You are on page 1of 4

Guilt and Glory.

Studies in Margaret Drabble's Novels 1963-80, and: Iris Murdoch's Comic Vision, and: The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels (review)
Jean Pickering

MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 1985, pp. 375-377 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/mfs.0.0170

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by UFMG-Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais at 12/07/12 12:48AM GMT

Susanna Roxman. Guilt and Glory. Studies in Margaret Drabble's Novels 1963-80. Stockholm: Almqvist, 1984. 227 pp. No price given.

Angela Hague. Iris Murdoch's Comic Vision. Cranbury: Susquehanna UP, 1984.
164 pp. $19.50. H. M. Daleski. The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels. New York: Holmes, 1984. 175 pp. $29.50.

Conventional wisdom holds that dissertations rarely succeed as books. Having so many obligationsto demonstrate industry, to review the literature, to keep

the peace amongst factious professorial committeesthey often end up with the
parts malproportioned and the intentions obscure. Roxman's is no exception. The book is divided into three main sections, which are, however, not discrete; "it has not always been possible," Roxman says, "to avoid overlaps."

This apology articulates the source of all her problems, the preference for
inclusiveness rather than focus. Any of the sections could have been developed

into a full length work. The first, "Margaret Drabble and the Literary Background," discusses the literary influences on the first six novels, ending with

The Realms of Gold. The section also seems to fulfill some kind of requirement
to review the literature, for it includes references to most of the Drabble criticism to date. It describes the literary sources of plots, images, and allusions, without

ever addressing the larger questions: why, for instance, did Drabble take the plot of The Waterfall from The Mill on the Floss? What does this insight add to our understnding of the writer? of the novel?
The second section, "Moral and Other Philosophical Problems in Margaret

Drabble's Fiction," is subdivided into two parts, the first, "Fate, Chance,
Retribution, and the Problem of Privilege," including all Drabble's novels. The second subsection, "Deontological morality vs. utilitarianism in The Needle's Eye," comes at the named novel from another angle. Roxman comes to no conclusions about the precise nature of any of these concepts and their relations with each other. "Privilege" in particular seems to be exceptionally inclusive, finally coming to mean all those differences either social or genetic that confer a survival advantage.

The third section, "Imagery in Three Novels by Margaret Drabble," discusses 7"Ae Waterfall, The Middle Ground, and The Realms of Gold. In many ways
the most original, it is also the most disjointed, consisting of short, numbered discussions of individual passages. Apart from a disconcerting tendency to label images in the terminology of classical rhetoric, Roxman does a good job here. Her discussions of the sewer and pollution images in The Middle Ground are

especially noteworthy, although they would have been more useful if they had included some general statement justifying the selection of these particular passages.

Roxman's ability to analyze individual passages is far greater than her ability to unify her perceptions into an overall reading of Drabble's work. Nonetheless, if the reader can struggle through the redundancy and lack of focus to the genuine insights, Guilt and Glory might still be an asset to those with a
scholarly interest in Drabble.

A similar problem with focus undermines Angela Hague's book. In contrast to theoreticians of tragedy, which is more clearly defined, theoreticians of comedy have always had some difficulty in coming to grips with their topic. Hague fails

to negotiate the traditional dilemma; unable to decide whether the essence of

comedy is an attitude or a structure, she discusses both alternatives without

trying to establish the relationship between them. Although acknowledging the problem of defining the comic, she then evades it by summarizing the ideas of
the most influential comic theorists from Freud to Frye. This lengthy Introduction adds nothing to the literature of comic theory and has little bearing on the ensuing discussion of Murdoch's work. The second section, "Iris Murdoch's Comic Vision: Theory and Practice," deals in a similar way with critical commentary on Murdoch as a comic writer and with Murdoch's own "opinions about comedy." Although Hague's method is inclusive and descriptive, this discussion presents an essentially accurate estimate of Murdoch's thought: "deeply committed to comedy as the most ap-

propriate and realistic form for the novel, she has increasingly allowed the comic
mode to dominate the work of the past decade." The book concludes with three essays on individual novels and here Hague comes into her own. Her analyses of An Accidental Man, The Black Prince, and The Sea, The Sea justify the book. In each case, her discussion relies heavily on Northrop Frye's theory of modes and thus deals with comedy more as a matter

of structure than of attitude. This proves to be an appropriate way of focusing

on these difficult, ironic, intellectual novels, validating Hagues's contention that Murdoch's "fictive universe has increasingly mirrored her conviction that the comic mode is the most appropriate vehicle for the novel."

H. M. Daleski's study deals with a tragic subdivision of the main tradition

of the English novel, which generally involves a conflict over love, perhaps a

love triangle. Typically comic, it moves toward a resolution of the conflict, usually a marriage, which symbolizes some kind of selfhood. The conflict described in this book, however, permits of no such resolution because the two

suitors represent the heroine's irreconcilable desires. Either she longs for one
while bound to the other or, caught between the two, is unable to choose either.

She disintegrates either into madness or death, the latter often with suicidal
overtones. Daleski differentiates from the pattern under discussion novels such

as Mansfield Park, where Fanny is safe from disintegration because the opposition
between her suitors does not reflect an inner conflict in Fanny. He also excludes

novels such as Jane Eyre, where, although Rochester and St. John Rivers do reflect her own conflict, Jane manages to make a decisive choice between them.
Daleski observes that this duality is endemic to Western civilization. It appears in Plato's Phaedrus as the charioteer pulled in different directions by the dark horse and the white horse. St. Paul, he goes on to say, "stamped a

particular mode of dual being on the Christian consciousness," which refused

to admit the possibility of reconciling the flesh and the spirit. The hundred

years between Wuthering Heights and The End of the Affair were a period when, in spite of the waning influence of Pauline Christianity, the opposition between
the flesh and the spirit remained a serious conflict. The novels in Daleski's study

do not all posit the conflict in exactly these terms, but all are powered by it
on some level, especially in the assumption that the conflicting forces can never
be reconciled.

In Wuthering Heights, the conflict is between storm and calm. Cathy, drawn to both Heathcliff and Edgar, swings from one to the other and back again.

When open violence breaks out between the two men, Cathy has to face the
irreconcilability of her desires. She falls into a delirium, ultimately dying in childbirth. The conflict continues after her death, ending only with the marriage of her daughter and Hareton. In The Mill on the Floss, Maggie's conflict is between the intellect and animal vitality, embodied by Philip and Stephen respectively. Resolving to be without either, she is overwhelmed by a suicidal despair, and when she dies in the flood, she is still a victim of "irreparable self-division." In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the conflict assumes the traditional

Pauline terms of the flesh, typified by Alec, and the spirit, typified by Angel. Daleski points out that the men, rather than being static embodiments of these
forces, each has his own conflict of flesh and spirit. Tess "negates the spirit

in relation to Alec and then the flesh in relation to Angel," her tragedy thus
lying not in her destruction by the two men but in her inability to reconcile the opposing claims within herself. This conflict is similar to that posited by Lawrence in The White Peacock,

although Lawrence uses the terms "mental consciousness" and "blood consciousness" for the spiritual and the sensual. In Mrs. Dalloway, the opposing forces are isolation and communication. Of all the heroines studied by Daleski, only Clarissa Dalloway manages her conflict effectively, the breakdown and suicide "implicit in her condition having been worked through at second hand, as it were, in the presentation of Septimus." In The End of the Affair, the Pauline dichotomy between body and spirit is closely allied to a conflict between skepticism and belief. Here are two love triangles, the one composed of Sarah, her lover, and her husband, giving way to that of Sarah, her lover, and God. Seeing

Bendrix prostrate after an air raid, Sarah vows to give him up and to believe
in God if He will bring him back to life; however, she cannot rid herself of the

idea that Bendrix might have been only knocked unconscious by the bomb. Unable
to resolve her conflict, she dies of an untended cold.

Daleski's argument is well worked out and his analysis of the chosen novels illuminating. His book is a valuable addition to the theory of the English novel. JEAN PICKERING California State University, Fresno

Hugh Kenner. A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers. New York: Penguin, 1984.
367 pp. pb. $8.95.

James F. Kilroy, ed. 7'Ae Irish Short Story: A Critical History. Boston: Twayne,
1984. 251 pp. $17.95.

"A Colder Eye" is an expression of Yeatsian origin, and it does not signify
what the casual reader might think. As Kenner notes, the connotation of the English word "cold" in the sense of disinterested, or the antonym of passionate, is not what Yeats forced it to mean in his language. There it means concentrated,