Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Century In Review

Though I realize that we haven't talked much about the role that Britain (or perhaps more specifically, England) plays in the texts which we read over the course of this semester, I think there are a number of conclusions to be drawn about the way in which the nation is presented by each of these authors. The most prominent of these conclusions, at least to my eye, is a general displeasure or disillusionment with Britain as a state and the idea of "Britishness" as a characteristic of the people who live there. Specifically, it seems that texts like Never Let Me Go, Molloy, and Crash all put forward a fairly depressing picture of England on a societal level. Whether it is discriminatory, alienating, or disturbingly technology-driven, something is fundamentally wrong with British society when viewed through the lens of these texts. Other texts offer a more historically-based critique, particularly in respect to the imperialist project -- The Waves, Loving, and Voyage in the Dark are especially critical in this regard. When taken all together, these texts represent a bleak view of British society in the eyes of their authors.

With that being said, I'm not sure from where this impulse to distance themselves from their native country originated. Perhaps it is part of a reaction to the dismantling of the empire and Britain's general decline during the 20th century, or perhaps it is a rejection of the unimaginable violence which that century represented -- the bloodiest one yet in human history. (Of course, the timeframe of the texts when taken together somewhat dimishes the value of those conclusions). For whatever reason, I think this general disillusionment with Britain and its people is in some ways the most common driving force behind all of these texts. To what end, however, I am not yet sure.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to create my own post but I think what I wanted to say has something to do with your post.

    I think you've identified some of the sources of the pessimism (guilt, decline of power and so on). But we still don't know why it's so prevalent in their fiction. I think this trend is not unique to Britain, however. You can see it in American fiction as well. I've read a lot of books (I stopped reading quite a few of them) that seem to wallow is self guilt, pity, and the darker side of humanity with no real attempt to relieve the darkness.

    The way many of the books we have read just skim over, or accept horrible things (murders in Malloy, automotive homicide and pedophilia in Crash, growing old in regret in The Waves). The fact that the negativity bother me is odd because any good story needs some conflict. Something has to go wrong otherwise there would be no story. None worth telling any way. I think the issue is that such pessimism is not relieved. I do think the books work wonderfully as instigators of reflection, but they do not seem to offer a lot of hope.

    I guess when powerful nations reach a peak and either decline or stagnate, not much is left but to reflect. As is the case for most powerful nations, there are actions thy took to make it to the top that are less than laudable (this would be the postcolonial feel to the books you mentioned). The texts that deal with society are different. With Crash and Never Let Me Go I think the issue lies in technology without purpose or movements that isolation people.

    I will not say this negativity does not have an important place in literature, but I am wondering why such grim books seem to be all that gets any attention.

    I know I'm not quite getting at what I want. I'll let it stew for a bit and then come back.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.