. As with Dicks dredger, the Rosa II, weare successful if we can perform the work of staying even. ("History and the `Here and Now," 87) For Tom, the feeling of slippage and the work of staying even begins with the death of his mother, whichpushes him out of the realm of familial comfort. He remembers her as the spiritual root of their family, she is the onewho first tells him stories, and when she dies the narrative of his lineage is abruptly extinguished. His father iscrushed, left only with his memories and her illegitimate, potato-headed child. The lives of the three men separate,never referred to again as a family. Furthermore, on the night she dies, she also bequeaths the mysterious chest toDick, declaring him the savior of the world. Those feelings of abandonment resonate when Tom becomes acquainted with Price. The fear anddisorientation that Price feels as a result of nuclear threat are the same that Tom felt when Mary became pregnant.Both have a sense of being dragged into history, but unlike Napoleon, they have no defined place in it. Tom has anidea that he can somehow express his empathy to his students, the Anti-Armageddon league, as opposed to justteaching facts, but the wish to make his story into History gets him fired. Unlike in other Bildungsroman stories, theevents in Toms life happen suddenly, get reacted to suddenly, and are more properly termed "disasters" rather than"epiphanies." Dick commits suicide, Tom learns of Marys pregnancy only as she is jumping off a wall trying to
  3. 3. make herself miscarry, and although he has an inkling that she is drifting away from him, he is certainly notprepared for her to steal a baby from the supermarket. Especially not because God told her to. The Here and Now, gripping me by the arm, slapping my face and telling me to take a good look at the mess I was in, informed me that history was no invention but indeed existed - and I had become a part of it. (46) Other Bildungsroman characters have a safe life (Pip at the forge, Aurora through marriage) but seek toreplace it with something better. Tom Crick, on the other hand, is disintegrating: his story can be thought of as "lifereclamation." Even Price, who could be engaged in his own development, feels as though he has no future life tohope for, for fear of nuclear war. The final punctuation of the development of Tom Crick, oddly enough, happens roughly in the middle of thetime encompassed by the narrative. Dicks suicide represents the conclusion of Toms story; all the events of his life,pieced together over the course of the novel, have led to this event. Yet the event is not the suicide itself, but ratherthe telling of it. The narrative thus far has circled in on a few incidents, yet never quite touched them. As theheadmaster offers his final farewells, the Holocaust Club comes to Toms rescue, shouting "No cuts! Keep Crick!"This small victory enables Tom to confess to the reader about Marys abortion, about the death of his father, andabout the circumstances surrounding Dicks murder and suicide. ("Unconfessed Confessions," 189) In speaking ofthese matters clearly, Tom conquers his digressive style and, in turn, his fears of life slipping away from him. [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Tom Crick, the narrator in Graham Swifts Waterland, tells his story to his history class to address Prices declarationthat history is about to end: "I began, having recognized in my young but by no means carefree class the contagioussymptoms of fear: Once upon a time..." (7). Unable to find meaning in his own existence, Tom takes solace innarrative. As an explanation of his present crisis, he constructs a story out of events in his past that culminate in hiswife stealing a baby. However, Tom believes that natural history, the history that controls "our love of life," alwaysgets "the better of the artificial stuff" (205). If he believes his words that natural history "doesnt go anywhere,""cleaves to itself," and "perpetually travels back to where it came from," then how can stories enable Tom to live hislife (205)? The question answers itself; Tom travels in circles but never progresses forward. Whereas the narrator in Oscar and Lucinda creates reality from a story, Tom turns his reality into a fairy tale.Tom believes in history as a way of explaining the world, yet he uses stories to escape "far away from the wideworld" (1). Although stories bring order to Toms chaotic life, they keep him from confronting his reality. As Pricepoints out, "explainings a way of avoiding facts while you pretend to get near to them" (167). When rememberingthe scene of him pulling down his swimming trunks for Mary, Tom explains his childhood desire to escape from themoment through stories and his inability to deal with the here and now. After this story, he presents the problem thatarises when narrative can not be separated from reality: He escapes to story-books. Because he can still do that. Jump from one realm to the other, as if they shut each other out. He hasnt begun yet to put the two together. To live an amphibious life. He hasnt begun to ask yet where the stories end and reality begins. But he will, he will. (207-208)
  4. 4. Ironically, in this passage Tom speaks of himself in the third person; his reality becomes a story and hebecomes a character in his story. Storytelling comforts Tom, but it also fractures his understanding of himself. The reader does not question the validity of Toms stories because they were either passed on to him throughhis mother or experienced by Tom as a child. The Atkinson family history has direct consequences to Toms life,which makes the stories as meaningful to Tom as the French Revolution is to Europe. However, his story becomesproblematic when the reader realizes that Tom never resolves the meaning within it. Indeed, stories do not replacean emptiness that everyone in Toms history feels. "I know what you feel. Yes, the end of the worlds on the cardsagain...But the feelings not new....Its the old, old feeling, that everything might amount to nothing" (269). For Tom,history ends up supporting his belief that life has no meaning. Swift resolves this conflict by placing meaning not in the story itself but in Toms telling of the story. Tellingstories allows Tom to assume control over the events, a control he does not have in shaping his life. Tom raisesquestions about how history forms our lives: "which way do we go? Forwards to go backwards? Backwards to goforwards" (94)? By clipping segments of the story and putting them together without chronological constraints, Tomshows that progress does not change human nature. For example, he connects Marys natural curiosity for exploringsexuality with his students curiosity for his story. "Curiosity begets love. It weds us to the world. Its part of ourperverse, madcap love for this impossible planet we inhabit...People have to find out. People have to know" (206).This realization allows Tom to cope with the outcome of his story, but it also negates the purpose of storytelling as amode of progress. Indeed, his being fired as a history teacher signifies the modern suspicion of the past beingmeaningful in the present. Since meaning lies in the connections Tom makes between people living and dead, storiesallow Tom to live an imitation of "the grand repertoire of history" (41). Tom recognizes this fallacy of storytelling in his own struggle to find order but he fails to follow through withan answer: "What is a history teacher? ...Hes a self-contradiction (since everyone knows that what you learn fromhistory is that nobody-)" (235-236). The sentence cuts off, leaving the reader to finish Toms thought. A possibleending lies embedded in Toms story; consistently, characters in the narrative distort the truth to simplifyexplanation. When Dick starts the dredger, Tom says to the skipper, "Hes gone barmy. He got himself drunk androde off on his bike. We d-dont know, (ah, truthfulness at last)" (351). Dick easily falsifies the truth in order tomove beyond the moment. However, sometimes these distortions have devastating effects that force Tom out of thesafety of the story. Marys lying to Dick about Freddie impregnating her alters the course of Toms history.Storytelling controls not only the way people understand history but also history itself. Full ofquestions, Waterland weaves histories, stories, and people together without alleviating the fear that life is nothingbut stories. [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland] Besides sharing the irony of their fathers connections to debt, both Charles Dickens and Graham Swift set theirstories in the flat fens of East Anglia. Swift begins with an epigraph from Great Expectations and continues toweave elements from the text into Waterland to form a coherent intertextuality. The reader whoreads Waterland without any knowledge of the interviews of Swift or of any biographical data about him would besurprised to learn about his origins, which he reveals in a Publishers Weekly interview:
  5. 5. His mothers family came from Russia and Poland around the turn of the century -- "classic Jewish tailors, and rather prosperous." His father worked as a civil servant in the National Debt Office. Swift has lived in London his whole life, except for time spent studying English literature at Cambridge and York Universities and a year teaching in Greece. (Smith 43) Swift shares only a few biographical elements with Tom Crick: the main ones are that both are British andwere teachers. The problems of autobiography and fictional autobiography arise because how does an author who isso young, who does not like to do research, who does not live in the area he writes about, and who has not lived inthe times of his characters weave such a flowing (excuse the pun) narrative about the fens, its history, and itspeople? For the scholar, the problem with Graham Swift and his (auto)biography is that he is not dead. No one canchronicle his whole life when it has not ended yet. He is still able to change his life in a way that would skewer ascholars beloved theory about his works and his life. However, Swifts being alive may not be all bad. UnlikeBrowning and Dickens, Swift is still available for interviews, which allows readers to know a bit about his themesand his life (so far). In the Publishers Weekly interview, he also describes his beliefs and the themes in his writings. "I write a great deal about the past catching up with the present. If I have a dominant theme, maybe that is it," Swift says. "I write a lot about relationships between generations. If you deal with parents and children you are dealing with more than just two generations; you are putting a close and intimate human relationship into a historical context. Im very interested in the way that memory is passed on through generations, the way that any single persons experience is, in curious ways, also involved with their parents .... Telling stories is a way we have, a very therapeutic means, of coming to terms with what we have lived through and suffered, of coming to terms with the past. And that leads on into History with a capital H -- that seems to be a logical progression." (Smith 43). Swift later proclaims, "Im not an autobiographical writer. There is very little of my direct personal experiencein my writing" (Smith 44). Swift may not be an autobiographical writer in the sense that he writes about his ownlife, but he is in the sense that his beliefs and thoughts permeate through his writings. His interests, in memory, in history, and in telling stories as a way of coming to terms with the past, are thesame interests that we find in Tom Crick. However, Cricks present state of confusion and the collapse of the worldaround him cloud his memory. His recollection of the atmospheric conditions of the Atkinson funeral changesbetween rain and sunshine. He has three accounts to explain why Mary could not have a child. The first explanationinvolves biology, that Marys attempt at abortion sterilized her; the second involves superstition, that an eel in awomans lap makes her barren; and the third involves witchcraft, that Martha Clays ritual sterilized Mary. TomCrick does not even have a clear memory of the ritual because he cannot be certain of what happened: "A pipe -- no,a piece of sedge, a length of hollow reed -- is stuck into Marys hole" (Swift 308). As Price argues, "Explainings away of avoiding the facts while you pretend to get near them ... And people only explain when things are wrong,dont they, not when theyre right? So the more explaining you hear, the more you think things must be pretty badthat they need so much explaining" (Swift 167). Great Expectations and Waterland share more than the autobiographical and fictional autobiographicalgenres: they take the form of detective stories that try to unravel the mystery of their narrators lives. This detectivework is essential for both narrators because they try to make sense of their present by recalling their past and toaccount for why events happened the way the did. Referring to the earlier analogies of the net and the writersapocrypha, the clues that the detective does not find or does not reveal present a problem for the reader. In addition,the narrator in both works creates a mystery for the reader by revealing parts of the story at a time. However, thenarrators are recounting their past -- there is no mystery for them in terms of events, just in the significance of theseevents. Waterland: An Introduction [Added by George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University]
  6. 6. [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Waterland well begins our course because it concerns itself with so many literary and non-literary issues that appearthroughout our reading list. As the bookjacket asserts, "Waterland is a moving meditation on history, on procreation,on destruction, and on our struggles to shore up our small worlds against the onrushing forces of time and nature."Like Faulkners Absalom, Absalom!, a book that obviously had major influence upon it, and like Dickenss GreatExpectations, Waterland meditates on these matters by pursuing a mystery; so the book, like these others, is in part adetective story. It is also the story of two families, of an entire region in England, of England from the industrialrevolution to the present, and it is, finally, a meditation on stories and story-telling -- a fictional inquiry into fiction,a book that winds back upon itself and asks why we tell stories. Waterland leads off our survey of English literature, and it teaches us to ask questions. This novel, whichbegins with a history teacher who is about to be fired, ruminating upon history and his story in terms of the events ofhis own life, and he quickly runs up against the young, those without interest in the past, those who quite properlywant to know why, why pay attention to whats over and done with. "You ask," the narrator tells his students, "as allhistory classes ask, as all history classes should ask, What is the point of history" (92). They want to know, as wedo, two things, in other words: (1) what is the point of history as a subject; why study the past? and (2) what is thepoint of history itself, that is, does history, mans existence in public time, have any meaning, any purpose? This resistance to history by the young, who wish to live in the here and now, is embodied in Price, TomCricks student, who voices all the usual objections to paying attention to what has gone by. "Your thesis," Tomsays, "is that history, as such is a red-herring; the past is irrelevant. The present alone is vital" (143). He himselfadmits My earliest acquaintance with history was thus, in a form issuing from my mothers lips, inseparable from her other bedtime make-believe--how Alfred burnt the cakes, how Canute commanded the waves, how King Charles hid in an oak tree--as if history were a pleasing invention. And even as a schoolboy, when introduced to history as an object of Study, when nursing indeed an unfledged lifetimes passion, it was still the fabulous idea of history that lured me, and I believed, perhaps like you, that history was a myth. Until a series of encounters with the Here and Now gave a sudden urgency to my studies. Until the Here and Now, gripping me by the arm, slapping my face and telling me to take a good look at the mess I was in, informed me that history was no invention but indeed existed--and I had become a part of it. (53) Concerned with saving the world from nuclear war, concerned that there may not be a future, Price thinkshistory is bunk: "I want a future. . . And you----you can stuff your past!" (123) Well, as it turns out, this past, thishistory, is precisely his----Toms----past. Price also makes a second appealing attack on history and historiography,namely, that it is a means of avoidance: "You know what your trouble is, sir? Your hooked on explanation. Explain,explain. Everythings got to have an explanation. . . . Explainings a way of avoiding facts while you pretend to getnear to them" (145). Anti-history is thus, for Price, anti-explanation, because both evade life in the present (anattitude based on finding the present pleasant, nurturing, and not deadly). The novel and its narrator treats this position sympathetically, because before the murder of Freddie Parr heand Mary lived outside of time and history, outside that stream of events he is trying to teach to his class. But withthe discovery of Freddies body floating in the canal lock, and with the discovery of a beer bottle, Tom and Mary fallinto time and history. Previously, "when Mary was fifteen, and so was I, this was in prehistorical, pubescent times,when we drifted instinctively" (44). As Tom explains, "it is precisely these surprise attacks of the Here and Nowwhich, far from launching us into the present tense, which they do, it is true, for a brief and giddy interval, announcethat time has taken us prisoner" (52). This view accords with that of those philosophical anthropologists--Mircea Eliade and others--who emphasizethat until human beings leave tribal, agricultural existence they live in an eternal present in which time follows acyclical pattern of days and seasons. One becomes an individual only by botching a ritual, a universal pattern. Onedifferentiates oneself and becomes an individual in such societies only by sin and failure. The individual is the manor woman who got the planting or fertility ritual, the hunting pattern, wrong. Which is why the narrator explains:
  7. 7. "What is a history teacher" Hes someone who teaches mistakes. While others say, Heres how to do it, he says, Andheres what goes wrong" (203). This whole novel, in fact, is an attempt to explain what went wrong---what went wrong with his own life andMarys, the lives of his parents and the lives of their families, who represent the peasant and wealthy entrepreneurialclasses of modern Britain and its rise. Waterland begins, therefore, with the discovery of Freddie Parrs body inmidsummer 1937, which comes all the more shockingly, unexpectedly, because Swift presents the discovery withina fairy-tale landscape, for it was "a fairy-tale land, after all" (2), in part because both his mother and father had a giftfor such tales. Trying to understand what has happened to him and his life, Crick retells the story of his life. That is, byrelating the events of his life in some sort of an order he makes it into a story. He constructs history--his story. Heconstructs himself, and in the course of doing so he recognizes that "Perhaps history is just story-telling" (133);"History itself, the Grand Narrative, the filler of vacuums, the dispeller of fears of the dark (53). and he hasexamples of this in the historical legends told him by his mother (53). Tom also comes to believe that all suchreconstructing of history, all such creation of explanatory narratives, are means of ordering our lives and protectingus from chaos and disorder---and surely the characters in this novel desperately experience the need for such shelter,these victims of progress of technology and the anti-natural (for the Cricks lose their way of existence as swamppeople when the swamps are drained), and victims of the purely natural (as are Mary, and Tom, and Dick, andFreddie, who were only following natural sexual urges); and victims of World War I (like Toms father) and victims,like Toms mother, of natural unnatural love of incest that produces Dick, his idiot half-brother. Story-telling, andhistory, and books like Waterland are finally a prime defence against fear: "Its all a struggle to make things notseem meaningless. Its all a fight against fear. . . . What do you think all my stories are for. . . I dont care what youcall it----explaining, evading the facts, making up meanings, taking a larger perspective, dodging the here and now,education, history, fairy-tales----it helps eliminate fear" (208). In fact, Tom Crick argues, story-telling comes with time, with living in time, and story-telling, whichdistinguishes us from animals, comes with humanness. Children, only animals live entirely in the Here and Now. Only nature knows neither memory nor history.Man man--let me offer you a definition--is the story-telling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not achaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker-buoys and trail-signs of stories. Her has to go ontelling stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as theres a story, its all right. The problem, as this entire novel goes to show, is that the material of stories often refuses to be shaped bythem, just as nature, unmediated nature, refuses to be shaped by the story of progress with which modern peoplehave tried to cast it in an image more convenient for them.(And, in passing, this fact casts into doubt all story-telling, particularly that of this novel) Thus, Graham Swifts emphasis throughout the novel on two matters thatresist all ideological, narrative control, that refused to be shaped by stories we tell----(1) the Fens and (2) sexuality.Putting together the two opposed forces that drive much of his tale, Tom claims "Children, theres something whichrevolutionaries and prophets of new worlds and even humble champions of Progress (think of those poor Atkinsons .. .) cant abide. Natural history, human nature" (178). As Tom makes us realize, natural history is a paradox and anoxymoron--that is, a jarring placement together of contraries--because it is history of the antihistorical which has noorder or is cyclical (nonhistorical) without individuating markers. Like the Fen waters, like the natural force it is, Mary and Tom and Dick and, alas, Freddies sexuality refusesto be contained by the canal walls and damns of human fairy-stories and, instead, leads to Freddies murder, Dickssuicide, Marys abortion, and ultimately her kidnapping an infant in a supermarket and subsequent commitment to amental institution. That is why the Fen lands and Fen waters, which the Atkinsons and other commercial leaders ofthe Industrial Revolution try to fit into a human story, play such an important part in this novel. And that is whyTom, who explicitly takes draining the Fens to exemplify progressive theories of history, speaks in his imaginationto his wife of their "Sunday walks, with which he trod and measured out the tenuous, reclaimed land of ourmarriage?" (111) Fen lands and waters represent the reality that wont fit into our stories (one cant call it nature orthe natural, because those terms refer to a reality that already has been placed in a story.
  8. 8. Waterland examines and finds wanting the Neoclassical view nature that takes it to be divine order, theRomantic one that takes it to be essentially benign and in the older manner accommodated to our needs, and theVictorian one that takes it to be, however hostile or neutral, something we can shape to our needs and use for thematerial of a tale of progress. This whole novel, in other words, sets out to examine these ages---and their literary aswell as religious and philosophical foundations---and finds them wanting.) It examines various theories of history,such as that proposed by religion (35), progress (137, 140), and hubris (62), and canvases a wide range of subjectsfor history such as political events from the Roman conquerors of Britain (124-5) to the Bastille (155) and WorldWars I and II, the history of technology (118, 290, including draining the Fens (111), the history of places (Fens),the history of families: Atkinsons and Cricks (78), the history of individual people, esp. narrator and Mary (214),and the history of a bottle, a beer bottle (33). As impossible as getting right this story may turn out to be, attempting to shape a narrative, ones narrative,ones own novel, is all we have and we must all be historians: History is that impossible thing: the attempt to give an account, with incomplete knowledge, of actions themselves undertaken with incomplete knowledge. So that it teaches us no short-cuts to Salvation, no recipe for a New World, only the dogged and patient art of making do. I taught you that by for ever attempting to explain we come, not to an Explanation, but to a knowledge of the limits of our power to explain. Yes, yes, the past gets in the way; it trips us up, bogs us down; it complicates, makes difficult. But to ignore this is folly, because, above all, what history teaches us is to avoid illusion and make believe, to lay aside dreams, moonshine, cure-alls, wonder-workings, pie-in-the sky--to be realistic. (94) A last reason, finally, that we cannot resist story-telling and creating history is that story-telling both resistschaotic parts of living in the present but also weds us to the world, because story-telling is born of curiosity:"Children, be curious. Nothing is worse (I know it) than when curiosity stops. Nothing is more repressive than therepression of curiosity. Curiosity begets love. It weds us to the world" (178; cp. 180b). And that is why we tellstories, and that is one of the reasons why we begin this course with Waterland. The others I leave you to find as youread the other books in the course. Inside Herself: Marys Elusive Identity in Waterland Claire Dunnington 05, English 156, Brown University, 2004 [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]In Graham Swifts novel Waterland, Mary Metcalf/Cricks character is developed through two divergent devices: heractions and dialogue as a youth and an adult, and the voice and interpretations of her husband Tom. When Tom useshis position as high-school history teacher and his lessons on the French Revolution as vehicles with which to tracehis own history, he also uses his account of his own history as a means of attempting to trace the trajectory of hiswifes life and the person she has become. However, as Mary begins to withdraw from Tom and turn to religion, hehas increasing difficulty understanding her actions. This culminates in the appropriately titled chapter "UnknownCountry", when Tom returns home to discover that Mary has taken a baby from the local supermarket. So one day, after teaching the French Revolution, I come home to find that my wifes committed a revolutionary -- a miraculous-act...
  9. 9. I turn the key in the lock. I hear what sounds like a babys cry. I think: our golden retriever, Paddy, has some whine-inducing dog-malady. But I hear it again. I enter the living room. And there she is, sitting on the sofa, at half-past four on a Friday afternoon, waiting for me to arrive, with a child in her arms. "I told you. Look, I told you, didnt I? There! I said I was going to have one." And shes not wearing the looks of a villainous child-thief, shes not wearing the looks of a vicious criminal. Shes wearing the looks of a young mother whos never been a mother before. Her face has shed a succession of masks (menopausal wife, ex-age-care officer, history teachers life-long, long-suffering mate); shes all innocence and maidenhood. A Madonna-and child. "Christ almighty-!" Now tread carefully, history teacher. Maybe this isnt your province. Maybe this is where history dissolves, chronology goes backwards. Thats your wife over there; you know, Mary, the one you thought you knew. But maybe this is unknown country [199].Questions1. When discussing the French Revolution with his history students, Crick does not state explicitly that hesympathizes or does not sympathize with the revolutionaries. Later, he compares Marys act to the FrenchRevolution. Does Crick, even in his shock and horror, find something beautiful in what his wife has done? How doher actions fit into the binary of History versus the Here-and-Now?2. How does this Mary compare to the sixteen-year-old Mary Metcalf? Crick describes her "succession of masks" asif they had become her adult identity, but the phrase "shes wearing the looks..." undermines the absoluteness of"shes all innocence and maidenhood". Is the "innocence and maidenhood" a return to Marys former self, orsomething else entirely?3. What would Cricks possible options for dealing with "unknown country" be, based on his discussions of othernew territories and unknown countries throughout history in general and in his own familys history?4. Abortion also shapes the plot and history of Jack Maggs and Sophina in Jack Maggs. How does Maggssexperience compare to Cricks? In what ways could Crick be considered Prices benefactor?ReferencesSwift, Graham. Waterland. New York: Washington Square, 1983. The Character of Mary: Sexuality and History: Opposing Forces? Tommy Burns 06, English 156, Brown University, 2004 [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Graham Swiftss Waterland opens as the narrator, a history teacher, is in the process of being removed from histeaching position. This teachers lectures to his students form the central narration of the novel. Tom Crick not onlyrelates a personal history, but also a description of how his home came to develop in a certain way. Toms
  10. 10. relationship with Mary has fundamental implications through the book, whether it be her inability to conceive,Freddie Parrs death, and even Toms own firing. Their involvement is often a catalyst for the major events describedin the novel. Tom marks his wife as fundamentally different in her ability to transcend the need to look forward orback. Until her emotional unraveling proves otherwise, Tom sees his wife as a strong opposing force to his relianceupon past events. He erroneously believes in her ability to mark time and prove that happiness can be derived fromsimply living in the present. Mary will later kidnap a child and demonstrate that she too is affected by history: But she made do (so he thought) with nothing. Not believing either in looking back or in looking forward, she learnt how to mark time. To withstand, behind all the stage-props of their marriage, the empty space of reality. So that whereas he could not do without his history classes and his schoolkids, she could readily dispense with her Old FolkÑwitness that voluntary, indeed adamant decision. And where as he had to keep going back every day to school, there was always this grown-up woman to return to, who was stronger than him (he believed) at facing the way things must beÑwhom he needed indeed, when it came to it, more than he needed all the wisdom and solace of history. So that your history teachers wife, children, may be said to have been the inspiration of all that he taught you . . . Once upon a time there was a history teachers wife who, for quite specific and historical reasons, couldnt have a child. Though her husband had lots: a river of childrenÑnew lives, fresh startsÑflowed through his classroom. Who could have adopted a child (many time, in the early years, the husband warilyÑhopefully-raised this subject); thought she never adopted a child, for the simple and intractable reason, so the husband supposed, that to adopt a child is not the real thing, and his wife was not a woman to resort to make-believe. [pp. 127-128]QuestionsWhat is historys relationship to "make-believe"? Marys kidnapping of a child not only shows her own mentalinstability but signifies that she only resides in a world of make-believe. Is it possible to consider history as acharacter in the novel? Is it the hero or the enemy?Mary is initially described as a very sexual character. While Tom is interested in exploring history, Mary looks toexplore both her body and others. Does Marys sexuality have any bearing upon her relationship with history? Herpregnancy determines much about her future, but is history seen as opposing the present pleasure of sex?What is the significance that much of this story is being narrated to children? Mary works with older people? Howdo relationships with children versus elders have greater consequences in the novel?ReferencesSwift, Graham. Waterland. New York: Vintage, 1992. The Void in Waterland Katherine Lesch 97 (English 168, 1996) [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]In Graham Swifts Waterland, Byatts and Careys streams of consciousness converge and feed into one another.Like Carey, Swift uses setting as a symbol for theme: the fens of East Anglia are the medium of Swifts message.Swifts conception of time incorporates Careys anarchy and Byatts cycle. Swifts narrator, a secondary-school
  11. 11. history teacher named Tom Crick, recounts the history of three time periods. The earliest time period begins with thelives of Cricks seventeenth-century ancestors and culminates in the marriage of Cricks parents after World War I.The second period, the 1940s, covers "Mary Metcalfs adolescent sexual experimentation, Dicks [Toms brother]murder of Freddie Parr, Marys abortion, Toms revelation of Dicks incestuous conception and Dicks consequentsuicide by drowning, Toms return from the war and his marriage to Mary" (Janik 83).The third period, the 1980s,constitutes the narrative present of the novel. Tom Cricks narrative defies chronology but supports his ownconception of time; Tom tells these stories out of sequence because "there are no compasses for journeying in time"(Swift 102). In this narrative, the constant flow, convergence and divergence of history with the Here and Nowemerges as the controlling pattern. Swift posits a continuous discontinuity: empty spaces punctuated by moments ofknowledge over time. Collectively, Swift calls these moments of knowledge the Here and Now. In Swifts analysis, life includes a lot of empty space. We are one-tenth living tissue, nine-tenths water; life is one-tenth Here and Now, nine- tenths a history lesson...The Here and Now comes in "surprise attacks" that "bring both joy and terror" and "for a brief and giddy interval announce that time has taken us prisoner. (Janik 86) Like Carey, Swift considers unconstructed time, but Swift does not inscribe this space with the desecration oforder and the institution of anarchy. Unlike Carey and Byatt, who suggests in Ashs voice that historical periods pile up palimpsests of meaningone over another, Swift admits the existence of an "empty space": this creates the need for constructed history. ForSwift, "history and the Here and Now are not opposites but polarities, two aspects of experience. Both emerge out ofthe empty space of daily life. Making history...and telling stories about it...are two different ways to outwit theemptiness we glimpse (and fear) at the heart of reality; to assure ourselves that...things are happening" (Janik 86).For Carey and Byatt the state of innocence consists of an innocence of the other. Mauds "fractured self" and Oscarsand Lucindas "drugs" or dreams exist in this state. For Swift, the state of innocence presupposes a total void like the fenland itself, "a landscape which of alllandscapes, most approximates to Nothing" (Swift 6-7). Only in the Here and Now does Swift find "the moment ofpenetrating, inescapable reality in which one is poignantly alive and aware...that dreams are irrevocable and actionshave consequences" (Janik 86). Outside of the Here and Now, one floats in an amniotic fluid, comfortably cushionedfrom and as yet unformed by responsibility and connections with others. The convergence and divergence of history and the Here and Now create an imperative for narrative: "thework of staying even, the unglamorous but essential business of scooping up from the depths this remorseless stuffthat time leaves behind" (87). In Toms narrative, his brother Dick works and dies aboard a silt-dredger calledthe Rosa II. In terms of his function and his essence, Dick provides a symbolic marker in the text. Dicks fatherthought he would become the Savior of the World. Not only does Dick reclaim the land, an act analogous toconstructing history from the muddle of time, but he also interrogates the myth of the fall: According to Waterland, woman leaves history with neither its conventional linearity or subject -- and thus as a kind of void;...this same postpatriarchal space uncovers a surprising point of intersection between once grand narratives. For in centering as it obviously does on Mary and in particular on her "hole," the void that is woman is inevitably inscribed with that imaginative leap by which Marys pregnancy constitutes a parodic version of the "immaculate conception." The uncertainty surrounding the father produces, that is, a negative image of an episode crucial...to the Christian narrative. (Schad 919) Dick testifies to the enduring unknowability, throughout the ages, of Christs conception and Christ Himself.As a possible Christ-figure and the possible father of Marys possible Christ-child (if the fetus had not been aborted),Dick stands at 0 degrees longitude where time begins and ends, meeting in one seamless eternity in thistext. Waterland begins and ends with the void and the resulting need for a constructed story to create a beginningand ending. In her article "Whats in a Word?: Possessing A. S. Byatts Meronymic Novel," Thelma J. Shinn encapsulatesthe common mission of Byatt, Carey, and Swift. Shinn defines the meronymic novel as an "image of parts, one
  12. 12. which can encompass...seeming contradictions in style and content" (Shinn 164). Shinn describes the tension betwenmetaphor and realism in the meronymic novel: Words are actions, Emerson and others have argued, and the art of words is called poetry. It is in the poem, therefore, that language and action can unite in the highest expression of human consciousness; returning the poetic possibility of metaphor to the realistic precision of literary prose provides the raw material for the art of the meronymic novel. (169) Dick Cricks Significance in Waterland David J. Shepard 94 [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Dick Cricks questioning where babies come from is important because of the way it acts as a watershed for the restof the novel. Dicks question is obviously important because the murder of Freddie Parr is one of the main narrativetracks throughout the novel. But it is also important as one of Dicks first attempts to understand, or explain. Thisfact leads the reader to examine the relationship between the larger and bigger pictures in the novel, and to someinsights into the nature of human life that transcend the novel. Before Dick questions his father about where babies come from, he is described in terms that place hisexistence closer to the level of the eels. He is presented as being unable to formulate anything other than relativelyrudimentary communication. He has been deliberately kept uneducated. The most significant fact about him, besideshis relation to the murder, is his potatoheaded-ness. In first explaining his brother to the reader, Tom Crick describeshim in non-human terms: It could be said that Dicks love of machines, if love it is, springs from the fact that Dick himself is a sort of machine--in so far as a machine is something which has no mind of its own and in so far as Dicks large, lean and surprisingly agile body will not only work indefatigably but will perform on occasion quite remarkable feats of dexterity and strength. (32) Tom Cricks description of his brother as something inhuman can be understood when Tom Crick says"Another definition, children: Man, the animal which demands an explanation, the animal which asks Why."According to that definition, Dick is not something that is human. But that leaves the reader with the question ofwhy is Dicks character important, and how does he relate to the other characters in the novel. One explanation for Dicks presence in the novel is that he is human, and on those grounds, he is establishedas being not that different from the other characters. One of the events that makes the reader (and Tom Crick) realizeDicks fundamental humanness is that he, like Tom, Freddie and Mary, among others, is curious. Or, as Tom says,"Even a numskull must ponder those big and teasing questions:..." The effect of that curiosity in Dick, as could beargued is true for the others, is disastrous. That curiosity, combined with an inability to comprehend, is what isresponsible, if not in deed that in essence, for Freddie Parrs death. This leaves the reader with mixed impressionsabout curiosity. As reflected in Marys and Dicks curiosity about one another, it is the force which drives history, inthat it is responsible for the people whose actions will form some part of it. But in its insatiable nature the readerfinds the first signs of discomfort with a quality that, in its desire to understand life, can destroy it. Thus, throughDick Swift can reflect a very human paradox. Dicks mechanicalness is also very human. This individual mechanicalness is observed against the backdrop ofan entire world that (as relayed to the reader through Tom Crick) has indubitable elements of mechanicalness. Theeveryday routines of Dicks actions--especially the way in which Tom describes the clock-like nature of hismovements--provide a lens by way of comparison to the also very mechanical, but on a decidedly larger scale,
  13. 13. efforts of the Fens to reclaim land. Dicks caring for his motorcycle can be related to the care which the Fenlandersmust take to protect their home against the ravaging effects of time. The benefit of relating the two allows the readerto make observations about how human history cannot help but be contained within natural history. That, in turn,gives the reader insight into why it is that Tom Crick consciously falls into the same habit of trying to make sense oflife from the stories people tell, which, in turn, leads to the entire narrative. But perhaps the most human element of Dick is his inability to comprehend. Here, Dick is like every otherfigure in the novel. He is like Ernest Atkinson, who takes refuge in some fantasy as a means of dealing with his lackof comprehension. He, again, is like Tom, who, despite being able to perceive trends in over hundreds of years ofhistory, cannot understand the futility of his desire to explain, which leads him to tell stories. But perhaps mostimportantly, he is like Price, whose fears combine with his unknowing to look toward the future. A future which itcan be said is initiated by the simplicity of Dicks question at the dinner table of where babies come from. The Human Necessity for Stories in Waterland Maya Rao 97 (English 168, 1996) [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]The cyclical time set forth by Waterland, Oscar and Lucinda, and Possession constructs a living past that thecharacters shape into a story to give meaning and bring order to the chaos of reality. This cyclical structure alleviatesthe oppression of linear time and provides meaning and explanation in an age of religious doubt. In Waterland, thecyclical time frame produces the past as a story by producing the past within a narrative structure. Crick does notpresent the past chronologically but narrates his past as a story by "relating the events of his life in some sort oforder... He constructs history- his story" (Landow, 199). In addition to this non-chronological order, Crick structurethe past as a story with his creation of "a mystery (for us) where none exists" (Landow, 207). From the beginning ofthe novel, Crick knows that his brother killed Freddie Parr, but he narrates the story as if he does not know thisinformation and leads the reader through the process by which he realizes his brothers actions. This mysteryconstructs the past as living. By not immediately revealing the killer to the reader, Crick involves the reader in hispast and shows that he presently still works through the past, though he knows the truth about the murder. Calling man "the animal that craves meaning" (140), Crick explains why stories are so important to humanbeings. Stories (and history) fulfill a basic human need to give meaning to and find an explanation for events.Equating history with fiction, Crick suggests that history is an "attempt to give an account, with incompleteknowledge, of actions themselves undertaken with incomplete knowledge" (108). Narrating his past to his students,Crick attempts to find an explanation for Marys actions. The text suggests that whether this explanation does ordoes not provide the true reasons for Marys actions is insignificant as long as the explanation helps Crick cope withreality. Waterland shows the irrelevance of truth in narrative by suggesting that "both history writing and the tellingof stories are performative forces. What matters is not there truth, truthfulness, plausibility or mimetic success, buttheir effect" (Alphen, 206). Storytelling helps Crick cope with reality by providing a "means of ordering" (Landow,201) his life, and thereby giving him a sense of "control" (Janik, 83) over it Explaining the necessity of stories toescape the disorder of reality, Crick tells his students that wherever man goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker-buoys and trail-signs of stories. He has to go on telling stories, he has to keep on making them up. As long as theres a story, its all right. (63) Ordering the events of his past into a narrative structure, Cricks story gives him the control he presently lacksand allows him to find meaning to replace doubt.
  14. 14. The Theory of Knowledge in Waterland Barry J. Fishman 89, Brown University [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]Swifts characters often know things they wish they could forget, a recurring theme that solidifies the line betweeninnocence and guilt in Waterland. One could argue that Tom Crick, an historian, is cursed with knowledge -- he ispart of a profession that exists primarily to uncover the forgotten past. Dick Crick on the other hand is blessed withignorance. "[Dick] possesses those amnesiac, those time-erasing qualities so craved by guilty parties." (p.101) Onlywhen Tom helps Dick to understand some of the secrets of the past does Dick lose control and run away to disappearforever. Henry Crick, father of Tom and (presumably) Dick, embodies a fear of knowledge. Upon discovering the deadbody of Freddie Parr floating in his lock, Henry turns away and counts to ten. "I knew what he was doing," saysTom, "He was hoping that all this was not happening." (p.21) If Henry had never known the body was there hewould not have to worry about his own feelings of guilt. He vocalizes this fear of dangerous knowledge when hediscovers Tom attempting to teach the "potato-head" Dick how to read: "Dont educate him! Dont learn im to read!"(p.28) Henry knows about the diaries left by his father-in-law Ernest Atkinson. He knows that Dick is not his sonbut Ernests son by Helen, Henrys wife. And Henry wants to protect Dick from this knowledge, a classic case of"what you dont know cant hurt you." The same problem exists for Tom in regard to the death of Freddie Parr. Tom thinks that Dick is the murdererbut does not want to admit this to himself. When the inquest into the death of Freddie declares "Accidental Death"as the cause, Tom is overjoyed. "Its all right," he says to Mary, "Accidental death. So its all right. All right.Nothings changed." Mary responds, "Its not all right. Because it wasnt an accident. Everythings changed." (p.99)Tom throws a temper tantrum at Marys refusal to deny her knowledge of events. The courts had neatly allowed himto forget about what really happened, allowing life to continue normally, and Mary has ruined that. Her knowledgeprecludes Toms innocence. There are even times when an entire society wants to forget. For Swifts characters, the two world wars arejust this type of event. When Ernest Atkinson converts Kessling Hall into a mental hospital for war victims, the townof Gildsey reacts not with thanks but with uneasiness: "theres something the people of Gildsey (and not just thembut people everywhere) wanted to do more than forgive; and that was forget." A war is a very difficult thing toforget, but if you could forget the war would that change anything? This is an important aspect of Swiftsphilosophy. For if you forget (or never knew) that something happened did it really happen at all? This issue isdiscussed at length in the short story"Hoffmeiers Antelope." On an individual level, this may be true. If Dick hadnever been told the identity of his true father then Henry Crick would have been his real father. But it is impossiblefor an entire society not to "know" that a war has occurred, there are too many reminders (and veterans). And ofcourse, history will not let us forget. One of the reasons for this is precisely so that we do not forget about things likethe Holocaust. So that they will never happen again. Henrys personal reaction to the war is indicative of Swifts philosophy. "Henry Crick forgets. He says: Iremember nothing. Bur thats just a trick of the brain. Thats like saying: I dont care to remember, and I dont want totalk about it. Yet its perfectly natural that Henry Crick wants to forget, its a perfectly good sign that he thinks hesforgotten, because thats how we get over things, by forgetting." (p.168) Tom Crick re-asserts this belief in relationto the mental lapse of his wife Mary: ". . . perhaps amnesias best, perhaps amnesias the cure for all. . ." (p.249)
  15. 15. Reclaiming Family Values Maitri Patel 96 (Fall, 1992) [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]A major theme in Graham Swifts novel Waterland is reclamation. Tom Crick recognizes that much of his familyhas reclaimed many things that were lost due to nature. They tried to get the land back from the water, they tried toget their sanity back from the clutches of illness, they tried to get their chance at having a family back from terriblebutchering, and they are trying to reclaim a right to a future from nuclear war. Another reclamation is that ofmarriage. The couples try to get back the stability and reliability that nature is taking away from them as the wivesgo insane. Tom Crick, during one of his conversations (they are not really lectures) with his class, tells them graduallythe story of Mary kidnapping the child from Safeway. Tom ends this discourse with an emotional plea to Mary toretrace their steps to more solid conjugal ground. "Mary, do you remember our Sunday walks, with which we trodand measured out the tenuous, reclaimed land of our marriage?" (111) Tom wants to recover the past, reclaim it sothat they, as husband and wife, can have a proper, normal life together, minus all of the hospitals, psychiatrists, andtreatment. Another couple, perhaps the history that Tom and Mary are repeating, that try to reclaim marriage is Thomasand Sarah Atkinson. After Thomas cuffs Sarah for alleged unfaithfulness, an unfaithfulness that was never proved,only rumored, Sarah goes into a vegetable-like state, wrought with possibly severe brain damage after a lengthycomatose stage in a concussion. She suffers from insanity, evident from her screams of "Fire!" and such leavingbehind Thomas Atkinson frantically regretful and remorseful because he has done this to his beloved and faithfulwife Sarah. He must experience the rushing relief and joy of seeing the lips part, the mouth flutter, only to suffer the re-doubled agony of knowing that though the eyes do not see him, or if they do, do not recognise him. And thought those lips move they will never again utter to Thomas Atkinson a single word. (66-67) Curiosity, Sexuality and Death Patricia Karam 96 (English 32) [Victorian Web Home —> Neo-Victorianism —> Graham Swift —> Waterland]A sexual encounter, but not a sexual encounter of ordinary sorts. I put the tip of my index finger into the mouth of Marys hole, and was surprised to discover how inadequate the word was "hole" for what I encountered, for Marys hole had folds and protuberances and, so it seemed to me, its false and genuine entrances, and -- as I found the true entrance -- it revealed the power of changing its configuration and texture at my touch, of suggesting a moist labyrinth of inwardly twisting, secret passages. The dark curled hairs -- only recently sprouted --
  16. 16. between Marys thighs, on which at that moment broad Fen sunlight was genially smiling, had, on close inspection, a coppery sheen. I dipped one finger, up to the first, the second knuckle into Marys hole began to reveal a further power to suck, to ingest; a voracity which made me momentarily hold back. And yet the chief and wondrous power of Marys hole was its capacity to send waves of sensation not only all over Marys body, but all over mine; and this not by some process of mental association but by a direct electric current which flowed up my arm, flushed my face and gathered in the part of me to which Mary was simultaneously applying her hand... Mary itched. And that itch of Marys was the itch of curiosity... Curiosity drove her, beyond all restraint, to want to touch, witness, experience whatever was unknown and hidden from her. Do not smir children. Curiosity, which, with other things, distinguishes us from the animals, is an ingredient of love. Is a vital force. Curiosity, which bogs us down in arduous meditation and can lead to tthe writing of history books, will also, on occasion, as on that afternoon by the Hockwell Lode, reveal to us that which we seldom glimpse unscathed (for it appears more often -- dead bodies, boat hooks -- dressed in terror): the Here and Now.Not only is it sensuous and suggestive, but it is also very insightful. This "discovery process" is especially striking asa result of the powerful imagery, which create a mysterious, silent, and apprehensive mood to match the discoverersown state of mind. The manner by which, the act develops is interesting; it goes from caution,to delighted surprise,to exhultation. There is great appeal to the senses: texture ("folds... protuberances... texture... touch... moist... ") andsight ("sunlight...coppery..."). The image of the hole sucking is extremely vivid, and in fact, the special quality ofthis piece is its vividness. On a more profound level this passage provides additional insight into the two characters and the unfolding ofthe story. For beneath a seemingly light description of an encounter driven by curiosity lies an omen. These childrenwho live outside of time and history, are unaware of the fact that this experience will be the turning point of theirlives. In fact, curiosity prompted by a drive for self-discovery will start a chain of events (death of Freddie Parr, thenthe discovery of the bottle, the death of Dick, and the breakdown of Mary), and hence fall into time and history.They will flirt with death, and from this scene onwards, there is no more turning back; the clock is set. During suchan attack of the Here and Now, the relationship between sexuality and death is enhanced. Mary, will becomehardened by the death of Freddie, feeling that her sexual curiosity will have cost the life of another -- thus, after thisfirst death she loses her inquisitive spirit, characteristic of her nature for so long. Curiosity, is a central theme in thenovel and is the driving force of progress. Once curiosity ends, then the world is at an end, seems to suggest TomCrick, the adult. "The world is so arranged that when all things are learnt, when curiosity is exhausted..., that iswhen the world shall have come to an end." (p.176, Poseidon). Once Mary loses her curiosity, she is doomed.

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