Facultatea de Ştiinţe Umaniste Studii universitare de masterat Domeniu: Limba si literatura romana/Limba si literatura engleza -perspective teoretice si didactice(ZI) Anul II



One day in July 1943. incest. They are careful to meet at times when . and they live in a cottage by the River Leem. before flashing back to a time in 1942 when Tom and Mary. and Tom's girlfriend Mary insists Freddie was killed by Dick. which takes place mainly in two time frames: the present. He is a man who is keenly interested in ideas about the nature and purpose of history. Crick abandons the history syllabus he is supposed to teach. discusses Tom's dismissal with Tom. deciding to tell his class stories of the fens instead. suicide. also suggests the fluidity of the interaction between past and present Tom's tale of the fens is sometimes lurid. It includes a family history going back to the eighteenth century and such lurid topics as murder. he scraps the traditional history curriculum and tells them stories of the fens instead. floats down the river. the history of the River Ouse. Faced with a class of bored and rebellious students. which frequently moves back and forth in time. finds a telltale beer bottle in the rushes. going back to Jacob Crick. His father is a lock-keeper. the history of land reclamation. the drowned body of a local boy.WATERLAND GRAHAM SWIFT British novelist Graham Swift's Waterland (London. who operated a windmill in the fens in the eighteenth century. 1983. The other reason he is leaving is because of a scandal involving his wife. No more details are given. It is narrated by Tom Crick. the narrative returns to 1943 and the discovery of the drowned body. The structure of the novel. He also describes his ancestors. Plot Summary Waterland begins with the narrator Tom Crick describing his childhood growing up in the low-lying fens area of eastern England. originally farmers from Norfolk. 1984) is a complex tale set in eastern England's low-lying fens region. a middle-aged history teacher. who apparently has stolen a baby. and madness. New York. Tom. The narrator then embarks on one of his many explorations of the nature of history. At once a philosophical meditation on the meaning of history and a gothic family saga. After a scene in which the headmaster of the school. both fifteen years old. The story flashes forward to the present. and the year 1943. Tom is facing a personal crisis. when Tom Crick is fifteen years old. abortion. since he is about to be laid off from his job and his wife has been admitted to a mental hospital. first begin to explore each other sexually. Tom's mentally retarded brother. Lewis Scott. The traumatic events of his adolescence reach forward in time to influence the present. Freddie Parr. His mother's ancestors were the Atkinsons. and the nature of phlegm. These events are set against a background of some of the great events in history. These stories form the substance of the novel. Tom notices a bruise on the body. such as World War I and World War II. The novel also includes digressions on such off-beat topics as the sex life of the eel. He describes the history of the fens and the persistent efforts over the centuries to drain the land. is leaving his job because the school is eliminating the history department. Waterland is a tightly interwoven novel that entertains as it provokes. having spent thirty-two years as a history teacher.

the height of respectability and power. the same year that a great flood causes devastation throughout the area. and their friends. and Tom is unsure whether the baby is his or Dick's. and Freddie's death is ruled an accident. One of the most significant events occurs in 1820. Returning to the history of the Atkinsons. at the age of fifty-two. Tom notices that his wife is becoming secretive. which includes a boy named Price. when Thomas Atkinson strikes his wife Sarah in a fit of unreasonable jealousy. Then she announces. In the celebrations for the coronation of George V. After the death of Freddie. The narrative returns to 1940 and the exploratory sexual games played by Tom. the whole town seems to become intoxicated. who perfected a special kind of ale and lived in seclusion after a failed bid to win a parliamentary seat. where he becomes a history teacher. unable to deal with his grief. Tom joins the army in 1945 and is stationed in Europe. Freddie's father. the narrative returns to 1911 and Atkinson's remarkable brew. In the present day. But there is a fire at the New Atkinson Brewery. Mary goes into seclusion at her father's house for three years. Dick secretly returns the bottle to a mysterious locked chest in the attic. He wants to see what Dick will do. The Atkinsons continue to prosper as the leading local family. Dick wins an underwater swimming contest. Tom puts the beer bottle he suspects was used by Dick to strike Freddie in Dick's room. She has also become very religious. hidden in the chest in . discussing the French Revolution. and lives with her as husband and wife. and then back again to describe the life of Tom's father. Tom describes the life of his grandfather. God has told her so. The child. Earnest Atkinson wants a child by Helen. As the story reaches the present. including Freddie. Tom describes how Earnest Atkinson becomes a recluse. Tom attempts a debate with Lewis Scott over the usefulness of history as a subject of instruction. a World War I veteran who married the nurse who brought him back to health. Dick. It appears she never had her baby. They move to London. as narrator. and it burns to the ground. which prompts Tom. In 1943. Earnest Richard Atkinson.they will not be discovered either by Freddie or Dick. as Tom relates the history of the Atkinson family and how they built their fortune through land-reclamation projects and a brewery business. it transpires that Mary is pregnant. For several decades they live a comfortable middle-class life. She loses her mind as a result of the attack but lives another fifty-four years to become something of a local legend. They cannot agree on an answer. to devote a chapter to the riddle of the birth and sex life of an eel. He debates the issues with his class. attempts suicide but fails. Helen becomes a nurse and wants to marry a wounded soldier. Freddie puts an eel in Mary's panties. who questions everything Tom says. that she is going to have a baby. Earnest leaves a letter for Dick. and there is sexual tension between him and Mary. falls in love with his daughter Helen. Mary. After another round of present-day disputation with Price. and she agrees to his request on the condition that she can raise the child as if it is Henry's. thanks to the intervention of his wife. Tom then launches another inquiry into the nature of history ("De la Révolution"). Arthur Atkinson is elected to Parliament in 1874. turns out to be mentally retarded. Henry Crick (Tom's father). the narrative returns briefly to the present. The narrative then returns to the distant past. The story line goes back to 1943. After a digression about the attempts of man to divert the course of the River Ouse in the fens. In 1947 he returns home and he and Mary marry.

Back in the present. there is no achievement without loss: "It [history] goes in two directions at once. "As long as there's a story. even when it appears to be. Tom speculates that the feeling that everything in life really amounts to nothing haunted Tom's father in the World War I battlefield at Ypres. for example. and this is why all humans have the instincts of storytellers. it also haunted his grandfather. Earnest shoots himself. it lies in wait. to be opened on Dick's eighteenth birthday. The letter explains that Earnest is Dick's real father. He prefers instead a cyclical view of history that denies the idea of progress. After leaving the letter. it's all right. It is a way of making the emptiness seem full. in the view of Tom Crick. The . the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War) is true also of personal life. but the view he presents is not a comforting one. The invention of the printing press. Each step forward is followed by a step backward. In spite of his skepticism about traditional approaches to history. ready to tell its tale to anyone who would ask the relevant questions." behind which lies "the empty space of reality. at least in Tom's view. because it imposes an intelligible story on bare existence. This has been prompted by the imminent loss of his job and his wife's insanity." In Tom's view of life. Whether the story is true or not is less important than the fact that it exists. But it is no less essential for its insubstantiality. Earnest Atkinson. It loops. All in all. the essential meaninglessness of life.the attic." says Tom. the past always fluidly interacts with the present. Tom does not know whether the conditions of human life are any better now than they were the year zero." Similarly. The reason he tells his class about the history of the fens is because he desperately needs to come to terms with his own present unhappiness. In personal and in societal life. But Tom does not abandon the study of history or the search for explanations. is an attempt to fight off the nothingness of existence. ready to cast its pall over the present. It is never buried. The idea of "nothing" continually recurs in the novel. Themes The Nature of History Tom Crick is obsessed with exploring the meaning and value of history. The whole of civilization that looks so solid and immutable is in fact only a veil held across the face of nothing. It goes backwards as it goes forwards. Everything Tom says of the global history that forms the background of the novel (the French Revolution. It is essential. It is a way of driving out fear. he regards the day-to-day details of his marriage to Mary as mere "stage-props. the two world wars. children will grow up to be just like their parents. and it easily collapses. he knows he cannot understand his present situation except by delving into the past. led not only to the dissemination of knowledge. Tom takes his argumentative pupil Price to a pub for a drink. as is all of history. whether they are professional historians or spinners of fairy tales. History. and in that sense there can be no such thing as progress. For example. but also the dissemination of propaganda and strife. It takes detours. which was why Earnest started drinking. He rejects the naïve notion that we study history in order to learn from our mistakes and improve the present. His brother Dick threw the bottle away. It resurfaced. but it did not vanish. where they discuss history and teaching. This point is conveyed by Tom's 1943 discovery of the beer bottle in the river. every benefit that has ever been granted to human society has been accompanied by a corresponding regression.

in Tom's view. and human nature. history cannot be escaped. which he sees as negative. to the baby who fiftytwo-year-old Mary has just snatched from a supermarket. After a brief digression comes the sentence. "history is a yarn." Be that as it may. in his essay. Analysis of Chapter Fourteen The title of the chapter “De la Revolution”. "We take the baby to the car. the most dramatic moment that shows the past intersecting with the present comes almost immediately after the grim account of the abortion Mary had as a teenager.” Crick explains how printing presses led to propaganda. Asking questions is essential for the study of history. All the major characters in the text are in some way corrupted by civilization’s touch. definitive truth of an event that lies in the past. since the botched abortion prevented her from ever having children of her own.river in this example symbolizes the stream of the past and perhaps also the personal unconscious mind. In the family saga of the Cricks and the Atkinsons there are plenty of alternative explanations bandied around regarding the interpretation of key events. However. This incident in itself seems to explain the necessity of history. He considered humans living in a natural environment. self-sufficient and good. He refers to the splitting of the atom: “And as for the splitting of the atom—” (The text in this phrase is in its own paragraph. and social interdependence. Rousseau considered a division between society. He argues that it is not natural for humans to live in society. like the land reclamation in the text.136) and airplanes to the destruction of European cities. In the novel. The power of the Atkinsons and Tom Crick’s lack of it is symbolic of the inequalities of society first exposed by Rousseau. which he considered destructive of humanity. related to innate curiosity. no one can know with certainty the absolute. steam engines to “ten year olds working sixteen hours a day in coal mines” (Swift 1983 p. since there is no other way of understanding Mary's bizarre action except in terms of what happened to her as a teenager.137). French for revolution refers to the French Revolution which is linked to the age of enlightenment and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who considers the nature of man and his environment in the eighteenth century. and it also happens to be. the question "Why?" that reverberates throughout the novel can never be finally answered. not the baby who was aborted nearly forty years earlier. This is referenced in chapter fourteen when Crick is telling the reader in the form of a lesson. more wonders and grounds for astonishment than I started with. whether moral or technological. free from the trappings and rules of civilization as independent. that “So-called forward movements of civilization. one of the most fundamental human traits. having just read of the disposal of an aborted fetus. whether personal or societal. The text refers to it as “Rousseau’s cry of back to nature” (Swift 1983 p. is unsure what is happening. He considers human nature fundamentally good but corrupted by society." He concludes. Discourse on the Arts and Sciences written in 1750." For a brief moment the reader. just as there are always conflicting versions of history. an encapsulation . have invariably brought with them an accompanying regression. Tom confesses that his investigation into the history of the fens yielded only "more mysteries. Then it becomes clear that the narrative has returned to the present. is symbolized by Mary’s abortion. For Rousseau society is artificial. more fantasticalities.

literature and language. silt that “potato-heads”. This exploration of the narrative structure and consideration of the nature of the world outside the text as potentially fictional or misrepresented is typical of metafiction as defined. land reclamation. content. “And” beginning a sentence is generally considered bad grammar. written in a postmodern style. demonstrating the nature of history to distort the past. It describes history as an “Impedimenta” an “ever-frustrating weight” furthermore that it “…accumulates. it switches points of view and from addressing the reader to the scene in the class. and does throughout the text as a whole. He refers to it as Natural History that seeks to take humanity back to “where we were” a reference to . about eels. The theme of the text as a lesson continues in lessons. The metaficional lesson of this chapter and the text as a whole concens the negative impact of progress. This is what Waterland does in this chapter and is what Crick is teaching us. is constant throughout the text and present in this chapter. This phrase shows the metafictional nature of the text. The French Revolution is a symbol of attempts by society to retreat back into history and the destructive consequences of that. Crick teaches his readers and pupils. Deviations from accepted rules of textual structure are typical of postmodern metafiction questioning established norms.3) environment or grand narrative and then reshapes it in terms of contemporary thought in fields of philosophy. the consequences “become more violent and drastic” the more dredging is done: Dick dies on the dredger.especially unexpected uses of grammar and punctuation – which draw attention to the metafictional voice of the text. the Ouse and silt. causing causes recursion or changes in direction. elsewhere in the text. inevitably returns to change the course of progress or the river. dredge up but becomes harder and harder to bring to the surface as it becomes ever larger and unmanageable. This leads the reader to the logical conclusion that worlds and environments formed entirely from words are legitimate models for the examination of reality as a construct. It helps in understanding that issues are explored in the text by using “the metaphor of the book as world” (Waugh 1984 p. The title of the chapter refers to revolution.136) this is also a description of silt. self-consciously narrating history as a series of stories. like history and progress. It aids our understanding of the impication implied in postmodern metafiction like Waterland that says people have roles rather than self will and the consequences of other’s actions are a predominant feature of their lives (Rousseau refers to self will as self-sufficiency). addresses both readers and students in the class. style and grammatical devices . like history. It is written in the form of a lesson. no more reliable than the text that is speaking to the reader. This definition assists in understanding Chapter fourteen. because it gets always heavier…” (Swift 1983 p. is that a revolution involves going backwards in history to something better that exists. Patricia Waugh defines metafiction as: “fictional writing that draws attention to itself as an artefact” Metafiction self-consciously and regularly draws attention to itself as a book in order to examine the interface and dynamic between fiction and reality. in terms of structure. showing it to Modernists at least as a golden age: leading to a natural desire to revert to it. for post modern texts only in stories. like Dick. The message that the historical metaphor silt. which also means circular and recursive. Linda Hutcheon calls it “historiographic metafiction”. This is how Crick explains the “periodic convulsions” of history. the lesson about history. supported by referring to the French Revolution. dredging. Dick is the metaphorical hapless historian. but it is a device used throughout the text.of the grammatical and punctuation devices used throughout the text. The River Ouse is recursive potentially able to spread causing destruction unless contained by humans.

” Price is mocking of the post modern approach to Crick taught in the lesson. usually religious. The Age of Enlightenment advanced ideas that reason and logic are able to establish an objective understanding of the universe. Price is questioning the relevance or use of history. Dick’s father is a symbol of the futility of progress as he oversees the decline in his family fortunes and the beginning of the demise of the lock. Postmodernist point of view Modernist writers have a mournful view of history as fragmenting and mourn its passing and do not question the validity of history and progress. The voice of the chapter and the text is male. The chapter. imagined past. history and its relevance is considered from a male perspective. The text tells us that Dick is the product of a powerful. like Rousseau. Crick explains the pliable nature of history and its unreliability. Crick considers the meaning of “the people” by completely ignoring the girl’s opinion. quotes of which are usually edited. emphasizes that history is for men. theories. This girl in the book is portrayed then as an untrustworthy commentator. perverted and controlling man – a symbol of the corrupting nature of society. perception and reality as chaotic. What we wish upon the future is very often the image of some lost. When the text begins to be more specific and consider the French Revolution the narrative voice becomes first person. control of the Fens. Crick considers the French revolution in some detail. But – I want a future. ultimately arriving at Tom Crick. that history is male and both men and women suffered because of progress. This is a metafictional device used by the text to consider post modernist theories of history and the importance of grand narratives. her mother’s and grandmother’s suffering. it is implicit from this that history itself is a male construct. Modernist literature considers that there is an overall purpose to human existence and views history and the loss of old values as a critical.Rousseau’s view that humans are happiest living naturally. the narrative is extremely self conscious at this point and addressed directly to the reader as a pupil. symbolic of the distain with which historical grand narratives consider female opinion and experience. These shifts reflect the river. he argues that to want a future does not equate to a yearning for paradise lost:“Never said anything about paradise. argued scientific thinking could examine all human activity and question everything – religion and authority especially. now teaching in the classroom. up to this point is delivered in third person limited to the perception of Crick.”Price completely . the narrator. as Crick. The lesson directed at Price. and Price. is underlined by the fate of the female characters in the text: Mary losing a child. the more you lose hold of them – the more they seem to have occurred largely in people’s imagination…” The theme. Prior to The Age of Enlightenment it was forbidden to challenge dogmatic. Crick says “Price…the more you try to dissect events. At the end of this passage is another long dash which then leads into a first person narrative that utilizes mainly dialogue between Crick. and is addressing the reader. The text obliquely criticises this view: “History is the record of decline. Enlightenment philosophers. A phrase used in the media to describe the opinions of “the man on the street”. the Ouse and Silt. The main characters in the French revolution were male.). The lone female voice in this chapter is that of Judy Dobson who is described as a “perky answerer” (she says “the voice of the people is the voice of God”(p. The major premise of Post Modern metafiction is skepticism at the representation of history in grand narratives. becoming infertile and then being committed.

like water. and that one can never fully know what the past is because it is a collection of stories surrounding events. a vast expanse of history that will swallow this story with all the others. “Simplifying to the extreme. as recorded in grand narratives. Crick is an example of it when narration changes from first to third person. an Armageddon? And why is it that every time the time before has taught us nothing?” (Swift 1983 p. ironically referring to Rousseau’s Golden Age. This chapter highlights the mythological and potentially fictional nature of the past as a golden age.141)Post modernism accepts natural chaos and disorder as inevitable symbolized in the text by the bloodbath that is Mary’s abortion and in this chapter by referring to the Reign of Terror orchestrated by Robespierre. into the Ouse. in the post-modern tradition. emphasising the unending.misunderstands Crick’s critique of Modernism. a holocaust. showing an event from multiple perspectives as subjective and fragmentary and so history as fragmented and presenting this as a loss. utilising the device of metafictional narration. explains the grand narrative. Grand Narratives refer to the Koran and Bible. Then says the French Revolution resulted in Napoleon. it questions the reliability of history. like the text. The chapter concludes as the narrator. for example William Faulkners As I Lay Dying. Changes in China consequent to Mao’s death and the Polish shipyard strikes were the first signs of these changes that were contemporary to Waterland. Chapter fourteen demonstrates that progress is inevitably damaging:“Why is it that every so often history demands a bloodbath. in first person poses a series of questions. (Lytotard. Stories are the original historical narratives. The chapter and text argues and demonstrates that preoccupation with the past can be damaging. Modernists utilize narratives with multiple narrators. 1984) Post Modernism rejects the mourning of a lost past. This failure to end the chapter occurs in the whole text as there is no final resolution to narrative . I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives”. The end of the chapter leads straight into a chapter about the Ouse. but all consuming power of an unreliable history to shape the future. Linda Hutcheon explains that Post Modernism is “not so much a concept as a problematic: a complex of heterogeneous but interrelated questions which will not be silenced by any spuriously unitary answer” (Hutcheon 2002) Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. establishing social norms of behavior to protect existing power structures. History once consisted of them leanding credibility to “facts” recorded. The collapse of communism in Russia and the secular nature of the United Kingdom are examples of rejection. The circularity of history is once again explained by Crick who ends by running straight into the next chapter. The idea that grand narratives can organize humanity socially is discredited in this text and reality. In his view these books confer credibility to the opinions and rules expressed. Post Modernism celebrates this fragmentation.

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