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Absent-centred structure in five modern novels : Henry James’s The Princess Casamassima, Joseph Conrad’s… MacLaine, Donald Brenton 1982

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ABSENT-CENTRED STRUCTURE IN FIVE MODERN NOVELS: HENRY JAMES'S THE PRINCESS CASAMASSIMA, JOSEPH CONRAD'S THE SECRET AGENT, ANDREI BELY'S PETERSBURG, JOSEPH HELLER'S CATCH-22, AND THOMAS PYNCHON'S GRAVITY'S RAINBOW  by  DONALD BRENTON MACLAINE B.Ed., The U n i v e r s i t y o f P r i n c e Edward I s l a n d , 1973 M.A., The U n i v e r s i t y o f E a s t A n g l i a , 1975 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department o f E n g l i s h  We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to t h e r e q u i r e d  standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November 1982  Q  Donald B r e n t o n MacLaine, 1982  In p r e s e n t i n g  t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of  requirements f o r an advanced degree a t the  the  University  of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make it  f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r reference  and  study.  I further  agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e copying of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may  be granted by  department or by h i s or her  the head o f  representatives.  my  It i s  understood t h a t copying or p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l gain  s h a l l not be  allowed without my  permission.  Department of The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada V6T  )E-6  (3/81)  1Y3  Columbia  written  ii  ABSTRACT  Though t h e n o t i o n of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d s t r u c t u r e enjoys a fashionableness  current  i n a number of contemporary t h e o r e t i c a l d i s c u s s i o n s ,  the  v a r i e t y of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , some of them i m p l i c i t l y c o n t r a d i c t o r y , and  most  of them e x c e s s i v e l y a b s t r a c t , p r e v e n t s " a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n e s s " from b e i n g  the  u s e f u l c r i t i c a l c a t e g o r y i t might be. i n my  I n t r o d u c t i o n , and  By s u r v e y i n g  by d e s c r i b i n g the t e x t u a l r e a l i z a t i o n s of a b s e n t -  c e n t r e d n e s s i n a number of modern n o v e l s , my  t h e s i s a t t e m p t s to d e f i n e  term as a s p e c i a l s t r a t e g y of n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e . f i a b l e by such f o r m a l t i o n , and n e g a t i o n ;  the h i s t o r y of the term  the  That s t r a t e g y i s i d e n t i -  d e v i c e s as i n d i r e c t n a r r a t i o n , a n t i - c l i m a x , c a n c e l l a -  and  by s t r u c t u r i n g images of s p a t i a l and  t o r t i o n , e s p e c i a l l y t h e a n a r c h i s t e x p l o s i o n and  temporal d i s -  the urban l a b y r i n t h .  i n t r o d u c t o r y d i s c u s s i o n of works which might or might not be  The  considered  a b s e n t - c e n t r e d f i c t i o n demarcates the c a t e g o r y more c l e a r l y , though my of n o v e l s f o r more d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n i s exemplary r a t h e r than My d i s c u s s i o n b e g i n s w i t h Henry James's The P r i n c e s s  exhaustive.  Casamassima  (Chapter I I ) because, i n i t s use of a n a r c h i s m , the D i c k e n s i a n c i t y , and a n t i - c l i m a x , t h a t n o v e l r e p r e s e n t s ,  choice  labyrinthine  a l b e i t u n c e r t a i n l y , the  late-  V i c t o r i a n b e g i n n i n g s of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d s t r u c t u r e w h i c h James's l i t e r a r y descendents shape more c o n s i s t e n t l y .  Hence, Joseph Conrad's The  Secret  Agent (Chapter I I I ) i s governed, p a r a d o x i c a l l y , by a prominent absence, unseen and  i n d i r e c t l y narrated  the  bomb e x p l o s i o n w h i c h o p e r a t e s as a n a r r a t i v e  iii  mataphor, f o r the temporal and s p a t i a l d i s t o r t i o n s of the text are both the l o g i c a l r e s u l t of the bomb's blast and a means of circumscribing the absent centre. Andrei Bely's Petersburg (Chapter IV) i l l u s t r a t e s best the HighModernist use of the absent centre, though i t r e l i e s on the same devices of anarchist plot and f o i l e d explosion which Conrad exploits.  And while Bely's  Symbolism has a p a r t i c u l a r Russian coloration, i t co-opts, l i k e  Conrad's,  the same fragmentary features of the bomb-threatened c i t y as images for narrative structure.  And whereas Conrad shows us that absent-centredness i s  an apt description of the moral vacancy which he sees as c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the early twentieth-century West, Bely shows us that i t i s also an apt des c r i p t i o n of h i s mystical and metaphysical view of the early twentieth-century East. Like Petersburg,whose  narrative i s fragmented more l i t e r a l l y than The  Secret Agent's, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (Chapter V) exploits the chronologi c a l and s p a t i a l disruptions which r e s u l t from explosion. Fragmentation i n t h i s work i s mimetic of Yossarian's consciousness which, shattered by the r e a l i z a t i o n of Snowden's "exploded" secret, prefers to, but cannot, forget the horror of h i s comrade's death.  As i n other works of absent-centred f i c t i o n ,  the hero's hyperbolic fear of h i s own death i s transformed into the fear of apocalyptic n u l l i t y .  The m i l i t a r y establishment which prevents Yossarian's  escape from that fear occasions an exploration of the blackly humorous and absurdist nature of a world with no sane centre of control. Most, i f not a l l , of these themes, images, and strategies are gathered together encyclopedically i n the most ambitious of these absent-centred works, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.  Here, the anarchist bomb, metaphor for  iv  absence, finds i t s sophisticated contemporary counterpart  i n the  rocket  which, i n a rainbow arc from "point to no point," transports apocalyptic sence.  Under the shadow of that trajectory moves Slothrop,  whose g r a i l eludes him and who  ab-  a f a i l e d quester  wanders d i r e c t i o n l e s s i n the labyrinthine and  centreless post-war "Zone" u n t i l he disappears from both landscape and  text.  More r e f l e x i v e than e a r l i e r absent-centred works, Gravity's Rainbow makes us aware that Slothrop's  experience in the Zone i s also the reader's,  for l i k e  Slothrop, he searches f o r a centre i n the "zone" of a f i c t i o n too complexly structured and  too exploded to reveal i t s unifying source, which can only  paradoxically, the absent centre  itself.  be,  V  T a b l e of Contents  Page ABSTRACT  ,• ,•  CHAPTER I  A T h e o r e t i c a l and A n a l y t i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n  CHAPTER I I  Henry James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima: Misplaced Middle  CHAPTER I I I  Joseph Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent:  1  The 48  Sudden  Holes i n Time and Space  76  CHAPTER IV  Andrei Bely's Petersburg:  Rapid Expansion  CHAPTER V  Joseph H e l l e r ' s Catch-22:  The S e c r e t o f  CHAPTER V I  Snowden Thomas Pynchon's G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow: S i n g l e Root L o s t  107  140 The 174  CONCLUSION  212  BIBLIOGRAPHY  218  1  CHAPTER I A T h e o r e t i c a l and A n a l y t i c a l I n t r o d u c t i o n  1  By " a b s e n t - c e n t r e d  s t r u c t u r e " I mean a n o v e l i s t i c s t r u c t u r e w h i c h has  a t i t s c e n t r e a more o r l e s s c o n s c i o u s l y c o n s t r u c t e d absence t h a t governs the e n t i r e n a r r a t i v e .  T h i s phenomenon, I attempt  to show i n t h i s s t u d y ,  can  be a n a l y z e d i n c o n s i d e r a b l e d e t a i l by d e s c r i b i n g t h e p a r t i c u l a r n a r r a t i v e d e v i c e s , p l o y s and  s t r a t e g i e s of each a u t h o r .  Some of t h e s e d e v i c e s a r e  s p a t i a l s t r u c t u r i n g images, such as t h e a n a r c h i s t e x p l o s i o n and t h e urban l a b y r i n t h ; o t h e r s a r e temporal f r a g m e n t a t i o n s , such as d i s r u p t e d c h r o n o l o g y , i n d i r e c t p o i n t of v i e w , c a n c e l l a t i o n , n e g a t i o n and r e p e t i t i o n . absent-centred  Though  s t r u c t u r e i s perhaps most e a s i l y i d e n t i f i e d i n Joseph Conrad's  The S e c r e t Agent and t h e l a t e r works w h i c h I d i s c u s s ( A n d r e i B e l y ' s P e t e r s b u r g , Joseph H e l l e r ' s Catch-22 and Thomas Pynchon's G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow), my study b e g i n s w i t h Henry James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima because, t o g e t h e r w i t h much of D i c k e n s , i t i l l u s t r a t e s t h e V i c t o r i a n r o o t s of t h i s n a r r a t i v e phenomenon.  The t a s k i s n e c e s s a r i l y i n c o m p l e t e .  Which works belong  to and  which  works a r e e x c l u d e d from the c a t e g o r y of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e c o u l d expand i n t o a k i n d of e n c y c l o p e d i c p a r l o u r game.  To a v o i d such a game, I  have, i n t h e l a t t e r h a l f of t h i s i n t r o d u c t i o n , d i s c u s s e d some of t e x t s w h i c h more o b v i o u s l y than most i n v i t e themselves The r e s u l t i s t h a t I have d e l i n e a t e d a " s e t " — e x e m p l a r y  those  i n t o the p a r l o u r . I would  claim—but  2  nevertheless fiction.  a limited  The n o v e l s  tive  strategies;  Part  of  the  of  of  between  set  and  in  share  thesis  works,  each absent-centred Some o f  within  temporal  my  these  set  to  do w i t h  Russian  persuasion,  The t a s k ence.  cultural  images  is  further  As a r e s u l t ,  introduction  critical  colours  of  often  that  outline provide  context  Modernism. Henry  fashion,  of  the  theory  such p o s i t i o n s and  discuss  operate  theoretical of  define with  on  lamp  posts  of  which  a wide  term  "absent  centre"  since  useful the  to  absent  clearly  the  that look  sheds  the  light  the  color-  and  and  tastes  influence; Others distinctive  such as  way that I on  the  the  in is  will, the  more in  a  certain  d i s c u s s i o n s do  not  centre,  they  historical in  the  texts.  on  sur-  the  narratives than  words,  matter  work By  draw  particular other  cult-  to  Todorov's  five  do  and  regard  to  of  of  and  be a b l e  subject  half  cuts  see,  which  refer-  first  special  Tzvetan  will  of  a number  on p a r t i c u l a r I  frame  enjoys  absent  a s we s h a l l  centre,  term.  term at  in in  philosophical,  directly  centre  chart  philosophical  however,  the  theoretical  to  consequences of  an a b s e n t  descriptions  by  prudent  bears more  more  source  and  Conrad's Modernism.  it  especially,  the  talents  its  d i s c u s s i o n of term,  to  particular  despite  for.while  some i n s t a n c e s ,  the  of  is  the  similarities  B e l y ' s Modernism, to  is  due  the  the  narra-  absenting.  one.  prudent  It  narrative  a rich  borders  circle  fashion.  the  In  James,  veying  the  are  to  of  similar  visible  thought  usage of  explain  according  absent-centred  a highly  complicated  have  to  of  strikingly  highlighting  connections  easily  theories—especially critical  always  I  the  current  ural  connects  of  field  and d e v i c e s  attempts  thereby  fashion;  larger  a number  narrative  these  the  Dickens-James-Conrad-Heller lineage  have  my  this  spatial  each author.  the  in  discussion  differences ation  modern  it  the  create  a  circum-  I  3  s c r i b e s — a s t r a t e g y which echoes a t l e a s t one d e v i c e o f a b s e n t - c e n t r e d narrative. The a n a l y s i s i s n o t i n t e n d e d t o be p r e s c r i p t i v e , f o r t h e phenomenon I d e t a i l i s n o t so much a genre as i t i s a s t r u c t u r i n g t e c h n i q u e (though I b e l i e v e a k i n d of taxonomy of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d s t r u c t u r e might be  undertaken).  Nor i s t h i s phenomenon r e s t r i c t e d t o a p a r t i c u l a r l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n ;  the  v e r y i n t e r n a t i o n a l i s m of my a u t h o r s p o i n t s to t h e c r o s s - c u l t u r a l n a t u r e of absent-centred  structure.  2  I n a t l e a s t two ways, a l l works of f i c t i o n a r e a b s e n t - c e n t r e d .  I f we  assume t h a t a work of f i c t i o n has a t i t s source a w e l l - s p r i n g of a u t h o r i a l i n t e n t i o n , we must a l s o assume t h a t such i n t e n t i o n remains o u t s i d e and sent from t h e t e x t .  Indeed,  i f i t i s not absent, i t i s e i t h e r  ab-  distrusted,  as i n the case of t h e u n r e l i a b l e n a r r a t o r o r , as i n most p r o p a g a n d i s t l i t e r a t u r e , so p a i n f u l l y p r e s e n t t h a t the f i c t i o n remains n a i v e .  This i s  not to say t h a t i n t e n t i o n i s u n r e c o v e r a b l e from the t e x t , m e r e l y t h a t as a l e v e l o f d i s c o u r s e i t remains o t h e r than t h e p r i m a r y f l o w of n a r r a t i v e language,  image, c h a r a c t e r and p l o t .  An author may.,  of c o u r s e , d e c l a r e  h i m s e l f i n a p r e f a c e , which as an i n s t r u m e n t of i n t e n t i o n a l i t y p r e s e n t s s p e c i a l problems,  but even here we may  d i s t i n g u i s h b r o a d l y between the  f i c t i o n a l p r e f a c e o f , f o r example, Defoe's M o l l F l a n d e r s and Hawthorne's The S c a r l e t L e t t e r , and t h e more " t r u t h f u l " p r e f a c e of Henry James.  The  f o r m e r , i f c o n s i d e r e d as p a r t of t h e t e x t , becomes an u n r e l i a b l e b e a r e r of a u t h o r i a l i n t e n t i o n , w h i l e the l a t t e r always remains o u t s i d e t h e t e x t ,  4  though not necessarily a l l that more r e l i a b l e because of i t s external positioning.  At t h i s simplest l e v e l , authorial intention i s a n t i t h e t i c a l  to and hence absented from f i c t i o n because i t represents the didactic and the  prosaic; the language of what one intends i s not of the same order as  the  language of executing that intention.  tined to exclusion from the l i t e r a r y text.  The former, i t seems, i s desYet i n t e n t i o n a l i t y , i n the more  sophisticated sense that means a force intending l i t e r a r y production, may also include the h i s t o r i c a l , s o c i a l , psychological or philosophical f o r c e s — or  to embrace a l l of these, the i d e o l o g i c a l "intention" which can be shown  to be both central yet external and instrumental to the l i n g u i s t i c and formal manoeuvres of the text.  Different from but not unrelated to the absence of authorial and i d e o l o g i c a l intention i s the phenomenological unknown which p u l l s the reader through the space between the two covers of a t e x t — t h a t t a n t a l i z i n g tug across the narrative time between beginnings and endings—even of" the open kind. or  At the simplest l e v e l , t h i s type of absence i s the "what happened"  the "who done i t " which c e n t r a l l y governs a l l narrative.  I t i s cer-  t a i n l y exploited by texts and i t may be (and often i s ) discussed i n texts, but  ultimately i t remains an extra-textual phenomenon.  At a more complex  l e v e l , t h i s c o n t r o l l i n g but absented force becomes a problem for hermeneutics, a problem of the space or "gap" between reader, text and the process of recovery.  The f i r s t class of absence, we can say, i s mediated  by or through the author, while the second i s mediated through the reader.  It i s , more or less, the f i r s t type of absence which interests both Pierre Macherey i n A Theory of L i t e r a r y Production and Terry Eagleton i n  5 C r i t i c i s m and I d e o l o g y .  For Macherey i t i s i m p o r t a n t t o a s k of every work  what i t does n o t say i n a d d i t i o n t o what i t does say, f o r , l i k e an u t t e r ance, what i s s a i d depends p a r t l y on what i s n o t s a i d .  And j u s t a s Freud  r e l e g a t e d t h e unspoken t o a space he c a l l e d t h e u n c o n s c i o u s , Macherey r e l e gates l i t e r a r y production  to a k i n d of unconsciousness of the t e x t .  When  Macherey speaks o f l i t e r a r y d i s c o u r s e , he speaks o f i t as " s e a l e d and i n t e r m i n a b l e , completed o r e n d l e s s l y b e g i n n i n g  a g a i n , d i f f u s e and dense, c o i l e d  about an absent c e n t r e w h i c h i t can n e i t h e r c o n c e a l n o r reveal."''' examines t h i s c e n t r e by l o c a t i n g t h e t e x t ' s " o t h e r n e s s , " c r i t i c i s m ' s conventional and  by c o n c e n t r a t i n g  Macherey  by i g n o r i n g  strategy of describing organic, u n i f i e d s t r u c t u r e s  i n s t e a d on t h e t e x t ' s i d e o l o g i c a l i m p e r f e c t i o n s , i t s  c a r e f u l a v o i d a n c e s and r e s o n a n t b l i n d s p o t s .  ... t h e work e x i s t s above a l l by i t s d e t e r m i n a t e absences, by what i t does n o t s a y , i n i t s r e l a t i o n t o what i t i s n o t . Not t h a t i t can c o n c e a l a n y t h i n g : t h i s meaning i s not b u r i e d i n i t s d e p t h s , masked o r d i s g u i s e d ; i t i s n o t a q u e s t i o n o f h u n t i n g i t down w i t h i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s . I t i s n o t i n t h e work b u t by i t s s i d e : on i t s m a r g i n s , a t t h a t l i m i t where i t ceases t o be what i t c l a i m s t o be because i t has reached back t o t h e v e r y c o n d i t i o n s o f i t s p o s s i b i l i t y (TLP, p. 1 5 4 ) . Thus, i n s e a r c h i n g  f o r t h e c e n t r a l o r i g i n o f t h e t e x t ' s coming i n t o  being,  Macherey sees t h e c r i t i c ' s f u n c t i o n as unmasking t h e l i m i t a t i o n s o f t h e t e x t and n o t as r e v e a l i n g i t s f i c t i o n a l s t r u c t u r e .  "The work d e r i v e s i t s  'form from t h i s i n c o m p l e t e n e s s w h i c h e n a b l e s us t o i d e n t i f y t h e a c t i v e presence of a c o n f l i c t a t i t s borders"  (TLP, p. 155). The d i f f i c u l t y  with  Macherey i s t h a t t h e absences w h i c h he l o c a t e s need n o t be c e n t r a l t o a d e s c r i p t i o n o f the t e x t ' s s t r u c t u r e .  The t e x t ' s coming i n t o b e i n g — i t s  p r o d u c t i o n — i s n o t n e c e s s a r i l y t h e same as i t s performance.  The absences  w h i c h Macherey  i d e n t i f i e s a r e p r i m a r y i n r e g a r d to p r o d u c t i o n  secondary i n r e g a r d to t h e t e x t i t s e l f . Macherey's  strategy  but  only  U l t i m a t e l y , t h e c r i t i c who  i s l e d t o a k i n d o f p o e t i c s of t h e  negative.  I n an attempt to r e s c u e l i t e r a r y t e x t s from such a p o e t i c s , E a g l e t o n , u n l i k e Macherey, r e f u s e s to t h e l i t e r a r y work.  to l e t ideology  adopts  Terry  remain e n t i r e l y e x t e r n a l  E a g l e t o n r e s t o r e s a more dynamic and more complex  r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e m u t u a l l y s h a p i n g f o r c e s of t e x t and  ideology;  ... i t [the r e l a t i o n s h i p ] can o n l y be grasped as a c e a s e l e s s r e c i p r o c a l o p e r a t i o n of t h e t e x t on i d e o l o g y and i d e o l o g y on t e x t , a m u t u a l s t r u c t u r i n g and des t r u c t u r i n g i n which the t e x t c o n s t a n t l y overdetermines i t s own d e t e r m i n a t i o n s . The s t r u c t u r e of t h e t e x t i s the p r o d u c t of t h i s p r o c e s s , n o t t h e r e f l e c t i o n of i t s own i d e o l o g i c a l e n v i r o n s . The ' l o g i c of t h e t e x t ' i s n o t a d i s c o u r s e w h i c h d o u b l e s t h e ' l o g i c of i d e o l o g y ' ; i t i s , r a t h e r , a l o g i c c o n s t r u c t e d ' a t h w a r t ' t h a t more encompassing l o g i c . 2  By a l l o w i n g not,  t h e t e x t ' s s t r u c t u r e a measure of a u t h o r i t y w h i c h Macherey  E a g l e t o n i s a b l e t o l o c a t e t h e absence ±n t h e t e x t as a t o t a l i z i n g  system, whereas f o r Macherey text.  does  t h e absence remains a t t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e  The n o t i o n of an absence i n a t o t a l i z i n g s t r u c t u r e i s , as E a g l e t o n  acknowledges, p a r t l y i n s p i r e d by P e r r y Anderson's essay "Components of t h e National  Culture"  d i f f e r e n t context. characterized  i n w h i c h t h e term "absent c e n t r e "  i s used i n a q u i t e  For Anderson, B r i t a i n a l o n e among European n a t i o n s i s  by a l a c k of a " t o t a l i z i n g c o n c e p t u a l system," t h e symptom of  which i s t h e absence of a c l a s s i c a l s o c i o l o g y  and a n a t u r a l i z e d  The r e s u l t i s t h a t t h e s o c i e t y i s " c h a r a c t e r i z e d  Marxism.  by an absent c e n t r e , "  " t h e whole c o n f i g u r a t i o n of i t s c u l t u r e has been d e t e r m i n e d — a n d  and  dislocated  3 by t h i s v o i d a t i t s c e n t r e . "  When E a g l e t o n b r i n g s  t h i s notion  to bear on  7  Conrad's f i c t i o n , t h e term t a k e s on somewhat g r e a t e r c r i t i c a l  precision,  f o r he f i n d s i n Conrad's a e s t h e t i c a movement and a s t r u c t u r i n g  towards  o r g a n i c u n i t y and t o t a l i t y , but one w h i c h a t t h e same time " c o n t a i n s i t s own n e g a t i o n . "  I d e o l o g i c a l d i s s o n a n c e s emerge i n h i s f i c t i o n n o t , as w i t h D i c k e n s , i n an e x p l o i t a t i o n of open-ended, i n t e r n a l l y d i s c r e p a n t forms, but i n t h e c a l c u l a t i v e o r g a n i s a t i o n of i n t e r l a c i n g p a t t e r n s around a c e n t r a l absence. At the c e n t r e of each of Conrad's works i s . a r e s o n a n t s i l e n c e : t h e unfathomable enigma of K u r t z , J i m and Nostromo, t h e d a r k , b r o o d i n g p a s s i v i t y of James W a i t i n The-Nigger of t h e N a r c i s s u s , t h e s t o l i d o p a c i t y of McWhirr i n Typhoon, t h e e t e r n a l c r y p t i c n e s s of the ' R u s s i a n s o u l ' i n Under Western Eyes, the unseen bomb-explosion and m y s t i c a l s i l e n c e of the i d i o t S t e v i e i n The S e c r e t Agent, H e y s t ' s n o n e x i s t e n t t r e a s u r e i n V i c t o r y . These absences a r e d e t e r m i n a t e — they demarcate the gaps and l i m i t s of the C o n r a d i a n i d e o l o g y , r e p r e s e n t the ' h o l l o w s ' scooped out by a c o l l i s i o n or e x c l u s i o n of meanings ( C I , pp. 137-38).  Thus, the c e n t r a l absence i n each of Conrad's n o v e l s p o i n t s t o the s i g n i f i c a t i o n of what i s e x c l u d e d .  Y e t , when we l o o k c l o s e l y a t E a g l e t o n ' s l i s t  of absences, we can see a s i g n i f i c a n t s h i f t , a s h i f t w h i c h i l l u s t r a t e s the d i f f i c u l t y of d e s c r i b i n g n a r r a t i v e absences w i t h p r e c i s i o n .  The absences i n  H e a r t o f Darkness, Nostromo, The N i g g e r of t h e N a r c i s s u s and Typhoon a r e enigmas o f c h a r a c t e r , a c e n t r a l m y s t e r i o u s n e s s c o n s t r u c t e d i n t o the h e r o . S i m i l a r l y , E a g l e t o n f i n d s t h a t i n The S e c r e t Agent S t e v i e c o n s t i t u t e s a " m y s t i c a l s i l e n c e " and i s thus a n o t h e r a b s e n t i n g enigma, but " t h e unseen bomb e x p l o s i o n " because i t d i f f e r s i n k i n d and degree s t i c k s out p r o m i n e n t l y i n the l i s t ;  i t i s an absence w h i c h concerns n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e r a t h e r  than e n i g m a t i c c h a r a c t e r .  An enigma, however, does not n e c e s s a r i l y con-  s t i t u t e an absence, f o r a l l k i n d s of n a r r a t i v e s have a l l k i n d s of m y s t e r i e s — of c h a r a c t e r , p l o t and s u b j e c t m a t t e r , m y s t e r i e s w h i c h a r e b o t h i n t e n t i o n a l  8  and to a lesser degree accidental.  From the B i b l e to Beckett, from Hamlet  to Robbe-Grillet, mystery, secrecy and enigma, as Frank Kermode has shown in The Genesis of Secrecy, are necessary ingredients i n the author-reader relationship of a l l l i t e r a t u r e of parable. as a "simultaneous  When Kermode speaks of parables  proclamation and concealment,"^ he echoes Macherey's  notion of absences which are both concealed but present, yet, a hermeneutical description of secrecy (or i n Macherey's case, an ideological one) does not necessarily describe narratives which have been i n t e n t i o n a l l y crafted around an absent centre.  While both Macherey and Eagleton share a Marxist search f o r textual absences which w i l l betray a work's o r i g i n , the i d e o l o g i c a l intention which i s absented  from the text, Eagleton's theory, which i s more accommodating  of the text's performance, i s better equipped for a formal analysis of narrative absence, though he warns against any "fresh empiricism of the l i t e r a r y object" (CL, p. 9 9 ) .  In spite of this difference, both theorists  in the end are intent on destroying organicist notions of structure by undermining them with i d e o l o g i c a l  determinateness.  Jacques Derrida i s also intent on destroying organicist notions of structure, but his t a c t i c i s to question the very idea of structure i n the f i r s t place, so that, for him, there i s no longer a " p r i v i l e g e d " centre for structure.  Drawing on Levi-Strauss who  claims that "there i s no unity or  absolute source of the myth," Derrida implies that likewise there can be no unity or absolute source for s t r u c t u r e — e s p e c i a l l y , he claims, modern structure.  The history of the concept of structure, he goes on to say, i s  the history of o r i g i n s , sources, fixed centres and absolute presences.  9  What Derrida sees i s an "event" or a "rupture" of these notions, and while he i s reluctant to pin-point the source or time of such an event, he does, nevertheless, say that i t occurs when the centre becomes not a fixed locus but a function, "a sort of non-locus."  From then on i t was probably necessary to begin to think that there was no center, that the center could not be thought i n the form of a being-present, that the center had no natural locus, that i t was not a fixed locus but a function, a sort of non-locus i n which an i n f i n i t e number of sign-substitutions came into.play. This moment was that i n which language invaded the universal problematic; that i n which, i n the absence of a center or o r i g i n , everything became discourse—provided we can agree on.this word—that i s to say, when everything became a system where the central s i g n i f i e d , the o r i g i n a l or transcendental s i g n i f i e d , i s never absolutely present outside a system of differences.-'  More s p e c i f i c a l l y , he suggests that this phenomenon i s "part of the t o t a l i t y of an era, our own," and c i t e s "the Nietzschean  c r i t i q u e of metaphysics,"  "the Freudian c r i t i q u e of self-presence," and "the Heideggerean destruction of metaphysics ... of the determination of being as presence" as the originators of decentred  structure.  In short—Modernism, f o r Derrida's  c r i t i q u e of structure i s one more way of describing the fragmentation of modernist ideology i n reaction to a locus-centred world-view of the nineteenth century and previously, that moment when, as he says, "European c u l t u r e — a n d , i n consequence, the history of metaphysics and of i t s concepts—had  been dislocated, driven from i t s locus, and forced to stop  considering i t s e l f as the culture of reference" (SSP, p. 251). But unlike Macherey and Eagleton, Derrida refuses to allow any causal r e l a t i o n s h i p here, nor i s he as quick as Eagleton and Macherey to affirm absence f o r fear of simply re-establishing another empiricist locus.  Thus, the structure  10 he d e s c r i b e s i s m e r e l y t h e f u n c t i o n , t h e f r e e - p l a y o f t h e s t r u c t u r e i t s e l f . I t i s n o t something w h i c h g e n e r a t e s t h e s t r u c t u r e , l i k e i d e o l o g y , o r w h i c h e x p l a i n s t h e s t r u c t u r e ; r a t h e r , i t i s something w h i c h ^Ls t h e s t r u c t u r e . " I t i s a r u l e o f t h e game w h i c h does n o t govern t h e game; i t i s t h e r u l e of t h e game w h i c h does n o t dominate t h e game" (SSP, p. 167) .  The problem t h a t D e r r i d a f a c e s a s a r e s u l t o f t h i s s t r a t e g y i s how to speak o f t h e absence; i t i s t h e same problem t h a t Macherey and E a g l e t o n f a c e when t h e y speak p a r a d o x i c a l l y o f t h e absence's concealment and presence.  The n o n - c e n t r e must be d e s c r i b e d and d e f i n e d , but i t must n o t  be a f f i r m e d , because, e s p e c i a l l y f o r D e r r i d a , i t i s u n r e c o v e r a b l e . D e r r i d a remarks t h a t he i s a t t e m p t i n g  to place himself  a t a p o i n t t h a t I do n o t know any l o n g e r where I am g o i n g . And, as t o t h i s l o s s o f t h e c e n t e r , I r e f u s e to approach an i d e a o f t h e " n o n - c e n t r e " w h i c h would no l o n g e r be t h e t r a g e d y o f t h e l o s s o f t h e c e n t e r — t h i s sadness i s c l a s s i c a l . And I don't mean t o say t h a t I thought o f a p p r o a c h i n g an i d e a by which t h i s l o s s o f t h e c e n t e r would be an a f f i r m a t i o n (SSP, p..267).  Y e t , i f absence can n o t be a f f i r m e d , then D e r r i d a ' s r e f u s a l t o a f f i r m absence becomes t h e new l o c u s o f s t r u c t u r e .  Derrida i s arguing f o r a kind  of c r i t i c a l mimesis, f o r a c r i t i c a l language w h i c h p e r m i t s a d i s c u s s i o n o f absence but w h i c h a t the- same t i m e w i l l n o t a f f i r m i t i n t h e language o f empiricism.  B u t l i k e t h e new n o v e l w h i c h a t t e m p t s t o c u t o f f t h e hideous  head o f t r a d i t i o n a l n a r r a t i v e o n l y t o f i n d a n o t h e r one s p r o u t i n g h y d r a l i k e i n i t s p l a c e , so too D e r r i d a ' s language o f f r e e - p l a y , o f n e g a t i o n and e v a s i o n s p r o u t s another s o u r c e f o r s t r u c t u r e .  For a l l the indeterminate-  ness o f , f o r example, R o b b e - G r i l l e t ' s The Voyeur o r J e a l o u s y , a l o c u s governing  such i n d e t e r m i n a t e n e s s  i s s t i l l c l e a r l y v i s i b l e — t h e r e a r e even  11 c o n v e n t i o n a l metaphors f o r such i n d e t e r m i n a t e n e s s  i n t h e t e x t , such a s i n  the opening p a r a g r a p h o f The Voyeur:  I t was as i f no one had heard The w h i s t l e blew a g a i n — a s h r i l l , p r o l o n g e d n o i s e f o l l o w e d by t h r e e s h o r t b l a s t s o f e a r s p l i t t i n g v i o l e n c e : a v i o l e n c e w i t h o u t purpose t h a t remained w i t h o u t e f f e c t . There was no more r e a c t i o n — n o f u r t h e r exclamation—than t h e r e had been a t f i r s t ; n o t one f e a t u r e o f one f a c e had even trembled.6  "A v i o l e n c e w i t h o u t  purpose t h a t remained w i t h o u t  e f f e c t , " i s a very  a c c u r a t e metaphor f o r t h e g i r l ' s d e a t h w h i c h i s about t o be n a r r a t e d . inasmuch as t h e fragmented n a r r a t i v e i s a v i o l e n c e t o c o n v e n t i o n a l  And  literary  s t r u c t u r e , t h e metaphor s u g g e s t s a l o c u s ( a c t u a l l y , a " n o n - l o c u s " ) f o r such fragmentation,  j u s t as " t h e sudden h o l e s i n time and space" o f The S e c r e t  Agent suggest a metaphor f o r i t s n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e .  The d i f f e r e n c e i s  one o f degree, n o t o f k i n d .  W h i l e Macherey and E a g l e t o n  r e j e c t an e m p i r i c i s t d e s c r i p t i o n o f n a r r a -  t i v e absences because they f e a r t h a t i t w i l l compromise t h e i d e o l o g i c a l s o u r c e s o f such a phenomenon, D e r r i d a r e j e c t s a f o r m a l d e s c r i p t i o n o f absence because t o embrace i t would be a c o n t r a d i c t i o n of h i s t h e s i s t h a t t h e r e i s no  source.  T h i s p o s i t i o n i s n o t so much a d e n i a l o f s t r u c t u r a l i s t n o t i o n s o f absence as i t i s a m o d i f i c a t i o n . Beginnings:  I n h i s c r i t i q u e of s t r u c t u r a l i s m ,  I n t e n t i o n and Method, Edward W. S a i d n o t e s t h a t what becomes a  purely metaphysical  l o s s f o r Derrida i s a l o s s rooted  l i n g u i s t i c s f o rthe s t r u c t u r a l i s t s .  i n language and  F r e n c h t h o u g h t , he c l a i m s , i s c h a r a c t e r -  i z e d by " t h e need t o make a b e g i n n i n g , "  a need which i s symptomatic o f t h e  12  l o s s o f a p o i n t o f o r i g i n i n language. When words l o s e t h e power t o r e p r e s e n t t h e i r i n t e r c o n n e c t i o n s — t h a t i s , t h e power t o r e f e r n o t o n l y to o b j e c t s b u t a l s o t o t h e system c o n n e c t i n g obj e c t s t o one another i n a u n i v e r s a l taxonomy o f e x i s t e n c e — t h e n we e n t e r t h e modern p e r i o d . Not o n l y can t h e c e n t e r n o t h o l d , but a l s o t h e network around i t b e g i n s t o l o s e i t s c o h e s i v e power.^  Such a r u p t u r e u l t i m a t e l y goes back t o L e v i - S t r a u s s ' s d e s c r i p t i o n s o f t h e language o f myth, b u t , as i n D e r r i d a , t h e fragmented s t r u c t u r e has most r e l e v a n c e f o r t h e modern e r a .  The r e s u l t f o r t h e s t r u c t u r a l i s t s i s t h e  removal o f any p r i v i l e g e d " O r i g i n " w h i c h "commands, g u a r a n t e e s and p e r p e t u a t e s meaning" ( M M , p. 3 1 5 ) . C i v i l i z e d man has no r e a l a c c e s s t o t h e " z e r o p o i n t " o f a p r i m i t i v e language o f a "pure semantic v a l u e " ; modern man and t h e s t r u c t u r a l i s t i n p a r t i c u l a r i s plagued language w h i c h i s " p i t i l e s s l y r e l a t i o n a l . "  thus,  by thought and  I n o t h e r words, man now l i v e s  i n a c i r c l e w i t h o u t a c e n t e r , i n a maze w i t h o u t a way o u t " (BIM. p. 3 1 6 ) .  S a i d l o c a t e s h e r e , i n one b r e a t h , two o f t h e predominant images w h i c h govern the absent-centred  n a r r a t i v e s w h i c h I have chosen t o d i s c u s s :  image o f c o n c e n t r i c i t y and t h e maze o r l a b y r i n t h .  the  Yet n e i t h e r Said nor  D e r r i d a nor t h e s t r u c t u r a l i s t s i n g e n e r a l ( w i t h t h e n o t a b l e e x c e p t i o n of Tzvetan  Todorov) e x p l o r e t h e t e x t u a l and e s p e c i a l l y t h e n a r r a t i v e conse-  quences o f such s t r u c t u r i n g images.  The t h e o r e t i c a l d i s c o u r s e s on absent  c e n t r e s tend t o s h i f t r a p i d l y from t h e n o t i o n o f a n a r r a t i v e absence t o the l a c k o f an i d e o l o g i c a l c e n t r e ( l i t e r a r y p r o d u c t i o n ) o r t o t h e l a c k o f a l o c u s - c e n t r e d w o r l d v i e w (Modernism) o r , i n a f i n a l a c t o f r e f l e x i v i t y , to t h e l a c k o f a  c e n t r e i n . s t r u c t u r a l i s t thought i t s e l f .  The same s h i f t  holds t r u e f o r the p s y c h o a n a l y t i c o f f s h o o t s of s t r u c t u r a l i s m . I n h i s  13  r e w o r k i n g of F r e u d , f o r example, Lacan r e l e g a t e s t h e u n c o n s c i o u s to a 8 c u r i o u s l y absent space.  I t i s " n e i t h e r p r i m o r d i a l nor  instinctual";  i n s t e a d , t h e u n c o n s c i o u s becomes, l i k e t h e s t r u c t u r a l i s t model based on l i n g u i s t i c s , a g r a m m a t i c a l o p e r a t i o n and a system. for  And j u s t as language  Lacan i s a k i n d of opening i n t o t h e "Other" from t h e c h i l d ' s s t a t e of  " b i o l o g i c a l namelessness," so t h e s e p a r a t i o n from t h e mother r e p r e s e n t s the  i n i t i a t i o n of sexual d e s i r e f o r l o s t p l e n i t u d e .  The s e p a r a t i o n i s f e l t  as a " p r i m a l l a c k " o r a " g a p i n g " and i t i s t h i s e x p e r i e n c e w h i c h i s f e l t as c a s t r a t i o n i n c h i l d r e n .  N e u r o s i s , t h e n , becomes t h e f a i l u r e t o a c c e p t  t h i s c o n d i t i o n , a f a i l u r e to a c c e p t t h a t a t t h e c e n t r e of l i f e i t s e l f i s this "primal lack."  Thus, F r e d r i c Jameson sums up t h e L a c a n i a n v i e w of  c a s t r a t i o n as "a k i n d of z e r o degree o f t h e p s y c h i c — t h a t e s s e n t i a l charged absence around w h i c h t h e e n t i r e m e a n i n g — o r  language—system  necessarily  9  organizes  itself."  Y e t when s t r u c t u r a l i s t s , as S a i d n o t e s , draw on Saussure and L e v i S t r a u s s ( o r Freud) to lament the l a c k of a " t o t a l i z i n g " s e m a n t i c s , a p u r e l y p r i m i t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p between s i g n i f i e r and s i g n i f i e d , they d e s c r i b e s o c i o l o g i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l phenomena but r a r e l y d i s c u s s t h e n a r r a t i v e r e s p o n s e s t o such t h e o r y .  I n f a c t , t h e r e i s a s i g n i f i c a n t r i f t between the  c r i t i c i s m of m o d e r n i s t t e x t s and the r e s p o n s e of c r i t i c a l t h e o r y t o modernism.  About t h e l a t t e r , S a i d s a y s :  "There i s no c e n t e r a v a i l a b l e t o t h e  modern t h i n k e r , no a b s o l u t e s u b j e c t , s i n c e t h e O r i g i n has been c u r t a i n e d off"  (BIM, p. 318).  Y e t , what i s t r u e of t h e modern " t h i n k e r " must c e r - .  t a i n l y be t r u e o f t h e modern n o v e l i s t , though t h e r e has been s c a n t a t t e n t i o n to  the l a c k of t h i s c e n t r e i n modern n a r r a t i v e s .  P a r t of the r e a s o n may  be  14  t h a t c r i t i c a l t h e o r y has o u t s t r i p p e d c r i t i c a l p r a c t i c e ; f o r no sooner do c r i t i c s r e v e a l t h e f r a g m e n t a t i o n and i n d e t e r m i n a n c y o f M o d e r n i s t t e x t s — J o y c e , Woolf and F a u l k n e r a r e t h e t h r e e u s u a l E n g l i s h - l a n g u a g e n o v e l i s t s i n the " f a s t l a n e " of M o d e r n i s m — t h a n  they r e - c o n s t i t u t e and r e - u n i f y t h o s e  t e x t s , u s u a l l y around t h e p o t e n t l y p r e s e n t c e n t r e s of myth, h i s t o r i c i s m and language.  Y e t , i f , as so much of contemporary t h e o r y propounds,  Modernism  i s c h i e f l y d e f i n e d by i t s d e - c e n t r i n g , then such a v i e w must have a more e x p l i c i t n a r r a t i v e and n o v e l i s t i c c o r r e l a t i v e than has so f a r been documented.  C r i t i c a l language has no s p e c i a l p r i v i l e g e over l i t e r a r y language, and i f t h e f o r c e s of Modernism  a r e f r e q u e n t l y a t work d e - c e n t r i n g t h e o r e t -  i c a l s t r u c t u r e s , t h e same must be t r u e of l i t e r a r y s t r u c t u r e s .  What S a i d  says about t h e s t r u c t u r a l i s t s ' p r e d i c a m e n t , f o r example, i s a l s o a p p l i c a b l e to t h e n o v e l i s t s ' p r e d i c a m e n t :  The s t r u c t u r a l i s t s ' predicament i s an a c c u r a t e symptom of man's c o n d i t i o n , m i r e d as he i s i n h i s system of s i g n i f i c a t i o n . T h e i r work can be cons t r u e d as an attempt t o m a n i p u l a t e t h e i r way out of our enslavement by language i n t o an awareness and subsequent mastery of our l i n g u i s t i c s i t u a t i o n . I f t h e i r continuing enterprise i s f u n c t i o n a l ( l i k e that o f Robinson Crusoe, marooned y e t s u r v i v i n g and o r g a n i z i n g the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of h i s i s l a n d around h i s n e e d s ) , then t h e i r v i s i o n of the p a s t i s f o n d l y U t o p i a n and t h e i r a n t i c i p a t e d f u t u r e d i m l y a p o c a l y p t i c (BIM, p. 319).  A v i s i o n of the p a s t w h i c h i s f o n d l y  U t o p i a n and  one  of t h e f u t u r e w h i c h i s  a p o c a l y p t i c i s , i n p a r t , the v i s i o n of t h e t e x t s w h i c h I have i s o l a t e d as absent-centred n a r r a t i v e s .  Not t h a t a p o c a l y p s e p r o v i d e s a f o o l p r o o f  t e s t f o r a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e , but such a v i s i o n , w h i c h i s r e a l l y  litmus  15  a r e s p o n s e t o the f e a r of absence, i n c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h o t h e r d e v i c e s images—for  and  example, i n d i r e c t n a r r a t i o n , c a n c e l l a t i o n , e x p l o s i o n , concen-  t r i c i t y and s p a t i a l imagery of the l a b y r i n t h — c a n be u s e f u l i n l o c a t i n g absent-centred  narratives.  Such a c a t e g o r y — i f i t i s to have any  critical  p r e c i s i o n a t a l l — m u s t be c a p a b l e of b e i n g d e f i n e d as a s p e c i a l l i t e r a r y s t r a t e g y w i t h p a r t i c u l a r n a r r a t i v e p l o y s and d e v i c e s w h i c h have a p a r t i c u l a r c u l t u r a l reference.  That i s why,  of the s t r u c t u r a l i s t s , T z v e t a n Todorov comes c l o s e s t to  a systematic d i s c u s s i o n of absent-centred p r o v i d e s t h e c r i t i c a l p r e c e d e n t f o r my s t o r i e s , he s e t s out to show how  n a r r a t i v e , a d i s c u s s i o n which  study.  Using Henry James's s h o r t  " t h e Jamesian n a r r a t i v e i s always based  on the quest f o r an a b s o l u t e and absent cause.""^  Todorov u n d e r t a k e s what  o t h e r s t r u c t u r a l i s t s and M a r x i s t s f e a r would concede too much to the autonomy of t h e t e x t .  But t h e v a l u e of Todorov's essay i s the way  c o n v e n t i o n a l c a t e g o r i e s of c h a r a c t e r , p o i n t of v i e w , p l o t and  style  he uses and  makes them s u b s e r v i e n t to t h e s t r u c t u r a l p r i n c i p l e w h i c h i s prominent i n so many of James's s h o r t s t o r i e s .  He  i s e x p l i c i t about t h i s approach:  There e x i s t s a cause: t h i s word must here be taken i n a v e r y broad sense; i t i s o f t e n c h a r a c t e r but somet i m e s , t o o , an event or an o b j e c t . The e f f e c t of t h i s cause i s t h e n a r r a t i v e , the s t o r y we a r e t o l d . I t i s a b s o l u t e : f o r e v e r y t h i n g i n t h i s n a r r a t i v e owes i t s p r e s e n c e to t h i s cause. But the cause i s absent and must be sought; i t i s not o n l y absent but f o r the most p a r t unknown; what i s suspected i s i t s e x i s t e n c e , not i t s n a t u r e . The quest p r o c e e d s ; the t a l e cons i s t s of t h e s e a r c h f o r , the p u r s u i t o f , t h i s i n i t i a l cause, the p r i m a l essence. The n a r r a t i v e s t o p s when i t i s a t t a i n e d . On t h e one hand t h e r e i s an absence (of the cause, of the essence, of the t r u t h ) , but t h i s absence d e t e r m i n e s e v e r y t h i n g ; on the o t h e r hand t h e r e i s t h e presence (of the q u e s t ) , w h i c h i s o n l y the s e a r c h f o r an absence (PP, p. 145).  16  By s t r e s s i n g the presence of t h e q u e s t , Todorov  i s a b l e to h a n d l e t h e p a r a -  dox of a f f i r m i n g absence i n a more s u c c e s s f u l way Derrida.  than e i t h e r Macherey o r  Thus, he a s k s h i m s e l f a t the end of t h e essay i f he i s not  b e t r a y i n g t h e Jamesian p r i n c i p l e t h a t the t r u t h cannot be d e s i g n a t e d by name; "How  does i t come about t h a t we can now name t h e s e c r e t , r e n d e r the  absence p r e s e n t ? "  Because t h e t r u t h i s t h e dynamic a c t o f q u e s t i n g f o r  what i s a b s e n t , the r e a d e r ' s quest i n the t e x t w i l l always be v a l i d a t e d .  B u t c r i t i c i s m too ( i n c l u d i n g mine) has always obeyed the same law: i t i s the s e a r c h f o r t r u t h , not i t s r e v e l a t i o n , a t r e a s u r e hunt r a t h e r than t h e t r e a s u r e i t s e l f , f o r t h e t r e a s u r e can o n l y be a b s e n t . Once t h i s " r e a d i n g of James" i s o v e r , we must then b e g i n r e a d i n g James, s e t out upon a quest f o r t h e meaning of h i s oeuvre, though we know t h a t t h i s meaning i s n o t h i n g o t h e r t h a n t h e quest i t s e l f (PP, p. 177). Todorov r e s t r i c t s h i s quest f o r t h e meaning i n James's oeuvre to the s h o r t s t o r i e s w r i t t e n between 1892 and 1903.  Almost h a l f of t h e t a l e s  were w r i t t e n d u r i n g t h i s p e r i o d , and Todorov sees t h e p r e v i o u s work as l e s s o n s l e a r n t from Gustave F l a u b e r t and Guy de Maupassant. s h o r t s t o r y , b e i n g more f o r m u l a i c a l l y condensed  No doubt  a  than a n o v e l , i s i d e a l l y  s u i t e d t o Todorov's purposes, though he does say t h a t James's s t o r i e s " s t a n d as so many t h e o r e t i c a l s t u d i e s i n w h i c h James poses the g r e a t e s t h e t i c problems o f h i s work" (PP, p. 143).  T h i s i s indeed the c a s e , and  I attempt t o show t h a t t h i s n a r r a t i v e experiment w i t h absence i s seeded i f not germinated a t l e a s t as e a r l y as The P r i n c e s s Casamassima (1886). U n l i k e h i s d i s c u s s i o n of d e t e c t i v e f i c t i o n i n w h i c h he o u t l i n e s a broad n a r r a t i v e t y p o l o g y , Todorov does n o t suggest whether  t h e quest f o r an  absence i s a n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g y a t work i n o t h e r n o v e l i s t s than James, o r — t r u e to h i s s t r u c t u r a l i s t l e a n i n g s — w h e t h e r o r not such a s t r a t e g y has a  17  p a r t i c u l a r h i s t o r i c a l and c u l t u r a l c o n t e x t .  By b e g i n n i n g w i t h James's  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima and by t r a c i n g t h e p r o g r e s s i o n o f a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e t h r o u g h t o Conrad and H e l l e r , I attempt t o show t h a t t h i s n a r r a t i v e t e c h n i q u e i s n o t a p e c u l i a r l y Jamesian phenomenon but a f o r m a l s t r a t e g y , p r e s e n t i n n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y f i c t i o n t o be s u r e , b u t a l s o warmly welcomed i n t o t h e M o d e r n i s t l i t e r a r y  context.  B o t h s t r u c t u r a l i s t and M a r x i s t c r i t i c a l t h e o r i e s propound what may be c a l l e d i d e o l o g i c a l and i n t e n t i o n a l v i e w s o f t h e absent c e n t r e , i n t h e sense t h a t they s e a r c h o u t an a b s o l u t e o r a s o u r c e o u t s i d e t h e t e x t w h i c h g e n e r a t e s and e x p l a i n s t h e l a c k o f a c e n t r e .  Even D e r r i d a ' s n o t i o n s o f s t r u c t u r e ,  w h i c h a t f i r s t g l a n c e appear t o a v o i d such an approach, a r e governed by an i d e o l o g i c a l r e f u s a l t o a f f i r m absence.  Not so e a s i l y f i t t e d i n t o  this  taxonomy i s t h e h e r m e n e u t i c a l t r a d i t i o n and t h e o r i e s o f r e a d e r - r e s p o n s e w h i c h a l s o a p p r o p r i a t e t h e term " a b s e n t - c e n t r e d . " There a r e two senses i n w h i c h Wolfgang I s e r i n The A c t o f Reading speaks o f absence.  One o f t h e s e r e f e r s t o t h e "space" between r e a d e r and  text: ... t h e gaps, t h e fundamental asymmetry between t e x t and r e a d e r , t h a t g i v e r i s e t o communication i n t h e r e a d i n g p r o c e s s ; t h e l a c k o f a common s i t u a t i o n and a common frame o f r e f e r e n c e c o r r e s p o n d s t o t h e cont i n g e n c y and t h e " n o - t h i n g " w h i c h b r i n g about t h e i n t e r a c t i o n between p e r s o n s . Asymmetry, c o n t i n g e n c y , the " n o - t h i n g " — t h e s e a r e a l l d i f f e r e n t forms o f an indeterminate, c o n s t i t u t i v e blank which u n d e r l i e s 11  a l l processes of interaction. -J  In  L  t h e second sense o f t h e term what i s absent i s l o c a t e d more s p e c i f i c a l l y  by t h e t e x t , though, a c c o r d i n g t o I s e r , n o t n e c e s s a r i l y in t h e t e x t ; gaps  a c t i v a t e the reader and f o r c e him  to " p r o j e c t " a r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h  the  t e x t , so t h a t what i s not s a i d , j u s t as much as what i s s a i d , h e l p s r e a d e r to r e c o v e r the t e x t .  the  These gaps a r e " v a r i o u s types of n e g a t i o n " :  Blanks and n e g a t i o n s both c o n t r o l the p r o c e s s of communication i n t h e i r own d i f f e r e n t ways: the b l a n k s l e a v e open the c o n n e c t i o n s between p e r s p e c t i v e s i n the t e x t , and so spur the r e a d e r i n t o c o o r d i n a t i n g these p e r s p e c t i v e s — i n other words, they induce the r e a d e r to perform b a s i c o p e r a t i o n s w i t h i n the t e x t . The v a r i o u s types of n e g a t i o n invoke f a m i l i a r or d e t e r minate elements o n l y to c a n c e l them o u t . What i s c a n c e l e d , however, remains i n view, and thus b r i n g s about m o d i f i c a t i o n s i n t h e r e a d e r ' s a t t i t u d e toward what i s f a m i l i a r o r d e t e r m i n a t e - — i n other words, he i s guided to adopt a p o s i t i o n jLn r e l a t i o n to the t e x t (AR, p. 169).  Such n o t i o n s would seem to take us a c o n s i d e r a b l e d i s t a n c e i n d e s c r i b i n g how  t e x t s can be s t r u c t u r e d around an absent  centre, especially since  I s e r notes an i n c r e a s e i n t h e s e b l a n k s and n e g a t i o n s i n the i n d e t e r m i n a c y  between reader and  text.  Yet i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g  n o t i c e where t h e s e d e s c r i p t i o n s of absence l e a d I s e r . of U l y s s e s , which he takes as exemplary of modernist indeterminacy, he concludes  i n the modern n o v e l to  In h i s d i s c u s s i o n fragmentation  and  t h a t the blanks and n e g a t i o n s e f f a c e the  ventional nineteenth-century narrator:  In U l y s s e s we s t i l l have the p e r s p e c t i v e of the i m p l i e d author, f o r without i t the n o v e l c o u l d not exist. But the i m p l i e d author t r a d i t i o n a l l y supplied h i s r e a d e r — a t least i m p l i c i t l y — w i t h some form of o r i e n t a t i o n , and as t h i s i s m i s s i n g from U l y s s e s , our f r u s t r a t e d e x p e c t a t i o n l e a d s to the i m p r e s s i o n t h a t the n a r r a t o r has d i s a p p e a r e d . But h e r e i n l i e s the v e r y s t r a t e g y of the n a r r a t o r ' s perspective. The f r a g m e n t a t i o n of the f a m i l i a r n a r r a t i v e p a t t e r n s l e a d s to such an i n t e n s i v e s w i t c h i n g of v i e w p o i n t s t h a t the r e a d e r cannot work out any c e n t r a l f o c u s ; he cannot f i n d the o r i e n t -  con  19  a t i o n he had e x p e c t e d , and so h i s e x p e c t a t i o n forms the background a g a i n s t which t h e d i s c o n c e r t i n g jumble of n a r r a t i v e p a t t e r n s i s thrown i n t o r e l i e f . The background o f h i s e x p e c t a t i o n s i s indeed invoked by h i s d i s o r i e n t a t i o n , but a t t h e same time he i s made to e x p e r i e n c e t h e n o n f u l f i l l m e n t o f an expected f u n c t i o n — t h e n o n f u l f i l l m e n t of a f u n c t i o n i s i t s n e g a t i v e f u l f i l l m e n t . The f r u s t r a t i o n of such b a s i c expectations leaves a blank which the t r a d i t i o n a l novel had always f i l l e d (AR, p. 2 0 7 ) .  W h i l e t h e effacement o f t h e n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y n a r r a t o r  illustrates a  l e g i t i m a t e n a r r a t i v e phenomenon, i t does n o t advance us v e r y f a r towards a d e s c r i p t i o n o f more c o n s c i o u s l y  constructed  n a r r a t i v e absences. A l l  t e x t s c r e a t e t h e i r own a b s e n c e s — v a r y i n g degrees of d i s t a n c e , between r e a d e r and n a r r a t i v e . But  T h i s i s a phenomenon of t h e r e a d i n g p r o c e s s .  some t e x t s , more than o t h e r s ,  a r e i n d i v i d u a l l y programmed by n a r r a t i v e  m a t e r i a l which the author conspicuously absents. of n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e .  really—  T h i s i s a s p e c i a l case  The absence w h i c h I s e r l o c a t e s i n U l y s s e s i s  symptomatic but n o t n e c e s s a r i l y programmatic; t h a t i s , t h e absence of t h e narrator  signals a l i t e r a r y h i s t o r i c a l progression,  n e c e s s a r i l y e x c l u s i v e l y programmed by t h a t n o v e l .  but i t i s n o t The Sound and t h e F u r y ,  w i t h i t s m u l t i p l e n a r r a t i o n , a l s o a b s e n t s t h e omnipotence o f t h e n i n e t e e n t h century narrator.  I n I s e r ' s sense, any M o d e r n i s t n o v e l which i s c h a r a c t e r -  i z e d by a fragmented o r d i s j o i n t e d p l o t l i n e must be deemed a b s e n t centred.  B u t t h e r e must be a more p r e c i s e n a r r a t i v e e x p l a n a t i o n  f o r the  f a c t t h a t , f o r example, B e l y ' s P e t e r s b u r g , J o y c e ' s R u s s i a n r i v a l as exemplar of H i g h Modernism, i s an e x p l i c i t l y a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e i n a way w h i c h i s quite u n l i k e that i n Ulysses.  For I s e r t h e upshot o f t e x t u a l absence i s t h a t " t h e openness o f s t r u c t u r e which c h a r a c t e r i z e s  such t e x t s a r i s e s n o t from t h e f a c t t h a t  this  20  t y p e o f b l a n k s t i m u l a t e s e x t r a p r o d u c t i v i t y i n t h e r e a d e r , but from t h e f a c t t h a t t h e p r o d u c t i v i t y i s e x p l o i t e d through the s u s p e n s i o n of  con-  d i t i o n s t h e absence o f w h i c h a c t u a l l y c o n s t i t u t e s t h e b l a n k " (AR, p. And u l t i m a t e l y , we may  211).  see i d e o l o g i c a l a b s o l u t e s s l i p p i n g i n t o I s e r ' s  c r i t i q u e of absence, f o r t h e r e a d e r ' s e x p e r i e n c e w i t h t h e s e b l a n k s  and  n e g a t i o n s c o n s t i t u t e s " t h e h i s t o r i c i t y of h i s s t a n d p o i n t s through the a c t o f r e a d i n g i t s e l f " (AR, p. 211).  And on an even more a b s t r a c t l e v e l , I s e r  i m p l i e s t h a t such a h i s t o r y of changing v i e w p o i n t s has a p p l i c a t i o n f o r t h e r e a d e r ' s e x p e r i e n c e of s e v e r a l t e x t s and even o f s e v e r a l p e r i o d s .  In  o t h e r words, t h e r e a d e r ' s e x p e r i e n c e of absence p l o t s a graph t h a t becomes a h i s t o r y w h i c h i s "a c o n d i t i o n f o r t h e p r o d u c t i o n of new  codes" (AR, p.  212).  I f contemporary t h e o r e t i c i a n s d i s a g r e e about t h e g e n e s i s and p l a c e ment of t h e absent prominent,  c e n t r e , what they do agree on i s t h a t i t makes a  though by no means e x c l u s i v e , appearance i n t h e modern e r a .  M. M e l l a r d i n h i s book The Exploded  Form, a r e s t a t e m e n t  James  of the t e n e t s of  Modernism ( f r a g m e n t a t i o n and a w o r l d v i e w w h i c h i s r e l a t i o n a l ) , p o s i t s a taxonomy o f M o d e r n i s t  t e x t s , a taxonomy w h i c h a t t e m p t s  to e x p l a i n the  f r e q u e n t appearance of t h e absent c e n t r e i n t h i s c e n t u r y .  Drawing h e a v i l y  on s c i e n t i f i c t h e o r y , h i s work documents t h e " n a i v e , " " c r i t i c a l , " s o p h i s t i c a t e d " phases o f Modernism.  and  G e n e r a l l y , t h e movement g o v e r n i n g  these phases i s framed i n t h e f o l l o w i n g  way:  For t h e n o v e l , as the w o r l d goes so goes t h e form itself: as the w o r l d proposed by t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y s c i e n c e " e x p l o d e s , " so explodes t h e n o v e l . And a new metaphor i s born to r e p l a c e t h e o l d . 1 2  Though M e l l a r d does not e x p l o r e i t s s p e c i f i c n a r r a t i v e embodiments, t h e  21  metaphor of explosion i s a r i c h one f o r my purposes, for not only does i t point to the violence done to nineteenth-century forms, but i t also points to  the absence i t leaves i n the narratives i n which the detonation has  occurred.  The metaphor has more h i s t o r i c a l relevance than might be  discerned at f i r s t glance.  Thus, standing i n awe of the onslaught of  science and technology at the great world's f a i r which.ushered i n the twentieth century, Henry Adams i s forced to conclude that "bombs educate vigorously," and of the anarchist bomb i n p a r t i c u l a r he says that i t i s a 13 "powerful persuader."  I t i s , then, more than coincidence that the  anarchist explosion should appear i n several of the absent-centred texts which I have selected: Petersburg.  The Princess Casamassima, The Secret Agent and  As the hardware of warfare becomes more sophisticated, so do  the narrative responses, as evidenced by the explosions in Catch-22 and Gravity's Rainbow.  Yet even the warhead's trajectory, the rocket's r a i n -  bow arc, which governs the narrative of Pynchon's novel, i s prefigured i n The Education of Henry Adams: The motion of thought had the same value as the motion of a cannon b a l l seen approaching the observer, on a d i r e c t l i n e through the a i r . One could watch i t s curve for f i v e thousand years. Its f i r s t v i o l e n t acceleration i n h i s t o r i c a l times had ended in catastrophe i n 310. The next swerve of d i r e c t i o n occurred towards 1500. Galileo and Bacon gave a s t i l l newer curve to i t , which altered i t s values; but a l l these changes had never altered the cont i n u i t y . Only i n 1900, the continuity snapped.1^  Thus, the metaphor of explosion f o r the rupture brought by Modernism (present here i n a seminal text which serves as a c u l t u r a l and h i s t o r i c a l reference) i s also present as an operative narrative p r i n c i p l e i n Modernist l i t e r a r y texts.  22  3  Of course, not a l l Modernist or Post-modernist texts which exploit the explosion metaphor do so f o r the purpose of absenting centre."'""'  a narrative  Muriel Spark, i n The G i r l s of Slender Means (1963), for example,  flaunts the trappings of anarchism, war and explosion but structures the narrative to a d i f f e r e n t end and i n a d i f f e r e n t way The Secret Agent or Bely i n Petersburg,  than Conrad does i n  novels which use much of the same  hardware.  As an instrument of death, the bomb i s almost invariably shaped i n the texts i n which i t appears as a metaphor for apocalypse—death on the grandest scale.  This t a c t i c poses an immediate problem, for while bombs  explode spectacularly throughout these texts, characters, narrators, authors and readers a l i k e s t i l l remain a l i v e and mostly well after the smoke and dust have s e t t l e d .  One  explanation  i s that the explosions i n  these novels function as a kind of synecdoche for the larger, more threatening  cosmic explosion.  More ingeniously, however, the novelists of  explosion r e l y on prolepsis, the representation of a future condition as occurring i n the present.  In The Secret Agent, Catch-22, Petersburg  and  Gravity's Rainbow, "the immense panorama of anarchy and f u t i l i t y , " to use T. S. E l i o t ' s tag for Modernity, i s at once a suspenseful  threat of a  nearby apocalypse and at the same time, a grim description of contemporary l i f e , as though that apocalypse had already arrived.  Muriel Spark's panorama of anarchy and f u t i l i t y in The G i r l s of  23  S l e n d e r Means, however, i s not so much a p r o l e p t i c l o o k a t a p o c a l y p s e as i t i s a backward g l a n c e to t h e s h e l l - s h o c k e d l i v e s i n London i m m e d i a t e l y World War  after  I I . Spark, i n f a c t , works a g a i n s t t h e n o t i o n of war as a s p e c i a l  explosion.  Without  how unexpected  u n d e r s t a t i n g the . e v i l s of war, her n o v e l  e r u p t i o n s of d i s a s t e r a r e permanently  spectacularly special.  Thus, t h e unexploded  illustrates  o r d i n a r y r a t h e r than  bomb which l i e s b u r i e d be-  n e a t h t h e hydrangeas i n Greggie's garden i s a mere remnant of war u n e x p e c t e d l y d e t o n a t e s and s e t s t h e boardinghouse  on f i r e .  which  But Mrs. D o b e l l ,  a bystander a t t h e f i r e , assumes t h a t " b e l a t e d bombs went o f f every day i n 16 Britain."  And  i r o n i c a l l y , w h i l e London crowds c e l e b r a t e t h e end of  d e a t h - d e a l i n g war  i n f r o n t of Buckingham P a l a c e ' s b a l c o n i e d r o y a l t y ,  N i c h o l a s i s w i t n e s s to a seaman who r i b s of a woman" (GSM,  p. 141) .  " s l i d a k n i f e s i l e n t l y between the  T h i s p a r t i c u l a r c r i m e i s enough to c o n v e r t  N i c h o l a s to m i s s i o n a r y r e v o l u t i o n i n L a t i n America; as he s a y s : v i s i o n of e v i l may p. 140). park.  "a  be as e f f e c t i v e to c o n v e r s i o n as a v i s i o n of good"  (GSM,  Y e t , he too d i e s , stabbed as f o r t u i t o u s l y as the woman i n t h e  No one d i s a s t e r t a k e s prominence over a n o t h e r .  The f i r e ,  Joanna's  d e a t h , N i c h o l a s ' s d e a t h , t h e s t a b b i n g i n t h e p a r k , t h e l o s s of l i f e a t sea (Joanna r e c i t e s w i t h n e u r o t i c r e p e t i t i o n "The Wreck of the D e u t s c h l a n d " ) — a l l these a r e t a l l i e d up to undermine t h e c o m f o r t a b l e s e c u r i t y of a time c a p s u l e w h i c h c h a r a c t e r s so o b s e s s i v e l y s e a r c h f o r .  The end of war,  then,  does not mean t h e end o f f a t e ' s random punishments, and thus t h e n o v e l announces i t s d i s t i n c t l y m e t a p h y s i c a l use of t h e e x p l o s i o n — a s a metaphor for  t h e unexpected  e r u p t i o n of f a t e .  The e x p l o s i o n i n The G i r l s of S l e n d e r  Means, u n l i k e t h a t i n the n o v e l s of Conrad, B e l y and Pynchon, does not so much d i s t o r t c h a r a c t e r s ' l i v e s and a u t h o r ' s n a r r a t i v e , as i t does shock  24  c h a r a c t e r s i n t o a r e a l i z a t i o n o f t h e i r d i s t o r t i n g i d e a l i s m and b r i n g them r u d e l y i n t o a time-bound, u n p r e d i c t a b l e  reality.  Where Spark does e x p l o i t t h e d e v i c e o f p r o l e p s i s i s i n her u s e o f endings;  i n d e e d , she e l e v a t e s t h a t t r o p e t o n a r r a t i v e prominence i n The  D r i v e r ' s Seat.  I n The G i r l s o f S l e n d e r Means, t h e n a r r a t i v e moves, on  the one hand, c o n v e n t i o n a l l y f o r w a r d , f o l l o w i n g t h e p l i g h t o f t h e b o a r d i n g house g i r l s t o t h e c l i m a x of t h e i r near d e a t h s , i t moves i n a "catch-up"  w h i l e on t h e o t h e r hand,  f a s h i o n t o N i c h o l a s ' s martyrdom i n H a i t i w h i c h  i s r e v e a l e d i n t h e opening pages o f t h e n o v e l and r e p e a t e d afterwards.  several  times  Thus, some c h a r a c t e r s move towards an u n p r e d i c t a b l e f a t e w h i l e  N i c h o l a s moves towards a known one.  The n a r r a t o r ' s s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s of  t h i s d e v i c e i s e v i d e n t when we l e a r n t h a t N i c h o l a s , a poet, bequeaths h i s manuscript to Rudi before l e a v i n g England: N i c h o l a s , meaning t h e m a n u s c r i p t . to d i e , 'You can keep i t ' "  "'You can have i t , '  said  He s a i d , n o t f o r s e e i n g t h e d e a t h he was  (GSM, p. 1 3 7 ) . Thus, N i c h o l a s l i v e s , n o t  u n l i k e S t e v i e i n The S e c r e t Agent, i n a n a r r a t i v e l i m b o . knowledge o f N i c h o l a s ' s d e a t h a p r i o r i s e r v e s as an i r o n i c  The r e a d e r ' s undercutting  d e v i c e t o h i s a c t i o n s as he moves c l o s e r and c l o s e r t o h i s d e a t h .  The r e p e a t e d  passages about N i c h o l a s ' s d e a t h , however, f u n c t i o n o n l y  p a r t l y l i k e t h e r e p e t i t i o n s o f Snowden's d e a t h i n Catch-22 w h i c h o c c u p i e s , by v i r t u e o f i t s absence, a c e n t r a l p o s i t i o n i n t h e n a r r a t i v e .  Nicholas's  d e a t h b e l o n g s t o a s u b - p l o t and i s r e a l l y o n l y one more unexpected d i s a s t e r i n t h e more prominent n a r r a t i v e l i n e w h i c h f o l l o w s t h e f a t e o f the g i r l s .  Spark, i n f a c t , a b s e n t s no i m p o r t a n t n a r r a t i v e m a t e r i a l ; she  works n o t w i t h t h e absent but w i t h t h e u n e x p e c t e d , t h e s l i n g s and arrows  25  of an outrageous and extremely f i c k l e fortune.  More generally, Spark's use of r e p e t i t i o n (entire conversations and paragraphs are replayed) does not disrupt the novel as seriously as i s the case i n Catch-22 and Petersburg.  Like Joanna's endless r e c i t a t i o n s of  "The Wreck of the Deutschland," which she makes her elocution students r e c i t e j u s t as endlessly, the repeated passages point to the f u t i l i t y and persevering neurosis of the g i r l s ' s o c i a l l y and c u l t u r a l l y slender l i v e s , but i t stops short of seriously fragmenting the narrative.  The device of  r e p e t i t i o n , then, l i k e the explosion metaphor, i s r e a l l y only another gear in the machinery of irony.  This i r o n i c authorial stance i s made clear i n a passage which echoes the image of Conrad's professor wired to a bomb and with his hand on the detonator:  There i s a kind of truth i n the popular idea of an anarchist as a wild man with a home-made bomb i n his pocket. In modern times this bomb, fabricated i n the back workshops of the imagination, can only take one e f f e c t i v e form: Ridicule (GSM, p. 59).  We must take t h i s epigrammatic statement with more than a grain of s a l t (Paul Theroux's characters, for example, i n The Family Arsenal do spectacular things with home-made bombs); yet the passage does point to the function of irony i n many of these texts (The Secret Agent, Petersburg and Catch-22), which i s to disrupt conventional narrative structure.  But  whereas Conrad invades h i s narrative structure with irony to emphasize the myopic immorality of his characters and the nightmarish world they inhabit, Spark uses irony mainly to set metaphysical traps for her characters who  26  a r e t o o b l i t h e l y unaware o f t h e power o f f a t e t o s h a t t e r t h e i r l i v e s w i t h the u n e x p e c t e d .  Thus Spark j o l t s her c h a r a c t e r s o u t o f complacency by  i r o n i c a l l y u n d e r c u t t i n g t h e i r a c t i o n s w i t h one d i s a s t e r a f t e r  another.  The power o f t h e s e c h a r a c t e r s t o m a i n t a i n composure w i t h s e l f - d e c e p t i o n , d e l u s i o n and f a n t a s y i s c o n s i d e r a b l e , b u t a bomb, as Henry Adams s a y s , i s "a p o w e r f u l p e r s u a d e r . "  C e r t a i n l y t h e f a l s e s e c u r i t y of t h e i r  fragile  domestic and s o c i a l w o r l d , i f n o t t h e i r i l l u s i o n s , goes up i n smoke.  The  e x p l o s i o n s a r e more s p e c t a c u l a r i n P a u l Theroux's The F a m i l y  A r s e n a l (1976), a n o v e l w h i c h i n v i t e s i t s e l f i n t o t h e house o f a b s e n t c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e by a number o f d o o r s .  I t s v e r y t i t l e c o n n e c t s i t to t h e  f i c t i o n o f a n a r c h i s t a r s e n a l s , The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, The S e c r e t Agent and P e t e r s b u r g , and l i k e t h e s e works, The F a m i l y A r s e n a l i s an e x p l o r a t i o n of a n a r c h i s t i n t r i g u e f o i l e d and made m o r a l l y absurd i n t h e l i g h t o f a distorted domesticity.  Theroux, i n f a c t , t a k e s h i s e p i g r a p h from The  P r i n c e s s Casamassima: " I determined t o see i t " — she was speaking s t i l l o f E n g l i s h s o c i e t y — " t o l e a r n f o r m y s e l f what i t r e a l l y i s b e f o r e we blow i t up. I've been here now a year and a h a l f and, as I t e l l you, I f e e l I ' v e seen. I t ' s t h e o l d regime a g a i n , t h e r o t t e n n e s s and e x t r a v a gance, b r i s t l i n g w i t h every i n i q u i t y and every abuse, over w h i c h t h e F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n passed l i k e a w h i r l w i n d ; o r perhaps even more a r e p r o d u c t i o n o f the Roman w o r l d i n i t s decadence, gouty, a p o p l e c t i c , depraved, gorged and clogged w i t h w e a l t h and s p o i l s , s e l f i s h n e s s and s c e p t i c i s m , and w a i t i n g f o r t h e ons e t o f t h e b a r b a r i a n s . You and I a r e t h e b a r b a r i a n s , you know.  There a r e o t h e r a l l u s i o n s t o The P r i n c e s s Casamassima i n t h e t e x t p r o p e r . Lady Arrow, l i k e Lady A u r o r a conscience  i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, assuages t h e  o f t h e p r i v i l e g e d c l a s s e s by "slumming i t " w i t h t h e poor, i n  27  Lady Arrow's c a s e , w i t h unwashed a r t i s t s and t r a n s i e n t s .  She j o u r n e y s to  Greenwich O b s e r v a t o r y w i t h one such f e m a l e t r a n s i e n t , B r o d i e , j u s t as V e r l o c t r a v e l s t h e r e w i t h S t e v i e , and P a u l Muniment w i t h H y a c i n t h . Arrow reminds B r o d i e of t h e p a r a l l e l :  " I n my f a v o r i t e n o v e l t h e r e ' s a  l o v e l y scene here i n G r e e n w i c h — a n o u t i n g l i k e t h i s . James?"  (FA, p. 2 0 0 ) .  Lady  Do you know Henry  S i n c e a r e f e r e n c e to Conrad f o l l o w s s h o r t l y a f t e r  t h i s passage, t h e mention o f t h e Greenwich o u t i n g i s a d o u b l e a l l u s i o n ; i t a l l u d e s t o t h e m i l d l y s u g g e s t i v e homo-erotic scene between Muniment and H y a c i n t h (Lady Arrow has a l e s b i a n i n t e r e s t i n B r o d i e ) ; and s i n c e Conrad uses Greenwich f o r t h e s e t t i n g of S t e v i e ' s h i d e o u s d e a t h , t h e " l o v e l y scene" i s p o i g n a n t l y i r o n i c .  These e x p l i c i t a l l u s i o n s s i t u a t e Theroux  c o m f o r t a b l y i n t h e James-Conrad  tradition.  For example, about The  S e c r e t Agent, t h e n o v e l ' s h e r o , Hood, r e f l e c t s w i t h an echo of t h e opening of The Voyeur effect"):  ("a v i o l e n c e w i t h o u t purpose t h a t remained w i t h o u t  " I t was a s i m p l e t a l e , a shadowy o u t r a g e , a bout of madness.  I t s t a r t e d , i t squawked,  i t was gone" (FA, p. 2 4 7 ) .  The F a m i l y A r s e n a l  'is perhaps too c l o s e t o The S e c r e t Agent, f o r Theroux's use of a l l  the  C o n r a d i a n props (bowler h a t s , crumpled newspapers, s t r e e t l a m p s and c a r v i n g k n i v e s ) means t h a t t h e n o v e l , a t b e s t , s t r a d d l e s t h e f e n c e between t h e p a r o d i c and t h e d e r i v a t i v e .  The n o v e l i s a k i n d of update of The  S e c r e t Agent u s i n g t h e t o p i c a l i t y of t h e 1970's IRA bombings i n L o n d o n — j u s t as b o t h James's and Conrad's n o v e l s of a n a r c h i s m a r e a l s o i n s p i r e d by t o p i c a l events:  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima  by t h e Hyde P a r k R i o t s and  S e c r e t Agent by the Greenwich Bomb Outrage.  The  Theroux, however, e x p r e s s e s  more i n t e r e s t i n t h e m o t l e y , l o o s e l y g l u e d f a m i l y of d e g e n e r a t e s , e c c e n t r i c s , and t h r i l l s e e k e r s (who pose t h e r e a l t h r e a t ) t h a n i n t h e IRA a n a r c h i s t s  28  who at  so ineptly lose the arsenal.  James and Conrad keep their irony aimed  the degeneracy of anarchists and their families and friends, whereas  Theroux s h i f t s the irony to characters on the f r i n g e of bourgeois l i f e who,  i r o n i c a l l y , undermine the anarchists themselves.  The explosion i n The Family Arsenal, l i k e those i n the Conrad, Bely and Pynchon novels, i s worked as a motif into the private l i v e s of characters  (a moral and domestic context), but inevitably i t expands to  include the apocalyptic theme (a philosophical and s o c i a l context). Gawber, i n his d u l l bureaucratic l i f e , the exploding  For  arsenal, which l i g h t s  the sky i n "majestic d e t a i l " and sends "sparks traveling up i n gusts curling above the rooftops," i s f i r s t a private matter: my world" (FA, p. 293). he walks through Deptford disease)  " I t i s the end of  Gawber, however, senses e a r l i e r i n the novel, as squalor (Conradian squalor with an emphasis on  that the end might not begin so spectacularly:  No: that was fancy's need for theater, the mind's i d l e picture, inaccuracy's enlargement. Catastrophe was l i k e this, i t was this—smoke, silence, emptiness and slow decay, an imperceptible leaching that was a strong smell long before i t was a calamity. The knotting of the c i t y ' s innards into dead hanks, not combustion, but blockage, the slowest cruelest death (FA, p. 230).  He disdains Londoners because "They didn't know; ignorance was  part of the  disease, because the i l l n e s s would k i l l them before they understood i t was  f a t a l " (FA, p. 231).  Each of Theroux's characters has his own  version of the explosive end.  special  For Murf, Hood's crass, unhygienic side-  kick whose hippie tastes have run to knives and feats of bomb-wiring genius, the explosion ("Widdy-widdy-boom") i s a work of destructive beauty.  29  A d i r t i e r v e r s i o n of a Burgess d r o o g , he wanders w i t h B r o d i e London l i k e an a n a r c h i s t t o u r i s t i m a g i n i n g how  through  he c o u l d " b r i n g down the  A d m i r a l t y A r c h by b l a s t i n g t h e c e n t r a l s u p p o r t s w i t h p l a s t i c e x p l o s i v e — 'then n i p on a Number One  bus"  1  (FA, p. 7 6 ) .  Only two w e l l - p l a c e d  charges,  he t h i n k s , would be needed f o r t h e N a t i o n a l G a l l e r y , and "a p a r c e l o f n i t r o i n the t u b e s t a t i o n " would t a k e c a r e of S a i n t M a r t i n ' s  church.  Ever the o u t c a s t s , Murf and B r o d i e can o n l y "possess the c i t y , reducing  i t to s h a t t e r e d p i e c e s .  (FA, p. 7 7 ) .  E x p l o d e d , i n m o t i o n , i t was  theirs"  Hood, t o o , t r a n s f o r m s London i n t o a p o s t - a p o c a l y p t i c scene.  L i k e the P r o f e s s o r i n The S e c r e t Agent who houses had  by  t h i n k s t h a t " t h e low  brick  i n t h e i r d u s t y windows the s i g h t l e s s , moribund l o o k of i n c u r a b l e 18  decay—empty s h e l l s awaiting demolition," t h e g u t t e d remains of an e x p l o s i o n : might l o o k i f i t was i n g c e l l a r s " (FA, p.  devastated  Hood imagines a g r a v e y a r d  " T h i s was  by bombs:  how  the whole of London  m i l e s and m i l e s of s h a l l o w moan-  210).  The c i t y , t h e n , i n most of these n o v e l s e x i s t s as a c o n v e n i e n t for proleptic explosions:  c h a r a c t e r s seem confused  c a l y p s e i s about to b u r s t or whether i t has,  s t r u c t u r e and, a t the same t i m e , a g r a v e y a r d  setting  as to whether the apo-  i n f a c t , already arrived.  a symbol, the c i t y i s a t once a testament to man's h i g h l y - o r g a n i z e d for i t s collapse.  the same d u a l f u n c t i o n f o r t h e i n d i v i d u a l s who f o r p a r t i c i p a t i o n and  as  wander t h e r e :  As  social  I t provides  a workshop  s o c i a l e x p e r i m e n t , and a f l o p h o u s e f o r m o r a l d e p r a v i t y  and g u i l t y concealment.  I n The F a m i l y A r s e n a l , Hood n o t i c e s t h a t  f o r every one who used the c i t y as an o c c a s i o n to p e r f o r m , a thousand chose i t as a p l a c e of c o n c e a l ment. I n i t s depths bombs were s t i f l e d . H i s own  30  was l o c a l , p e r s o n a l , a f a m i l y m a t t e r ; i t had not been heard h e r e . ... He had been d r i v e n h e r e , t o a n a r r o w i n g space i n t h e v a s t now f e a t u r e l e s s c i t y where i f he was n o t c a r e f u l he would be caught. You were a l l o w e d to h i d e i f you made no sound. The c i t y confounded l i k e a sea; i t was p e n e t r a b l e , but i t was e n d l e s s and n e u t r a l , so wide t h a t on a t r a i n t o s s i n g between s t a t i o n s — t h o s e named p l a c e s , those i s l a n d s — y o u c o u l d b e l i e v e you had gone under and were dead (FA, pp. 296-97).  The c i t y i s " f e a t u r e l e s s " and " e n d l e s s , " and a t t h e same time "narrowing"  and  "penetrable."  Because the c i t y has both s t r u c t u r e and  chaos, the l a b y r i n t h or maze becomes a f a v o u r i t e image f o r the n o v e l i s t s i n my  study who  s e a r c h f o r ways to d e p i c t the modern c i t y .  The  labyrinth  i s a t once a c o n s t r u c t i o n of complex o r d e r and complex d i s o r i e n t a t i o n . Thus, j u s t as H y a c i n t h f i n d s h i m s e l f i n the w h i r l o f s t a i r c a s e s and c o r r i d o r s of M i l l b a n k p r i s o n , Hood f i n d s h i m s e l f l e d down  the c l a n k i n g e l e v a t o r cage and down the c i r c u l a r s t a i r w e l l to the t u n n e l under the Thames. I t was the s o r t o f g l a z e d e n d l e s s c o r r i d o r Hood had seen when he was h i g h , a tube of echoing t i l e s , w i t h o u t doors o r windows, s t r e t c h i n g away, and r i n g i n g w i t h the f o o t s t e p s o f p e o p l e he c o u l d n o t see. V o i c e s chimed from the w a l l s and h i s own f o o t s t e p s . g u l p e d . ... On the f a r s i d e of t h e r i v e r they emerged from the s t a i r w e l l and i t s s t i n k of u r i n e and c h a l k to a d a r k muddy garden and a maze of earthworks (FA, p. 246).  The l a b y r i n t h image h e r e i n The F a m i l y A r s e n a l , as i n t h e n o v e l s o f James, Conrad, B e l y , H e l l e r and Pynchon, i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h i t s m y t h o l o g i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l o r i g i n s as a tomb to secure t h e s a f e t y of the dead and  as  19 a temple f o r r e s t o r i n g v i t a l i t y to the l i v i n g .  James, i n p a r t i c u l a r ,  i s t r u t h f u l to the c l a s s i c a l r e n d i t i o n of the image; H y a c i n t h speaks of " s a c r i f i c e " i n the "innermost underworld.  s a n c t u a r y " of the "temple" of the a n a r c h i s t  C h a r a c t e r s i n the modern n o v e l of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d s t r u c t u r e ,  31  l i k e t h e i r c l a s s i c a l predecessors,  search desperately f o r a l i f e -  renewing c e n t r e , and more o f t e n than n o t , f i n d themselves b o t h by King-god and M i n o t a u r — o r  confronted,  e l s e they become permanently l o s t ,  unable to f i n d t h e centre a t a l l .  I n i t s use o f t h e s e n a r r a t i v e i m a g e s — p r o l e p t i c e x p l o s i o n and l a b y r i n t h i n e c i t y — T h e F a m i l y A r s e n a l shares much w i t h t h e n o v e l i s t s of absent-centred  structure.  But u l t i m a t e l y i t f a l l s outside that  category  because i t f o r g o e s o t h e r e s s e n t i a l d e v i c e s such as f r a g m e n t a t i o n , c l i m a x , and i n p a r t i c u l a r , i n d i r e c t n a r r a t i o n .  anti-  Moreover, t h e e x p l o s i o n  i n Theroux's n o v e l i s c e n t r a l t o t h e n a r r a t i v e o n l y i n t h e sense t h a t i t i s a f i t t i n g c l i m a x t o an a n a r c h i s t m y s t e r y (and The F a m i l y more t h a n i t s p r e d e c e s s o r s ,  Arsenal,  i s descended from m y s t e r y f i c t i o n , though i t  a l s o has some g e n e t i c m a t e r i a l from I a n F l e m i n g ' s spy f i c t i o n ) .  Even  t h e a r s e n a l i t s e l f , w h i c h i s abducted from t h e t e r r o r i s t s , does n o t remain " h i d d e n "  from t h e n a r r a t i v e f o c u s as does, say, t h e s i l v e r  i n Conrad's Nostromo.  treasure  Nor does t h e a r s e n a l ' s e x p l o s i o n o p e r a t e as a  n a r r a t i v e c e n t r e , f o r i t i s n o t something g i v e n w h i c h t h e n a r r a t i v e then a b s e n t s and r e t u r n s t o r e l u c t a n t l y . Petersburg  And u n l i k e The S e c r e t Agent and  i n . w h i c h t h e e x p l o s i o n i s a metaphor f o r t h e f r a g m e n t a t i o n o f  the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e , Theroux's e x p l o s i o n i s s i m p l y t h e expected bang a t t h e end o f t h e p l o t ' s f u s e — i n d e e d , novel i s s u r p r i s i n g l y conventional. outcome ( t h e r u d i m e n t a r y  i n i t s suspenseful l i n e a r i t y , the  Theroux a b s e n t s n o t h i n g but t h e  sense i n w h i c h a l l n o v e l s a r e a b s e n t - c e n t r e d ) ,  and even h e r e , he does n o t t o y w i t h a n t i - c l i m a x l i k e James o r e x p l o i t i t prominently symbolic;  l i k e B e l y and Pynchon.  Nor i s t h e e x p l o s i o n e s p e c i a l l y  i t does c a r r y a c e r t a i n i r o n i c w e i g h t , but as a n a r r a t i v e  32  d e v i c e i t l a c k s s t r u c t u r a l prominence such as i n The S e c r e t Agent  and  m e t a p h y s i c a l resonance such as i n Spark's The G i r l s o f S l e n d e r Means.  Theroux d e n i e s a n a r c h i s m i t s p o l i t i c a l v a l i d i t y by p l a c i n g i t s machinery i n the hands o f c h a r a c t e r s who,  i n the s m a l l n e s s o f t h e i r m o r a l  and p o l i t i c a l n a t u r e s , remain i n i n v e r s e p r o p o r t i o n to the s i z e o f t h e bomb and t h e d a z z l e of i t s b l a s t .  G. K. C h e s t e r t o n i n The Man Who  Was  Thursday (1908) d e n i e s a n a r c h i s m i t s v a l i d i t y by d i s t o r t i n g i t i n the s e r v i c e o f f a n t a s y and p a r a b l e .  W r i t t e n one y e a r a f t e r Conrad's  The  S e c r e t Agent, the n o v e l b e g i n s w i t h a k i n d of s o c i a l s a t i r e and drawing room comedy, d e l v e s b r i e f l y down to t h e haunts of underground  anarchism,  s u r f a c e s and t h e n r u n s r a p i d l y away as a q u a s i - a d v e n t u r e chase t h a t with the f a n t a s t i c a l .  flirts  I t u s e s , l i k e Theroux's and Spark's n o v e l s ,  a n a r c h i s m f o r a q u i t e d i f f e r e n t purpose than t h e a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n o v e l s of my s t u d y .  More than Theroux's and S p a r k ' s , however, C h e s t e r t o n ' s n o v e l  seems e a r n e s t l y d i s t u r b e d by the scope and t h e s e r i o u s n e s s o f t h e t h r e a t posed by a n a r c h i s m .  No doubt, t h e r e was good r e a s o n i n 1908, f o r , as we  l e a r n from t h e background to t h e James and Conrad n o v e l s , newspapers  at  the t i m e were s p e c u l a t i n g r a m p a n t l y about a v a s t i n t e r n a t i o n a l network of c o n s p i r a c y and v i o l e n c e .  Conrad's r e s p o n s e t o t h i s a n a r c h i s m i s t o v i e w  i t as symptomatic of a l a r g e r m o r a l decay, and l i k e Theroux, he e x p l o r e s t h e p r i v a t e , d o m e s t i c c o n t e x t w h i c h might e x p l a i n i t .  Spark's a n a r c h i s m  i s p r e s e n t e d as t h e f u t i l e r e s p o n s e to m e t a p h y s i c a l t r u t h s w h i c h a r e d i f f i c u l t f o r c h a r a c t e r s to g r a s p and even more d i f f i c u l t t o d e a l w i t h once p a i n f u l l y u n d e r s t o o d .  C h e s t e r t o n ' s a n g l e on the a n t i c s o f anarchism  i s to shape them i n t o m o r a l p a r a b l e f o r t h e purpose of d i s c u s s i n g the twos i d e d c o i n of good and e v i l .  I n t h i s sense, t h e n o v e l i s c l o s e r t o H e a r t  33  o f Darkness than t o The S e c r e t Agent, d e s p i t e t h e s t r o n g p a r a l l e l s i n imagery t o the  latter.  Chesterton's  The Man Who Was Thursday opens i n the London suburb o f  S a f f r o n P a r k w h i c h " l a y on t h e sunset  s i d e o f London, a s r e d and ragged as  20 a cloud of sunset."  Less uniform  than Coketown's r e d b r i c k houses on  l a r g e and s m a l l s t r e e t s " l i k e one a n o t h e r ,  i n h a b i t e d by p e o p l e e q u a l l y  21 l i k e one a n o t h e r "  ( D i c k e n s , Hard Times),  and t i d i e r than the "grimy  b r i c k houses" i n V e r l o c ' s London, t h e houses o f S a f f r o n P a r k seem, n e v e r t h e l e s s , d i s t o r t e d because t h e p e o p l e who l i v e i n them a r e d i s t o r t e d . "The s t r a n g e r who l o o k e d f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e a t the q u a i n t r e d houses c o u l d o n l y t h i n k how o d d l y shaped t h e p e o p l e must be who c o u l d f i t i n t o them" (MWWT, p. 9 ) .  And j u s t a s V e r l o c makes h i s way t o t h e embassy under a sun t h a t  looked "bloodshot,"  G a b r i e l Syme n o t i c e s , a s the n o v e l opens, t h a t  S a f f r o n P a r k i s bathed i n a sunset and  world,"  t h a t " t h e whole was so c l o s e about the e a r t h a s t o express n o t h i n g b u t  a v i o l e n t s e c r e c y " (MWWT, p. 1 1 ) . to  t h a t " l o o k e d l i k e the end o f the  the t h r e a t o f a n a r c h i s m and  And so once a g a i n London l i e s v u l n e r a b l e apocalypse.  But C h e s t e r t o n , more than the o t h e r n o v e l i s t s who d e a l w i t h v i o l e n t v i s i o n , seems i n t e n t on unmasking i t s s h o r t s i g h t e d n e s s .  this What  seems l i k e gloomy d i s t r e s s f o r a d e c a y i n g m o r a l humanism i n The S e c r e t Agent i s p r e s e n t e d  a s a c h e e r f u l r e p r o a c h f o r a f a c t f o r g o t t e n i n The Man  Who  Conrad's n o v e l seems r e g r e t f u l ; C h e s t e r t o n ' s i s  Was Thursday.  c o r r e c t i v e — w h i c h i s a f u n c t i o n o f i t s p a r a b l e form.  G a b r i e l Syme, f o r  example, makes i t c l e a r t h a t t h e r e a r e l e s s o n s t o be l e a r n e d . man  He i s a  " f i g h t i n g f o r o r d e r " who f e e l s i t i s w i s e t o be i n t i m a t e w i t h  the  a n a r c h i s t e x p e r i e n c e so t h a t " t h e r e a l l i e  o f Satan may be f l u n g back i n  the  f a c e o f t h i s blasphemer, so t h a t by t e a r s and t o r t u r e we may l e a r n  the  r i g h t t o say t o t h i s man, 'You l i e ! ' "  (MWWT, pp. 183-84).  But the  n o v e l ' s h u m a n i s t i c i d e a l i s m i s n o t r e s c u e d w i t h o u t a t u s s l e from t h e s c e p t i c i s m o f e a r l y t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y modernism.  F o r example,  about  Syme's p e r c e p t i o n s o f a f o r e s t , we r e a d :  For G a b r i e l Syme had found i n t h e h e a r t o f t h a t s u n s p l a s h e d wood what many modern p a i n t e r s had found t h e r e . He had found t h e t h i n g w h i c h modern p e o p l e c a l l I m p r e s s i o n i s m , w h i c h i s another name f o r t h a t f i n a l s c e p t i c i s m w h i c h can f i n d no f l o o r t o t h e universe. As a man i n a n e v i l dream s t r a i n s h i m s e l f t o scream and wake, Syme s t r o v e w i t h a sudden e f f o r t t o f l i n g o f f t h i s l a s t and w o r s t o f h i s f a n c i e s (MWWT, p. 127) . W h i l e C h e s t e r t o n ' s f a n t a s y p a r a b l e c h a r t s a d i f f e r e n t c o u r s e than t h e a n a r c h i s t f i c t i o n s o f h i s immediate p r e d e c e s s o r s , James and Conrad, t h e s p a t i a l imagery i n t h e n o v e l i s c u t from t h e same c l o t h .  Just as  H y a c i n t h descends i n t o t h e p r i s o n and Conrad's c h a r a c t e r s i n t o t h e London l a b y r i n t h , Syme and Gregory descend i n t o t h e i r own k i n d o f i n f e r n o :  The n e x t moment t h e smoke o f h i s c i g a r , w h i c h had been w a v e r i n g a c r o s s t h e room i n snaky t w i s t s , went s t r a i g h t up a s i f from a f a c t o r y chimney, and t h e two, w i t h t h e i r c h a i r s and t a b l e , shot down t h r o u g h the f l o o r a s i f t h e e a r t h had swallowed them. They went r a t t l i n g down a k i n d o f r o a r i n g chimney a s r a p i d l y as a l i f t c u t l o o s e , and they came w i t h an a b r u p t bump t o t h e bottom. B u t when Gregory threw open a p a i r o f doors and l e t i n a r e d s u b t e r r a n e a n l i g h t , Syme was s t i l l smoking w i t h one l e g thrown over t h e o t h e r , and had n o t t u r n e d a y e l l o w h a i r . Gregory l e d him down a low, v a u l t e d passage, a t the end o f w h i c h was a r e d l i g h t . I t was an enormous crimson l a n t e r n , n e a r l y as b i g as a f i r e p l a c e , f i x e d  35  over a small but heavy iron door. In the door there was a sort of hatchway or grating, and on this Gregory struck f i v e times (MWWT, p. 22).  More e x p l i c i t l y h e l l i s h (roaring chimney, red subterranean l i g h t , f i r e place) than James' and Conrad's renditions of anarchist underworlds, this p a r t i c u l a r abyss i s a surprising forerunner of the entombed arsenals of technology and warfare that we f i n d i n the underground tunnels of Pynchon's Germany.  Walled with bombs, the very room i n which Syme and Gregory f i n d  themselves "seemed l i k e the inside of a bomb" (MWWT, p. 23), j u s t as i n Gravity's Rainbow the boy Gottfried finds himself about to be launched inside the Schwarzgerat.  Yet, as i n The Family Arsenal, labyrinth and bomb i n The Man Who Was Thursday are not elevated to a structural prominence f o r the purposes of absenting a centre.  Chesterton leads us not to a narrative gap but along  a mesmerizing journey of mysteries and enigmatic confusions, and always towards the i n t r i c a t e play of opposites:  of anarchists and police, of the  seeming and the r e a l , of nightmare and wakefulness and of good and evil-. Like A l i c e ' s adventure through the glass, Syme's descent down the anarchi s t ' s elevator i s a device for d i s f i g u r i n g and thus f o r commenting on a 22 world blurred by f a m i l i a r i t y .  By contrast, the novelists of absent-  centred narrative f e e l that there i s ample d i s f i g u r a t i o n i n the world as it i s . If Spark, Theroux and Chesterton r e j e c t absent-centred structure i n favour of other narrative strategies (while exploiting the metaphors of anarchism and explosion), other novelists achieve a high degree of absentcentred structure by relying on the detective f i c t i o n genre instead of  36  a n a r c h i s m and e x p l o s i o n .  Hubert A q u i n ' s Hamlet's Twin (Neige N o i r e ) ,  f o r example, f o r e g o e s t h e f i r e w o r k s o f a n a r c h i s t e x p l o s i o n and t h e l a b y r i n t h o f underground i n t r i g u e , b u t i t does e x p l o i t o t h e r  spatial  s t r u c t u r i n g images and temporal d i s t o r t i o n s w h i c h connect i t t o The S e c r e t Agent, Catch-22 and P e t e r s b u r g .  Not  s u r p r i s i n g l y , a u t h o r s l i k e A q u i n , persuaded by t h e s t r a t e g y o f  absent-centred  n a r r a t i v e , must t u r n t o image c l u s t e r s o f c o n c e n t r i c i t y .  B e l y does so on t h e opening page o f P e t e r s b u r g  (the c i t y i s designated  on  maps by two c o n c e n t r i c c i r c l e s w i t h a d o t i n t h e c e n t r e ) ; S t e v i e ' s " c o r u s c a t i o n s o f innumerable c i r c l e s " a r e a m e s s i e r v e r s i o n , b u t they p o i n t t o t h e same e x p l o s i v e shockwaves, t h e same urban d i s o r d e r and t h e same m o r a l c o n f u s i o n s .  S i m i l a r l y , i n Hamlet's Twin, N i c o l a s and S y l v i e ,  b e l a t e d honeymooners, t r a v e l towards t h e a r c t i c c i r c l e and t h e n o r t h p o l e — C o n r a d has a l i k e i n t e r e s t i n l o n g i t u d e , l a t i t u d e and t h e f i r s t meridian.  D u r i n g t h e i r voyage, they pass through Troms^, "a c i t y  without 23  a c e n t r e , a l o n g l a n d i n g - s t a g e rimmed w i t h a few houses and b u i l d i n g s . " And  N i c o l a s dreams about an I t a l i a n e n c l a v e  i n the Svalbard  Archipelago:  The c i t y was b u i l t a c c o r d i n g t o a c o n c e n t r i c p l a n . The avenues come o u t o f t h e c e n t r e l i k e r a d i i , t h e s t r e e t s a r e c i r c u l a r and c u t a c r o s s t h e avenues. The c e n t r a l a r e a i s a m a s t e r p i e c e (HT, p. 1 1 7 ) . The a r c h i t e c t u r a l p l a n might have been borrowed from P e t e r t h e G r e a t , f o r Petersburg repeatedly.  i s c o n s t r u c t e d p r e c i s e l y i n t h i s way, as B e l y reminds us Nicolas notices that Spitsbergen,  s c r i b e d emptiness."  t o o , i s "a b a r e l y  circum-  To be d e f i n e d , an emptiness o r an absence must be  c i r c u m s c r i b e d , and t h i s i s why t h e n o v e l s o f a b s e n t - c e n t r e d  s t r u c t u r e must,  37  p a r a d o x i c a l l y , r e f u s e t o t e l l t h e s t o r y by i n d i r e c t l y and r e l u c t a n t l y n a r r a t i n g what they w i s h t o a v o i d . Agent i s c o n s p i c u o u s l y beginning  The bomb e x p l o s i o n i n The S e c r e t  absent i n t h e l i n e a r f l o w o f n a r r a t i v e a t t h e  o f t h e n o v e l , b u t e v e n t u a l l y t h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s and d e s c r i p t i o n s  are recreated f o r us i n characters' imaginations  i n grim d e t a i l .  S i m i l a r l y , N i c o l a s b l o t s S y l v i e ' s murder from h i s c o n s c i o u s n e s s and h i s s c r i p t , b u t e v e n t u a l l y t h e d e t a i l s f o r c e f u l l y i n t r u d e back i n t o t h e screenplay.  The n a r r a t o r e x p l a i n s i t t h u s :  The. p r e s e n t i s b e i n g used h e r e t o t a k e an i n v e n t o r y of what i s l a c k i n g . T h i s t a b u l a t i o n evokes l a c u n a e , gaps, o m i s s i o n s , absences (HT, p. 1 8 8 ) . And  t h e c e n t r a l absence i s s p o t t e d by Eva when she reads t h e s c r i p t : Eva I've r e r e a d e v e r y t h i n g you've w r i t t e n from t h e beg i n n i n g . Do you want t o know what I t h i n k o f i t ? Some i m p o r t a n t scenes a r e m i s s i n g . Nicolas For  instance? Eva  You s k i p over S y l v i e ' s s u i c i d e . She k i l l s h e r s e l f , t h a t ' s s t a t e d q u i t e c l e a r l y , b u t we a r e n ' t t h e r e when i t happens except through t h e i n t e r m e d i a r y o f N i c o l a s ' account (HT, p. 1 5 4 ) . S y l v i e ' s s u i c i d e i s , o f c o u r s e , a l i e , and e v e n t u a l l y N i c o l a s i s f o r c e d t o change t h e s c r i p t t o i n c l u d e t h e s a d i s t i c , r i t u a l i s t i c murder because he wants i t t o be a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l l y a c c u r a t e . protests that h i s screenplay  At t h i s point  Nicolas  i s t r u t h , though o t h e r s who read t h e s c r i p t  a r e r e l u c t a n t t o see i t so. S y l v i e ' s murder, they assume, must be a f a b r i c a t i o n f o r t h e sake o f a r t , and thus, f o r a time, N i c o l a s i s a l l o w e d  38  to  w r i t e about h i s crime i n the g u i s e of f i c t i o n .  I t i s n o t so much a  case of l i f e f o l l o w i n g a r t as i t i s a r t b e i n g invaded by l i f e . Eva and L i n d a N o b l e , t h e a c t r e s s who  Only when  i s to p l a y S y l v i e ' s r o l e , g l a n c e  over a summary of t h e crime do they r e a l i z e t h a t N i c o l a s ' s c r e e n p l a y i s f a c t , and t h u s , t h a t t h e r e i s a danger he may when the f i l m i s b e i n g produced. bed e a r l i e r i n t h e n o v e l . )  r e p e a t the c r i m e i n a r t ,  ( N i c o l a s has, i n f a c t , t i e d L i n d a to a  N i c o l a s i s c o r r e c t when he h i n t s a t the ab-  sent c r i m e and i t s e f f e c t on h i s f i l m ; " i t ' s  the f i c t i o n t h a t i s t r a p p e d  by a r e a l i t y i t d i d n ' t c o n t a i n and w h i c h h y p o c r i t i c a l l y i n v a d e s i t " p. 1 2 0 ) .  (HT,  Hence t h e r e l u c t a n t l y i n c l u d e d c r i m e i s v e r y much l i k e Conrad's  m i s s i n g e x p l o s i o n and even more l i k e Y o s s a r i a n ' s r e l u c t a n t remembering o f . Snowden's d e a t h i n Catch-22. c o l d N i c o l a s , I'm  S y l v i e ' s words, i n f a c t , as she d i e s  ("I'm  so c o l d " HT, p. 196) a r e a c l e a r echo of Snowden's  words as he d i e s i n t h e p l a n e ("'I'm c o l d , ' Snowden w h i s p e r e d , 'I'm  cold'").  A q u i n , Conrad and H e l l e r a l l f i n d i t n e c e s s a r y to r a d i c a l l y d i s r u p t n a r r a t i v e time because, to c i r c u m s c r i b e t h e c e n t r a l n a r r a t i v e  absence,  they must i n t e r r u p t the t e m p o r a l f l o w and absent the c r u c i a l event o r crime.  We f o l l o w V e r l o c to and from t h e Embassy to t h e p o i n t where he  c o n c e i v e s o f the bombing p l a n ; then suddenly the n a r r a t i v e jumps to a point a f t e r the explosion.  We f o l l o w N i c o l a s ' and S y l v i e ' s j o u r n e y to  S p i t s b e r g e n ; then suddenly the n a r r a t i v e jumps to N i c o l a s ' r e t u r n to O s l o a f t e r S y l v i e ' s death.  H e l l e r d i f f e r s somewhat i n t h a t Snowden's d e a t h  f u n c t i o n s as a n a r r a t i v e absence from the b e g i n n i n g .  Yet a l l three n a r r a -  t i v e s f o l l o w the same p a t t e r n o f r e t u r n i n g to t h e absented event i n an attempt to r e c o v e r t h e d e t a i l s and c i r c u m s t a n c e s and to g r a p p l e w i t h i t s significance.  39 It i s t h i s narrative emphasis on the recovery of circumstances surrounding the crime which situates these novels, l i k e Robbe-Grillet s 1  25 The Voyeur, i n the detective f i c t i o n mode.  But whereas the emphasis i n  detective f i c t i o n always rests on the question "who  done i t , " novelists of  absent-centred narrative are more preoccupied with the fragmenting of  the absented violence i t s e l f .  effect  Detective f i c t i o n , we might say, con-  s t i t u t e s another sub-set of absent-centred narrative controlled by the absent centre of character.  The absent centre here, however, i s only an  absence i n the sense that i t i s an unknown which i s deployed i n the service of mystery and suspense.  The "who"  i s the formulaic gap which  every reader of detective f i c t i o n i m p l i c i t l y knows i s the raison d'etre of the narrative.  Agatha C h r i s t i e plays on this p r i n c i p l e i n The  Murder of Roger Ackroyd i n which the reader scans the cast of characters looking for the criminal who of  the crime's plot.  f i t s most l o g i c a l l y into the gap i n the syntax  But, defying a l l laws of detective f i c t i o n grammar,  C h r i s t i e conflates narrator and criminal.  Assuming that he i s a r e l i a b l e  narrator, the reader absents Dr. Sheppard from the cast of potential murderers.  Yet, Dr. Sheppard, l i k e Nicolas i n Hamlet's Twin, i s a  r e l i a b l e narrator i n the sense that his narrative i s a t r u t h f u l record of the crime.  He explains: I am rather pleased with myself as a writer. What could be neater, for instance, than the following: "The l e t t e r s were brought i n at twenty minutes to nine. It was just on ten minutes to nine when I_ lef t him, the l e t t e r s t i l l unread. _I hesitated with my hand on the door handle, looking back and wondering i f there was anything I had l e f t undone.'.' A l l true, you see. But suppose I had put a row of stars after the f i r s t sentence! Would somebody then  40  have wondered what e x a c t l y happened i n t h a t b l a n k ten m i n u t e s ? ^  However, t h e t e m p o r a l l a c u n a o f those " b l a n k t e n m i n u t e s " d i m i n i s h e s i n i t s e f f e c t on t h e n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e when compared t o t h e temporal of  lacuna  a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e s w h i c h u s e t h i s d e t e c t i v e f i c t i o n mode as a  s k e l e t o n f o r more monstrous  experiment.  M a t h i a s , f o r example, i n The Voyeur, as a t r a v e l l i n g w r i s t - w a t c h salesman,  i s v i r t u a l l y a vendor o f d i s t o r t e d t i m e .  I n f a c t , amid t h e  f l a s h b a c k s , s h i f t i n g p o i n t s o f v i e w and r e p e t i t i o n s ( o r n e a r - r e p e t i t i o n s ) , t h e o n l y way t o t r a c k t h e l i n e a r t i m e o f t h e n a r r a t i v e i s t o t r a c k t h e number o f h i s w r i s t - w a t c h s a l e s — g u s t as keeping t r a c k o f t h e number o f bombing m i s s i o n s i n Catch-22 h e l p s t o s o r t o u t t h e time scheme o f t h a t fragmented  narrative.  And The Voyeur, l i k e The S e c r e t Agent, Catch-22  and Hamlet's Twin, proceeds c a r e f u l l y avoids i t .  towards t h e c r i m e o r v i o l e n t death and then  R o b b e - G r i l l e t , however, i s more p e r s p e c t i v i s t i n h i s  s t r a t e g y ; M a t h i a s ' s r o l e as murderer i s s t r o n g l y suggested, b u t so confused and even c o n t r a d i c t o r y a r e t h e d e s c r i p t i o n s o f t h e crime t h a t t h e r e must always remain an element o f u n c e r t a i n t y .  P a r t o f t h e r e a s o n i s t h a t , more  than o t h e r a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e s , we a r e e n c l o s e d w i t h i n t h e mind o f t h e c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r , and because "he was taken f o r a madman" (_V, p. 1 3 3 ) , we doubt h i s r e l i a b i l i t y .  For example, t h e s t o r y c o u l d be read as t h e  f a n t a s t i c a l concoctions of a dreary loser with a f u r t i v e persecution complex.  R o b b e - G r i l l e t ' s d i s t i n c t i v e u s e o f i n d e t e r m i n a c y i s evidenced by h i s s p e c i a l r e n d i t i o n o f t h e l a b y r i n t h i n The Voyeur.  James, Conrad, C h e s t e r t o n ,  41  B e l y , and t o a l e s s e r e x t e n t , H e l l e r , a p p r o p r i a t e t h e l a b y r i n t h as a symbol f o r doomed c i t i e s and as a s e t t i n g f o r doomed c h a r a c t e r s .  Robbe-  G r i l l e t ' s u r b a n l a b y r i n t h of I n t h e L a b y r i n t h does t h i s t o o , b u t i t , t o g e t h e r w i t h t h e l a b y r i n t h o f The VOyeur (which i s t h e o n l y r u r a l one o f t h e g r o u p ) , a r e a l s o used e x p l i c i t l y as metaphors f o r t h e n o v e l s ' n a r r a t i v e t e c h n i q u e , and u l t i m a t e l y , as an i l l u s t r a t i o n o f t h e n o t i o n t h a t i t i s d i f f i c u l t i f n o t i m p o s s i b l e t o f i n d one's way i n t h e o b j e c t i v e w o r l d . Mathias,  on h i s r e t u r n t o t h e scene o f t h e c r i m e , chooses a s h o r t c u t  through a f i e l d :  U n f o r t u n a t e l y none of t h e numerous e x i s t i n g p a t h s c o i n c i d e d w i t h t h e t h e o r e t i c a l d i r e c t i o n M a t h i a s had s e l e c t e d ; he was t h e r e f o r e c o n f i n e d , from t h e s t a r t , t o one o f two p o s s i b l e d e t o u r s . B e s i d e s , every p a t h l o o k e d w i n d i n g and d i s c o n t i n u o u s — s e p a r a t i n g , r e u n i t i n g , c o n s t a n t l y i n t e r l a c i n g , even s t o p p i n g s h o r t i n a b r i a r p a t c h . A l l o f w h i c h o b l i g e d him t o make many f a l s e s t a r t s , h e s i t a t i o n s , r e t r e a t s , posed new problems a t every s t e p , f o r b a d e any a s s u r a n c e as to the g e n e r a l d i r e c t i o n o f t h e p a t h he had chosen (V, p. 1 5 9 ) .  T h i s language i s , o f c o u r s e , d e s c r i p t i v e of t h e c h a r a c t e r ' s meanderings (and perhaps o f h i s m i n d ) , but i t a l s o d e s c r i b e s t h e d i s c o n t i n u i t y , t h e s e p a r a t i o n s , r e p e t i t i o n s , c a n c e l l a t i o n s and i n t e r l a c i n g s w h i c h c h a r a c t e r i z e t h e n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e and w h i c h c i r c u m s c r i b e t h e d e t a i l s o f t h e rape and murder w h i c h a r e never d i r e c t l y n a r r a t e d .  A l l o f t h e i n f o r m a t i o n about  the c r i m e comes i n d i r e c t l y and r e l u c t a n t l y , some of i t , as i n The S e c r e t Agent, by way o f a newspaper.  Reading t h r o u g h t h e a r t i c l e on t h e murder,  Mathias n o t i c e s that the a r t i c l e d i d n o t have much o f importance t o say. I t was no l o n g e r than a minor news i t e m . I n f a c t a good  h a l f o f i t m e r e l y t r a c e d t h e secondary c i r c u m s t a n c e s of t h e d i s c o v e r y of t h e body (V, p. 61).  L i k e O s s i p o n i n The S e c r e t Agent, who  f i n d s t h e "mere newspaper gup" i n -  adequate f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g the e x p l o s i o n , M a t h i a s f i n d s t h e " c o n v e n t i o n a l language o f the p r e s s " h o p e l e s s l y u n s u i t e d to t h e p a r t i c u l a r s o f t h e c r i m e . "The  scene," he c o n c l u d e s , "would have to be r e - i n v e n t e d from b e g i n n i n g to  end, s t a r t i n g w i t h two or t h r e e elementary d e t a i l s , l i k e t h e age of t h e v i c t i m o r t h e c o l o r o f her h a i r " (V, pp. 61-62).  I n The S e c r e t Agent,  t h e p o l i c e b e g i n w i t h the t r i a n g l e on S t e v i e ' s o v e r c o a t . n a r r a t i v e s must f o l l o w p r e c i s e l y t h e same p r o c e d u r e : g i n n i n g w i t h t h e "secondary  Absent-centred  r e - i n v e n t by  be-  circumstances."  The n a r r a t i v e c i r c u m s c r i b i n g t h e crime i n The Voyeur t a k e s i t s imagery,  l i k e o t h e r a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n o v e l s , from c o n c e n t r i c i t y .  Thus, the  road on t h e i s l a n d "made .a l a r g e s e m i c i r c u l a r c u r v e w h i c h reached  the  f u r t h e s t p o i n t of t h e i s l a n d and then curved back towards t h e c e n t e r " (_V, p. 1 2 6 ) .  And g o i n g i n t o a s t o r e i n t h e v i l l a g e , M a t h i a s ' eye i s caught by  a "round, l o n g - h a n d l e d  enameled i r o n skimmer" which i s chipped so t h a t  " c o n c e n t r i c l i n e s faded out toward t h e edge."  To t h e r i g h t , a dozen i d e n t i c a l l i t t l e k n i v e s — mounted on a cardboard s t r i p , l i k e w a t c h e s — f o r m e d a c i r c l e , a l l p o i n t i n g toward a t i n y d e s i g n i n the c e n t e r which must have been t h e m a n u f a c t u r e r ' s t r a d e mark (V, p. 4 2 ) .  The k n i v e s p o i n t , l i k e t h e n a r r a t i v e , to a c e n t r e of c r i m e , and s i n c e t h e i n s t r u m e n t s o f v i o l e n c e a r e l i k e n e d to an arrangement of watches, t h e passage a l s o p o i n t s to t h e t i m e l e s s n e s s o f t h a t crime i n the s t o r y .  A  43  v e r s i o n o f t h e c i r c l e image, t h e sideways f i g u r e e i g h t , a l s o s u g g e s t s t h a t the murder i s u n r e c o v e r a b l e .  The two anchor r i n g s on t h e wharf; t h e  t w i s t e d c o r d M a t h i a s keeps i n h i s pocket ( p o s s i b l y used t o s t r a n g l e t h e girl);  t h e s e a g u l l ' s eyes w h i c h a r e "two p e r f e c t , m o t i o n l e s s c i r c l e s s e t  s i d e by s i d e , each one p i e r c e d a t t h e c e n t e r by a b l a c k h o l e " (V, p. 1 8 3 ) ; the c y l i n d r i c a l lamp w i t h "two superimposed  s e r i e s o f e q u a l tangent  c i r c l e s — r i n g s more e x a c t l y , s i n c e t h e i r c e n t e r s a r e h o l l o w " (V, p. 1 9 4 ) ; and t h e two c i g a r e t t e h o l e s t h a t M a t h i a s burns i n h i s n e w s p a p e r - — a l l of these a r e images o f h o l l o w n e s s and s t i l l n e s s a t t h e c e n t r e o f t h e n a r r a t i v e . The d o u b l i n g of t h e c i r c l e i n t o a sideways e i g h t ( t h e m a t h e m a t i c a l f o r i n f i n i t y ) emphasizes  symbol  t h e e n d l e s s t r a v e l l i n g , c i r c l i n g , and r e c i r c l i n g  t h a t t h e r e a d e r e x p e r i e n c e s as he a t t e m p t s t o c o n t a i n t h e n a r r a t i v e l i n e . M a t h i a s h i m s e l f d e s c r i b e s h i s j o u r n e y as "a k i n d o f f i g u r e e i g h t " (V, p. 2 1 2 ) , and l i k e him, t h e r e a d e r can o n l y f o l l o w one l o o p , then i t s m i r r o r l o o p , ever p a s s i n g over t h e s t i l l and e l u s i v e c e n t r e of t h e c r i m e ;  What R o b b e - G r i l l e t ' s and A q u i n ' s n o v e l s share w i t h t h e a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e s i n my s t u d y i s a t e m p o r a l d i s t o r t i o n o f t i m e and a s e r i e s o f s t r u c t u r a l l y f u n c t i o n a l s p a t i a l images w h i c h a r e a l s o metaphors f o r t h e absent e v e n t .  The sub-set I have s e l e c t e d (James, Conrad, B e l y , H e l l e r  and Pynchon) i s more p a r t i c u l a r l y governed, i n a d d i t i o n to imagery of conc e n t r i c i t y , by t h e imagery o f e x p l o s i o n .  These s t r i c t u r e s , of c o u r s e ,  n e c e s s a r i l y e x c l u d e many o t h e r works w h i c h i n a l a r g e r study would attention.  deserve  B u t Conrad's H e a r t o f Darkness, f o r example, d e s p i t e t h e a r r a y  of d a r k and b l a n k enigmas w h i c h a r e suggested by t h a t work's imagery, i s O  n o t as u s e f u l f o r my purposes as The S e c r e t Agent.  Q  Kurtz's heart, l i k e  44  the is  C o n g o ' s , may u l t i m a t e l y as n e a t l y  Mystical centred of  narrative,  mysteries  most  social  episodically  the  later  then,  Gravity's  to  for nor  of  the  James,  enough  matter,  carefully  is  to the  complex  example,  absent-centred  that  narrative  its  the  narrative  constitute  an  of  drawing  nuances and  psychological  of  the  the  Dove.  in  absent-centred  structure.  a veritable  of It  My  contains a  Victorian  parameters  pattern.  absentmetaphysics  the  work r e p r e s e n t s  Finn.  philosophical  narrative—albeit of  structure  as Huckleberry  The Wings  abandonment  thereby  context for  down-stream  not  for  but  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima because i t  Dickens,  Rainbow,  is  that  because in  cultural  particular  alone  with  features  back  and  nor,  Castle,  form—and  looks  this  of  the  mentary it  The  begins, of  and  neo-primitivism  Kafka's  study  framed  be u n e x p l a i n a b l e ,  rudiBildungsroman  the  Modernist  ends  with  encyclopedia  of  Notes  P i e r r e Macherey, A Theory of L i t e r a r y P r o d u c t i o n , t r a n s l a t e d by G e o f f r e y W a l l (London: R o u t l e d g e and Kegan P a u l , 1978), p. 27. Further r e f e r e n c e s a r e g i v e n i n the t e x t by page number f o l l o w i n g t h e abbrevi a t i o n TLP. T e r r y E a g l e t o n , C r i t i c i s m and I d e o l o g y (London: V e r s o , 1978), p. 99. F u r t h e r r e f e r e n c e s a r e g i v e n i n the t e x t by page number f o l l o w i n g the a b b r e v i a t i o n CI. 3  P e r r y Anderson, "Components of t h e N a t i o n a l C u l t u r e , " New L e f t Review 50: 1968, p. 12. 4 Frank Kermode, The G e n e s i s of S e c r e c y (Cambridge, Mass.: H a r v a r d U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1979), p. 47. ~* Jacques D e r r i d a , " S t r u c t u r e , S i g n , and P l a y i n t h e D i s c o u r s e of Human S c i e n c e s , " i n The S t r u c t u r a l i s t C o n t r o v e r s y : t h e Language of C r i t i c i s m and the S c i e n c e o f Man, e d i t e d by R i c h a r d Macksey and Eugenio Donato ( B a l t i m o r e : Johns Hopkins U n i v e r s i t y , 1977), p. 249. Further r e f e r e n c e s a r e g i v e n i n t h e t e x t by page number f o l l o w i n g t h e a b b r e v i a t i o n SSP. A l a i n R o b b e - G r i l l e t , The Voyeur, t r a n s l a t e d by R i c h a r d Howard (New Y o r k : Grove, 1958), p. 3. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as V. ^ Edward W. S a i d , B e g i n n i n g s : I n t e n t i o n and Method (New Y o r k : B a s i c Books, 1975), p. 285. C i t e d i n t e x t as BIM. Jacques Lacan, E c r i t s , as quoted i n S a i d , B e g i n n i n g s ,  p. 329.  9 F r e d r i c Jameson, The P r i s o n - H o u s e o f Language ( P r i n c e t o n : P r i n c e t o n U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1972), p. 173. T z v e t a n Todorov, The P o e t i c s of P r o s e , t r a n s l a t e d by R i c h a r d Howard ( I t h a c a , New Y o r k : C o r n e l l U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1977), p. 145. C i t e d i n t e x t as PP. Wolfgang I s e r , The A c t of Reading ( B a l t i m o r e : Johns Hopkins U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1978), p. 167. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as AR.  46  12  James M. M e l l a r d , The Exploded Form (Urbana: U n i v e r s i t y of I l l i n o i s P r e s s , 1980), p. 11. 13 Henry Adams, The E d u c a t i o n of Henry Adams (New L i b r a r y , 1931), pp. 496 and 431 r e s p e c t i v e l y . 14  Adams, The E d u c a t i o n , p.  Y o r k : Modern  457,  15  Graham Greene, f o r example, g i v e s us b i c y c l e bombs and a s p e c t a c u l a r e x p l o s i o n a t t h e end of The Q u i e t American (1955), but n e i t h e r f u n c t i o n s as a n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r i n g metaphor. S i m i l a r l y , Doctor F i s c h e r o f Geneva or The Bomb P a r t y (1980) i s a p l a y f u l and macabre p a r a b l e of h a t e and greed, but i t s t o y i n g w i t h the a n t i - c l i m a x of the unexploded bomb.is not so much a f u n c t i o n o f an absent c e n t r e as i t i s a d e v i c e f o r p o i n t i n g t o a s e r i o u s m o r a l to be drawn from the p a r a b l e . 16 M u r i e l Spark, The G i r l s o f S l e n d e r Means (Harmondsworth, England: P e n g u i n , 1 9 6 3 ) , p. 115. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as GSM. 17 Henry James, The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, quoted as an e p i g r a p h i n P a u l Theroux's The F a m i l y A r s e n a l (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1976), p. 45. F u r t h e r r e f e r e n c e s to The F a m i l y A r s e n a l c i t e d as FA. 18 Joseph Conrad, The S e c r e t Agent (Harmondsworth, E n g l a n d : P e n g u i n , 1963), p. 74. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as SA. 19 W.  H. Matthews g i v e s t h e f o l l o w i n g account of mazes and l a b y r i n t h s : Above a l l , the l a b y r i n t h was the c e n t r e of a c t i v i t i e s concerned w i t h t h o s e g r e a t e s t m y s t e r i e s , L i f e and Death. There men t r i e d by every means known to them t o o v e r come d e a t h and t o renew l i f e . The l a b y r i n t h p r o t e c t e d and c o n c e a l e d t h e dead King-god i n o r d e r t h a t h i s l i f e . i n the a f t e r - w o r l d might be p r e s e r v e d . There the K i n g god went to renew and s t r e n g t h e n h i s own v i t a l i t y by a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h the immortal l i v e s of h i s dead a n c e s t o r s . The l a b y r i n t h was the c e n t r e of a l l the s t r o n g e s t emotions of the p e o p l e — j o y , f e a r and g r i e f were t h e r e g i v e n the most i n t e n s e form of e x p r e s s i o n . These emotions were d i r e c t e d i n t o c e r t a i n c h a n n e l s , p r o d u c i n g r i t u a l and t h e e a r l i e s t forms of a r t — n o t o n l y music and d a n c i n g , but a l s o s c u l p t u r e and p a i n t i n g . The l a b y r i n t h , as tomb and temple, f o s t e r e d t h e development of a l l a r t and l i t e r a t u r e , a c t i v i t i e s which i n those days possessed a r e l i g i o u s and l i f e - g i v i n g s i g n i f i c a n c e .  "Mazes and L a b y r i n t h s , " i n The L a b y r i n t h : F u r t h e r S t u d i e s i n the R e l a t i o n between Myth and R i t u a l i n t h e A n c i e n t W o r l d , ed. S. H. Hooke (London: S o c i e t y f o r P r o m o t i n g C h r i s t i a n Knowledge, 1935), p. 42.  47  20  G. K". C h e s t e r t o n , The Man Who Was Thursday (Harmondsworth, E n g l a n d : P e n g u i n , 1937), p. 9. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as MWWT. 21  C h a r l e s D i c k e n s , Hard Times (Harmondsworth, 1969, r p t . 1974), p. 65.  England: P e n g u i n ,  22 The a l l u s i o n to A l i c e i s e x p l i c i t on p. 178 when Syme c l a i m s t h a t the masquerade w h i c h Sunday convenes i s "as absurd as A l i c e i n Wonderland." Thus, The Man Who Was Thursday i s l i n k e d once more to The S e c r e t Agent, i n which, c l a i m s W i l l i a m Bysshe S t e i n , we can see Lewis C a r r o l l ' s i n f l u e n c e a t work i n t h e Humpty-Dumpty d e s c r i p t i o n s of the S e c r e t a r y . See: "The S e c r e t Agent: The A g o n ( i e ) s of the Word," Boundary I I , VI (1978) 2: 521-40. 23 Hubert A q u i n , Hamlet's Twin, t r a n s l a t e d by S h e i l a Fischman ( T o r o n t o : M c C l e l l a n d and S t e w a r t , 1979), p. 48. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as  HT.  24 p. 455.  J o s e p h H e l l e r , Catch-22 (New Y o r k : Simon and S h u s t e r , 1955), F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as C-22.  25 P a t r i c i a M e r i v a l e e x p e r t l y l o c a t e s and compares t h e absences i n The S e c r e t Agent and Catch-22, and mentions t h e c o n n e c t i o n s w i t h A q u i n and R o b b e - G r i l l e t . See: "Catch-22 and The S e c r e t Agent: M e c h a n i c a l Man, The H o l e i n the C e n t r e , and t h e ' P r i n c i p l e of I n b u i l t Chaos,'" i n E n g l i s h S t u d i e s i n Canada, 7 (December, 1981) 4: 426-437. 26 Other p o s s i b i l i t i e s t h a t w a r r a n t c o n s i d e r a t i o n as a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e s of c h a r a c t e r i n c l u d e F a u l k n e r ' s The Sound and t h e F u r y , i n w h i c h a major c h a r a c t e r , t h e s i s t e r Caddie, i s d e n i e d her own n a r r a t i v e . B e n j y , Q u e n t i n , and D i l s e y have the p r i v i l e g e of s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n but Caddie's s t o r y i s i n d i r e c t . Seymour i n J . D. S a l i n g e r ' s s t o r i e s i s a much-discussed but n e v e r - p r e s e n t c h a r a c t e r , and i n drama, Godot i s cons p i c u o u s l y a b s e n t . B u t , as seems t o be the c a s e , c h a r a c t e r s t a l k e d about c r e a t e enigmas but do not n e c e s s a r i l y d i s j o i n t t h e n a r r a t i v e . 27 Agatha C h r i s t i e , The Murder of Roger A c k r o y d (New Y o r k : P o c k e t Books, 1939), p. 196. 28 F o r a d i s c u s s i o n of H e a r t of Darkness as an a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n a r r a t i v e see: P e r r y M e i s e l , " D e c e n t e r i n g H e a r t of Darkness," Modern Language S t u d i e s 8 (no. 3, 1978): 20-28. The c l a i m i s t h a t c r i t i c s have e r r e d i n " f i l l i n g i n " t h e enigmas t h a t Conrad i n t e n d e d as absence.  48  CHAPTER I I  Henry James's The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima:  The M i s p l a c e d M i d d l e  "The  s e c r e t o f Jamesian n a r r a t i v e , " c l a i m s Tzvetan Todorov i n The  P o e t i c s o f P r o s e , " i s p r e c i s e l y t h e e x i s t e n c e of an e s s e n t i a l s e c r e t , of something n o t named, o f an a b s e n t and s u p e r p o w e r f u l f o r c e w h i c h s e t s t h e whole p r e s e n t machinery of t h e n a r r a t i v e i n motion.""'" himself  Todorov r e s t r i c t s  t o James's s h o r t s t o r i e s between 1892 and 1903, d i s c a r d i n g t h e  p r e v i o u s work as " p r e f a t o r y l a b o r , " as a " b r i l l i a n t b u t s c a r c e l y exercise."  Y e t , The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima (1886) i s i m p e l l e d  original  t o m o t i o n by  " e s s e n t i a l s e c r e t s " and "absent f o r c e s " as p o w e r f u l as any to be found i n the t a l e s . and  given  And g i v e n  t h a t a n o v e l has n e c e s s a r i l y more scope than a t a l e ,  t h a t The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima was w r i t t e n s i x y e a r s b e f o r e t h e  f i r s t o f Todorov's d a t e s , James's f o r m a l u s e of absence i s more than Todorov would suggest.  extensive  T h i s i s n o t to say t h a t absence i n The  P r i n c e s s Casamassima i s n o t p r o b l e m a t i c a l ,  f o r as w i l l become c l e a r , i t s  f o r m a l p o s i t i o n i n g i n t h e n a r r a t i v e i s n o t always c o n s i s t e n t n o r always uniformly  patterned  as i n a t a l e l i k e "The B e a s t i n t h e J u n g l e , "  or i n a  l a t e n o v e l l i k e The Wings o f t h e Dove, o r i n t h e more s u c c e s s f u l l y a b s e n t centred  f i c t i o n o f Conrad.  Y e t , as a l a t e V i c t o r i a n p r e c u r s o r  to a b s e n t -  centred  s t r u c t u r e i n t h e m o d e r n i s t and p o s t - m o d e r n i s t n o v e l , The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima o c c u p i e s a u s e f u l i f n o t exemplary p o s i t i o n , e s p e c i a l l y s i n c e i t c o n t a i n s many of t h e themes and images o f t h e p a r t i c u l a r s e t o f n o v e l s  49  w h i c h I have demarcated i n t h e l a r g e r s e t of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d . f i c t i o n . Absence i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima i s c r e a t e d s t r u c t u r a l r e l i a n c e on a n t i t h e s i s , " t h e p r e c i o u s  i n p a r t by a  element o f c o n t r a s t and 2  a n t i t h e s i s , " as James c a l l s i t i n The A r t o f t h e N o v e l . e a r l y i n t h e n o v e l when we l e a r n t h a t H y a c i n t h of an u n f o r t u n a t e peasant woman.  I t i s announced  i s the unfortunate  product  l i a i s o n between an E n g l i s h a r i s t o c r a t and a F r e n c h  The mother, F l o r e n t i n e V i v i e r , i s s e r v i n g a l i f e  i n M i l l b a n k p r i s o n f o r h e r murder o f H y a c i n t h ' s f a t h e r , Lord As H y a c i n t h ' s f o s t e r - m o t h e r ,  sentence  Frederick.  Amanda Pynsent f a c e s , a t t h e n o v e l ' s  opening,  the d i f f i c u l t t a s k o f d e c i d i n g whether o r n o t t o g r a n t t h e mother's d e a t h bed w i s h t h a t she see her son one l a s t t i m e .  Beyond t h e h e r e d i t a r y  anti-  t h e s i s o f a r i s t o c r a t and p e a s a n t — w h a t t h e n a r r a t o r c a l l s l a t e r " t h e blood of h i s passionate,  p l e b i a n mother and t h a t o f h i s long-descended,  s u p e r - c i v i l i s e d s i r e " — H y a c i n t h i s a l s o caught i n a s o c i a l a n t i t h e s i s between h i s s u r r o g a t e  p a r e n t s , Amanda Pynsent and her n e i g h b o u r , Mr. V e t c h .  Amanda Pynsent c o d d l e s and p r o t e c t s H y a c i n t h ( m o s t l y as a r e s u l t o f her r e s i g n e d  from h a r s h s o c i a l  realities  b e l i e f t h a t " t h e t r u t h never i s  3  found o u t " ) , and her g r e a t e s t d e s i r e i s t h a t H y a c i n t h c a p i t a l i z e on h i s " h i g h c o n n e c t i o n s " leisure.  Mr. V e t c h , on t h e o t h e r hand, when asked h i s a d v i c e about t h e " g i v e him a good  dose o f t h e t r u t h a t t h e s t a r t " (PC, p. 4 3 ) , he says w i t h a l l t h e  c y n i c i s m o f h i s thwarted s o c i a l i s t i d e a l i s m . Mr.  someday  and l i v e an a r i s t o c r a t i c l i f e o f  p r i s o n v i s i t , e x p r e s s e s an e n t i r e l y . d i f f e r e n t v i e w : stiff  should  Not s u r p r i s i n g l y , t h e n ,  V e t c h b e l i e v e s t h a t H y a c i n t h ' s f u t u r e s h o u l d be guided by i n t i m a t e  observation  o f l i f e among t h e downtrodden c l a s s e s .  Each a n t i t h e s i s , t h e  50  s o c i a l and t h e h e r e d i t a r y ( h i s s u r r o g a t e p a r e n t s and h i s r e a l p a r e n t s ) , o p e r a t e s from t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e n o v e l w i t h g r e a t power over H y a c i n t h ' s life, his  even though a t t h i s p o i n t each i s a m y s t e r i o u s f o r c e absent from  conscious  knowledge.  The f o r m a l s t r a t e g y w h i c h James adopts to d e v e l o p a n t i t h e s i s i s to s i t u a t e H y a c i n t h on the o u t s i d e edge o f two m y s t e r i o u s w o r l d s w h i c h cons t i t u t e the terms of t h e a n t i t h e s i s ; he proceeds a l t e r n a t e l y to the c e n t r e s o f b o t h w o r l d s where he meets w i t h r e j e c t i o n , d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t o r betrayal. the  The p a t t e r n i s d e f t l y worked w i t h images o f t h e l a b y r i n t h :  p r i s o n , London i t s e l f ,  t h e P r i n c e s s ' s a r i s t o c r a t i c w o r l d and P a u l  Muniment's a n a r c h i s t i c one. of  H y a c i n t h , t h i n k i n g he i s on the o u t s k i r t s  i m p o r t a n t t r u t h s and v a l u e s , plunges o r i s plunged to the c e n t r e of  t h e s e g e o m e t r i c and u s u a l l y h i d e o u s l a b y r i n t h s where he i n e v i t a b l y meets w i t h a M i n o t a u r i n one shape o r a n o t h e r . example,  The opening p r i s o n scene, f o r  f o r c e f u l l y e s t a b l i s h e s t h e p a t t e r n of p l u n g i n g i n t o  labyrinths.  A p p r o a c h i n g from t h e o u t s i d e , H y a c i n t h and Amanda Pynsent see t h e p r i s o n  ... l i f t i t s dusky mass from t h e bank of t h e Thames, l y i n g t h e r e and s p r a w l i n g over t h e whole n e i g h b o u r hood w i t h brown, b a r e , windowless w a l l s , u g l y t r u n c a t e d p i n n a c l e s and a c h a r a c t e r u n s p e a k a b l y sad and s t e r n . I t l o o k e d v e r y s i n i s t e r and w i c k e d , to M i s s P y n s e n t ' s • eyes ... (PC, p. 4 7 ) . L i t t l e Hyacinth r e s i s t s :  " I don't l i k e t h i s p l a c e , " and l a t e r , " I won't  go i n . " N e v e r t h e l e s s , they do e n t e r t h e "huge d a r k tomb," and, w i t h a D i c k e n s i a n emphasis on geometry, the  they c r o s s " t h e bare s e m i c i r c l e " a t  gateway and f i n d themselves i n a "draughty l a b y r i n t h " w i t h " h i g h  black walls."  They then make t h e i r way  t o r t u o u s l y to H y a c i n t h ' s mother  51  t h r o u g h a " c i r c u l a r s h a f t o f c e l l s , " where t h e r e a r e " w a l l s w i t h i n w a l l s and g a l l e r i e s on top of g a l l e r i e s . "  They a l s o n o t i c e t h a t  "dreadful  f i g u r e s , s c a r c e l y f e m a l e , i n h i d e o u s brown u n i f o r m s and p e r f e c t of hoods, were marching round i n a c i r c l e " (PC, pp.  H y a c i n t h ' s mother, we may  49-50).  assume, endured j u s t such a p u r g a t o r i a l  e x i s t e n c e and r i t u a l i z e d punishment.  Now,  however, on her deathbed a t  the c e n t r e of the p r i s o n l a b y r i n t h , she appears to H y a c i n t h b l o o d l e s s mask."  as a  "hollow  M i s s P y n s e n t , p o n d e r i n g the e f f e c t of such a p o w e r f u l  image upon an i m p r e s s i o n a b l e  c o n s c i o u s n e s s , wonders "what thoughts were  b e g o t t e n a t t h a t moment" (PC, p. 5 6 ) .  The g e r m i n a l scene of the  thus c o n t a i n s a p o t e n t symbol f o r H y a c i n t h , m a r i t a l b e t r a y a l and  novel  a d e a t h mask w h i c h p o i n t s  to d e a t h , t h e u l t i m a t e n e g a t i o n ,  w h i c h t h r e a t e n s H y a c i n t h ' s l i f e from t h e  This formal  frights  to  the u l t i m a t e absence  beginning.  s t r a t e g y w h i c h opens the n o v e l i s r e a l l y James's v e r s i o n 4  of the D i c k e n s i a n D a v i d , who  i n s i s t s on h i s own  i s described appealing  B i l d u n g s r o m a n, f o r example David C o p p e r f i e l d . d e l i c a t e and p r e c o c i o u s  nature,"'  Like Hyacinth  as " a l t o g e t h e r , i n h i s tender f i n e n e s s , an i n t e r e s t i n g ,  l i t t l e p e r s o n " (PC, p. 3 2 ) .  Each c h i l d i s s u b j e c t e d  to  an  i n i t i a l l y damaging e x p e r i e n c e w h i c h l a t e r r e s u r f a c e s as b o t h a cause and an e x p l a n a t i o n f o r subsequent b e h a v i o u r .  I n H y a c i n t h ' s c a s e , the  prison  scene i m p r i n t s a n t i t h e s i s i r r e p a r a b l y on h i s c o n s c i o u s n e s s so t h a t , as a young man  searching  t h r o u g h back i s s u e s of The Times i n the  British  Museum, he stumbles a c r o s s  the f a c t s of h i s parentage and r e a l i z e s t h a t  " t h e r e f l e x i o n t h a t he was  a bastard  r e f l e x i o n t h a t he was  i n v o l v e d i n a r e m a r k a b l e manner the  a gentleman" (PC, p. 1 2 8 ) .  I n a s i m i l a r passage,  52  the f o r m a l p a t t e r n of H y a c i n t h ' s p l i c i t l y i n t h e opening scene:  l i f e — a n d of t h e n o v e l — i s r o o t e d "...  h i s f a t e was  ex-  to be d i v i d e d to  p o i n t of t o r t u r e , to be s p l i t open by sympathies t h a t p u l l e d him  the  in  d i f f e r e n t ways; f o r hadn't he an e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y m i n g l e d c u r r e n t i n h i s blood...?"  (PC, p.  Considering  126)  the s t r e n g t h of the i n i t i a l a n t i t h e s i s , i t i s s t r u c t u r a l l y  l o g i c a l t h a t midway t h r o u g h t h e n o v e l H y a c i n t h c a r i o u s l y between two r e f i n e d manners and  s o c i a l poles:  s h o u l d be swinging  pre-  t h e P r i n c e s s Casamassima's w o r l d  of  g r a c e f u l r e s p e c t a b i l i t y , and t h e f e r v e n t , underground  s o c i a l i s t w o r l d of P a u l Muniment a t t h e pub,  The Sun and  the Moon ( i t s  v e r y name a s i g n p o s t of James's a n t i t h e t i c a l i m a g i n a t i o n ) .  Eventually, i t  becomes c l e a r t h a t James has b a l a n c e d t h e s e a n t i t h e s e s a l l too  well.  Indeed, he seems to have been aware of t h e problem from the o u t s e t .  In a  passage o f t e n quoted t o i l l u s t r a t e James's u n e a s i n e s s w i t h the n o v e l , c r i t i c s o v e r l o o k James's own  confident  qualification:  I t i s a b s o l u t e l y necessary that at t h i s point I s h o u l d make t h e f u t u r e e v o l u t i o n of The P r i n c e s s Casamassima more c l e a r t o m y s e l f . I have never y e t become engaged i n a n o v e l i n w h i c h , a f t e r I had begun to w r i t e and send o f f my MS., t h e d e t a i l s have remained so vague.... the s u b j e c t of the P r i n c e s s i s m a g n i f i c e n t , and i f I can o n l y g i v e up my mind to i t p r o p e r l y — g e n e r o u s l y and t r u s t f u l l y — the form w i l l shape i t s e l f as s u c c e s s f u l l y as the idea deserves.^  I t i s i n t e r e s t i n g to n o t e t h a t , h a v i n g  sent o f f o n l y two  i n s t a l l m e n t s of  t h e n o v e l , James i s uneasy about t h e " f u t u r e e v o l u t i o n " and  the vagueness  o f d e t a i l but q u i t e c o n f i d e n t t h a t t h e s u b j e c t i s " m a g n i f i c e n t " " t h e form w i l l shape i t s e l f . "  and  that  C r i t i c s ' comments about the u n c e r t a i n t y of  53  d i r e c t i o n o f the n o v e l a r e c o n f u s i n g , f o r i t i s r e m a r k a b l e how many f o r e shadowings o f the ending t h e r e a r e i n the opening scenes of the n o v e l . Such f o r e s h a d o w i n g s suggest t h a t James d i d indeed l e t " t h e form shape i t s e l f , " and because t h a t form i n the b e g i n n i n g he c o n t i n u e d  is rigidly  to c o n s t r u c t the n o v e l on t h a t p a t t e r n .  antithetical,  I n the P r e f a c e  to  R o d e r i c k Hudson, James a d d r e s s e s t h e i s s u e o f a n t i t h e s i s s q u a r e l y :  One i s r i d d e n w i t h the law t h a t a n t i t h e s i s , to e f f i c i e n t , s h a l l be b o t h d i r e c t and complete.  be  H i s q u a l i f i c a t i o n i s t h a t "the i d e a l a n t i t h e s i s r a r e l y does 'come o f f , ' and  ...  i t has to c o n t e n t  a weak term...."^  i t s e l f f o r t h e most p a r t w i t h a s t r o n g term and  T h i s might be t r u e of R o d e r i c k Hudson, but i n  P r i n c e s s Casamassima, James has, so f i n e l y and so c o m p l e x l y t h a t The B o s t o n i a n s To unload  i n f a c t , balanced  The  the a n t i t h e t i c a l  poles  t h a t t h e r e can be no " r e s o l u t i o n " — i n the sense  r e a c h e s a r e s o l u t i o n to i t s l e s s e l a b o r a t e a n t i t h e s i s .  e i t h e r end of t h e b a l a n c e  s c a l e s a t t h e end of The  Casamassima would be a b e t r a y a l o f form.  Princess  Thus, t h e r e i s no c e n t r e of  r e s t i t u t i o n or r e s o l u t i o n as such a t t h e c l i m a x of the n o v e l ; t h e r e i s m e r e l y a k i n d of c a n c e l l a t i o n w h i c h l e a v e s H y a c i n t h i n a vague, d r e a d f u l space, i n a v o i d between two w o r l d s .  As we s h a l l see, t h i s p a r t i c u l a r  n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g y i s t h e r i c h e s t though not the o n l y source f o r the absent-centred  n a t u r e of t h e  fiction.  As one term or p o l e of t h e s t r u c t u r a l a n t i t h e s i s , t h e p l o t w h i c h i n v o l v e s t h e P r i n c e s s has i t s own  absent c e n t r e .  Having been i n t r o d u c e d  t o t h e P r i n c e s s a t the t h e a t r e , H y a c i n t h agrees to v i s i t her a t a  country  residence.  since  E a r l y on the morning a f t e r h i s a r r i v a l , he r i s e s , and  54  the P r i n c e s s i s n o t y e t awake, d e c i d e s  t o w a l k o u t s i d e i n the garden:  ... he had passed out o f d o o r s and begun t o roam t h r o u g h t h e p a r k , i n t o w h i c h he had l e t h i m s e l f l o o s e a t f i r s t , and t h e n , i n n a r r o w i n g c i r c l e s , t h r o u g h the n e a r e r ground.... Round the a d m i r a b l e house he r e v o l v e d r e p e a t e d l y , c a t c h i n g every a s p e c t and f e e l i n g every v a l u e , f e a s t i n g on the whole e x p r e s s i o n and wondering i f the P r i n c e s s would o b s e r v e h i s p r o c e e d i n g s from a window and i f they would be o f f e n s i v e to h e r . . . . . There was something i n the way t h e gray w a l l s r o s e from t h e green lawn t h a t brought t e a r s to h i s eyes; t h e s p e c t a c l e of l o n g d u r a t i o n u n a s s o e i a t e d w i t h some s o r d i d i n f i r m i t y o r p o v e r t y was new to him (PC, p. 249).  The  image of H y a c i n t h  i s reminiscent,  " r e v o l v i n g " around t h e house i n " n a r r o w i n g  circles"  i n geometry a t l e a s t , of the f e m a l e p r i s o n e r s i n M i l l b a n k  "marching round i n c i r c l e s . " the p r i s o n " l i f t i n g  The grey w a l l s r i s i n g from the lawn  i t s dusky mass" from the Thames, and  certainly  s o r d i d i n f i r m i t y or p o v e r t y " of w h i c h the n a r r a t o r speaks i s an d e s c r i p t i o n of H y a c i n t h ' s  f i r s t and o n l y v i e w of h i s mother.  memory t a k i n g p l a c e . and H y a c i n t h  Finally, Hyacinth  a c t of a s s o c i a t i o n and  The P r i n c e s s becomes y e t another s u r r o g a t e  f i n d s himself yet again c i r c l i n g the perimeter  t h a t seems t o deny him a c c e s s .  "the  accurate  t h e f a c t t h a t he i s moved to t e a r s c l e a r l y shows to us, i f not t o h i m s e l f , t h a t t h e r e i s a s i g n i f i c a n t and p o w e r f u l  invoke  parent,  of a l a b y r i n t h  "Seems" because t h e i r o n y i s t h a t a c c e s s  comes a l l too e a s i l y f o r H y a c i n t h ; entrance i n t o the P r i n c e s s ' s world.  he i s e s p e c i a l l y l u c k y i n g a i n i n g What he f a i l s to r e a l i z e i s t h a t  t h i s l a b y r i n t h , w h i l e n o t so f o r b i d d i n g as t h e p r i s o n , has,  nevertheless,  beneath i t s s u p e r f i c i a l a t t r a c t i v e n e s s a c e n t r e e q u a l l y as f r i g h t e n i n g and dangerous and  c e r t a i n l y much more e l u s i v e than M i l l b a n k .  G r a n d o n i , the P r i n c e s s ' s e l d e r l y companion, warns H y a c i n t h  Madame  that  the  55 P r i n c e s s i s a " c a p r i c c i o s a " ; she r e f e r s to H y a c i n t h as " P o v e r i n o " because she knows t h a t C h r i s t i n a L i g h t ' s treatment of young men than exemplary i n t h e p a s t .  has been l e s s  The P r i n c e s s a t t r a c t s young men,  uses them  to her own advantage and then r u t h l e s s l y d i s c a r d s them; the hero of R o d e r i c k Hudson met j u s t such a f a t e i n t h e n o v e l from w h i c h James r e v i v e d the P r i n c e s s .  H y a c i n t h , then, f i n d s h i m s e l f a t t h e e n t r a n c e to a  l a b y r i n t h , tempted by h i s a m b i t i o n , h i s i m p u l s i v e n e s s and h i s c u r i o s i t y to e x p l o r e i t s c e n t r e .  He i g n o r e s warnings from b o t h Madame Grandoni  and  P a u l Muniment (though he does get a p p r o v a l and encouragement from P i n n i e ) , and p e r s i s t e n t l y seeks to u n r a v e l the ominous m y s t e r i e s which he c o u n t e r s — o r manufactures, What i s most m y s t e r i o u s  en-  f o r the dangers seem obvious to t h e r e a d e r .  i s t h a t H y a c i n t h can be so b l i n d to h i s own  folly.  The c e n t r e of the P r i n c e s s ' s l a b y r i n t h i s more m y s t e r i o u s l y absent than the c e n t r e o f the p r i s o n l a b y r i n t h because the P r i n c e s s h e r s e l f i s such an e n i g m a t i c c h a r a c t e r .  That James f e l t C h r i s t i n a L i g h t warranted  a r e v i v a l a f t e r R o d e r i c k Hudson suggests t h a t he c o n s i d e r e d her an i n c o m p l e t e l y drawn c h a r a c t e r , o r a t l e a s t t h a t t h e r e was more to her s t o r y . Y e t , her s t o r y seems to be the s t o r y o f a c h a r a c t e r who  d e f i e s under-  s t a n d i n g , f o r a t t h e end of The P r i n c e s s Casamassima we. do not know a g r e a t d e a l more about her than we d i d a t t h e end of R o d e r i c k Hudson.  We  know t h a t she has a g r e a t d e a l of p e r s o n a l f o r t i t u d e and s i n g u l a r i t y of mind r e g a r d i n g m a t t e r s w h i c h she c a r e s about, and we b e l i e v e her when she says t h a t she would g l a d l y u n d e r t a k e H y a c i n t h ' s r e v o l u t i o n a r y t a s k h e r s e l f . (Indeed, she would p r o b a b l y be a more e f f e c t i v e a n a r c h i s t than We  Hyacinth.)  a l s o sense t h a t she has h i d d e n r e s o u r c e s o f humanity and warmth, as  suggested  when she makes a f i n a l but f r u i t l e s s attempt  t o save H y a c i n t h  56  from f o l l y .  Nevertheless,  James never r e v e a l s h e r p s y c h o l o g y as f u l l y o r  as i n t r i c a t e l y as he does H y a c i n t h ' s  o r I s a b e l Archer's  i n The P o r t r a i t  of a Lady, w h i c h , we mustn't f o r g e t , preceded The P r i n c e s s Casamassima. The n o v e l ' s  t i t l e suggests that the P r i n c e s s i s t h e c e n t r a l character;  no c r i t i c c l a i m s t h a t James has so p l a c e d C h r i s t i n a L i g h t . c r i t i c s assume t h a t H y a c i n t h James's i n t e r e s t . Hyacinth,  Invariably,  i s t h e major c h a r a c t e r , t h e p r i m a r y f o c u s of  C e r t a i n l y most o f t h e n a r r a t i v e i s concerned w i t h  and t h e P r i n c e s s appears r e l a t i v e l y l a t e i n the n o v e l .  displacement,  o r d e - c e n t r i n g , o f the major h e r o i n e  This  e s t a b l i s h e s the P r i n c e s s  as a m y s t e r i o u s f o r c e l u r k i n g i n s c r u t a b l y i n t h e background, looming over Hyacinth,  a t once an i n v i t a t i o n and a t h r e a t .  I f Leon E d e l i s c o r r e c t , p a r t o f the r e a s o n may be due t o t h e f a c t t h a t t h e P r i n c e s s ' s o r i g i n a l seems to have been one o f the most women i n James's l i f e . of a B o s t o n i a n ,  enigmatic  James met b r i e f l y i n Rome E l e n a Lowe, t h e daughter  and James from t h e f i r s t found h e r " b e a u t i f u l , m y s t e r i o u s ,  melancholy, i n s c r u t a b l e . "  He wonders i f t h i s was h e r way " o f seeming, g  or had she unfathomable depths w i t h i n ? " her f i c t i o n a l c o u n t e r p a r t  The same c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s f o l l o w  i n b o t h R o d e r i c k Hudson and The P r i n c e s s Casa-  massima where she remains an "enigma" w i t h "unfathomable" coquetry and w i t h a nature  " l a r g e and m y s t e r i o u s . "  As Todorov p o i n t s o u t , James's h a n d l i n g o f c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n i s cons i s t e n t w i t h h i s h a n d l i n g o f p o i n t o f v i e w and p l o t .  Speaking o f t h e  t a l e s Todorov n o t i c e s t h a t " t h e p a r t r e p l a c e s the whole, a c c o r d i n g f a m i l i a r r h e t o r i c a l f i g u r e o f synecdoche."  The t e c h n i q u e  to the  originates with  F l a u b e r t b u t i s extended i n James t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t i t becomes "the c o n -  57  s t r u c t i v e p r i n c i p l e o f h i s oeuvre." surrounding  C e r t a i n l y much o f t h e m y s t e r y  t h e P r i n c e s s r e s u l t s d i r e c t l y from James's h a b i t o f g i v i n g us  o n l y d e t a i l s o r p a r t i a l p i c t u r e s r a t h e r than o m n i s c i e n t interpretation.  i n s i g h t and  F o r example, a t t h e t h e a t r e when t h e P r i n c e s s i s f i r s t  i n t r o d u c e d , H y a c i n t h n o t i c e s "a l a d y c o n c e a l e d  by t h e c u r t a i n ; h e r arm,  bare save f o r i t s b r a c e l e t s , was v i s i b l e a t moments on t h e c u s h i o n e d ledge." 137  The d e t a i l i n v i t e s - - u s t o b e l i e v e t h a t t h e P r i n c e s s i s , a f t e r  pages, f i n a l l y g o i n g  t o be i n t r o d u c e d .  She i s , but i t i s Madame  Grandoni's arm t h a t we s e e , n o t t h e P r i n c e s s ' s .  Hyacinth  the P r i n c e s s ' s box by C a p t a i n S h o l t o , and as H y a c i n t h  i s i n v i t e d to  e n t e r s , we see t h a t t h e  P r i n c e s s i s "overshadowed by t h e c u r t a i n o f t h e box, drawn f o r w a r d  with  t h e i n t e n t i o n o f s h i e l d i n g h e r from o b s e r v a t i o n o f t h e house" (PC, p. 1 4 7 ) . James manages t o d e l a y a f u l l f a c e - t o - f a c e c o n f r o n t a t i o n f o r a c o n s i d e r a b l e number o f pages, and when t h a t f i n a l l y does o c c u r , t h e d e s c r i p t i o n i s s t i l l vague:  h e r eyes a r e "dark ... b l u e o r g r e y , something t h a t was n o t  brown" (PC, p. 1 4 8 ) . Other d e s c r i p t i o n t e l l s us more about r o m a n t i c i z i n g than i t does about t h e P r i n c e s s h e r s e l f .  Hyacinth's  Hyacinth  notices  her " p u r i t y o f l i n e and form," h e r " l i g h t n o b l e n e s s " and h e r c o l o u r  "that  seemed t o l i v e and glow."  As t h e c e n t r e o f one o f H y a c i n t h ' s  l a b y r i n t h s , the Princess i s not  o n l y m y s t e r i o u s l y a t t r a c t i v e , vague and e n i g m a t i c ; Madame G r a n d o n i knows t h a t H y a c i n t h  i s i n danger when she says t o C a p t a i n  S h o l t o , one o f t h e P r i n c e s s ' s " d i s c a r d e d " s u i t o r s : t o be s a c r i f i c e d . "  she i s a l s o dangerous.  " C e r t a i n l y h e ' l l have  The P r i n c e s s i s a k i n d o f consuming goddess who "goes  t h r o u g h " men i n h e r s e l f i s h campaign o f s o c i a l and p e r s o n a l appeasement.  58  C a p t a i n S h o l t o once o c c u p i e d H y a c i n t h ' s  seemingly  enviable position with  t h e P r i n c e s s , but she c a s t S h o l t o o f f , reduced him to a k i n d of pimp s e a r c h i n g out p o t e n t i a l c a n d i d a t e s f o r t h e P r i n c e s s ' s b e n e f i t .  Speaking  of Rosy, Lady A u r o r a and P a u l Muniment, the C a p t a i n says to H y a c i n t h : "I'm keeping  them i n r e s e r v e f o r my next p r o p i t i a t o r y o f f e r i n g " (PC, p.  And P a u l Muniment n e a t l y e n c a p s u l a t e s  the r e l a t i o n s h i p between S h o l t o  t h e P r i n c e s s i n a b i t t e r l y toned m e t a p h o r — a l t h o u g h he f a i l s own  warning:  "He  swallows 'em  down" (PC, p. 180).  fishes—  They a r e a l l f o r h e r ;  H y a c i n t h i s , of c o u r s e , one of  f i s h e s , and he too i s s a c r i f i c e d on her p e r s o n a l a l t a r .  The  and  to heed h i s  [ S h o l t o ] throws h i s n e t s and h a u l s i n the l i t t l e  the p r e t t y l i t t l e s h i n i n g , , w r i g g l i n g f i s h e s .  292).  she  these  imagery makes  i t c l e a r t h a t the c e n t r e of t h i s p a r t i c u l a r l a b y r i n t h , though s u p e r f i c i a l l y a t t r a c t i v e , i s u l t i m a t e l y d e a t h - g i v i n g and c e r t a i n l y as t e r r i f y i n g as " h o l l o w death mask" of t h e n o v e l ' s  the  opening.  W h i l e the P r i n c e s s r e p r e s e n t s one l a b y r i n t h w h i c h i n v i t e s a c c e s s  to  t h e o u t s i d e r , P a u l Muniment, t h e a n a r c h i s t l e a d e r a t the Sun and the Moon pub,  r e p r e s e n t s an a n t i t h e t i c a l l a b y r i n t h from w h i c h H y a c i n t h i s a l s o  removed and  i n t o w h i c h he plunges i m p u l s i v e l y .  P a u l , a t f i r s t , admits  H y a c i n t h o n l y to t h e s a f e f r i n g e o f t h e s o c i a l i s t g a t h e r i n g and i t s p l o t s . Hoffendahl,  the r e a l l e a d e r who  not mentioned.  engineers  the group from the c o n t i n e n t , i s  But when H y a c i n t h , i n an i m p u l s i v e moment, speaks out w i t h  i m p r e s s i v e c o n v i c t i o n i n d e f e n s e of the downtrodden c l a s s e s , he shows hims e l f t o be p o t e n t i a l l y " u s e f u l . " to  From t h a t moment, P a u l a d m i t s H y a c i n t h  the " i n n e r c i r c l e , " though H y a c i n t h never s u s p e c t s t h a t h i s  w i l l be j u s t as r u t h l e s s as t h e treatment  treatment  he r e c e i v e s from the P r i n c e s s .  E v e n t u a l l y , P a u l takes H y a c i n t h to meet H o f f e n d a h l  f o r t h e purpose of  59 c o n f i r m i n g H y a c i n t h ' s commitment.  They d r i v e a t m i d n i g h t , a d r i v e t h a t  "seemed i n t e r m i n a b l e , " and " t h e y ended by s i t t i n g s i l e n t a s t h e cab jogged a l o n g t h e murky m i l e s , and by t h e t i m e i t stopped our young man had w h o l l y l o s t , i n t h e d r i z z l i n g gloom, a sense o f t h e i r whereabouts" (PC, p. 2 4 6 ) . H y a c i n t h i s indeed " w h o l l y l o s t , " f o r he has e n t e r e d u n w a r i l y , from t h e o u t s i d e , two v e r y obscure and dangerous l a b y r i n t h s — t h e P r i n c e s s ' s and Muniment's.  H i s s i t u a t i o n i s f u r t h e r c o m p l i c a t e d because he t h i n k s t h a t  t h o s e two w o r l d s a r e s e p a r a t e and t h a t he can l i v e i n each s a f e l y .  But  when the P r i n c e s s meets Muniment—when s u r r o g a t e p a r e n t meets s u r r o g a t e parent—and  when they b o t h b e t r a y H y a c i n t h , t h e y r e p e a t t h e p a t t e r n o f h i s  r e a l p a r e n t s by o u s t i n g him from t h e c e n t r e o f a f f e c t i o n and s t a b i l i t y . H y a c i n t h i n v e s t s too much i n b o t h t h e P r i n c e s s and Muniment, so t h a t , when t h e v a l u e s and i d e a l s w h i c h they r e p r e s e n t a r e proven f a l s e and superf l u o u s , H y a c i n t h l i k e w i s e becomes s u p e r f l u o u s .  The s e l f - i n f l i c t e d gun  shot i s a measure o f j u s t how s u p e r f l u o u s he f e e l s .  P r e d i c t a b l y (because o f James's f a s c i n a t i o n w i t h t h e symmetry o f h i s a n t i t h e s i s ) , t h e a n a r c h i s t l a b y r i n t h i s imaged i n a way t h a t p a r a l l e l s the a r i s t o c r a t i c one. Having made a vow t o perform an u n s p e c i f i e d a c t o f v i o l e n c e a t some f u t u r e d a t e when c a l l e d upon, H y a c i n t h , l a t e r e x p l a i n s t h e s i t u a t i o n to the P r i n c e s s : sacred.  " I pledged m y s e l f  I gave my l i f e away."  to everything that's  And l a t e r he i n v o k e s r e l i g i o u s imagery:  I t has made t h i s d i f f e r e n c e , t h a t I ' v e now a f a r o t h e r sense from any t h a t I had b e f o r e o f t h e r e a l i t y , t h e s o l i d i t y o f what's b e i n g p r e p a r e d . I was hanging about o u t s i d e , on t h e s t e p s o f t h e temple, among t h e l o a f e r s and t h e g o s s i p s , b u t now I've been i n t h e innermost s a n c t u a r y . Y e s , I've seen t h e h o l y o f h o l i e s . (PC, pp. 275-76).  60  The i r o n y i s t h a t t h i s temple i s as pagan a s t h e P r i n c e s s ' s i n which, as Madame Grandoni warned, H y a c i n t h i s t o be s a c r i f i c e d . h e r s e l f c a l l s H y a c i n t h a " s a c r i f i c i a l lamb." " s o l i d i t y " o f what i s b e i n g prepared  Indeed, t h e P r i n c e s s  The o n l y " r e a l i t y " and  i n t h i s r e v o l u t i o n a r y temple o r  l a b y r i n t h i s t h e c e r t a i n t y o f H y a c i n t h ' s own demise.  H y a c i n t h t h i n k s he  f i n d s i n t h e " h o l y o f h o l i e s " something t o b e l i e v e i n w i t h c e r t a i n t y , yet the Princess's question—"Then  i t Is r e a l , i t i s s o l i d ? " — d r a w s  a t t e n t i o n t o , w i t h James's own emphasis on t h e v e r b o f b e i n g , t h e danger of H y a c i n t h ' s commitment. absent.  The c e n t r e , b e i n g n e i t h e r r e a l n o r s o l i d , i s  There a r e u n c e r t a i n t i e s , c o n t i n g e n c i e s , and more i m p o r t a n t ,  m o t i v e s and a t t i t u d e s o f w h i c h H y a c i n t h i s c o m p l e t e l y o b l i v i o u s .  The most  i m p o r t a n t o f these i s H o f f e n d a h l ' s and P a u l ' s a t t i t u d e t h a t H y a c i n t h i s expendable, n o t t o mention P a u l ' s e v e n t u a l a f f a i r w i t h t h e P r i n c e s s w h i c h becomes a double b e t r a y a l .  I n f a c t , H o f f e n d a h l and t h e P r i n c e s s a r e l i n k e d  e x p l i c i t l y i n the text:  He [Hoffendahl] had e x a c t l y t h e same mastery o f them that a great m u s i c i a n — t h a t of the Princess h e r s e l f — had o f t h e keyboard o f t h e p i a n o ; he t r e a t e d a l l t h i n g s , p e r s o n s , i n s t i t u t i o n s , i d e a s , as so many notes i n h i s g r e a t symphonic massacre (PC, p. 2 8 0 ) .  Beyond u n d e r c u t t i n g p r e v i o u s scenes i n t h e n o v e l , where t h e P r i n c e s s e n t i c e s H y a c i n t h i n t o a r o m a n t i c r e v e r i e as she p l a y s t h e p i a n o , t h e passage c l e a r l y p o i n t s t o H y a c i n t h ' s double v i c t i m i z a t i o n .  The c e n t r e s  of t h e P r i n c e s s ' s and H o f f e n d a h l ' s l a b y r i n t h s a r e f a l s e — a b s e n t — b e c a u s e H y a c i n t h i n v e s t s i n them too much p e r s o n a l and s o c i a l v a l u e , too many o f h i s own hopes, dreams and a m b i t i o n s .  When he f i n d s o u t t h a t what he  thought was a t t h e c e n t r e i s n o t t h e r e — w h e n he ceases to c a r e f o r h i s  61  rather adolescent t e r e s t i n him  s o c i a l i s m and when he r e a l i z e s t h a t the P r i n c e s s ' s i n -  i s s e l f i s h — h e f i n d s t h a t a l l of h i s i d e a l i s t i c  crumble beneath him.  foundations  R e g r e t t a b l y , f o r H y a c i n t h , h i s i n t e l l i g e n c e and  c h a r a c t e r a r e too f i n e l y honed, too t e n d e r , to w i t h s t a n d  his  t h e f o r c e of t h a t  devastation.  Hyacinth's  subsequent s u i c i d e thus r e p r e s e n t s  between two a n t i t h e t i c a l w o r l d s ,  the space or the v o i d  the i d e a l i s t i c s o c i a l i s t w o r l d  l e g i t i m a t e p o l i t i c a l and m o r a l a c t i o n , and r e f i n e d s e n s i b i l i t i e s and a r t i s t i c form.  of  the r e a c t i o n a r y w o r l d The reader  of  follows Hyacinth  for  so l o n g on the o u t s k i r t s of these a l t e r n a t i v e s t h a t he f e e l s a sense of d e f e a t when H y a c i n t h he i s denied  cannot s a t i s f a c t o r i l y r e s o l v e t h e a n t i t h e s i s , when  s h e l t e r from a l l p o s s i b l e w o r l d s .  a l s o connected to d r a m a t i c by H y a c i n t h ' s  vow  T h i s f e e l i n g of l o s s i s  e x p e c t a t i o n , the m y s t e r y and  to p e r f o r m an a c t of v i o l e n c e .  suspense c r e a t e d  James i n t r o d u c e s  this  s t r a t e g y e a r l y i n the n o v e l , and we w a i t a n x i o u s l y f o r t h e outcome of Hyacinth's  f o o l h a r d y promise.  never r e a l i z e d .  The reader  But  t h e a n a r c h i s t i c a c t of v i o l e n c e i s  i s l e f t w i t h a sense of a n t i - c l i m a x , w h i c h i s  not to say t h a t suspense does n o t come to a head, but r a t h e r , t h a t  the  expected and d e s i r e d denouement i s c a n c e l l e d , o r a t l e a s t the c l o s u r e of the t e x t i s u n c o m f o r t a b l y r e a r r a n g e d . p o l e s of h i s a n t i t h e s i s so f i n e l y and be unweighted s a t i s f a c t o r i l y . complained of t h e " m i s p l a c e d  I t i s as though James l o a d s so s y m m e t r i c a l l y  the  t h a t they cannot  P e r h a p s , t h i s i s what James meant when he m i d d l e " i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima.  F.  Dupee i n t e r p r e t s t h i s p h r a s e to mean t h a t " t h e p r e p a r a t i o n s f o r the a c t i o n a r e over-developed.""'"^  I f Dupee means t h a t a l l a c t i o n s i n the  W.  62 novel are overly prepared, then the explanation is incomplete.  I f , on  the other hand, he means that only the f i n a l climactic action is overprepared f o r , then the statement makes sense i n terms of anti-climax.  There i s further comment from James on this  issue:  Again and again, perversely, incurably, the "centre" of my structure would i n s i s t on placing i t s e l f not, so to speak, in the m i d d l e . . . . In several of my compositions t h i s displacement has so succeeded, at the c r i s i s , i n defying and r e s i s t i n g me, has appeared so fraught with probable dishonour, that I s t i l l turn upon them, in spite of the greater or less success of f i n a l dissimulation, a rueful and wondering eye. These productions have, in f a c t , i f I may be so bold about i t , specious and spurious centres altogether, to make up for the f a i l u r e of the true. . . .l-*-  These enigmatic statements by no means bring us out of the woods, but, at the very l e a s t , they do.point to a consciousness on James's part of certain kinds of centres.  But what exactly constitutes a centre i s not  clear; resolution of c o n f l i c t and p l o t , termination of suspense, authorial intent, ideology and point of view are a l l p o s s i b i l i t i e s .  Moreover, i f  the centre of The Princess Casamassima i s displaced, what precisely is the specious and spurious centre of which James speaks?  Perhaps James  never r e a l l y solved these problems for himself u n t i l he discovered the "central consciousness" of a character l i k e Strether i n The Ambassadors. With a central consciousness,  James had a natural l i m i t i n g device, a  point of view and a structuring p r i n c i p l e a l l in one.  Yet James does  suggest that the centre appears "at the c r i s i s " and that the problem of his "misplaced middle" i s "the d i r e c t and immediate f r u i t of a positive excess of foresight,  the overdone desire to provide for future need and  lay up a heavenly treasure against the demands of my climax."  12  J . A. Ward  63  would concur and places the problem i n the context of James's symmetrical imagination: James's embarrassment over h i s "misplaced middles," f a i l u r e s i n proportion caused by excessive preparation, follows from his conviction that coherence i s necessa r i l y symmetrical. The narrative consequences of this symmetry are twofold.  Hyacinth  f a i l s to see that the a n t i t h e s i s i s , i n f a c t , spurious; the s i m i l a r i t y between h i s predicament have warned him.  i n the Princess's sphere and Muniment's should  Their movement towards each other obliterates the d i a -  l e c t i c and leaves him vulnerably unhoused from the warmth and safety of their a f f e c t i o n s — a condition which he endures from the novel's beginning. Hyacinth i s a committed hero.apprenticed to opposing characters who, through a compromise which betrays, f i n d their own peace.  Anarchist and  14 a r i s t o c r a t are r e a l l y not so opposed after a l l .  The second consequence  i s that, for the reader, the preparations for the clash and resolution of this a n t i t h e s i s have been so thorough that the unexpected f e l t as an anti-climax, or at least as an uncomfortable  resolution i s  closure.  And as  Andrei Bely shows us more c l e a r l y i n Petersburg, anti-climax i s a useful ploy to effect a sense of loss i n the reader, a loss or a vacancy which i s , i n part, the experience of the hero but which i s also the reader's experience of the absent-centred text. The special anti-climax quality of James's ending i s better understood when i t i s contrasted with Ivan Turgenev's i n V i r g i n S o i l .  James's  friendship with Turgenev i n Paris i s well-documented,''""' and of course, James's knowledge of V i r g i n S o i l , evidenced by his review of that novel,  64 has been r i g o r o u s l y i n s p e c t e d as a s o u r c e f o r and i n f l u e n c e on P r i n c e s s Casamassima."^  C e r t a i n l y the s i m i l a r i t i e s are inescapable; both  H y a c i n t h and Nezhdanov s t r u g g l e w i t h i n n e r d u a l i t i e s ("... men  i n me,  The  t h e r e a r e two  and one won't l e t t h e o t h e r l i v e , " " ^ says Nezhdanov p r e -  f i g u r i n g H y a c i n t h ' s s o c i a l and h e r e d i t a r y s p l i t ) ; b o t h commit themselves i m p u l s i v e l y to an a n a r c h i s t i c cause w h i c h they l a t e r come to doubt; a r e i n f a t u a t e d w i t h and used by female r a d i c a l s who  both  attempt to throw o f f  t h e i r upper c l a s s t r a p p i n g s i n f a v o u r of a s o c i a l i s t i c commitment to t h e lower, c l a s s e s ; and both heroes choose s u i c i d e as t h e o n l y escape irreconcilable  from  conflicts.  Y e t , d e s p i t e the s i m i l a r i t i e s between the n o v e l s and even the uncomf o r t a b l e b o r r o w i n g s , James's ending i s c o n s p i c u o u s l y " d i f f e r e n t .  Turgenev's  d e s c r i p t i o n o f Nezhdanov's s u i c i d e i s d i r e c t — s o m e of i t , from Nezhdanov's own p o i n t o f v i e w , i s a c t u a l l y m e l o d r a m a t i c .  H y a c i n t h ' s d e a t h , by c o n t r a s t ,  i s r e p o r t e d w i t h t h e i n d i r e c t n e s s and decorum of c l a s s i c a l t r a g e d y . occurs o f f stage.  The n a r r a t i v e d i s c a r d s H y a c i n t h on h i s way  It  to h i s room  w i t h a l o a d e d p i s t o l i n h i s p o c k e t ; when t h e P r i n c e s s rushes to h i s h e l p s h o r t l y a f t e r w a r d s , she d i s c o v e r s t h a t t h e bloody deed i s done.  In this  s m a l l n a r r a t i v e gap a t t h e c l i m a x of t h e n o v e l , H y a c i n t h drops from our sight.  Nezhdanov's d e a t h , w h i c h a l s o t a k e s p l a c e a t the c l i m a x and  which i s as p a t h e t i c as H y a c i n t h ' s d e a t h , i s d e s c r i b e d w i t h a l l  the  d r a m a t i c s e n t i m e n t — w o r t h y . o f D i c k e n s to whom both n o v e l i s t s a r e i n d e b t e d — t h a t Turgenev can muster.  Then, i n n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y f a s h i o n ,  Turgenev adds a n o t h e r c h a p t e r i n w h i c h he t i d i e s up a l l t h e l o o s e ends of the n o v e l , what James c a l l e d "a d i s t r i b u t i o n a t t h e l a s t of p r i z e s , p e n s i o n s , husbands, w i v e s , b a b i e s , m i l l i o n s , appended p a r a g r a p h s ,  and  65  cheerful r e m a r k s . N o t  t h a t Turgenev's ending i s e x a c t l y c h e e r f u l o r  out o f tone, b u t t h e n e a t l y rounded c l o s u r e c o n t r a s t s s h a r p l y w i t h James's ending w h i c h u n d e r c u t s w i t h . i n t e n s i t y , i f n o t i r o n y , t h e e x p e c t a t i o n s — H y a c i n t h ' s and o u r s — w h i c h were so m e t i c u l o u s l y aroused d u r i n g t h e c o u r s e of t h e n a r r a t i v e . The drama o f e x p e c t a t i o n d i f f e r s i n Turgenev's V i r g i n S o i l l a r g e l y because o f i t s e p i s o d i c n a t u r e .  Whereas James uses London as a c e n t r i n g  d e v i c e f o r The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, Turgenev's n o v e l wanders a c r o s s t h e R u s s i a n l a n d s c a p e from l o c a l e t o l o c a l e i n a p i c a r e s q u e way such t h a t each s e t t i n g a c h i e v e s a drama and a suspense o f i t s own.  The o n l y  general  t h r e a d o f suspense t o p u l l t h e n a r r a t i v e f o r w a r d i s a f r a y e d one: w i l l happen t o t h i s c h a r a c t e r ? " his  revolutionary ambitions?"  s i m p l y and m e t h o d i c a l l y  Or a t b e s t , " W i l l t h i s c h a r a c t e r  realize  There i s no g r e a t a n t i c i p a t i o n ; t h i n g s  go from bad t o b e t t e r t o bad t o worse t o t r a g i c .  James, however, e s t a b l i s h e s v e r y s p e c i f i c and i m p o r t a n t q u e s t i o n forward:  "What  e a r l y i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima a that p u l l s the n a r r a t i v e  powerfully  "What w i l l come o f H y a c i n t h ' s vow t o perform t h e u n s p e c i f i e d  act of violence?"  James, a f t e r a l l , i n h e r i t e d a G o t h i c  s t r a i n , and  we a r e apt t o f o r g e t t h a t , beneath t h e f i l i g r e e o f h i s p s y c h o l o g i c a l i n t r o s p e c t i o n , he i s a master o f suspense, e s p e c i a l l y of i n v o k i n g an ominous f u t u r e f o r h i s c h a r a c t e r s . ' I n a l e t t e r , James w r i t e s : The p r e s e n t and t h e immediate f u t u r e seem t o me t h e best province of f i c t i o n — t h e l a t t e r e s p e c i a l l y — the f u t u r e t o w h i c h a l l o u r a c t u a l modern t e n d e n c i e s and l e a n i n g s seem to b u i l d a s o r t o f m a t e r i a l p a t h way . 1 9  66  "The B e a s t i n the J u n g l e , " The Wings of the Dove and of c o u r s e , The of the Screw a r e more f i n e l y - h o n e d examples of t h i s s t r a t e g y .  Turn  The  e f f e c t i n t h o s e works, as i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, i s to a c h i e v e not o n l y a n a r r a t i v e t h a t g r i p s but a l s o a n a r r a t i v e t h a t c h a l l e n g e s us w i t h a rearrangement  of the a n t i c i p a t e d c l o s u r e .  The r e a d e r i s r e q u i r e d to  make an adjustment which i s f e l t as a n t i - c l i m a x .  James's M o d e r n i s t descendents w i l l c r a f t t h i s t e c h n i q u e of a n t i c l i m a x more d e f t l y f o r c r e a t i n g absent c e n t r e s , but none o f them s u r p a s s e s James's use o f i n d i r e c t n e s s and mystery w h i c h a r e a l s o n e c e s s a r y f o r constructing absent-centred n a r r a t i v e .  strategies  James h i m s e l f r e f e r r e d to t h i s  t e c h n i q u e as " t h a t m a g n i f i c e n t and m a s t e r l y i n d i r e c t n e s s . "  Turgenev's  n a r r a t i v e , by c o n t r a s t , i s more o m n i s c i e n t — t h e n a r r a t o r i n f o r m s us more than Nezhdanov i s informed about himself.. James p r e f e r s to c r e a t e m y s t e r i e s around H y a c i n t h w h i c h a f f e c t him as much as they do t h e r e a d e r . The g o v e r n i n g p r i n c i p l e , t h e s o u r c e o f command t h a t c o n t r o l s H y a c i n t h ' s life,  i s as removed from us as i t i s from him.  We don't know as much as  we would l i k e about H o f f e n d h a l and h i s gang o r about t h e s o u r c e s of h i s i n s t r u c t i o n ; we don't know as much as we would l i k e about H y a c i n t h ' s mother i n p r i s o n , o r about t h e P r i n c e s s ' s p a s t , p a r t i c u l a r l y about her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her husband. Hudson.)  ( I t i s j u s t as m y s t e r i o u s i n R o d e r i c k  I n h i s P r e f a c e to The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, James c l a i m s t h a t  h i s "scheme c a l l e d f o r a suggested nearness  ... a p r e s e n t a t i o n n o t o f  sharp p a r t i c u l a r s , but of l o o s e . a p p e a r a n c e s , vague motions and sounds and 20  symptoms, j u s t p e r c e p t i b l e presences and g e n e r a l looming  possibilities."  The r e a d e r i s always f o r c e d t o guess t h e s u b t e r r a n e a n r e l a t i o n s h i p s , m o t i v e s and shadowy m y s t e r i e s .  Such a t e c h n i q u e goes a l o n g way  i n creat-  67  i n g an a u r a of suspense, of t h i n g s c o n c e a l e d , absented from the t e x t .  of important  information  Todorov agrees t h a t such a d e v i c e i s c o n s i s t e n t  w i t h James's n a r r a t i v e p r i n c i p l e of the "quest f o r an absence." Turgenev, whose n a r r a t i v e emphasis remains w i t h the e p i s o d e , s t r e s s e s the c h a r a c t e r ' s  Unlike  James  s t r u g g l e to make sense of t h e e p i s o d e .  According  to Todorov,  the 'essence' of t h e events i s not g i v e n s t r a i g h t w a y ; each f a c t , each phenomenon f i r s t appears enveloped i n a c e r t a i n 'mystery; i n t e r e s t i s n a t u r a l l y d i r e c t e d t o 'being' r a t h e r than to ' d o i n g . ' ^ l  But  i t i s p r e c i s e l y t h e " b e i n g " of events w h i c h escapes H y a c i n t h .  P r i n c e s s ' s question concerning  t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e of a n a r c h i s t a c t i o n  ("Then i t _ i s r e a l , i t i s s o l i d ? " ) c a r r i e s w i t h i t an o b v i o u s l y negative. beginning:  rhetorical  H y a c i n t h would be b e t t e r o f f had he l i s t e n e d t o P i n n i e from "The  t r u t h never Is found o u t . "  I t i s James's p o i n t  beneath the t e x t ' s "vague symptoms and m o t i o n s " t h e r e a r e no or t r u t h s .  The  Hyacinth's  the  that  certainties  f l a w i s h i s f a i l u r e to r e a l i z e t h a t the P r i n c e s s ' s  w o r l d and Muniment's a r e as empty of s o l i d i t i e s as the s p u r i o u s a n t i t h e s i s o f t h o s e w o r l d s i n w h i c h he f o o l i s h l y ensnares h i m s e l f .  Thus, i n the p a t t e r n of h i s f a i l u r e , H y a c i n t h , s u r p r i s i n g l y Modern h e r o , a q u e s t e r  f a i l e d because the e m o t i o n a l  i d e o l o g i c a l o b j e c t s of h i s quest c o l l a p s e around him. to conform to h i s s e n s i t i v e and  for a Victorian, i s a  The w o r l d  and refuses  i n t e l l i g e n t n a t u r e w h i c h implodes as a  r e s u l t of h i s m i s d i r e c t e d i d e a l i s m .  I n t h i s r e s p e c t , The P r i n c e s s Casa-  massima becomes a v a l u a b l e l a t e - V i c t o r i a n l i n k t o Modernism. s u i c i d e , w h i c h i s f e l t as an a n t i - c l i m a x to or an adjustment of  Hyacinth's the  68  powerful  a n t i t h e s i s , i l l u s t r a t e s Kermode's n o t i o n t h a t p e r i p e t e i a  becomes t h e M o d e r n i s t t r o p e f o r h a n d l i n g a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n ,  the 22  " f a l s i f i c a t i o n of s i m p l e e x p e c t a t i o n s  as to the s t r u c t u r e of a f u t u r e . "  I n t h i s r e s p e c t as w e l l , t h e n , The P r i n c e s s Casamassima emerges as a precursor  to t h e modern a p o c a l y p t i c n o v e l — t h a t  i s , i n i t s departure  from  The c l a i m t h a t any n o v e l by Henry James i s p r e - a p o c a l y p t i c may  seem  t h e paradigm o f t h e end.  '  exaggerated i n the c o n t e x t of much James c r i t i c i s m w h i c h tends to emphasize his  refined psychological positivism.  Y e t , F. W.  Dupee i s c o r r e c t when he  c l a i m s t h a t The P r i n c e s s Casamassima i s t h e " d a r k e s t " of James's n o v e l s , t h a t i t i s t h e most " p a l p a b l y  'modern,' even i n i t s d e f e c t s . "  He  con-  t i n u e s by s a y i n g t h a t i t i s "addressed t o the f a t e of the s u p e r i o r  individ23  ual  i n a s i t u a t i o n where t h i n g s f a l l a p a r t and  the c e n t e r cannot h o l d . " 24  It  i s d e b a t a b l e j u s t how  "superior" Hyacinth  the Y e a t s i a n i n v o c a t i o n i s s i g n i f i c a n t , and,  i s as a h e r o ;  as we s h a l l see, i t w i l l  s u r f a c e more than once i n the d i s c u s s i o n . o f t h e s e n o v e l s . that nineteenth-century and  nevertheless,  Dupee i m p l i e s  i d e o l o g i c a l c e r t a i n t y i s undermined i n t h i s  t h a t i t moves towards the f r a g m e n t a t i o n  of Modernism.  novel  Speaking of  t h e c h a r a c t e r s i n the n o v e l , he says t h a t " t h e best l a c k a l l c o n v i c t i o n , w h i l e t h e w o r s t a r e f u l l of p a s s i o n a t e  i n t e n s i t y , " and  t o u c h s t o n e o f Modernism, he c l a i m s t h a t t h e n o v e l ' s  invoking another  s e t t i n g i n London  25  s u g g e s t s a "waste p l a c e . "  L i o n e l T r i l l i n g e x p r e s s e s something of  same s e n t i m e n t but w i t h an emphasis on t h e h i s t o r i c a l :  " I t i s a novel  w h i c h has a t i t s v e r y c e n t e r t h e assumption t h a t Europe has reached f u l l of i t s r i p e n e s s and  i s passing over i n t o rottenness  ...  the  t h a t i t may  2 6  meet i t s end by v i o l e n c e . "  the  For b o t h Dupee and T r i l l i n g , then,  The  69  Princess Casamassima i s a p i v o t a l work between nineteenth-century realism and twentieth-century Modernism.  In terms of the present discussion, we  could say more s p e c i f i c a l l y that the novel i s Janus-faced, looking back to Dickens and Turgenev while looking forward to Conrad and Bely.  While employing Casamassima may  a Modernist  terminology  to describe The Princess  seem somewhat l i k e h i t t i n g a tack with a sledgehammer,  there i s ample evidence i n the text to warrant such an approach. himself claims i n a l e t t e r to his friend A. C. Benson i n 1896:  James "I have 27  the imagination of d i s a s t e r — a n d see l i f e as ferocious and  sinister."  And c e r t a i n l y as Leon Edel has shown,. James's view of contemporary p o l i t i c a l a c t i v i t y was bleak, i f detached.  (He d i d , however, express an interest i n 28 going to Ireland to witness some p o l i t i c a l uproar firsthand.) In  the novel i t s e l f the imagery and numerous references to imminent  disaster give c r e d i b i l i t y to the notion of an apocalyptic theme. that prefigures Yeats' gyre and the theme of  In imagery  confusion when i t s centre  can no longer hold, the narrator writes that Hyacinth was "almost morbidly conscious that the c i r c l e i n which he l i v e d was an i n f i n i t e s i m a l l y small shallow eddy i n the roaring vortex of London, and his imagination plunged again and again into the flood that whirled past i t and round it  ..." (PC, p. 107).  Hyacinth imagines that everyday London l i f e flows  precariously over the surface of a "trap door" into which B r i t i s h society w i l l soon f a l l to i t s doom.  And i n imagery that prefigures Conrad's The  Secret Agent, he imagines a fervent mass of anarchistic a c t i v i t y going on "beneath the surface," occasionally r a i s i n g i t s head through "ugly black holes."  Ultimately, such imaginings are i r o n i c , because Hyacinth over-  70  estimates  t h e e x t e n t and t h e power of the underground a c t i v i t y , and  o n l y person i n the e n t i r e n o v e l who  falls  the  i n t o a t r a p door i s h i m s e l f .  Much o f t h i s imagery of d i s a s t e r i s , of c o u r s e , connected w i t h r e v o l u t i o n a r y movement, and appear i n the n o v e l . w i t h apocalypse, c r a c k of doom. Hyacinth  the  i n t h i s sense, i t i s i n e v i t a b l e t h a t i t s h o u l d  Y e t , r e v o l u t i o n o r war  are f r e q u e n t l y a s s o c i a t e d  f o r they become c o n v e n i e n t metaphors f o r the u l t i m a t e D u r i n g one o f h i s innumerable w a l k s t h r o u g h London,  imagines j u s t such a d i s a s t e r :  There were n i g h t s when every one he met appeared to r e e k w i t h g i n and f i l t h and he found h i m s e l f elbowed by f i g u r e s f o u l as l e p e r s . Some of the women and g i r l s i n p a r t i c u l a r were a p p a l l i n g — s a t u r a t e d w i t h a l c o h o l and v i c e , b r u t a l , b e d r a g g l e d , obscene. "What remedy but another d e l u g e , what alchemy but a n n i h i l a t i o n ? " he asked h i m s e l f as he went h i s way; and he wondered what f a t e t h e r e c o u l d be i n the g r e a t scheme of t h i n g s f o r a p l a n e t o v e r grown w i t h such v e r m i n , what redemption but to be h u r l e d a g a i n s t a b a l l of consuming f i r e . (PC, p. 410) This i s , unmistakably,  the " i m a g i n a t i o n of d i s a s t e r , " and we w i l l meet  similar renditions of t h i s remaining  cosmopolitan  n o v e l s t o be d i s c u s s e d .  I n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima the scene  o c c u r s a t t h e moment when H y a c i n t h ' s foreclosed.  n i g h t m a r e i n each o f the f o u r  o p t i o n s a r e becoming more and more  B o t h P a u l Muniment and t h e P r i n c e s s have d e s e r t e d him f o r  each o t h e r ; M i l l i c e n t Henning, h i s c h i l d h o o d f r i e n d and h i s l a s t hope f o r c h a r i t a b l e understanding,  has f a l l e n i n l e a g u e w i t h S h o l t o , the P r i n c e s s ' s  d i s c a r d e d l o v e r ; P i n n i e i s dead; he has d i s t a n c e d Mr. V e t c h ;  but most  i m p o r t a n t , he has l o s t h i s r e v o l u t i o n a r y commitment, even though he r e c e i v e d t h e d i r e c t i v e to k i l l loaded p i s t o l i n h i s pocket.  t h e Duke and even though he c a r r i e s a Thus the quoted passage i s a t once an  has  71 e x p r e s s i o n of h i s b l e a k v i e w o f t h e w o r l d and an omen o f h i s own f a t e . T h i s i s t h e s p e c i a l Jamesian c o l o r a t i o n o f t h e a p o c a l y p t i c theme:  the  n o v e l r e p r e s e n t s n o t so much an a p o c a l y p t i c v i e w o f t h e w o r l d as i t does an a p o c a l y p t i c v i e w o f t h e f a t e o f one p a t h e t i c i n d i v i d u a l who i s u n a b l e to cope w i t h a h o s t i l e w o r l d .  The i n d i v i d u a l ' s f a t e becomes a microcosm  f o r a l a r g e r h i s t o r i c a l f a t e , and t h i s too i s a p a t t e r n w h i c h i s r e p e a t e d i n Conrad, B e l y , H e l l e r and Pynchon.  The t e r r o r o f t h e w o r l d ' s end  g r a d u a l l y s h i f t s t o a c h a r a c t e r ' s t e r r o r o f h i s own p e r s o n a l  end, w h i c h  t h e n o v e l i s t then doubles back and uses as an image o f a p o c a l y p t i c doom. Verloc and  i n The S e c r e t Agent, N i k o l a i i n P e t e r s b u r g , Y o s s a r i a n  Slothrop  i n Catch-22  i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow a r e a l l r i d d e n w i t h p a r a n o i a , t h e  p s y c h o l o g i c a l consequence o f such t e r r o r .  The  a p o c a l y p t i c theme i s r e l e v a n t t o a b s e n t - c e n t r e d  structure  because, i n an o b v i o u s sense, i t a s k s t h e most c r i t i c a l q u e s t i o n s : i s t h e w o r l d ' s f a t e and what i s man's f a t e i n t h a t w o r l d ? a f t e r d e a t h and a f t e r t h e f i n a l upheaval?  what  What remains  To a s k such q u e s t i o n s  i s to  f e a r t h e end, t o f e a r a n n i h i l a t i o n and u l t i m a t e l y , t o f e a r t h e v o i d .  The  nagging doubt t h a t t h e r e may be o n l y an absence, a s i g n i f y i n g o f n o t h i n g a f t e r t h e sound and t h e f u r y , i s t h e p o w e r f u l characters i n these novels  f o r c e that d r i v e s the  t o such d e s p e r a t e a c t i o n s — a n d  their  creators  to such l e n g t h s t o d e v i s e n a r r a t i v e c o r r e l a t i v e s . A t t h e end o f The Princess"Casamassima, Hyacinth, "overpast";  a l o n e i n h i s d i n g y room, i s d e s c r i b e d as  "he'had become vague, he was e x t i n c t " (PC, p. 5 0 2 ) . When t h e  P r i n c e s s f i n d s h i s body a few pages l a t e r , she f i n d s "something b l a c k , 4  something ambiguous ..." (PC, p. 5 1 0 ) . H y a c i n t h d i e s o f a m b i g u i t y , because he i s u n a b l e t o l i v e w i t h u n c e r t a i n t y and f e a r .  When t h e n a r r a t o r  72  describes Hyacinth as "extinct," he reduces him to a soulless and misplaced b i o l o g i c a l creature.  Compressed i n the word " e x t i n c t " i s both  the disillusionment Hyacinth has p a i n f u l l y experienced and the t o t a l lack of hope for a future which he prefers not to face.  Thus, the apocalyptic  theme, the terror of the end, provides part of the i d e o l o g i c a l underpinning which e x p l a i n s — i f not generates—the structure of the novel which explores the o r i g i n s and bleakness of that state.  73  Notes  T z v e t a n Todorov, The P o e t i c s o f P r o s e , t r a n s l a t e d by R i c h a r d Howard ( I t h a c a , New Y o r k : C o r n e l l U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1977), p. 145. X  2 Henry James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l (New Y o r k : S c r i b n e r ' s , 1934). 3 Henry James, The P r i n c e s s Casamassima (New Y o r k : H a r p e r , 1959), p. 41. F u r t h e r r e f e r e n c e s and t h e i r page numbers t o t h i s e d i t i o n o f t h e n o v e l a r e i n c l u d e d i n t h e t e x t a f t e r t h e a b b r e v i a t i o n PC. Leon E d e l p o i n t s o u t t h a t one o f James's e a r l i e s t memories i s o f l y i n g under a c h a i r as a c h i l d i n t h e m i d s t o f a d u l t c o n v e r s a t i o n and r e a d i n g D a v i d C o p p e r f i e l d . See The U n t r i e d Y e a r s (New York: Avon, 1978), pp. 98-99. The D i c k e n s i a n i n f l u e n c e i s r o o t e d e a r l y . I n h i s P r e f a c e .to The Ambassadors (New Y o r k e d i t i o n , 1907-17, V o l . XXI) James a d d r e s s e s h i m s e l f s p e c i f i c a l l y t o D a v i d C o p p e r f i e l d and c l a i m s t h a t " t h e f i r s t p e r s o n i n t h e l o n g p i e c e i s a form foredoomed t o l o o s e n e s s . " He goes on to o b j e c t t o t h e " t e r r i b l e f l u i d i t y o f s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n " i n D a v i d Copperf i e l d . I n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima t h e r e i s one r e f e r e n c e t o D i c k e n s i n g e n e r a l and two r e f e r e n c e s t o Micawber; i t would seem t h a t D a v i d Copperf i e l d i s one o f James's l i t e r a r y t o u c h s t o n e s . ^ Charles Dickens, P e n g u i n , 1966), p. 61:  David C o p p e r f i e l d (Harmondsworth, E n g l a n d :  . . . i f i t s h o u l d appear from a n y t h i n g I may s e t down i n t h i s n a r r a t i v e t h a t I was a c h i l d o f c l o s e o b s e r v a t i o n , o r t h a t as a man I have a s t r o n g memory o f my c h i l d h o o d , I u n d o u b t e d l y l a y c l a i m t o b o t h of t h e s e characteristics. ^ Henry James, The Notebooks o f Henry James, ed. F. 0. M a t t h i e s s e n and Kenneth B. Murdock (New York: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1947), p. 68. ^ James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l , p. 18. Leon E d e l , The Conquest o f London: 1870-1881 (New Y o r k : Avon, 1978), pp. 111-112. Todorov, The P o e t i c s o f P r o s e , p. 151.  74  F. W. Dupee, Henry James ( T o r o n t o : George J . MacLeod, 1951), p. 156. Henry James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l , pp. 85-86. 12 Henry James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l , p. 86. 1 3  James A. Ward, "James's I d e a o f S t r u c t u r e , " PMLA 80: 1965, 420.  14 As P a t r i c i a M e r i v a l e n o t e s , Conrad and H e l l e r a r e h e i r to t h i s s p u r i o u s a n t i t h e s i s . I n Conrad, " t h e o p p o s i t e s a r e r e m a r k a b l y a l i k e , " w h i l e i n H e l l e r , " f h e c a t e g o r i e s o v e r l a p . " See: "Catch-22 and The S e c r e t Agent: M e c h a n i c a l Man, t h e H o l e i n t h e C e n t r e , and t h e ' P r i n c i p l e of I n b u i l t Chaos,'" i n E n g l i s h S t u d i e s i n Canada, 7 (December, 1981) 4: 427. See Leon E d e l , The Conquest o f London: 1870-1881, pp. 203-221 and pp. 292-294. 1 5  See Jeanne D e l b a e r e - G a r a n t , "Henry James's D i v e r g e n c e s from H i s R u s s i a n Model i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima," i n Revue des Langues V i v a n t e s 3 7 ( 1 9 7 1 ) , : 535-44^, and EunJ.ce C.' H a m i l t o n , "Henry James's. The P r i n c e s s Casamassima and I v a n Turgenev's V i r g i n S o i l , " i n . South. A t l a n t i c Q u a r t e r l y , 6 1 (1962):  354-364.  ^ I v a n Turgenev, V i r g i n S o i l , York: Grove, 1977), p. 283.  t r a n s l a t e d by Constance G a r n e t t (New  18 Henry James as quoted i n F r a n k Kermode, The Sense o f an Ending (London: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1966), p. 22. 19 p. 299. 20  Henry James as quoted i n Leon E d e l , The U n t r i e d Y e a r s :  Henry James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l , P- 76.  2 1  Todorov, The P o e t i c s o f P r o s e , p. 153.  2 2  F r a n k Kermode, The Sense o f an E n d i n g , p. 23, F. W. Dupee, Henry James, p. 154.  1843-1870,  75  See, f o r example, J . M. Luecke, "The P r i n c e s s Casamassima: H y a c i n t h ' s F a l l i b l e C o n s c i o u s n e s s , " i n Modern P h i l o l o g y 60 (1963): 274-280. F. W. Dupee, Henry James, pp. 158 and 160  respectively.  L i o n e l T r i l l i n g , The L i b e r a l I m a g i n a t i o n (New Y o r k : Anchor, 1953), p. 58. 27 E. F. Benson, ed., Henry James: L e t t e r s t o A. C. Benson and A g u s t e Monod (London: E l k i n Matthews & M a r r o t , n . d . ) , p. 35. See Leon E d e l , The M i d d l e Y e a r s : 1882-1895 (New Y o r k : Avon, 1978), p. 168.  76  CHAPTER I I I  Joseph Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent: Sudden H o l e s i n Time and Space  The n a r r a t i v e absence i n Henry James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima grows u n c o m f o r t a b l y from v a r i o u s and sometimes c o n f u s i n g s o u r c e s : i n d i r e c t p o i n t of v i e w , i n t e n t i o n a l l y c r a f t e d m y s t e r y , imagery,  anti-climax,  s p u r i o u s a n t i t h e s i s , and, i n James's own p h r a s e , a " m i s p l a c e d m i d d l e . "  By  c o n t r a s t , t h e absent c e n t r e of Joseph Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent i s more e a s i l y i d e n t i f i e d , m a i n l y because i t so p r o m i n e n t l y governs the e n t i r e narrative structure.  A d i s c u s s i o n of t h i s phenomenon i n The S e c r e t Agent  p r o f i t s e s p e c i a l l y by a comparison w i t h The P r i n c e s s Casamassima s i n c e •both n o v e l s share s i m i l a r i t i e s i n s u b j e c t m a t t e r , imagery and theme; moreover,  such a comparison v i v i d l y i l l u s t r a t e s the m a t u r a t i o n of a b s e n t -  c e n t r e d s t r u c t u r e from i t s uneasy b e g i n n i n g s i n D i c k e n s and James to Conrad and E a r l y Modernism where i t i s developed w i t h g r e a t e r c o n f i d e n c e and  sophistication.  Beyond t h e f r e q u e n t l y n o t e d s i m i l a r i t y t h a t b o t h n o v e l i s t s  chose  England as t h e i r l i t e r a r y asylum, i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g t h a t b o t h James and Conrad s h o u l d have chosen a n a r c h i s m as s u b j e c t m a t t e r f o r f i c t i o n a l  treat-  m e n t — e s p e c i a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g s i n c e b o t h were q u i c k to d i s c l a i m any d i r e c t knowledge of a n a r c h i s t a c t i v i t y . knowledge,  To compensate f o r a l a c k of such  b o t h a u t h o r s r e l i e d upon, among o t h e r s o u r c e s , newspaper  r e p o r t s , James o n l y s p a r i n g l y on t h e P i c c a d i l l y R i o t s , and Conrad  generous-  0  11  l y on the more s p e c t a c u l a r and much b e t t e r documented "Greenwich Bomb Outrage."^  For t h e most p a r t , c r i t i c s have been more t o l e r a n t of Conrad's  d e p i c t i o n of a n a r c h i s t ' c h a r a c t e r and a c t i o n than they have been of James's.  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima seems f a t e d to squirm under the charge  t h a t i t s a n a r c h i s t s are n a i v e l y and  i n c o m p l e t e l y d r a w n — a charge t h a t  p e r s i s t s d e s p i t e James's s t a t e d i n t e n t i o n to p r e s e n t  o n l y the " s u r f a c e " of 2  a n a r c h i s t a c t i v i t y f o r s p e c i a l l i t e r a r y reasons already  discussed.  Other than newspaper r e p o r t s , t h e c i t y of London, i n s i s t b o t h novel i s t s i n their Prefaces, offered s i g n i f i c a n t i n s p i r a t i o n f o r their James c l a i m s t h a t H y a c i n t h ' s  h i s t o r y "sprang up f o r me  fiction.  out of t h e London  pavements," w h i l e Conrad w r i t e s i n h i s P r e f a c e : I had t o f i g h t hard to keep a t arm's l e n g t h t h e memories of my s o l i t a r y and n o c t u r n a l walks a l l over London i n my e a r l y days, l e s t they should r u s h i n and overwhelm each page of the s t o r y as t h e s e emerged one a f t e r another from a mood as s e r i o u s i n f e e l i n g and thought as any i n w h i c h I ever wrote ^ a line. ("Author's Note" to The S e c r e t Agent, p. 1 1 )  Yet,  the d i f f e r e n c e h e r e i s as noteworthy as the s i m i l a r i t y .  e v i d e n c e t o suggest t h a t James had  There i s no  t o " f i g h t h a r d " to m a i n t a i n an  and o b j e c t i v e "arm's l e n g t h " d i s t a n c e from h i s i m p r e s s i o n s  ironic  of London.  Indeed, i f h i s f a c t - f i n d i n g v i s i t to M i l l b a n k p r i s o n and h i s numerous w a l k s about the c i t y t o document l a b o u r c l a s s speech are an he seems t o have i n t e n t i o n a l l y sought i m p r e s s i o n s  indication,  of London w i t h a c o o l  o b j e c t i v i t y , even i n the mode of n a t u r a l i s m , i t has been n o t e d . however, a p p a r e n t l y of i m p r e s s i o n s ,  s t r u g g l e d w i t h the abundance and  Conrad,  t h e emotive r i c h n e s s  so t h a t the Jamesian d i s t a n c i n g d e v i c e of i r o n y  was  78  "formulated with d e l i b e r a t i o n . " James i s s c a r c e l y  That t h e r e might be a d i r e c t i n f l u e n c e by  surprising considering  that  Conrad  claimed  a "frequent  4 communion" w i t h James's work. streets  Certainly,  t h e imagery of t h e London  i s unmistakably p a r a l l e l i n both n o v e l s to the extent t h a t  p i c t s t h e c i t y as a l a b y r i n t h and to t h e extent that  i t de-  i t originates  Dickens, an o b s e r v a t i o n which F. R. L e a v i s made as e a r l y as 1941:  from "Con-  rad's London bears something of t h e same k i n d o f r e l a t i o n to Dickens as Henry James' does i n The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima.""'  In L i t t l e D o r r i t , f o r example, houses i n the c i t y of London a r e v e r y difficult  to locate  i f they have not b e e n — s o  i t seems—misplaced  alto-  gether; Mr. Meagles hands A r t h u r Clennam a s l i p of paper on which i s w r i t t e n M i s s Wade's a d d r e s s :  "Here i s no number," s a i d A r t h u r l o o k i n g over i t . "No number, my dear Clennam?" r e t u r n e d h i s f r i e n d . "No a n y t h i n g ! The v e r y name o f t h e s t r e e t may have been f l o a t i n g i n t h e a i r , f o r , as I t e l l you, none o f my p e o p l e can say where they got i t from." ... ... They rode t o the top o f O x f o r d s t r e e t , and t h e r e a l i g h t i n g , d i v e d i n among the g r e a t s t r e e t s o f melanc h o l y s t a t e l i n e s s , and t h e l i t t l e s t r e e t s t h a t t r y t o be s t a t e l y and succeed i n b e i n g more m e l a n c h o l y , o f w h i c h t h e r e i s a l a b y r i n t h near P a r k Lane.... ( L i t t l e D o r r i t , p. 303. I t a l i c s m i n e . ) ^  Or, more s p e c t a c u l a r l y , i n M a r t i n C h u z z l e w i t , c h a r a c t e r s , u n a b l e t o l o c a t e "Todgers"' even though i t i s w i t h i n v i e w , a r e doomed t o walk d i r e c t i o n l e s s through l a b y r i n t h i n e s t r e e t s :  1  >•  You groped your way f o r an hour t h r o u g h l a n e s and byways, and c o u r t - y a r d s , and passages and you never once emerged upon a n y t h i n g t h a t might be r e a s o n a b l y c a l l e d a s t r e e t . A k i n d of r e s i g n e d d i s t r a c t i o n came  79  over t h e s t r a n g e r as he t r o d those d e v i o u s mazes, and g i v i n g h i m s e l f up f o r l o s t , went i n and out and round about and q u i e t l y turned back a g a i n when he came t o a dead w a l l o r was stopped by an i r o n r a i l i n g , and f e l t t h a t t h e means of escape might p o s s i b l y p r e s e n t themselves i n t h e i r own good t i m e , but t h a t to a n t i c i p a t e them was h o p e l e s s . Instances were known of p e o p l e , who b e i n g asked to d i n e a t Todgers', had t r a v e l l e d round and round f o r a weary t i m e , w i t h i t s chimney-pots i n v i e w , and f i n d i n g i t a t l a s t i m p o s s i b l e of a t t a i n m e n t , had gone home a g a i n . . .. Todgers' was i n a. l a b y r i n t h , whereof the m y s t e r y was known but to a chosen few. ( M a r t i n C h u z z l e w i t , pp. 147-48. I t a l i c s mine..)^  S i m i l a r l y , i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, H y a c i n t h takes a c a r r i a g e r i d e w i t h P a u l Muniment a t m i d n i g h t  through t h e "murky m i l e s " of London f o g u n t i l  "he had w h o l l y l o s t , i n t h e d r i z z l i n g gloom, a sense of t h e i r whereabouts" (The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, p. 246).  As a c h i l d , he goes w i t h Amanda  Pynsent to see h i s mother i n M i l l b a n k p r i s o n , t h a t "draughty  labyrinth"  w i t h " w a l l s w i t h i n w a l l s and g a l l e r i e s on top of g a l l e r i e s " (p. 50), and as an a d u l t , to see M i l l i c e n t Henning he must t r a v e l through " t h e of t h e shop" where she works.  labyrinth  Not u n l i k e a c h a r a c t e r t r y i n g to f i n d  Todgers', H y a c i n t h , a t t h e end of t h e n o v e l j u s t b e f o r e h i s s u i c i d e , wanders through " s t r e e t s , i n t o squares, i n t o p a r k s " i n " t h e g r e a t , i n d i f f e r e n t c i t y " u n t i l he ends up i n S a i n t James's P a r k where he " f o l l o w e d the t h o r o u g h f a r e t h a t communicates w i t h P i m l i c o .  He stopped h e r e p r e s e n t -  l y and came back a g a i n ; t h e n , over t h e same pavement, he r e t r a c e d h i s s t e p s ..."  (The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, p.  504).  I n the London of Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent, t h e " t o p o g r a p h i c a l m y s t e r i e s " o f t h e c i t y a r e as s t r i k i n g as t h o s e i n e i t h e r James o r D i c k e n s . Verlo.c, as he n e a r s t h e Embassy f o r h i s i n t e r v i e w w i t h Mr. V l a d i m i r ,  80  r e a c h e s No. 1 Chesham Square and then proceeds d i a g o n a l l y to No.  10:  T h i s belonged t o an imposing c a r r i a g e g a t e i n a h i g h , c l e a n w a l l between two houses, of which one r a t i o n a l l y enough bore the number 9 and t h e o t h e r was numbered 37; but t h e f a c t t h a t t h i s l a s t belonged to P o r t h i l l S t r e e t , a s t r e e t w e l l known i n the neighbourhood, was p r o c l a i m e d by an i n s c r i p t i o n p l a c e d above t h e groundf l o o r windows by whatever h i g h l y e f f i c i e n t a u t h o r i t y i s charged w i t h the duty o f k e e p i n g t r a c k of London's s t r a y e d houses. (SA, p. 22)  The Embassy and London houses, t h e n , a r e as o b s c u r e l y s i t u a t e d i n the l a b y r i n t h of Conrad's s t r e e t s as M i s s Wade's house o r Todgers' ment i s i n D i c k e n s ' s .  establish-  Conrad i n v o k e s the l a b y r i n t h or maze e x p l i c i t l y  on  two o c c a s i o n s : once when V e r l o c t r a v e l s w i t h S t e v i e and t h e bomb t o Greenwich P a r k v i a "Maze H i l l " s t a t i o n , and a second t i m e when W i n n i e , h a v i n g j u s t murdered  V e r l o c , w a l k s d e s p e r a t e l y a l o n e i n t o the London  s t r e e t s and f i n d s t h a t " t h e whole town of m a r v e l s and mud,  w i t h i t s maze  of s t r e e t s and i t s mass of l i g h t s , was sunk i n a h o p e l e s s n i g h t , r e s t e d a t the bottom of a b l a c k abyss from w h i c h no unaided woman c o u l d hope t o s c r a m b l e o u t " (SA, p. 218). In keeping w i t h the n o t i c e a b l e  s y m b o l i c use of geometry  i n the  t e x t ( V e r l o c ' s t r i a n g l e and S t e v i e ' s c i r c l e s a r e two of the more o b v i o u s examples), Conrad's l a b y r i n t h o f s t r e e t s i s d e s c r i b e d w i t h an emphasis the geometric.  on  H a v i n g b e t r a y e d W i n n i e by s e n d i n g her a l o n e on the t r a i n  w h i c h e v e n t u a l l y c a r r i e s her t o her s u i c i d e , and h a v i n g s w i n d l e d her out of V e r l o c ' s money, O s s i p o n w a l k s the s t r e e t s of London self-condemned r a p i d l y s i n k i n g under t h e weight of h i s m o r a l d e c r e p i t u d e : And a g a i n Comrade O s s i p o n walked. H i s r o b u s t form was seen t h a t n i g h t i n d i s t a n t p a r t s of the enormous  and  81  town s l u m b e r i n g m o n s t r o u s l y on a c a r p e t of mud under a v e i l o f raw m i s t . I t was seen c r o s s i n g the s t r e e t s w i t h o u t l i f e and sound, or d i m i n i s h i n g i n the i n t e r m i n a b l e s t r a i g h t p e r s p e c t i v e s of shadowy houses b o r d e r ing empty roadways l i n e d by s t r i n g s of gaslamps. He walked t h r o u g h Squares, P l a c e s , O v a l s , Commons, t h r o u g h monotonous s t r e e t s w i t h unknown names where the dust of humanity s e t t l e s i n e r t and h o p e l e s s out of the stream of l i f e . He walked. (SA, p.. 241)  O s s i p o n becomes a form, an " i t , " and  the " s q u a r e s , "  " o v a l s , " and  m i n a b l e s t r a i g h t p e r s p e c t i v e s " remind us t h a t , f o r Ossipon,  "inter-  t h e r e i s no  way  o u t , nor i s t h e r e a p e r c e p t i b l e c e n t r e to t h i s g e o m e t r i c l a b y r i n t h . The London l a b y r i n t h , however, i s not o n l y a s t r u c t u r e i n w h i c h characters r i s k interminable walking; i t i s also a structure ridden with c o r r u p t i o n , d i s e a s e and d e f o r m i t y , thus p r o v i d i n g a s u i t a b l e s e t t i n g f o r the m o r a l l y g r o t e s q u e c h a r a c t e r s who  wander t h e r e .  In L i t t l e D o r r i t ' s  P a r k Lane, f o r example,Dickens s t r e s s e s d i s t o r t i o n and d i s e a s e when he invokes " p a r a s i t e l i t t l e tenements, w i t h t h e cramp i n t h e i r whole frame, from the dwarf h a l l - d o o r on the g i a n t model of H i s Grace's i n the Square to  the squeezed window of t h e b o u d o i r  mews...."  commanding the d u n g h i l l s i n the  They a r e " r i c k e t y d w e l l i n g s " w i t h "a d i s m a l s m e l l " and so  de-  formed t h a t t h e i r i r o n columns seem to be " s c r o f u l o u s l y r e s t i n g upon c r u t c h e s " ( L i t t l e D o r r i t , p. 303. monstrous, London, f o r H y a c i n t h  I t a l i c s mine).  No l e s s h o r r i f i c or  i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, becomes "an  immeasurable b r e a t h i n g monster," and as he w a l k s t h e s t r e e t s a t n i g h t , he meets c h a r a c t e r s r e e k i n g o f " g i n and f i l t h , " and " f i g u r e s f o u l as l e p e r s , " a l l " v i c e , b r u t a l , bedraggled, p. 410).  obscene" (The P r i n c e s s Casamassima,  S i m i l a r l y i n The S e c r e t Agent, c h a r a c t e r s i n the l a b y r i n t h of  London a r e deformed, f a t , b l o a t e d and d i s e a s e d :  Verloc i s "burly i n a  82  f a t - p i g s t y l e , " the P r o f e s s o r , a " d i n g y l i t t l e man" and a "greasy  with a sallow face  complexion," and Yundt i s cursed w i t h a " s k i n n y g r o p i n g hand  deformed by gouty s w e l l i n g s . "  The P r o f e s s o r f e e l s p a r t i c u l a r l y  by t h e m u l t i t u d e of such c h a r a c t e r s who  threatened  "swarmed numerous l i k e l o c u s t s ,  i n d u s t r i o u s l i k e a n t s , " even i n the back s t r e e t s of the c i t y where he wanders.  The houses here, l i k e those i n D i c k e n s ' s  P a r k Lane, "had  in their  d u s t y windows the s i g h t l e s s , moribund l o o k of i n c u r a b l e decay" (SA, p. And  i n an image w h i c h h i n t s a t t h e bomb's e x p l o s i o n a t the c e n t r e of  74).  this  l a b y r i n t h (arid which p r e f i g u r e s t h e urban h u l k s of H e l l e r ' s Rome i n Catch-22),  the houses appear l i k e "empty s h e l l s a w a i t i n g d e m o l i t i o n "  (SA, p. 74).. S i m i l a r l y , O s s i p o n , a t the S i l e n u s R e s t a u r a n t ,  d u r i n g h i s rendezvous w i t h the P r o f e s s o r  imagines the p l a c e a f t e r an e x p l o s i o n :  For a moment O s s i p o n imagined the o v e r l i g h t e d p l a c e changed i n t o a d r e a d f u l b l a c k h o l e b e l c h i n g fumes choked w i t h g h a s t l y r u b b i s h of smashed b r i c k w o r k and m u t i l a t e d c o r p s e s . (SA, p. 63)  I f Dickens's  imagery s p r i n g s from s o c i a l and m o r a l i n v e c t i v e , and i f  James's, informed w i t h " t h e i m a g i n a t i o n of d i s a s t e r , " v e r g e s on apocal y p t i c r u i n , then Conrad's imagery seems p o s t - a p o c a l y p t i c , as though the upheaval—the explosion—has  a l r e a d y o c c u r r e d , and as though h i s  c h a r a c t e r s a r e doomed to w a l k i n t e r m i n a b l y i n p u r g a t o r i a l London. i n g a t the imagery i n t h i s way V i c t o r i a n to l a t e - V i c t o r i a n and  Look-  b r i n g s i n t o sharp f o c u s i t s t r a n s i t i o n from to modernist f i c t i o n — e s p e c i a l l y i n  r e s p e c t to t h e n o v e l i s t s ' d e p i c t i o n o f the c i t y as  labyrinth.  Conrad extends the s p a t i a l metaphor of the l a b y r i n t h by p l a c i n g w i t h i n i t s l a r g e spaces the s m a l l e r , e n c l o s e d and s o l i t a r y spaces of h i s  83  characters.  These claustrophobic spaces, which are emphasized by Conrad's  window imagery, reveal the s t i f l i n g confines of characters trapped own  i n their  grotesque secrecy, unable or unwilling to communicate the nature of  their own self .  personal voids which exist within the larger void of London i t -  Verloc, nervous and sweating during his interview with Mr.  Vladimir,  lunges impulsively towards the french windows hoping for some kind of rescue or escape, and l a t e r i n the same scene he "heard against the windowpane the f a i n t buzzing of a f l y . . . "  (SA, p. 31), an image which at once  reduces Verloc's moral stature to the l e v e l of an insect, while at the same time hinting at his own  f u t i l e "buzzing" i n an attempt to escape the  unpleasant s i t u a t i o n i n the room.  That evening at home, Winnie notices  him standing at the bedroom window with "his forehead against the cold window-pane—a f r a g i l e f i l m of glass stretched between him and the enormity of cold, wet,  black, muddy, inhospitable accumulation of bricks, slates,  and stones" ((SA, p. 54). " f r a g i l e f i l m " l i k e his own  Thus, i t i s a very d e l i c a t e membrane, a "mortal envelope," which separates  private space from the larger public space of the c i t y .  Verloc's  Both spaces are  h o s t i l e to Verloc, the private space because i t s comfort and i t s " f a n a t i c a l inertness" have been disrupted by Mr. Vladimir (and because he r i s k s exposure to Winnie), and the public space because of the "enormity" of i t s indifference and i t s power to overwhelm.  Michael Haltresht, i n  his a r t i c l e "The Dread of Space i n Conrad's The Secret Agent," describes more f u l l y the claustrophobic theme i n the novel and contrasts i t with acrophobia or the fear of f a l l i n g .  (Winnie's r e f r a i n which expresses her  fear of hanging i s the f i n e s t example:  "The drop was  fourteen feet.")  more appropriate contrast, however, would be agoraphobia (fear of large  A  84  spaces), especially in the l i g h t of Verloc's dilemma which places him "in the solitude of a vast and hopeless desert" (SA, p. 148).  The r e l a t i o n -  ship between large spaces and confined spaces, i n d i v i d u a l voids in the larger void of London, i s neatly expressive of one of the novel's moderni s t themes:  i s o l a t i o n i n the waste place.  viewed in the same way.  Conrad's sea stories can be  Characters, enclosed in the confined space of a  ship, are l o s t in the vast space of the sea, a pattern which is  strongly  prefigured in Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Shelley's Frankenstein.  The pattern is clear i n The Nigger of the Narcissus: ;  The passage had begun, tached from the earth, a small planet. Round met in an unattainable  and the ship, a fragment dewent on lonely and swift l i k e her the abysses of sky and sea frontier.9  These two s p a t i a l worlds feed and intensify each other, for the more Verloc fears exposure from the outside world (Vladimir and Heat), the more withdrawn and uncommunicative he becomes.  For a brief moment he considers  "making a clean breast of things" and escaping to the continent with Winnie, but lacking the courage to speak the truth and set  things right in  his domestic sphere, his only alternative i s to carry out Vladimir's d i r e c t i v e in the public sphere."^  As long as Verloc remains i n e r t , he is  safe in his s l o t h f u l r o l e as double agent; however, when Vladimir him to unbalance his duplicitous l o y a l t i e s ,  he becomes vulnerable.  r i s k s danger i f he acts and danger i f he does not. Heller, a classic  He  anticipating  "catch-22" dilemma.'  These s p a t i a l complexities have a f f i n i t i e s  It i s ,  forces  in The Secret Agent, however, while they  with those i n Dickens and James, move beyond them and i n -  85  vade the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e i n a prominent way.  D i c k e n s i a n and Jamesian  space i s p o w e r f u l l y imaged, b u t i t does not r a d i c a l l y a l t e r t h e n a r r a t i v e thrust.  There a r e i n n o v a t i o n s i n n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g i e s , t o be s u r e , y e t  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima and L i t t l e D o r r i t a r e s t i l l bounded by what J o y c e , t o n g u e - i n - c h e e k , c a l l e d "wideawake language, c u t a n d d r y grammar and plot.""'""''  Conrad's p l o t o r n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e i s c l e a r l y not  goahead  "goahead,"  d i s r u p t e d as i t i s by b o t h s p a t i a l and temporal d i s t o r t i o n s w h i c h fragment and weave t h e n a r r a t i v e ( i n a more l i t e r a l sense than i n Henry James) around an absent c e n t r e , the premature bomb e x p l o s i o n w h i c h k i l l s S t e v i e . T e r r y E a g l e t o n , i n C r i t i c i s m and I d e o l o g y , c o n c u r s and n o t i c e s i n each of Conrad's n o v e l s a " c a l c u l a t i v e o r g a n i s a t i o n of i n t e r l a c i n g p a t t e r n s around a c e n t r a l absence."''"  2  One such p a t t e r n , d e l a y e d n a r r a t i v e t h r u s t , i s f e l t as a d i s t o r t i o n i n the v e r y opening of The S e c r e t Agent:  "Mr. V e r l o c , g o i n g out i n t h e  morning, l e f t h i s shop n o m i n a l l y i n charge of h i s b r o t h e r - i n - l a w " (SA, p. 1 3 ) . However, t h e t h r u s t of the n a r r a t i v e a c t i o n of " g o i n g o u t " s t a l l s i n the f i r s t b r i e f p a r a g r a p h , and i n t h e second V e r l o c i s suspended a t the shop door w h i l e t h e remainder of t h e c h a p t e r f i l l s  i n background and h i s t o r y to  e s t a b l i s h the s e t t i n g and c h a r a c t e r of t h e V e r l o c h o u s e h o l d .  Chapter I I  r e p e a t s t h e opening a c t i o n , and o n l y then i s V e r l o c " u n f r o z e n " and f r e e to c o n t i n u e on h i s way t o t h e Embassy f o r h i s i n t e r v i e w w i t h Mr. V l a d i m i r . A l a n Friedman sees such a t e c h n i q u e , on a l a r g e r s c a l e , as a f o r m a l s t r a t e g y d e s i g n e d as "... a b r a k e a g a i n s t any mere mounting of into sensationalism."  And he c o n t i n u e s :  'effects'  86  Conrad's n o v e l s a r e c o n t i n u a l l y about t o open outward. One i s aware of an imminent e x p l o s i o n as t h e ' p r o g r e s s i o n ' i n t e n s i f i e s ; b u t t h e inward r e f u s a l h o l d s t h e c u m u l a t i v e f o r c e i n check under i n c r e a s i n g p r e s s u r e ; and t h e s t o r y 'opens' o n l y a t t h e end. There i s a sudden c r u m b l i n g o f r e s i s t a n c e , an e r u p t i o n a t maximum m o r a l i n t e n s i t y . T h i s "inward r e f u s a l " o f t h e n a r r a t i v e i s e s p e c i a l l y e v i d e n t i n Conrad's h a n d l i n g o f t h e bomb e x p l o s i o n .  Chapter I I I c o n t i n u e s  with a  r e l a t i v e l y s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d n a r r a t i v e l i n e , p a u s i n g c h i e f l y t o d e s c r i b e and o u t l i n e t h e background o f t h e a n a r c h i s t s who meet a t V e r l o c ' s shop t h e evening b e f o r e t h e e x p l o s i o n .  Suddenly, i n Chapter IV t h e s e t t i n g s h i f t s  to O s s i p o n and t h e P r o f e s s o r s i t t i n g a t a r e s t a u r a n t t a b l e d i s c u s s i n g a newspaper r e p o r t o f t h e e x p l o s i o n .  Having f o l l o w e d V e r l o c t o t h e p o i n t  where he r e c e i v e s t h e d i r e c t i v e t o p l a n t a bomb by Greenwich O b s e r v a t o r y , i t i s something o f a n a r r a t i v e " c h e a t " to the forward  t o be d e p r i v e d o f a c t i o n so c e n t r a l  thrust of the n a r r a t i v e l i n e .  From t h i s p o i n t u n t i l t h e  murder, t h e n a r r a t i v e i s s t u b b o r n l y guarded about i n f o r m a t i o n the e x p l o s i o n . does, o f c o u r s e ,  concerning  The t o p i c o f c o n v e r s a t i o n between O s s i p o n and t h e P r o f e s s o r turn to the e x p l o s i o n , but the i n d i r e c t r e p o r t i n g of the  event ( w h i c h i s now spoken of i n t h e p a s t tense) t h r o u g h d i a l o g u e , and the i r o n y o f t h e i r m i s t a k e n assumptions ( f o r i n s t a n c e , t h a t i t i s V e r l o c who i s k i l l e d by t h e e x p l o s i o n ) , o n l y s e r v e t o d i s t a n c e t h e c e n t r a l event and remind u s j u s t how absent from t h e t e x t t h i s c e n t r a l event i s .  There can be l i t t l e argument t h a t t h e e x p l o s i o n , w h i l e absent from the n a r r a t i v e , i s a l s o c e n t r a l t o i t . "...  As J e f f r e y R. S m i t t e n  observes:  a l l t h e events r e l a t e back t o t h e moment o f t h e bombing e i t h e r as a  cause o r an e f f e c t ... each scene i n t h e n o v e l i s t o be u n d e r s t o o d as a c o e x i s t i n g f a c e t o f a complete system of causes and e f f e c t s w h i c h r e s t  87  upon a s i n g l e moment i n t i m e " — a n d i n space, he might have added. goes on t o s a y : " A l t h o u g h  Smitten  i t i s never d i r e c t l y r e n d e r e d , t h e b o m b i n g — o r  more s p e c i f i c a l l y , t h e e x p l o s i o n — i s t h e c e n t r a l event of The S e c r e t Agent 14 i n a v e r y l i t e r a l sense."  The c e n t r a l i t y o f the event need n o t be con-  fused w i t h the c e n t r a l i t y of character.  H. M. D a l e s k i c l a i m s , f o r  example, t h a t d e s p i t e t h e t i t l e o f t h e n o v e l , "Winnie's s t o r y ... may be thought  of as t h e p a r a d i g m a t i c c e n t r e o f a s e r i e s of c o n c e n t r i c circles.""'""'  Conrad h i m s e l f i n t h e P r e f a c e w r i t e s : reduced  t o manageable p r o p o r t i o n , i t s whole c o u r s e suggested  around t h e absurd p. 10.  " T h i s book i s t h a t s t o r y [ W i n n i e ' s ] , and c e n t r e d  c r u e l t y o f t h e Greenwich P a r k e x p l o s i o n " ( P r e f a c e t o SA,  Conrad's i t a l i c s ) .  The event, t h e n , as a f o r m a l c e n t r e need n o t  c o n t r a d i c t t h e c e n t r a l i t y o f W i n n i e as a c h a r a c t e r o r h e r s t o r y , j u s t as i n Nostromo, t h e i s s u e o f t h e hero's c e n t r a l i t y i s n o t n e c e s s a r i l y i n o p p o s i t i o n t o t h e c e n t r a l i t y of events c o n c e r n i n g t h e s t o l e n s i l v e r treasure.  I n The S e c r e t Agent, t h e c e n t r a l event does n o t c o i n c i d e as i t  does i n James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima w i t h t h e c l i m a x of t h e n o v e l .  In  The P r i n c e s s Casamassima t h e " m i s p l a c e d m i d d l e " of t h e n a r r a t i v e i s conn e c t e d t o t h e c l i m a x of H y a c i n t h ' s s p u r i o u s a n t i t h e s i s , whereas i n The S e c r e t Agent t h e absence o f t h e c e n t r a l event i s more s t r i k i n g and more s i g n i f i c a n t p r e c i s e l y because i t i s q u i t e d i s t i n c t from t h e c l i m a x would be V e r l o c ' s death o r perhaps W i n n i e ' s s u i c i d e ) . absent  (which  Conrad s i t u a t e s t h e  c e n t r e e a r l y i n t h e n o v e l so t h a t , f o r t h e r e a d e r , i t q u i c k l y be-  comes p a s t n a r r a t i v e e x p e r i e n c e .  Much of t h e subsequent n a r r a t i v e  s t r u g g l e s , l i k e t h e c h a r a c t e r s i n t h e n o v e l , t o r e c o v e r and understand t h e p r e c i s e n a t u r e , t h e causes and e f f e c t s o f t h a t momentous event which both c a p t i v a t e s and h o r r i f i e s .  T h i s v e r y s t r a t e g y of r e - i n t e g r a t i n g  88  seemingly i m p e n e t r a b l e  events i n the past h e l p s to remove or absent the  e x p l o s i o n from the t e x t . wards.  The n a r r a t i v e always seems to be l o o k i n g back-  By c o n t r a s t , James p r e f e r s to s i t u a t e h i s c e n t r a l events i n the  f u t u r e where they p u l l t h e n a r r a t i v e f o r w a r d t h r u s t of suspense.  w i t h a more c o n v e n t i o n a l  The u n s p e c i f i e d a c t of v i o l e n c e i n The P r i n c e s s Casa-  massima w h i c h H y a c i n t h w i l l one day p e r f o r m i s almost as f o r c e f u l a mystery as Marcher's unknown but momentous e v e n t , "a g r e a t w h i c h he a w a i t s absent-centred  i n "The  accident,"  B e a s t i n the J u n g l e , " the most s t r i k i n g of James's  tales.  I n The  S e c r e t Agent, the absence of the c e n t r a l event i s a c h i e v e d  p a r t l y by b u r y i n g t h e e x p l o s i o n i n the p a s t and p a r t l y by weaving a v e r y indirect narrative line.  Chapter IV i n t r o d u c e s C h i e f I n s p e c t o r Heat,  and  i n t u r n , h i s s u p e r i o r , t h e A s s i s t a n t Commissioner; the f o c u s then s h i f t s to t h e A s s i s t a n t Commissioner's w i f e who patroness.  i s a f r i e n d of M i c h a e l i s '  F i n a l l y i n Chapter V I I t h e n a r r a t i v e reaches the  bureaucratic  top when the A s s i s t a n t Commissioner's s u p e r i o r e n t e r s the n o v e l , g r e a t personage," S i r E t h e l r e d .  I t i s a c u r i o u s p a t t e r n t h a t , to  "the describe  and n a r r a t e the event of the e x p l o s i o n , Conrad weaves h i s n a r r a t i v e t h r o u g h such a t a n g l e of b u r e a u c r a t i c h i e r a r c h i e s , always t a k i n g the time to round out h i s c h a r a c t e r s w i t h i r o n i c background, h i s t o r y and d e s c r i p t i o n so t h e i r a c t i o n s are l e g i t i m a t e l y motivated.  Of c o u r s e , much of the c o n v e r -  s a t i o n i n these four " d i v e r s i o n a r y " chapters w i t h V e r l o c and  the e x p l o s i o n :  O s s i p o n and  that  ( I V , V, V I , V I I ) has the P r o f e s s o r d i s c u s s  to do the  newspaper r e p o r t s and s p e c u l a t e on the event; Heat examines S t e v i e ' s s h a t t e r e d remains and d i s c o v e r s t h e a l l - i m p o r t a n t t r i a n g l e on h i s coat c o l l a r ; the i n t e r v i e w between Heat and  t h e A s s i s t a n t Commissioner e s t a b l i s h e s  89  Verloc's connection  w i t h t h e p o l i c e ; and the i n t e r v i e w w i t h S i r E t h e l r e d  p r o v i d e s a r a t i o n a l e f o r t h e A s s i s t a n t Commissioner's i n t h e case.  direct intervention  Y e t , t h e s p e c u l a t i o n s , o f t e n erroneous, t h a t o c c u r i n these  i n t e r v i e w s , and t h e p i e c e - m e a l i n f o r m a t i o n about the e x p l o s i o n p o i n t out j u s t how  l i t t l e i s known about t h e c e n t r a l event.  I t i s as though  the  temporal o r h o r i z o n t a l f l o w o f t h e n a r r a t i v e l i n e i s s t a l l e d ( l i k e V e r l o c a t t h e opening of t h e n o v e l ) w h i l e a l a b y r i n t h of v e r t i c a l ( t h a t i s , h i e r a r c h i c a l ) r e l a t i o n s h i p s i s explored. most s i g n i f i c a n t a c t i o n s subsequent  Expressed more c o n c r e t e l y , t h e  to the e x p l o s i o n ( V e r l o c ' s murder and  W i n n i e ' s s u i c i d e ) cannot t a k e p l a c e u n t i l t h e complex c i r c u m s t a n c e s l e a d i n g up t o and i m m e d i a t e l y f o l l o w i n g S t e v i e ' s d e a t h a r e e n t i r e l y u n d e r s t o o d p a i n f u l l y imagined, p a r t i c u l a r l y by W i n n i e .  and  Only then does W i n n i e have  s u f f i c i e n t m o t i v a t i o n f o r w i e l d i n g the carving k n i f e .  When she does,  she  seems t o r e l e a s e t h e n a r r a t i v e from t e m p o r a l d i s t o r t i o n and what f o l l o w s i s a r e l a t i v e l y r a p i d s u c c e s s i o n o f events as t h e t e x t ' s c h r o n o l o g y runs i t s e l f down to a s t a t i c  By a b s e n t i n g  conclusion.  the c e n t r a l e v e n t , Conrad s h i f t s the emphasis from the  n a r r a t i o n of events to a p s y c h o l o g i c a l and e s p e c i a l l y a m o r a l e x p l o r a t i o n of c h a r a c t e r s and t h e i r m o t i v a t i o n s .  The i n t e r c o n n e c t i o n s and  inter-  dependencies w h i c h e x p l a i n the event a r e h i g h l i g h t e d r a t h e r than the f a c t o f t h e event i t s e l f .  T h i s n o t i o n a c c o r d s w i t h Conrad's v i e w of t h e con-  f l i c t i n g newspaper r e p o r t s of t h e a c t u a l event i n Greenwich P a r k , r e p o r t s which were u n a b l e t o a r r i v e a t a c o n v i n c i n g s c e n a r i o o f e i t h e r c h a r a c t e r s or t h e i r m o t i v a t i o n s .  Conrad c a l l s i t :  ... a b l o o d - s t a i n e d i n a n i t y of so f a t u o u s a k i n d t h a t i t was i m p o s s i b l e t o fathom i t s o r i g i n by any r e a s o n a b l e  90  o r even u n r e a s o n a b l e p r o c e s s of thought. For p e r v e r s e unreason has i t s own l o g i c a l p r o c e s s e s . But t h a t o u t r a g e c o u l d n o t be l a i d h o l d of m e n t a l l y i n any s o r t of way, so t h a t one remained f a c e d w i t h the f a c t o f a man blown t o b i t s f o r n o t h i n g even most r e m o t e l y r e s e m b l i n g an i d e a , a n a r c h i s t i c o r o t h e r . ( A u t h o r ' s Note, SA, p. 9) Thus, as Norman S h e r r y a r g u e s , " t h e q u a l i t y o f t h e i n i t i a l i n c i d e n t  which  a t t r a c t e d Conrad was i t s i n e x p l i c a b l e n e s s , " " ^ j u s t as James was i n s p i r e d by t h e " m y s t e r i e s abysmal"  o f a n a r c h i s t i c London.  The c h a l l e n g e Conrad  f a c e d , then, was to p r e s e r v e t h e q u a l i t y of an i n a n i t y " i m p o s s i b l e t o fathom," w h i l e a t t h e same time d e p i c t i n g c h a r a c t e r s c o n v i n c i n g l y f l a w e d and c o n v i n c i n g l y enmeshed i n f l a w e d r e l a t i o n s h i p s so t h a t t h e whole "absurd c r u e l t y " of t h e e x p l o s i o n would s t i l l be s e n s i b l e t o t h e r e a d e r .  Thus, t h e  f o u r " d i v e r s i o n a r y " c h a p t e r s p l a y a r o l e i n d i s t a n c i n g t h e r e a d e r from t h e e x p l o s i o n w h i l e p a r a d o x i c a l l y e x p l a i n i n g i t by f l e s h i n g out t h e c h a r a c t e r s involved.  T h i s has n o t p r e v e n t e d E. M. W. T i l l y a r d from c o m p l a i n i n g t h a t  t h e s e c h a p t e r s a r e " d i s p r o p o r t i o n a t e , " t h a t they d e s t r o y t h e " u n i t y " of t h e n o v e l , and t h a t " t h e theme of t h e p o l i c e i s n o t p e r f e c t l y i n t e g r a t e d  18 w i t h that of the V e r l o c s . "  T i l l y a r d i s b o t h e r e d , perhaps, by, t h e  i n t e r r u p t i o n o f t h e n a r r a t i v e l i n e , y e t a p a r t from d e s t r o y i n g t h e u n i t y of the t e x t , t h e i n t e r r u p t i o n s c r e a t e d by t h e s e c h a p t e r s a c t u a l l y c r e a t e t h e t e x t around t h e c e n t r e w h i c h t h e c h a p t e r s  circumvent.  The d i s l o c a t i o n o f n a r r a t i v e l i n e i s even g r e a t e r i n Chapter  VIII  because i t s h i f t s backwards i n time so t h a t l o g i c a l l y i t s h o u l d appear between Chapters I I I and IV.  The f o c u s o f t h i s c h a p t e r i s on Winnie's  mother and her d e c i s i o n to l e a v e V e r l o c ' s shop and t a k e up r e s i d e n c e i n an almshouse, a d e c i s i o n w h i c h she hopes w i l l i n s u r e V e r l o c ' s c o n t i n u e d c a r e  91  of her son, Stevie.  The other theme stressed i n this chapter i s Stevie's  i n t u i t i v e horror of cruelty of any form: "Don't whip," he demands of the cabman who  drives the horse-drawn carriage i n which he, his mother and  Winnie are driven through the London streets.  However, these very themes—  u n s e l f i s h action (Winnie's mother's i s perhaps the only one i n the novel) and Stevie's supersensitive empathy—are undercut by the narrative positioning of the chapter.  On re-reading we know that, i n terms of narra-  tive time, Stevie i s actually dead at this point. i t on f i r s t reading.)  (We may  Stevie l i v e s , i n this chapter,  even suspect  i n a kind of  narrative limbo, and thus the horror of the explosion i s underlined because i t claims the l i f e of someone so harmless and vulnerable as Stevie, esp e c i a l l y as he i s portrayed  i n this chapter.  S i m i l a r l y , Winnie's mother's  u n s e l f i s h action i s admirable but u t t e r l y i n e f f e c t u a l , since Stevie, we know, has been destroyed  by Verloc's i l l - c o n c e i v e d p l o t .  The chapter,  then,  is a retrospective interpolation i n which, as i n the carriage ride through London, "time i t s e l f seemed to stand s t i l l "  (SA, p. 131).  Straightforward  sequential narrative gives the i l l u s i o n of forward movement, while Conrad's retrospective chapter, wrenched out of chonology as i t i s , gives the pression of s t a l l e d time. who,  im-  The effect i s analogous to Winnie and her mother,  as long as they can see houses " g l i d i n g past slowly and shakily"  through the carriage window, have a reference point to demarcate time and space.  However, we read l a t e r that " i n the wider space of Whitehall, a l l  v i s u a l evidences of motion became imperceptible."  And at the end of the  r i d e , the mother notices that "night, the early d i r t y night, the s i n i s t e r , noisy, hopeless,  and rowdy night of South London, had overtaken her on her  l a s t cab drive" (SA, p. 133).  As characters are wrenched out of time and  92  space d u r i n g t h e i r c a r r i a g e r i d e , so too t h e c h a p t e r i s wrenched out o f t h e s e q u e n t i a l n a r r a t i v e sequence. The  s t r u c t u r a l n a r r a t i v e i r o n y w h i c h r e s u l t s from such d i s t o r t i o n  d i s t i n g u i s h e s The S e c r e t Agent from! i t s p r e c u r s o r  The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima.  Many c r i t i c s comment on Conrad's i r o n i c mode, w h i c h i s s c a r c e l y s i n c e each o f h i s c h a r a c t e r s But  avoidable  i s so s e v e r e l y and so s y s t e m a t i c a l l y u n d e r c u t .  i r o n y , as Conrad uses i t , goes beyond t h e sphere of language where t h a t  mode announces i t s presence most o b v i o u s l y .  By m a n i p u l a t i n g  time w i t h the i n t e r j e c t i o n of the r e t r o s p e c t i v e chapter,  narrative  Conrad invades  the n a r r a t i v e i t s e l f w i t h a s t r u c t u r a l i r o n y , and s o , p a r a d o x i c a l l y , S t e v i e ' s p r e s e n c e i n Chapter V I I I i s f e l t as a p a i n f u l absence.  Chapter I X c o n t a i n s a n o t h e r backward l e a p and d e a l s w i t h t h e p e r i o d of t i m e p r e c e d i n g  the e x p l o s i o n , i n p a r t i c u l a r , t h e day o f t h e event  when V e r l o c takes S t e v i e to Greenwich P a r k t o p l a n t t h e bomb.  I t i s as  though Conrad c r e a t e s t h e absent c e n t r e e a r l y i n t h e n o v e l but then  returns  to i t t o d e f i n e t h e event by s i t u a t i n g i t i n p r e c i s e temporal and s p a t i a l terms.  C h r i s t i n e W. Sizemore sees t h i s c h a p t e r as a s t r u c t u r a l microcosm  of t h e e n t i r e t e x t and f i n d s "a m y s t e r i o u s emptiness a t i t s c e n t e r  that  19 c o n t a i n s t h e d a r k n e s s , l i g h t and d e s t r u c t i o n o f t h e e x p l o s i o n . " " m y s t e r i o u s e m p t i n e s s " r e s u l t s p a r t l y from t h e p r e c i s e t e m p o r a l of t h e event.  The designation  Thus, a t f i r s t we know o n l y t h a t an e x p l o s i o n has t a k e n  p l a c e ; t h e n , t h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f t h e p a r t i c u l a r day a r e r e v e a l e d , s t a n c e s which W i n n i e l a t e r d e s i g n a t e s  circum-  more a c c u r a t e l y by remembering t h a t  V e r l o c , w i t h S t e v i e , "went o u t v e r y e a r l y t h a t morning and d i d n o t come back t i l l n e a r l y dusk" (SA, p. 1 5 6 ) . And s t i l l more a c c u r a t e l y :  "He had  93  c e r t a i n l y contrived somehow to catch an abominable cold between seven i n the morning and f i v e i n the afternoon" (SA, p. 158).  To protect the  essential absence of the event, Conrad i s careful to allow l i t t l e factual information to come from Verloc himself, who entire story.  could, of course, reveal the  Verloc i s , however, allowed t h i s speculation through the  narrator's voice:  F i f t e e n minutes ought to have been enough for the v e r i e s t f o o l to deposit the engine and walk away. And the Professor had guaranteed more than f i f t e e n minutes. But Stevie had stumbled within f i v e minutes of being l e f t to himself. (SA, p. 187)  The explosion i s now narrowed down to a f i v e minute time period.  Thus, just  as the Inspector and the Assistant Commissioner must "zero i n " on the circumstances  of the e v e n t — a well-worn device of detective f i c t i o n — s o  too Conrad "zeroes i n " gradually on the explosion i t s e l f .  In f a c t , Chief  Inspector Heat "zeroes i n " with inordinate s p e c i f i c i t y : The man, whoever he was, had died instantaneously; and yet i t seemed impossible to believe that a human hody could have reached that state of d i s i n t e g r a t i o n without passing through the pangs of inconceivable agony. No physiologist, and s t i l l less of a metaphysician, Chief Inspector Heat rose by the force of sympathy, which i s a form of fear, above the vulgar conception of time. Instantaneous I He remembered a l l he had ever read i n popular publications of long and t e r r i f y i n g dreams dreamed i n the instant of waking; of the whole past l i f e l i v e d with f r i g h t f u l intensity by a drowning man as h i s doomed head bobs up, screaming for the l a s t time. The inexplicable mysteries of conscious existence beset Chief Inspector Heat t i l l he evolved a h o r r i b l e notion that ages of atrocious pain and mental torture could be contained between two successive winks of an eye. (SA, pp. 78-79)  94  The n a r r a t i v e b r a c k e t s around the e x p l o s i o n .have been narrowed from " e a r l y morning ...  t i l l n e a r l y dusk" to "two  s u c c e s s i v e winks of an  eye."  Speaking of S t e v i e and t h e temporal h a n d l i n g of t h e n a r r a t i v e , Joseph Wiesenfarth  says t h a t Conrad s h i f t s " t h e c h o n o l o g i c a l n a r r a t i o n of events 20  in their And  [Verlocs'3  l i v e s to c e n t e r on t h e zero hour i n h i s [ S t e v i e ' s ] . "  as I n s p e c t o r Heat's passage i l l u s t r a t e s , t h e "zero hour" may  contain  the h o r r o r s of an e t e r n i t y ; i t i s t h a t agony w h i c h cannot be understood r a t i o n a l l y r e g a r d l e s s of the t e m p o r a l s p e c i f i c i t y . P r e d i c t a b l y , the same " n a r r o w i n g " p a t t e r n i s t r u e of designation.  We  spatial  l e a r n t h a t W i n n i e watches V e r l o c and S t e v i e as they  leave  the shop and w a l k down " t h e s q u a l i d s t r e e t " ; i n f o r m a t i o n i s then r e v e a l e d about t h e i r t r a i n r i d e to Maze H i l l s t a t i o n ; and f i n a l l y , t h e i r e n t r y i n t o " t h e p r e c i n c t s of t h e p a r k " i s d e s c r i b e d , a t which p o i n t V e r l o c sends S t e v i e on to the O b s e r v a t o r y by h i m s e l f . e x p l o s i o n i s documented by the I n s p e c t o r ' s  Even t h e p r e c i s e l o c a t i o n of a s s i s t a n t who  "probably  stumbled a g a i n s t the r o o t of a t r e e and f e l l "  There may  seem to be a c o n t r a d i c t i o n h e r e :  the absent c e n t r e , i s , i n f a c t , d e s i g n a t e d e x t r a o r d i n a r y accuracy, designates  be imagined.  s p a t i a l l y and  temporally  accurately But  i t is  by S t e v i e can  be only  of t h i s h o r r o r i s dominated  then W i n n i e ' s i m a g i n i n g  dominated by emphasis on t h e s p a t i a l .  with  p r e c i s e l y t h e absent c e n t r e may  i f I n s p e c t o r Heat's i m a g i n i n g  by emphasis on the temporal,  79).  what i s l e f t out of the t e x t ,  the h o r r o r of the e x p l o s i o n as e x p e r i e n c e d And  (SA, p.  time by the f i r s t m e r i d i a n .  Conrad's p o i n t t h a t r e g a r d l e s s of how designated,  notes that S t e v i e  j u s t as t h e Greenwich O b s e r v a t o r y v e r y  space by l o n g i t u d e and  the  of S t e v i e ' s d e a t h i s  Her v e r s i o n of the e x p l o s i o n i s  95  thus remarkably p i c t o r i a l :  Greenwich Park. A park! That's where the boy was k i l l e d . A park—smashed branches, torn l e a v e s , g r a v e l , b i t s of b r o t h e r l y f l e s h and bone, a l l s p r o u t i n g up t o g e t h e r i n the manner of a f i r e w o r k . She remembered now what she had h e a r d , and she remembered i t p i c t o r ially. They had t o g a t h e r him up w i t h a s h o v e l . T r e m b l i n g a l l o v e r w i t h i r r e p r e s s i b l e shudders, she saw b e f o r e her the v e r y implement w i t h i t s g h a s t l y l o a d scraped up from the ground. Mrs. V e r l o c c l o s e d her eyes d e s p e r a t e l y , throwing upon t h a t v i s i o n t h e n i g h t of her e y e l i d s , where a f t e r a r a i n l i k e f a l l of mangled l i m b s t h e d e c a p i t a t e d head of S t e v i e l i n g e r e d suspended a l o n e , and f a d i n g out s l o w l y l i k e the l a s t s t a r of a p y r o t e c h n i c d i s p l a y . (SA, pp. 210-11)  The  " p y r o t e c h n i c d i s p l a y " i n t h i s passage (an image p r e f i g u r e d by  f i r e c r a c k e r s i n Chapter I ) i s the c l o s e s t we come to a d i r e c t and i n t e r e s t e d n a r r a t i o n of the e x p l o s i o n .  B u t , of c o u r s e ,  Stevie's dis-  i t i s neither  d i r e c t nor d i s i n t e r e s t e d because i t i s so i d i o s y n c r a t i c a l l y shaped by W i n n i e ' s emotions and  so f a n t a s t i c a l l y exaggerated by her  I n f a c t , so v i v i d and p o w e r f u l  a r e her i m a g i n i n g s  imagination.  t h a t they i n s t i l  in  her the s w e l l i n g o u t r a g e and w i l f u l s t r e n g t h needed to avenge S t e v i e ' s d e a t h , thereby  becoming a s e l f - a p p o i n t e d i n s t r u m e n t  impulsive moral j u s t i c e . S e c r e t Agent.)  of e f f e c t i v e i f  (There i s something of a revenge tragedy  in  The  But t h i s r e t r i b u t i o n i t s e l f i s a d i s t o r t i o n and can never  redeem or r e - e s t a b l i s h a m o r a l w o r l d , as proved by the q u i c k c h a i n of • subsequent d i s a s t e r s t h a t b e f a l l W i n n i e : his  her encounter w i t h O s s i p o n  and  entanglement i n the c r i m e , h i s b e t r a y a l of W i n n i e and h i s t h e f t of  V e r l o c ' s money, W i n n i e ' s s u i c i d e , and f i n a l l y , Ossipon's f a l l to degeneracy and doomed w a l k i n g  t h r o u g h the s t r e e t s of London.  There remain no p o s s i -  b i l i t i e s f o r e f f e c t i v e m o r a l a c t i o n a t t h e end of the n o v e l .  S t e v i e was  a  96  f r a g i l e representative of and an i n a r t i c u l a t e spokesman for the remnants of a moral order.  His demise—the absent centre—thus means the demise of  a moral order which i s ultimately contingent and unrecoverable, in a moment beyond time and space.  extinguished  Put i n other words, the absence i s not  only the explosion i t s e l f or the bomb but also the moral p o s s i b i l i t i e s which the explosion destroys.  The horror and the outrage stem from the  v i o l a t i o n of the moral order, a v i o l a t i o n rooted i n Vladimir's, Verloc's and the Professor's crude manipulation of time and space. designation of time and space (as symbolized  The precise  by the Observatory) i s a  vulgar invention by man, the symptom of extreme s c i e n t i f i c rationalism (the bomb, after a l l , was intended as an outrage against science), and Verloc, among others, i s i t s morally numb spokesman.  Contrasted to Winnie  and her " p i c t o r i a l " imagination which makes her a moral agent, Verloc and his cohorts are stunted by a f a i l u r e of the imagination.  And i t i s  through such a bleak moral v i s i o n that The Secret Agent bespeaks i t s modernism.  Conrad's narrative absent centre, then, exists because of the bomb, and the vacant space i t creates points to the moral world which might have been.  In a passage which undercuts Heat's unwarranted confidence i n his  knowledge of the precise location and actions of anarchist p l o t t e r s , the nature of the narrative absence i s eloquently described:  ... i n the close-woven stuff of r e l a t i o n s between the conspirator and the p o l i c e there occur unexpected solutions of continuity, sudden holes i n space and time. (SA, p. 76)  97  Stevie's death occurs i n such a hole, for he i s beyond Winnie's overly protective eye, just as he i s out of Verloc's sight i n the park.  No one  sees the explosion; only the sound indicates that something has happened at a p a r t i c u l a r juncture of time and space.  By manipulating  the arrange-  ment of narrative episodes, and by the special use of temporal and s p a t i a l imagery, Conrad creates just such a "hole" i n h i s narrative.  I t i s as  though the explosion a c t u a l l y leaves a gap i n the text and sends i t s reverberating and fragmenting narrative.  shock waves throughout the remainder of the  The notion i s not extravagant,  for as early as 1897 i n a  l e t t e r to Edward Garnett, Conrad invokes the concept of explosion i n regard to The Rescue which he had been working on:  Where do you think the i l l u m i n a t i o n — t h e short and v i v i d f l a s h of what I have been boasting to you came from? Why! From your words, words, words. They exploded l i k e stored powder b a r r e l s — w h i l e another man's words would have f i z z l e d out i n speaking and l e f t darkness unrelieved by a forgotten spurt of f u t i l e sparks. An explosion i s the most lasting thing i n the universe. I t leaves disorder, remembrance, room to move, a clear space. Ask your N i h i l i s t friends. But I am a f r a i d you haven't blown me to pieces. I am a f r a i d I am l i k e the Russian governmental system. I t w i l l take a good many bursting charges to make me change my ways.^l  The notion of explosion here i s a resonant one for Conrad; he connects i t to the power of language, to p o l i t i c s and to individual psychology.  It is  not surprising, then, that i t should resurface as a controlling device i n The Secret Agent.  Certainly, the " N i h i l i s t f r i e n d s , " "disorder," and  "remembrance" .(for example, Winnie remembering or reconstructing the explosion) are a l l v i s i b l e constituents of the explosion as i t occurs i n The Secret Agent.  As Avrom Fleishman concludes about this same passage:  98  .•. the Imaginative perspective of The Secret Agent i s consistent with the subject matter, both personal and s o c i a l . This perspective i s a v i s i o n of the modern world i n a state of fragmentation—as i f by e x p l o s i o n . ^ .  The fragmentation  of the narrative i s f e l t as d i s t o r t i o n s which both  emanate from and circumscribe the absent centre (and thus define i t ) . Prominent i n the arrangement of larger s t r u c t u r a l units of narrative chronology,  these d i s t o r t i o n s are also evident i n Conrad's focus on the  particular.  He uses, at times, a kind of slow-motion telephoto or micro-  scopic scanning of the moment and the object.  For example, during one of  the Verlocs' strained conversations, ridden as they are with silences and fragmented dialogue, Winnie, at one point, murmurs a sentence "after a pause which lasted for three t i c k s of the clock."  And at the end of  Chapter VII, before turning out the bedroom l i g h t , Winnie l e t s "the lonely clock on the landing count off f i f t e e n ticks into the abyss of e t e r n i t y . . . " (SA, p. 150).  This kind of f a s t i d i o u s measurement of narrative time has  the effect of trapping the characters and prolonging the agony of their situations.  The d i s t o r t i o n i s achieved i n part by associating time with aural imagery and space with v i s u a l imagery.  In Chapter IV, as Verloc and  Winnie prepare for bed, they hear i n the street below: ... measured footsteps [which] approached the house, then died away, unhurried and firm, as i f the passerby had started to pace out a l l eternity, from gas-lamp to gas-lamp i n a night without end; and the drowsy t i c k i n g of the old clock on the landing became d i s t i n c t l y audible i n the bedroom. (SA, p. 55)  99  The sound of footsteps and the t i c k i n g clock suggest, of course, interminable time, while the gas-lamps, l i k e "spots of time," p a r a l l e l the temporal image by invoking interminable space.  The scene thus creates a p a r t i c u l a r l y  intense juncture of time and space by synaesthetically conflating aural and v i s u a l imagery.  An even more spectacular use of synaesthesia i s found  in the scene which describes Verloc's murder:  Her [Winnie's] f i n e , sleepy eyes t r a v e l l i n g downward on the track of the sound, became contemplative on meeting a f l a t object of bone which protruded a l i t t l e beyond the edge of the sofa. I t was the handle of the domestic carving knife with nothing strange about i t but i t s position at right angles to Mr. Verloc's waistcoat and the fact that something dripped from i t . Dark drops f e l l on the f l o o r c l o t h one after another, with a sound of ticking growing fast and furious l i k e the pulse of an insane clock. At i t s highest speed this t i c k i n g changed into a continuous sound of t r i c k l i n g . Mrs. Verloc watched that transformation with the shadows of anxiety coming and going on her face. I t was a t r i c k l e , dark, swift, thin..... Blood! (SA, p. 214)  Winnie's eyes " t r a v e l l i n g downward on the track of a sound," i s an especially evocative image, since the drops of blood are likened to the t i c k s of the clock which grow faster to a continual sound which again becomes a stream of blood.  Quite l i t e r a l l y , "time has run out" for Verloc.  The entire chapter from which t h i s passage i s taken i s a d i s proportionately extended motion which.occurs i n a r e l a t i v e l y short period of time.  The increased amount of narration compared to the b r i e f action  i t describes lengthens and d i s t o r t s the action into a kind of slow-motion nightmare which contains, perhaps, an element of poetic j u s t i c e for Stevie's instantaneous nightmare during the moments of h i s death.  As  100  Verloc's l i f e b l o o d flows out, he i s , i n a manner, passing into "a sudden hole i n time and space" similar to Stevie's. in his mind Stevie's experience  And just as Heat prolonged  to contain an eternity, and just as Winnie  imagined Stevie's death as a "pyrotechnic display," so Conrad i n this chapter renders Verloc a s i m i l a r fate i n Bergsonian time. experience  the prolonged, melodramatically  He i s forced to  depicted action of Winnie  plunging the carving knife into his own breast—prolonged  and  "leisurely"  enough, for.example, for Verloc "to taste the flavour of death r i s i n g i n his own  gorge," and " l e i s u r e l y enough for Mr. Verloc to elaborate a plan  of defence" but "not l e i s u r e l y enough to allow Mr. Verloc the time to move either hand or foot" (SA, p. 212).  The narrative voice here seems to  take p a r t i c u l a r r e l i s h i n rendering Verloc knowledge of his own  fate.  The  series of p a r a l l e l constructions which conclude with a conspicuous negation i s c a r e f u l l y concocted rhetoric which emphatically precludes any chance of escape for Verloc.  Even stronger evidence that the extended duration of Verloc's death scene i s r e t r i b u t i o n for Stevie's i s found i n Conrad's description of Winnie as she approaches Verloc with the knife: As i f the homeless soul of Stevie had flown for shelter straight to the breast of his s i s t e r , guardian and protector, the resemblance of her face with that of her brother grew at every step, even to the droop of the lower l i p , even to the s l i g h t divergence of the eyes. (SA, p. 212)  It i s as though Stevie comes back reincarnate i n Winnie to haunt Verloc and reap revenge.  Winnie becomes Stevie's medium acting wildly i n a trance  u n t i l the murderous deed i s done, after which "her  extraordinary  101  resemblance to her l a t e brother  ... faded" (SA, p. 213).  Winnie's murder of Verloc points to a rapidly increasing fragmentation of a moral and s o c i a l order b u i l t on an already shaky foundation.  The  force which i n i t i a t e s that fragmentation (both of the Verlocs' world and of the narrative) i s Stevie acting i n absentia.  Paradoxically, Stevie i s  a much more powerful force i n absentia than he i s when he i s present narrative.  i n the  As a spokesman f o r a moral order, he i s t o t a l l y ineffectual  because he speaks with a "fragmented" voice.  He i s a kind of "half-wit"  who loses h i s power of coherent speech whenever h i s impressionable s e n s i b i l i t y i s assaulted by cruelty.  moral  During the carriage r i d e through  London, Stevie shudders at the thought of the decrepit horse p u l l i n g too much weight.  So upset i s he that he jumps from the moving carriage to the  street i n protest, but when asked to explain himself, "excitement as usual robbed him of the power of connected speech. ... he stammered himself into utter incoherence" (SA, p. 132).  I t i s part of Conrad's irony that,  while Stevie represents raw p i t y , empathy and morality, he can never a r t i c u l a t e those values i n any r a t i o n a l way. i s a "moral creature  As the narrator says, Stevie  ... at the mercy of h i s righteous passions" (SA, p. 143).  In this respect, Stevie can never be the hero of an e f f e c t u a l moral option; rather, l i k e Benjy i n Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, he represents a measuring s t i c k by which to gauge the moral decay and the threatening solipsism of those who surround him.  Stevie's death i t s e l f , appropriately enough, i s reported mented way:  in a frag-  generally, by v i r t u e of the fact that information about the  explosion and the chain of events comes only sparingly and interspersed  102  throughout the t e x t , but more s p e c i f i c a l l y when O s s i p o n reads the newspaper r e p o r t s o f t h e  event:  "Ah! Here i t i s . Bomb i n Greenwich Park. There i s n ' t much so f a r . H a l f p a s t e l e v e n . Foggy morning. E f f e c t s of e x p l o s i o n f e l t as f a r as Romney Road and P a r k P l a c e . Enormous h o l e i n ground under a t r e e f i l l e d w i t h smashed r o o t s and broken branches. A l l round fragments of a man's body blown to p i e c e s . That's a l l . The r e s t ' s mere newspaper gup ..." (SA, p. 65) To u n d e r l i n e t h e h o r r o r and f u t i l i t y of the e x p l o s i o n w h i c h l e a v e s  "frag-  ments of a man's body blown t o p i e c e s , " Conrad r e p o r t s the event t h r o u g h a fragmented, j o u r n a l i s t i c v o i c e .  O s s i p o n i s , of c o u r s e , r e a d i n g  the  r e p o r t t o the P r o f e s s o r and i s t h e r e f o r e b e i n g s e l e c t i v e , y e t , the s h o r t sentence fragments and t h e p a r t i c u l a r s e l e c t i o n of d e t a i l s c r e a t e a v e r y d i s t a n t and c o l d l y o b j e c t i v e tone q u i t e l i k e a newspaper's s t y l e . e f f e c t and  t h e s i t u a t i o n a r e s i m i l a r t o the r e p o r t of Mrs.  i n Joyce's "A P a i n f u l Case," i n w h i c h Mr.  S i n i c o ' s death  James D u f f y , r e a d i n g the r e p o r t  o f an i n q u e s t i n a newspaper, suddenly becomes aware t h a t h i s own guardedness was poignant  r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e woman's d e a t h .  because t h e b r e v i t y and  The  "...  perverse  irony i s especially  t h e s u c c i n c t n e s s of the o b j e c t i v e language  a r e a t odds w i t h the d e l i c a t e n e s s of t h e emotions i n v o l v e d . been p r o b a b l y due  The  ("Death ...  had  to shock and sudden f a i l u r e of the h e a r t ' s a c t i o n . "  he found the deceased l y i n g on t h e p l a t f o r m a p p a r e n t l y dead."  "No  23  blame a t t a c h e d t o anyone.")  I n b o t h works j o u r n a l i s t i c  objectivity,  w h i c h i s symptomatic o f s c i e n t i f i c r a t i o n a l i s m , i s d i s c r e d i t e d because, w h i l e i t d e a l s w i t h the f a c t s o f an o u t r a g e , deaf ear to' i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e .  a t the same t i m e , i t t u r n s a  I t i s g u i l t y of the same k i n d of d e s e n s i t i z e d  103  calculation (Verloc and Duffy) which was responsible for the outrage i n the f i r s t place.  That journalism i s used both as i r o n i c device and as  object of irony i s further evidenced by the narrator's comment when the Professor leaves the restaurant through the doorway where "a dismal row of newspaper s e l l e r s " are handing out "damp, rubbishy sheets of paper soiled with p r i n t e r s ' ink" (SA, p. 72).  To the post-Joycean reader, the fragmentation may seem rather unspectacular,  of The Secret Agent  yet when contrasted with the easily  charted narrative chronology of James's late V i c t o r i a n The Princess Casamassima, the structure of The Secret Agent appears s i g n i f i c a n t l y enough disrupted to situate i t comfortably  within the boundaries of modernism.  Certainly, as Norman Sherry points out, the " d i f f i c u l t i e s " of Conrad's narrative denied The Secret Agent and other of his novels popularity among the contemporary reading public:  "He was a d i f f i c u l t n o v e l i s t whose com-  plex methods of narration and use of broken time sequences ... m i l i t a t e d 25 against popularity."  These complex methods of narration and d i s t o r t i o n s  of time originate p r i n c i p a l l y from the absent centre, the explosion which k i l l s Stevie and which i s never d i r e c t l y narrated.  At the same time, the  fragmented or exploded narrative a c t u a l l y f a l l s around the absent centre, circumscribes i t , points constantly back to i t and thus defines i t . I t remained for a novelist of High Modernism, Russia's Andrei Bely (Petersburg) , to plant the absent centre even deeper into the narrative structure of f i c t i o n and fragment i t i n ways even more r a d i c a l than Conrad's.  104  Notes  Norman S h e r r y g i v e s a thorough account of Conrad's i n d i r e c t connections w i t h anarchism, i n c l u d i n g the R o s s e t t i c h i l d r e n ' s a n a r c h i s t newspaper, the e x p l o s i o n a t Greenwich O b s e r v a t o r y , and s t o r i e s from f r i e n d s and a c q u a i n t a n c e s , e s p e c i a l l y Ford Madox H u e f f e r ( F o r d ) . See: Conrad's Western World (Cambridge: Cambridge U n i v e r s i t y , 1971). 2 See W. H. T i l l e y f o r a s u r v e y of t h e s e charges and h i s own r e f u t a t i o n of them. The Backgrounds of The P r i n c e s s Casamassima ( G a i n s v i l l e : U n i v e r s i t y of F l o r i d a Monographs, H u m a n i t i e s #5, 1961). 3 J o s e p h Conrad, The S e c r e t Agent (Harmondsworth, England: P e n g u i n , 1963), p. 11. F u r t h e r r e f e r e n c e s and t h e i r page numbers t o t h i s e d i t i o n of the n o v e l a r e i n c l u d e d i n the t e x t a f t e r t h e a b b r e v i a t i o n SA. 4 Joseph Conrad, Notes on L i f e and L e t t e r s (New Y o r k : Doubleday and Page, 1926), p. 11. Ian Watt, among o t h e r s , e s t a b l i s h e s a s t r o n g l i n k between James and Conrad, e s p e c i a l l y i n r e g a r d to n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g i e s . See: "Marlow, Henry James, and 'Heart of Darkness'" i n N i n e t e e n t h Century F i c t i o n 33 (1978/79): 159-74. F. R. L e a v i s , The Great T r a d i t i o n (Harmondsworth, E n g l a n d : P e n g u i n , 1972), p. 241. The o b s e r v a t i o n has been r e p e a t e d v a r i o u s l y s i n c e t h e n ; see, f o r example, F r e d e r i c k R. K a r l : " I t soon becomes apparent t h a t Conrad's London i s a d i r e c t o u t g r o w t h o f D i c k e n s ' " i n A Reader's Guide t o Joseph Conrad (New Y o r k : F a r r a r , S t r a u s and G i r o u x , 1969); and Leon E d e l , The U n t r i e d Y e a r s , pp. 283 f f . C h a r l e s D i c k e n s , L i t t l e D o r r i t (New Y o r k : Odyssey, 1969), p. 303. ^ C h a r l e s D i c k e n s , M a r t i n C h u z z l e w i t (New Y o r k : New American r a r y , 1965).  Lib-  g M i c h a e l H a l t r e s h t , "The Dread of Space i n Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent," i n L i t e r a t u r e and P s y c h o l o g y 22 (1971): 89-97. Joseph Conrad, The N i g g e r of t h e " N a r c i s s u s " ( P e n g u i n , 1963), p. 35.  105  Avrom F l e i s h m a n sees a s i m i l a r d e l i n e a t i o n : "The d r a m a t i c a c t i o n p r e s e n t s t h i s v i s i o n [ s o c i a l a l i e n a t i o n ] s i m u l t a n e o u s l y i n two p l o t s , one i n the p u b l i c , p o l i t i c a l r e a l m and t h e o t h e r i n t h e p r i v a t e , d o m e s t i c one." Conrad's P o l i t i c s ( B a l t i m o r e : Johns Hopkins U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s ) , p. 189. As quoted i n R i c h a r d E l l m a n , James J o y c e (New Y o r k : Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1965), p. 597. 12  T e r r y E a g l e t o n , C r i t i c i s m and I d e o l o g y (London: V e r s o , 1978), p. 137. 13 A l a n Friedman, The Turn of the N o v e l (New Y o r k : Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1966), p. 98. 14 J e f f r e y R. S m i t t e n , " F l a u b e r t and the S t r u c t u r e of The S e c r e t Agent," i n Walodymyr T. Z y l a and W e n d e l l M. Aycock, eds., Joseph Conrad: Theory and W o r l d F i c t i o n (Lubbock, Texas: I n t e r . Dept. Committee on Comparative L i t e r a t u r e , 1974), pp. 151-66. ^ H. M. D a l e s k i , Joseph Conrad: The Way Faber, 1977), p. 157.  of D i s p o s s e s s i o n (London:  16 See: Tzvetan Todorov, The P o e t i c s of P r o s e ( I t h a c a , New Y o r k : C o r n e l l U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1977), pp. 143-77. "The Jamesian n a r r a t i v e i s always based on t h e quest f o r an a b s o l u t e and absent cause." ( p . 145, italics his). On "The B e a s t i n the J u n g l e " s p e c i f i c a l l y : "The s e c r e t was t h e e x i s t e n c e of t h e s e c r e t i t s e l f . " And "The f i g u r e we have obs e r v e d throughout our i n s p e c t i o n of t h e t a l e s here assumes i t s supreme, u l t i m a t e form ..." (pp. 176-77). Norman S h e r r y , Conrad's Western W o r l d , p. 239. 18 E. M. W. T i l l y a r d , "The S e c r e t Agent R e c o n s i d e r e d " i n Essays i n C r i t i c i s m 11 (1961): 309-18. 19 C h r i s t i n e W. Sizemore, "'The S m a l l Cardboard Box': A Symbol of the C i t y and of W i n n i e V e r l o c i n Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent," i n Modern F i c t i o n S t u d i e s , 24 (1978/79): 23-29. Sizemore a r r i v e s a t " t h e absent c e n t r e imagery i n the n o v e l (houses, bomb package, shop packages, cab. Box) and r e l a t e s i t to the c i t y . ( C f . my e a r l i e r argument of t h e c i t y as a p o s t - e x p l o s i o n l a b y r i n t h . ) She a r g u e s : "The image of the box r e p r e s e n t s the s t r u c t u r e of t h e n o v e l i t s e l f , which i s b u i l t around an empty space, t h e a c t u a l e x p l o s i o n w h i c h i s never d e s c r i b e d " ( p . 2 3 ) .  106  20  Joseph Wiesenfarth, "Stevie and the Structure of The Secret Agent," Modern F i c t i o n Studies, 13 (1967-68): 515. 21 Letters from Joseph Conrad, 1895-1924, ed. Edward Garnett (London, 1928), p. 79, l e t t e r of March 8, 1897. 22 Avrom Fleishman, Conrad's P o l i t i c s , p. 188. 23 James Joyce, Dubliners (Harmondsworth, 1956), pp. 105-115.  England: Penguin,  24 I am indebted to William Bysshe Stein for the observation i n "The Secret Agent: The Agon(ie)s of the Word," Boundary II VI (Winter 1978) No. 2: 525. Norman Sherry, Conrad and His World (London: Thames and Hudson, 1972), p. 94.  107  CHAPTER IV Andrei Bely's Petersburg: Rapid  Expansion  Andrei Bely (Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev) was not acquainted with, as. far as we know, the works of either James or Conrad—though he did read much of William James. Ivan Turgenev.  Where the three novelists do meet i s at the feet of  James, we remember, admired Turgenev enough to v i s i t him i n  Paris and to review V i r g i n S o i l when i t appeared  i n E n g l i s h — a n d to borrow  from i t l i b e r a l l y for The Princess Casamassima.  Conrad comes to Turgenev  not only i n d i r e c t l y through James, but also d i r e c t l y , f o r Turgenev was  the  only Russian master Conrad consistently admired throughout his l i f e t i m e . In Petersburg there are e x p l i c i t allusions to Turgenev's novel On The Eve, i m p l i c i t ones to Fathers and Sons, and c e r t a i n l y the s a t i r i c a l and distanced view of the Russian h i s t o r i c a l s i t u a t i o n i n V i r g i n S o i l i s an obvious precursor to Bely's just as c r i t i c a l , though more ambitious, h i s t o r i c a l survey in Petersburg. ary way:  But Bely belongs to Turgenev's family i n more than a l i t e r -  i n 1910 he travelled to the Middle East and A f r i c a with Turgenev's  niece, Asya, who  l a t e r became his wife.  Oleg A. Maslenikov gives the  following account of the significance of that journey for Bely:  A f r i c a already foreshadows Petersburg, the c i t y that has no physical dimensions beyond that of a point on a map, the c i t y that i s a phantom: a powerful, e v i l , metaphysical force. The Sphinx, the pyramids, the s u l t r y A f r i c a n night, f i l l e d B i e l y and his Asya with  108  a foreboding of a catastrophe threatening mankind and i t s c i v i l i z a t i o n . ... It was as though on the Dark^ Continent they had come face to face with mystery. Of course, Conrad also came "face to face with mystery" i n the Dark Continent, but whereas Conrad fashioned the African heart of darkness physical and moral exploration of e v i l , Bely was exploration of history and c i v i l i z a t i o n .  to a meta-  inspired to an apocalyptic  (It i s perhaps more than a coin-  cidence that Bely f l e d to the mysteries of Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy shortly after t h i s v i s i t . )  Explosion, as we have seen i n Conrad's l e t t e r about The Rescue, was for him a resonant metaphor, f o r he speaks of Garnett's words as though they had "exploded l i k e stored powder barrels."  Andrei Bely, too, speaks of  inspiration's f l a s h i n terms of explosion: On long autumn nights, I scrutinized the images swarming around me: from beneath them the central image of Petersburg slowly ripened f o r me. It exploded within me. ... ^ But whereas Conrad chooses the inexplicableness of the "blood-stained inanity" of the Greenwich Bomb Outrage as f i t subject matter for his penchant f o r explosion, Bely's r e a l i z a t i o n of the metaphor i n Petersburg i s motivated more i d i o s y n c r a t i c a l l y .  Samuel D. Cioran gives the following  account:  The choice of the bomb as a main symbol was no accident f o r B e l y j . I t may have been suggested to him by a c r i t i c of h i s e a r l i e r works who, i n commenting upon the poetry of Pepel, and the novel, Serebrjanyj golub', alluded to Belyj's i n a b i l i t y to create a "bomb": "In these instances [Belyj's Pepel  109  and S e r e b r j anyj golub'] B e l y j resembles i n l i t e r a t u r e an a n a r c h i s t who i s u n a b l e t o f i n d t h e s e c r e t f o r making bombs and i n d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t becomes a r e a c t i o n a r y t r a d i t i o n a l i s t . " T h i s c h a l l e n g e d i d n o t go unheeded, as P e t e r s b u r g p r o v e s , and a bomb o f cosmic dimensions was prepared.3  D e s p i t e t h e i r d i f f e r e n t reasons f o r t h e c h o i c e o f t h e bomb image f o r  liter-  a r y t r e a t m e n t , and d e s p i t e t h e more i m p o r t a n t d i f f e r e n c e between t h e sources of t h e i r symbolism (Conrad's from v i s i b l e r e a l i t y and B e l y ' s from m y s t i c i s m and  t h e o c c u l t ) , both n o v e l i s t s e x p l o i t t h e image o f t h e bomb as a way of  a c h i e v i n g temporal and s p a t i a l n a r r a t i v e d i s t o r t i o n s w h i c h c i r c u m s c r i b e and d e f i n e t h e absent  centres of t h e i r  texts.  B e l y , however, i n one r e s p e c t , c r e a t e s t h e absence i n h i s n a r r a t i v e i n a manner t h a t i s more l i k e James's i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima than Conrad's i n The S e c r e t Agent.  B e l y , l i k e James, i s fond o f what James c a l l e d " t h e  immediate f u t u r e " as t h e "best p r o v i n c e o f f i c t i o n " ; Conrad, by c o n t r a s t , p r e f e r s t h e immediate p a s t , as evidenced  by h i s placement o f t h e e x p l o s i o n  e a r l y i n The S e c r e t Agent so t h a t c h a r a c t e r s must r e c o v e r i t w i t h t i v e remembering.  imagina-  B e l y , l i k e James, e x p l o i t s t h e f u t u r e f o r t h e purposes  of a n t i - c l i m a x , which i n P e t e r s b u r g h e l p s c o i l t h e n a r r a t i v e back to i t s b e g i n n i n g s , c r e a t i n g a c i r c l e around t h e s u s p e n s e f u l expected which remains unfulfilled. dimensions"  Thus, t h e imagery o f e x p l o s i o n — e v e n t h e e x p l o s i o n o f "cosmic of which Cioran s p e a k s — o c c u r s  tense of c h a r a c t e r s ' imaginations.  predominantly  i n the f u t u r e  N i k o l a i , f o r example, imagines  t h e bomb's  e x p l o s i o n t h i s way:  And a l i f e i n c o m p r e h e n s i b l e t o t h e mind had a l r e a d y e r u p t e d , and t h e hour hand, t h e m i n u t e hand now c r a w l e d ,  110  and t h e nervous f i n e h a i r t h a t i n d i c a t e d t h e seconds began s k i p p i n g around t h e c i r c l e — u n t i l t h e i n s t a n t when— — t h e h o r r i b l e contents of the sardine t i n would expand i n a r u s h , u n c o n t r o l l a b l y ; then: t h e s a r d i n e t i n would f l y a p a r t . ... — t h e gases would b r i s k l y spread i n c i r c l e s , t e a r i n g t h e desk t o b i t s w i t h a thunderous r o a r , and something would b u r s t w i t h a boom i n s i d e him; and h i s body would be blown t o b i t s ; mixed w i t h the s p l i n t e r s i n s l u s h ; — i n a hundredth o f a second t h e w a l l s would c o l l a p s e , and t h e c o u n t e r s , exp a n d i n g , would w h i r l o f f i n t o t h e wan sky i n s p l i n t e r s , stone and b l o o d . Shaggy dense smoke would b i l l o w and u n f u r l and t a i l onto t h e Neva.^  Y e t , o d d l y enough, t h i s passage, w h i c h i s o n l y one o f numerous o t h e r s l i k e i t , o c c u r s over one hundred pages b e f o r e t h e bomb a c t u a l l y does explode.  The e f f e c t i s t o c r e a t e an a n t i - c l i m a x n o t u n l i k e t h e s m a l l e r one  found a t t h e end o f James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima where we w a i t a n x i o u s l y f o r t h e outcome o f H y a c i n t h ' s terror.  But that  Hyacinth's  i m p u l s i v e commitment t o a n a r c h i s t  commitment remains u n f u l f i l l e d , and we f i n d i n s t e a d  own d e s t r u c t i o n .  I n P e t e r s b u r g , N i k o l a i , t o o , i m p u l s i v e l y and  e x t r a v a g a n t l y c l a i m s t o a group o f r e v o l u t i o n a r i e s t h a t he i s c a p a b l e o f parricide.  Some months l a t e r , Dudkin, an emaciated r a d i c a l , d e l i v e r s a  bomb i n a s a r d i n e t i n f o r " s a f e k e e p i n g . "  Shortly afterwards,  Nikolai  r e c e i v e s a l e t t e r d i r e c t i n g him t o c a r r y o u t h i s "promise," even though, u n l i k e H y a c i n t h , he has l i t t l e ,  i f any a n a r c h i s t  commitment .  I t seems as  though t h e remainder o f B e l y ' s v e r y t o r t u o u s and fragmented n a r r a t i v e f o l l o w s t h a t germ o f suspense t o i t s r i g h t f u l c o n c l u s i o n — w h e n t h e bomb explodes.  I t does, i n a manner, b u t t h e a c t u a l e x p l o s i o n i n t h e end i s  r e l a t i v e l y unspectacular.  I t i s recorded w i t h remarkable s i m p l i c i t y :  Ill  "—A  thundering roar:  he [Nikolai] understood everything" (P, p. 287).  This description i s especially a n t i - c l i m a c t i c considering the numerous fantasies and forebodings of the explosion, crafted i n r i c h imagery and dense d e t a i l , which have preceded the f i n a l bang.  There has been so much  preparation and fanfare during the text that a "thundering s a t i s f i e s our c u r i o s i t y to see the actual detonation.  roar" hardly  We do get some  descriptions of after-effects—smoke, rubble, and the l i k e — b u t even these pale against e a r l i e r descriptions.  Sidney Monas, i n a 1959 review of the  Cournos translation, f e l t uncomfortable enough with the novel's ending to claim:  "Biely a c t u a l l y achieves the perverse triumph of making the reader  f e e l disappointed,"^ while Helene Hartman-Kyer i s more confident and accurate about the anti-climax: Neither the relentless buildup of the verbal formula of the bomb nor the f a n t a s t i c previews of imaginary explosions i n the second part of the novel creates a f e e l i n g of imminent disaster; rather both devices arouse the suspicion that some f a r c i c a l denouement, and not tragedy, l i e s ahead.^ The narrative consequence•:• of such a game—potent suspense followed by a n t i - c l i m a x — i s to make the narrative explosion a p r o l e p t i c one. We sense the inadequacy of the f i n a l description of the explosion, yet, upon r e f l e c t i o n , we also sense that the explosion has somehow occurred very vividly.  Put i n other words, the revolutionary bomb explosion becomes  rather i n s i g n i f i c a n t when compared to the extensive imagery of cosmic explosion with which the narrative i s saturated.  Describing the narrative  explosion as p r o l e p t i c i s not to say that consequences precede causes, but rather that the "true" explosion i s of quite another magnitude, one which  112  t r a n s c e n d s i n a l l i t s p h i l o s o p h i c a l , h i s t o r i c a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l comp l e x i t y N i k o l a i ' s r e l a t i v e l y u n i m p r e s s i v e bomb. of synecdoche f o r t h e e s c h a t o l o g i c a l bomb.  H i s f u n c t i o n s as a k i n d  I t i s as though t h e a p o c a l y p t i c  e x p l o s i o n i s happening, unbeknownst t o c h a r a c t e r s , a l l around t h e m — a b o v e , where " d a y l i g h t glowed blood r e d " ; below them on t h e r i v e r where, a t n i g h t , a s h i p passes w i t h a " f l a m i n g l a n t e r n on t h e s t e r n " l e a v i n g "ruby r e d " r i n g s v a n i s h i n g i n t o t h e f o g ; and on t h e s t r e e t s where p e o p l e thems e l v e s , " b l o a t e d and s w o l l e n , " move l i k e s i l e n t broken fragments f l u n g from the e x p l o s i o n .  Thus, t h e a n t i - c l i m a x o f t h e bomb's e x p l o s i o n i s n o t so  much t h e i n i t i a l bang o f an a p o c a l y p s e as i t i s t h e f i n a l f i z z l e o f an a p o c a l y p s e a l r e a d y happened and t r a i l i n g o f f i n t o a new c y c l e o f h i s t o r y . The c y c l e i s suggested by N i k o l a i ' s " r e t u r n " t o Egypt a f t e r t h e e x p l o s i o n , as though, l e a n i n g " a g a i n s t t h e dead s i d e o f a pyramid" (_P, p. 292), he i s s t u d y i n g t h e b e g i n n i n g s and endings o f g r e a t  civilizations.  The emphasis on c y c l e s and c o n c e n t r i c i t y i n r e g a r d announced i n t h e v e r y P r o l o g u e o f t h e n o v e l .  t o t h e bomb i s  The bomb i s , as t h e n a r r a t o r  says l a t e r , a " r a p i d e x p a n s i o n o f g a s e s " w h i c h sends r e v e r b e r a t i n g waves ( c o n c e n t r i c c i r c l e s ) from i t s c e n t r e .  shock  So t o o t h e c i t y i s a k i n d o f  bomb, as we l e a r n from t h e P r o l o g u e :  P e t e r s b u r g n o t o n l y appears t o u s , but a c t u a l l y does a p p e a r — o n maps: i n t h e form o f two s m a l l c i r c l e s , one s e t i n s i d e ' t h e o t h e r , w i t h a b l a c k d o t i n t h e c e n t e r ; and from p r e c i s e l y t h i s m a t h e m a t i c a l p o i n t , w h i c h has no d i m e n s i o n , i t p r o c l a i m s f o r c e f u l l y t h a t i t e x i s t s : from h e r e , from t h i s v e r y p o i n t surges and swarms t h e p r i n t e d book; from t h i s v i s i b l e p o i n t speeds t h e o f f i c i a l c i r c u l a r (_P, p. 2 ) .  113  Thus, the n a r r a t i v e e x p l o s i o n i s a l r e a d y underway, " s u r g i n g and from t h i s c e n t r e w h i c h governs the e n t i r e fragmented n a r r a t i v e . Conrad a t t e m p t i n g  swarming" Like  to f i x V e r l o c ' s bomb i n a p r e c i s e m a t h e m a t i c a l p o i n t i n  space (Greenwich O b s e r v a t o r y ) ,  the n a r r a t o r i n P e t e r s b u r g  a t t e m p t s to  s i t u a t e t h e c i t y — t h e source o f the t e x t — i n a p r e c i s e t o p o g r a p h i c a l location.  The  t o p o g r a p h i c a l image o f c i r c l e s i s a l s o a p p l i c a b l e to  the  s t r u c t u r e of the c i t y i t s e l f , a c i t y planned w i t h r i g i d g e o m e t r i c c a r e P e t e r t h e Great i n a v a s t , f l a t n o r t h e r n l a n d s c a p e . that Petersburg "Italian  by  The n a r r a t o r t e l l s us  ( l i k e N i c h o l a s ' s v i s i o n i n A q u i n ' s Hamlet's Twin o f  enclave," another c i t y constructed i n a northern vastness)  the is  "surrounded by a r i n g of many-chimneyed f a c t o r i e s , " the w o r k i n g c l a s s d i s t r i c t s from w h i c h r a d i c a l f o r c e s p r e s s inwards i n an attempt to d e s t r o y t h e r e a c t i o n a r y c e n t r e of government.  The c e n t r e houses the  capital's  b u r e a u c r a c y i n w h i c h A p o l l o n , N i k o l a i ' s f a t h e r , i s a prominent o f f i c i a l  who  circulates " o f f i c i a l circulars."  The  " o f f i c i a l c i r c u l a r " i s a l s o B e l y ' s t e x t because, l i k e the  city,  i t begins w i t h the dot o r o r i g i n of i n s p i r a t i o n ( t h e image of the c i t y ) , and w i t h r e p e t i t i o n s , o v e r l a p p i n g s , f r a g m e n t a t i o n s  and c a n c e l l a t i o n s , ex-  pands outward i n " c o r u s c a t i o n s of innumerable c i r c l e s , " and  to a l l u d e to Conrad,  i n " g r e a t broken r i n g s , " t o a l l u d e to Y e a t s , one of B e l y ' s  contemporaries.  Thus, the s t a t u e of P e t e r the G r e a t , The Bronze Horseman,  f i g u r e s i n the t e x t as more than a l l u s i o n to the c r e a t o r of The  Symbolist  Petersburg.  s t a t u e a c t u a l l y comes a l i v e i n the t e x t and pursues c h a r a c t e r s t h r o u g h  t h e s t r e e t s ; S o f i a , f o r example, from her c a r r i a g e sees  114  a M i g h t y Horseman. Two f l a m i n g n o s t r i l s p i e r c e d the fog t h e r e l i k e a w h i t e hot p i l l a r . . . . a r i d e r o v e r took t h e c a r r i a g e and f l e w i n t o the f o g , b r a n d i s h i n g a t o r c h . A heavy bronze helmet f l a s h e d p a s t , and behind i t , r u m b l i n g and spewing s p a r k s , f l e w a f i r e b r i g a d e (P, pp. 120-21).  The w o r k i n g of such a symbol goes beyond i r o n i c and p a r a d o x i c a l a l l u s i o n to i n c l u d e B e l y ' s v i s i o n of t h e c y c l i c a l n a t u r e of h i s t o r y , f o r t h e and  revolutions  t r i b u l a t i o n s w h i c h P e t e r t h e Great f a c e d a r e r e c y c l e d h e r e i n the stormy  r i o t s and u n r e s t of 1905,  t h e y e a r i n w h i c h the n o v e l i s s e t .  P e t e r the Great i s not the o n l y c h a r a c t e r who characters,  " r e t u r n s " ; most  i n f a c t , c o n t i n u a l l y o v e r l a p , meet, and r e t r a c e t h e i r  through Petersburg,  rather l i k e Hyacinth  the maze of London s t r e e t s .  steps  and O s s i p o n c r i s s - c r o s s i n g through  The A p o l l o n o v i c h  f a m i l y , a t the end of  n o v e l , m o m e n t a r i l y " r e t u r n s " to f a m i l y u n i t y b e f o r e  the  i t s final disintegration,  a u n i t y w h i c h i s exploded by Anna P e t r o v n a ' s a d u l t e r y and N i k o l a i ' s r e v o l u t i o n a r y involvement.  L i k e the f a l s e domestic u n i t y i n The  Agent w h i c h i s broken by V e r l o c ' s b e t r a y a l of S t e v i e , and s e a r c h f o r a f a m i l y which i s d e f e a t e d parents,  Secret  l i k e Hyacinth's  by t h e d o u b l e b e t r a y a l of  surrogate  t h e P r i n c e s s and Muniment, N i k o l a i ' s f a m i l y i s d i s i n t e g r a t e d by  the e x p l o s i v e pressures  of disharmony a t i t s c e n t r e .  from b u r e a u c r a c y , A p o l l o n ' s  Grown o l d and  retired  response a t the end of the n o v e l i s to r e t u r n  to a k i n d of c h i l d h o o d , w h i l e N i k o l a i c a s t s o f f h i s N e o - K a n t i a n r a t i o n a l i s m and  r e t u r n s to e a r l y E g y p t i a n  text:  scholarship.  As t h e n a r r a t o r says of  the  " C e r e b r a l , l e a d e n games have plodded a l o n g w i t h i n a c l o s e d - i n h o r i z o n ,  i n a c i r c l e t h a t has been t r a c e d by u s — "  (P, p.  265).  115  That t h e n o v e l i s c o n s t r u c t e d on t h e p r i n c i p l e of t h e c i r c l e i s e v i denced by B e l y ' s own comment about P e t e r s b u r g .  According to Nina Berberova  when q u e s t i o n e d about t h e s t r u c t u r e of h i s n o v e l , B e l y r e p l i e d : burg ... i s a c i r c l e .  Not a cube but a wheel.'  "'Peters-  He snatched an o l d envelop  from a t a b l e and on i t drew a c i r c l e , and i m m e d i a t e l y a n o t h e r one."^  When  d e f e n d i n g h i s method i n The Awkward Age, James a l s o r a n t o paper and p e n c i l to e x p l a i n t h e c i r c u l a r c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h a t n o v e l :  ... I drew on a sheet of paper. ... t h e neat f i g u r e of a c i r c l e c o n s i s t i n g o f a number of s m a l l rounds d i s posed a t e q u a l d i s t a n c e about a c e n t r a l o b j e c t . The c e n t r a l o b j e c t was my s i t u a t i o n , my s u b j e c t i n i t s e l f , to w h i c h t h e t h i n g would owe i t s t i t l e , and t h e s m a l l rounds r e p r e s e n t e d so many d i s t i n c t lamps, as I l i k e d to c a l l them, t h e f u n c t i o n of each of w h i c h would be 8  to l i g h t w i t h a l l due i n t e n s i t y one of i t s a s p e c t s . These d e s i g n s o f s t r u c t u r e , as B e r b e r o v a p o i n t s o u t , a r e p r e f i g u r e d a t l e a s t as e a r l y as M i s c e l l a n i e s A e s t h e t i c and L i t e r a r y i n w h i c h C o l e r i d g e r e l i e s , l i k e B e l y , on t h e image of t h e wheel t o e x p l a i n l i t e r a r y  structure:  An o l d coach wheel l i e s i n t h e coach-maker's y a r d . ... There i s beauty i n t h a t w h e e l . See how t h e r a y s proceed from the c e n t e r t o t h e c i r c u m f e r e n c e , and how many d i f f e r e n t images a r e d i s t i n c t l y comprehended a t one g l a n c e , as f o r m i n g one whole, and each p a r t i n some harmonious r e l a t i o n t o each and a l l . ^  The emphasis here i n t h i s passage from C o l e r i d g e r e s t s on harmony and whole n e s s — R o m a n t i c u n i t y , but t h e passage from James comes c l o s e r to B e l y ' s a e s t h e t i c because i t emphasizes p e r s p e c t i v i s m , t h e b r e a k i n g down of u n i f i e d vision."^  The s o u r c e , t h e n , of B e l y ' s s t r u c t u r e may u l t i m a t e l y be Romantic  but i t s r e a l i z a t i o n i s c l e a r l y S y m b o l i s t .  For t h i s r e a s o n , R u d o l f S t e i n e r '  anthroposophy p r o v i d e s a r i c h e r s o u r c e f o r t h e many l a y e r s of c o n c e n t r i c i t y  116  in Petersburg.  Steiner's view of the wheel i s a l l - i n c l u s i v e :  It i s the basis of the Universe. The whole cosmogony i s a c i r c l e . The c i r c l e i s the perfection of the inner unity of man. The square symbolizes the lowest state of man. The octagon i s the intermediate stage. The wheel rotates around the sun, which i s a wheel i n i t s e l f and a s p i r i t u a l illumination. The center of a c i r c l e i s , of course, immobile—the A r i s t o t e l i a n "unmoved mover." A s p i d e r — a n obsessive image i n mythic t h i n k i n g — s i t s i n the center: God, as a spider, i n the middle of his web. A l l this gives us a figure i n two parts: periphery and center, And the rose-window of the Gothic cathedral, And the r o s e — t h e mystical flower, And the lotus, i n the East.^-'As a prominent image i n Bely's Symbolist v i s i o n , the expanding c i r c l e i s not r e s t r i c t e d to Petersburg alone. Kotik Letaev, written immediately p r i n c i p l e of concentricity.  Loosely autobiographical, the novel,  before Petersburg, also contains the same  Writing from the point of view of an adult  attempting to recover the consciousness of childhood, the narrator this time fashions the c i r c l e image three-dimensionally:  The f i r s t conscious moment of mine i s — a dot; i t penetrates the meaninglessness; and—expanding, i t becomes a sphere, but the s p h e r e — d i s i n t e g r a t e s : ^ meaninglessness, penetrating i t , tears i t apart. This mesmerizing pattern works on a number of l e v e l s .  As i t relates to  Kotik Letaev, Bely means that consciousness i s an expanding force that attempts to make sense of chaos, but chaos i t s e l f i s the driving force behind consciousness and eventually i t explodes consciousness back to the condition of chaos.  Similarly, the bomb i n Petersburg i s the "dot," the  117  compact package o f chaos w h i c h undergoes a " r a p i d e x p a n s i o n " and d e s t r o y s o r d e r , b u t , o f c o u r s e , i n d o i n g so i t a l s o d e s t r o y s i t s e l f — c h a o s i s r e affirmed.  On another l e v e l , as John E l s w o r t h p o i n t s o u t , t h i s complex  pattern a l s o a p p l i e s to Bely's a e s t h e t i c : He compares a r t t o a bomb, and t h e e v o l u t i o n o f a r t forms t o t h e p a t h o f a bomb from t h e hand t h a t throws i t t o t h e w a l l o f t h e p r i s o n i t i s t o d e s t r o y . The ensuing e x p l o s i o n w i l l d e s t r o y b o t h t h e p r i s o n — the w o r l d seen i n t h e c a t e g o r y o f n e c e s s i t y — a n d t h e b o m b — a r t . Thus a r t w i l l o n l y a c h i e v e i t s t r u e aim when i t ceases t o e x i s t . 1 3  B e l y says as much i n t h e E p i l o g u e o f P e t e r s b u r g : C u l t u r e i s a m o l d e r i n g head: e v e r y t h i n g i n i t has d i e d ; n o t h i n g has remained. There w i l l be an e x p l o s i o n ; e v e r y t h i n g w i l l be swept away (P_, p. 2 9 2 ) . Thus, j u s t as t h e c i t y expands outward from t h e s t r u c t u r i n g p o i n t o f s t a t e bureaucracy  and e v e n t u a l l y d i s i n t e g r a t e s i n t o w o r k i n g - c l a s s chaos,  and j u s t as i n B e l y ' s e s c h a t o l o g y , t h e s t r u c t u r e s o f time and h i s t o r y e v e n t u a l l y crumble back t o chaos, so t h e n a r r a t i v e o f P e t e r s b u r g expands from i t s f o c a l image of city/bomb and " d i s i n t e g r a t e s " i n t o fragments o f t i m e and space,  i n t o t h e n a r r a t i v e f l a k and p a r t i a l g l i m p s e s o f image,  scene, d i a l o g u e , c h a r a c t e r and event. destructing or s e l f - c a n c e l l i n g forces.  A r t and n a r r a t i v e become s e l f They o r i g i n a t e from absence and  r e t u r n t o absence.  B e l y a c h i e v e s t h i s n a r r a t i v e d i s i n t e g r a t i o n , i n p a r t , by a s p e c i a l h a n d l i n g o f space.  So w h i l e t h e c i t y o f P e t e r s b u r g p r o c l a i m s i t s e l f " f o r c e -  f u l l y " i n t h e P r o l o g u e as a d o t on t h e map, a t t h e same time t h a t mathe-  118  m a t i c a l p o i n t has "no more c e r t a i n .  dimension."  The p h y s i c a l r e a l i t y of the c i t y i s no  The geography o f the c i t y i s d u t i f u l l y l a i d out f o r u s — a s  w i t h J o y c e ' s D u b l i n , s t r e e t s , b u i l d i n g s , houses and monuments a l l appear as r e c o g n i z a b l e p l a c e s , y e t the o v e r a l l q u a l i t y of the c i t y w h i c h s t i c k s w i t h us i s i t s shadowy  elusiveness.  that "Petersburg vanished  More than once d u r i n g the t e x t , we  i n t o the n i g h t " (P_, p. 101).  And  read  as Robert A.  M a g u i r e and John E. Malmstad p o i n t out i n t h e i r i n t r o d u c t i o n to t h e  1978  t r a n s l a t i o n of t h e t e x t ,  e x t e r n a l , man-made f e a t u r e s tend t o be as f l u i d as the w a t e r s t h a t r u n through, around, and beneath the c i t y i t s e l f : when we t r y to p l o t them on a map, we f i n d , f o r i n s t a n c e , t h a t t h e Ahleukhov house o c c u p i e s t h r e e v e r y d i f f e r e n t l o c a t i o n s , t h a t t h e L i k h u t i n house i s an " i m p o s s i b l e " composite of s e v e r a l o t h e r s , and t h a t the government i n s t i t u t i o n headed by the s e n a t o r cannot be even a p p r o x i m a t e l y s i t u a t e d , even though a l l t h r e e o f - ^ these b u i l d i n g s are described i n c o n s i d e r a b l e d e t a i l . L i k e the u n d i s c o v e r a b l e  Todgers i n M a r t i n C h u z z l e w i t , and  l i k e the  "lost"  embassy i n The S e c r e t Agent, the u n c e r t a i n whereabouts of the Ableukhov house u n d e r l i n e s t h e s p a t i a l d i s o r i e n t a t i o n o f the l a b y r i n t h i n e c i t y .  The  space of H y a c i n t h ' s  London i n The P r i n c e s s Casamassima i s a " r o a r -  i n g v o r t e x , " and h i s dilemma i s t h a t , condemned to f l o u n d e r i n h i s " s h a l l o w eddy," he can never manage to c o n s t r u c t t h e m o r a l and o r d e r needed t o o r g a n i z e t h e begrimed D i c k e n s i a n chaos.  own  social  I n The  Secret  Agent, London appears even more begrimed, a l a b y r i n t h of d a r k , muddy s t r e e t s d o t t e d d i m l y w i t h s t r e e t lamps, behind more shadow than s u b s t a n c e .  every one l u r k i n g f i g u r e s who  The v a s t g e o m e t r i c l a b y r i n t h of  a l s o t u r n s p e o p l e i n t o shadows:  are  Petersburg  119  The wet, s l i p p e r y p r o s p e c t was i n t e r s e c t e d by a n o t h e r wet s l i p p e r y p r o s p e c t a t a n i n e t y - d e g r e e r i g h t a n g l e . A t t h e p o i n t o f i n t e r s e c t i o n stood a policeman. And e x a c t l y t h e same k i n d o f house r o s e up, and the same k i n d o f gray human streams passed by t h e r e , and t h e same k i n d o f y e l l o w - g r e e n f o g hung t h e r e . But p a r a l l e l w i t h t h e r u s h i n g p r o s p e c t was another r u s h i n g p r o s p e c t w i t h t h e same row o f boxes, w i t h t h e same n u m e r a t i o n , w i t h t h e same c l o u d s . There i s an i n f i n i t y o f r u s h i n g p r o s p e c t s w i t h an i n f i n i t y o f r u s h i n g , i n t e r s e c t i n g shadows. A l l o f P e t e r s b u r g i s an i n f i n i t y o f t h e p r o s p e c t r a i s e d t o t h e n t h degree. Beyond P e t e r s b u r g , t h e r e i s n o t h i n g ( P , pp. 11-12). T h i s i s a more c l e a n l y m a t h e m a t i c a l r e n d i t i o n o f t h e l a b y r i n t h , than James's o r Conrad's, and i n t h i s sense, i s c l o s e r t o R o b b e - G r i l l e t ' s v e r s i o n i n In the Labyrinth:  There must be i d e n t i c a l rows o f r e g u l a r windows on each f l o o r from one end o f t h e s t r a i g h t s t r e e t t o t h e other. A p e r p e n d i c u l a r c r o s s r o a d r e v e a l s a second s t r e e t j u s t l i k e the f i r s t : t h e same absence o f t r a f f i c , the same h i g h gray w a l l s , t h e same b l i n d windows, t h e same d e s e r t e d s i d e w a l k s . A t t h e c o r n e r o f t h e s i d e w a l k , a s t r e e t l i g h t i s on, a l t h o u g h i t i s broad d a y l i g h t . But i t i s a d u l l day w h i c h makes e v e r y t h i n g c o l o r l e s s and f l a t . Instead of the s t r i k i n g v i s t a s t h e s e rows o f houses p r o d u c e , t h e r e i s o n l y a c r i s s c r o s s i n g o f m e a n i n g l e s s l i n e s , t h e f a l l i n g snow dep r i v i n g t h e scene o f a l l r e l i e f , as i f t h i s b l u r r e d v i e w were m e r e l y b a d l y p a i n t e d on a bare wall."''"'  But whereas R o b b e - G r i l l e t emphasizes t h e c l a u s t r o p h o b i c n a t u r e o f h i s u r b a n l a b y r i n t h ("high gray w a l l s , " " b l i n d windows"), B e l y i s i n t e n t on emphasizing t h e scope o f t h e P e t e r s b u r g i n f i n i t y , t o t h e " n t h degree."  l a b y r i n t h , as though i t goes on t o  He a l s o s t r e s s e s t h e i d e a t h a t t h e c i t y i s  a c o n s t r u c t , t h e v i s i b l e m a n i f e s t a t i o n o f P e t e r t h e Great's  elaborate plans,  120  and as a human c o n s t r u c t , t h e c i t y i s s u b j e c t t o t h e same t h r e a t of s p a t i a l d i s i n t e g r a t i o n as a l l o t h e r Petersburg  s o c i a l , moral or p s y c h o l o g i c a l  constructs.  i s not so much an o r g a n i c , cancerous growth out of  control—the  metaphor a p p l i e s b e t t e r t o James's and Conrad's London-—as i t i s a gone mad.  geometry  The Jamesian and C o n r a d i a n l a b y r i n t h s f u n c t i o n more as  confusing  and c o r r u p t s t r u c t u r e s w h i c h a r e a p p r o p r i a t e abodes f o r t h e m o r a l l y c h a r a c t e r s who organize  i n h a b i t them.  an empty n o r t h e r n  Petersburg  corrupt  i s a v a s t , a m b i t i o u s attempt to  space r a t i o n a l l y and f o r m a l l y and t o use  s t r u c t u r e as a d e f e n s e a g a i n s t t h e a p o c a l y p s e w h i c h t h r e a t e n s  that  to reduce i t  to chaos.  The problem i s t h a t t h e s t r u c t u r e , once i t becomes o v e r - s t r u c t u r e d , has j u s t as r e d u c t i v e an e f f e c t on c h a r a c t e r s  as empty space.  Wandering  a i m l e s s l y t h r o u g h t h i s s t r u c t u r e among hordes of o t h e r s wandering j u s t as a i m l e s s l y t h r o u g h t h e same s t r u c t u r e , c h a r a c t e r s L i k e characters Petersburg  cease to be i n d i v i d u a l s .  i n The S e c r e t Agent and The P r i n c e s s Casamassima, t h o s e i n  become l i k e shadows, s c a r c e l y r e c o g n i z a b l e ,  changeable and o f t e n i n d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e . i n s e c t world  frequently  inter-  B e l y r e l i e s on imagery from t h e  t o make t h e i d e a c l e a r :  There t h e body of each i n d i v i d u a l t h a t streams onto the pavement becomes t h e organ o f a g e n e r a l body, an i n d i v i d u a l g r a i n of c a v i a r , and the s i d e w a l k s of the Nevsky a r e t h e s u r f a c e of an open-faced sandwich. I n d i v i d u a l thought was sucked i n t o the c e r e b r a t i o n of the myriapod being t h a t moved a l o n g the Nevsky. And w o r d l e s s l y they s t a r e d a t t h e m y r i a d l e g s ; and t h e sediment c r a w l e d . I t c r a w l e d by and s h u f f l e d on f l o w i n g f e e t ; t h e s t i c k y sediment was composed of i n d i v i d u a l segments; and each i n d i v i d u a l segment was a torso.  121  There were no people on the Nevsky, but t h e r e was a c r a w l i n g , h o w l i n g myriapod t h e r e . The damp space poured t o g e t h e r a m y r i a d - d i s t i n c t i o n of v o i c e s i n t o a m y r i a d - d i s t i n c t i o n of words. A l l the words jumbled and a g a i n wove i n t o a sentence; and the sentence seemed m e a n i n g l e s s . I t hung above t h e Nevsky, a b l a c k haze of phantasmata. And s w e l l e d by those phantasmata, the Neva r o a r e d and t h r a s h e d between i t s m a s s i v e g r a n i t e banks. The c r a w l i n g myriapod i s h o r r i b l e . I t has been moving a l o n g the Nevsky f o r c e n t u r i e s . H i g h e r , above the Nevsky, t h e seasons r u n t h e i r c o u r s e . The c y c l e t h e r e i s mutable, but h e r e i t i s immutable. The times o f the year have t h e i r l i m i t . The human myriapod has no l i m i t ; a l l the l i n k s a r e i n t e r c h a n g e a b l e ; i t i s always the same; beyond t h e r a i l w a y t e r m i n a l i t t u r n s i t s head; i t s t a i l t h r u s t s i n t o the Morskaya; a l o n g the Nevsky s h u f f l e the i n d i v i d u a l a r t h r o p o d i c l i n k s . Exactly l i k e a scolopendra!  (P, p.  Conrad p r e f e r s l o c u s t s and a n t s to s c o l o p e n d r a ,  179) but the i d e a i s e s s e n t i a l l y  the same: He [the P r o f e s s o r ] was i n a l o n g , s t r a i g h t s t r e e t , peopfed by a mere f r a c t i o n of an immense m u l t i t u d e ; but a l l round him, on and on, even to the l i m i t s of the h o r i z o n h i d d e n by the enormous p i l e s of b r i c k s , he f e l t the mass of mankind mighty i n i t s numbers. They swarmed numerous l i k e l o c u s t s , i n d u s t r i o u s l i k e a n t s , t h o u g h t l e s s l i k e a n a t u r a l f o r c e , pushing on b l i n d and o r d e r l y and absorbed, impervious to s e n t i "ment, to l o g i c , to t e r r o r , t o o , perhaps (SA, p. 7 4 ) .  T y p i c a l l y , Conrad f o c u s e s h i s e n t o m o l o g i c a l b l i n d n e s s , order, sentiment,  image on the m o r a l ,  on  l o g i c and t e r r o r , on the dangerous power of  the m u l t i t u d e to b l u n t i n d i v i d u a l s e n s i b i l i t y . h i s image i n the s e r v i c e of Symbolism.  B e l y , by c o n t r a s t , f a s h i o n s  Thus, the m u l t i t u d e i s not  u l a r i z e d t o 1905  Petersburg;  to cosmic time.  S i m i l a r l y , the v o i c e of t h i s m u l t i t u d e i s not o n l y  partic-  r a t h e r , i t i s an immutable form t h a t belongs the  122  v o i c e of R u s s i a ; i t i s the v o i c e of a l l human language, the  multitude's  s e n t e n c e w h i c h becomes a k i n d of c e n t i p e d e of s y n t a x and w h i c h w a f t s m e a n i n g l e s s n e s s above the  into  city.  The d i f f e r e n c e h e r e i s one of a u t h o r i a l p e r s p e c t i v e . and Conrad s t r u g g l e w i t h m o r a l and  Whereas James  s o c i a l c r i t i q u e s of contemporary  c h a r a c t e r and event, B e l y takes i m p e r f e c t i o n s f o r g r a n t e d c h a r a c t e r s a r e i n e f f e c t u a l , f l a w e d and  ( a l l of h i s  severely undercut w i t h irony)  l o o k s i n s t e a d to t h e l o f t y S y m b o l i s t r e a l m of cosmic p a t t e r n .  This  and differ-  ence i s e v i d e n t i n the s p a t i a l o r i e n t a t i o n of the a u t h o r i a l gaze.  In  James's The P r i n c e s s Casamassima and Conrad's The S e c r e t Agent, we  sense  t h a t i t i s d i r e c t e d downward to the " u g l y b l a c k h o l e s " and s t r e e t s and  the r a n k Thames r i v e r .  t h e murky London  I t l o o k s w i t h c r i t i c a l d i s t a n c e , to  s u r e , but u l t i m a t e l y , i t i s a d e s p a i r i n g gaze.  be  By c o n t r a s t , the a u t h o r i a l  eye i n P e t e r s b u r g moves upward from the malodorous, green Neva, " h i g h e r , above the Nevsky" to the s p a r k l i n g s p i r e s of S t . I s a a c ' s C a t h e d r a l and yond t o the s p e c t a c u l a r sunsets of v a r i o u s t i n t s of a p o c a l y p t i c r e d .  beBely's  gaze a l s o , u n l i k e James's o r Conrad's, s t r e t c h e s back i n time sweeping i n t o t h e n o v e l m o t i f s and  themes from e a r l y R u s s i a n h i s t o r y , events which b o t h  echo t h e p r e s e n t and p o r t e n d beginning  the f u t u r e .  B e l y was,  after a l l ,  from the  a prominent spokesman f o r and d e f e n d e r of e a r l y t w e n t i e t h -  c e n t u r y R u s s i a n S y m b o l i s m , ^ and f o l l o w i n g t h a t p e r i o d he was  deeply  im-  mersed i n Rudolph S t e i n e r ' s a n t h r o p o s o p h y — t h a t b l e n d of Western r a t i o n a l ism and E a s t e r n s p i r i t u a l i s m w h i c h so appealed to him and w h i c h i s r e a l i z e d t h e m a t i c a l l y i n the t e x t by way  of the east/west dichotomy.  I t i s this  s p e c i a l and v e r y p r i v a t e v i s i o n w h i c h d i r e c t s B e l y ' s eye i n the  opposite  123  d i r e c t i o n from the Conradian and Jamesian labyrinths to the "phantasmata" hanging threateningly above the c i t y .  And while there i s s o c i a l and moral  rot i n both London and Petersburg, we sense that i t i s explicable i f not reformable i n The Secret Agent and The Princess Casamassima, whereas i n Petersburg i t i s overshadowed by the larger questions, cycles and patterns of human history.  Bely looks beyond the chaotic u n i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y of the  c i t y and finds a s p a t i a l orientation i n mystical spheres.  Predictably, the narrative of Petersburg i s fragmented by temporal d i s t o r t i o n s that are just as r a d i c a l as the s p a t i a l ones. mentioned  We have already  the h i s t o r i c a l s h i f t s i n time from events i n early Russian history  to revolutionary events i n 1905.  In addition, the narrative leaps wildly  from one present event to another disregarding chronology and moving backwards and forwards.  Nikolai's mother, f o r example, returns r e l a t i v e l y  early i n the novel, yet her v i s i t i s not mentioned narrative.  again u n t i l l a t e i n the  One chapter may begin with Senator Ableukhov's  a c t i v i t i e s at  his o f f i c e and s h i f t without warning to Nikolai's meeting with subversive friends months e a r l i e r .  Phrases, sentences, entire paragraphs and scenes  are repeated verbatim, a device which creates the effect of replayed time. Novelists of absent-centred structure are fond of r e p e t i t i o n because i t i s an e f f e c t i v e interrupter and spoiler of chronology, though they exp l o i t i t for d i f f e r e n t purposes.  Conrad achieves two e f f e c t s :  the scene  of the explosion i s repeated from d i f f e r e n t imaginative p e r s p e c t i v e s — Winnie's, Heat's, the police constable's, the newspaper's, the n a r r a t o r ' s — and thus creates a rudimentary cubism, i n the sense that the moment of Stevie's death can only be grasped f u l l y through fragmentary angles of  124  of perception. The horror cannot be objectively understood; i t s significance l i e s i n the subjective sum of i t s effect on a number of characters.  The  second effect Conrad achieves with r e p e t i t i o n i s the impression of s t a l l e d time.  Characters i n The Secret Agent are tagged with r e f r a i n s .  Thus,  Winnie's "the drop was fourteen f e e t " i s a grim reminder of death's power to destroy time altogether, while the r e f r a i n s , "impenetrable mystery" and "he walked," associated with Ossipon, suggest the s t a l l e d aimless time of a living hell.  H e l l e r , to anticipate, uses r e p e t i t i o n to suggest the per-  ceptual phenomenon of reluctant remembering.  Thus, Yossarian's flashbacks  to Snowden's death i n Catch-22 are replayed verbatim but gradually expanded in p a r t i c u l a r s to a point of c r i s i s .  Such a disruptive technique suggests  the tortures of a mind both wanting to forget and fearing to remember the d e t a i l s of a horror.  Robbe-Grillet's repetitions i n The Voyeur and i n In  the Labyrinth disrupt the narrative chronology just as seriously, but they are directed to .the end of exploring perception—objects, characters and events which are seen but only partly seen and which, when repeated i n the text, are either properly understood, proven wrong, or, not infrequently, l e f t mysterious.  Bely's repetitions serve many of these same purposes:  Nikolai's and Apollon's childhood memories "repeat" themselves and confuse present perception, and the replay of scenes from d i f f e r e n t viewpoints, as we s h a l l see momentarily, creates a similar kind of perspectivism tor that in Conrad's and Robbe-Grillet's novels.  But i n Petersburg there i s the  added emphasis that repeated images and symbols suggest return and cycle; they undercut narrative l i n e a r i t y and replace i t with temporal c i r c u l a r i t y .  As a structural strategy, r e p e t i t i o n , because by d e f i n i t i o n i t invokes  125  boredom, must be used j u d i c i o u s l y .  In t h i s regard, Robbe-Grillet takes,  the greatest r i s k s because he exploits boredom as a theme—Samuel Beckett i s h i s only r i v a l .  There are, however, other less risky devices for d i s -  rupting time, such as the prolongation of the moment. on a number of occasions:  Conrad exploits i t  f o r Heat's imagining of Stevie's death, f o r the  entire chapter which deals with Verloc's death, and for the p a i n f u l l y awkward moments i n the domestic scenes between Winnie and Verloc.  So too  in Petersburg, time expands mercilessly; i n f a c t , the entire novel, just as i t expands s p a t i a l l y from the city/bomb image, expands temporally from the r e l a t i v e l y brief period of twenty-four hours.  The narrator explains i n  the monologue of the f i n a l chapter:  —These twenty-four h o u r s ! — — t h e s e twenty-four hours of our narrative have expanded and scattered i n the spaces of the soul: the authorial gaze has gotten a l l tangled up i n the spaces of the soul. Cerebral, leaden games have plodded along within a closed-in horizon, i n a c i r c l e that has been traced by us— — i n those twenty-four hours! The news of Anna Petrovna had come f l u t t e r i n g along from somewhere or other. We forgot that Anna Petrovna had returned. Those twenty-four hours! That i s , an entire day and night: a concept that i s r e l a t i v e , where an i n s t a n t — — o r — s o m e t h i n g that can be defined by the amplitude of events i n the soul i s an hour, or a zero: experience grows apace, or i s absent: i n an instant ( P , p. 265).  The instant, then, "grows apace"; i t becomes an hour, i t expands and events scatter " i n the spaces of the soul."  S i m i l a r l y , Inspector Heat i n The  126  Secret Agent knows that Stevie died "instantaneously," atrocious pain and mental torture.could be contained winks of an eye."  but that "ages of  between two  successive  And with an image that prefigures the s t r u c t u r a l  p r i n c i p l e of William Golding's Pincher Martin, he fears that Stevie's  ex-  perience was  l i k e "the whole past l i f e l i v e d with f r i g h t f u l i n t e n s i t y by a  drowning man  as his doomed head bobs up, screaming, for the l a s t time" (SA,  pp. 78-79).  The "instant" referred to i n the passage from Petersburg the characters' fear of that experience which Heat imagines. instant of the exploding  signifies They fear the  bomb which, as i n The Secret Agent, occurs at a  p a r t i c u l a r juncture of time and space.  The bomb becomes an apt symbol for  this juncture since i t s t i c k i n g measures time methodically explosion announces a v i o l e n t fragmentation of space.  while i t s  The bomb, i n f a c t ,  measures time i n a very r e a l sense i n the text, for when N i k o l a i turns  the  key to activate i t , he i n i t i a t e s the twenty-four hour period which i s the narrative time of the text.  But the t i c k i n g also has a very special private  and psychological meaning for N i k o l a i .  As a c h i l d , he experienced a v i v i d  nightmare:  In childhood he had been subject to delirium. In the night, a l i t t l e e l a s t i c blob would sometimes materialize before him and bounce about—made perhaps of rubber, perhaps of the matter of very strange worlds. It would produce a quiet laquered sound on the f l o o r : pepp— peppep; and again: pepp-peppep. Bloating h o r r i b l y , i t would often assume the form of a spherical f a t fellow. This f a t fellow, having become a harassing sphere, kept on expanding, expanding, and expanding and threatened to come crashing down upon him. "Pepp "Peppovich.... "Pepp "  127  And I t would b u r s t i n t o p i e c e s . N i k o l e n k a would s t a r t s h r i e k i n g n o n s e n s i c a l t h i n g s : t h a t he too was becoming s p h e r i c a l , t h a t he was a z e r o , t h a t e v e r y t h i n g i n him was z e r o i n g — zeroing—zero-o-o.... (P, p. 158).  The  e l a s t i c , rubber b a l l , dangerous i n i t s expansion,  i s uncannily l i k e  the  P r o f e s s o r ' s " i n d i a - r u b b e r b a l l " i n The S e c r e t Agent w h i c h i s connected to "an i n d i a - r u b b e r tube, r e s e m b l i n g  a s l e n d e r brown worm" (SA, p. 62)  and  w h i c h , when squeezed, w i l l d e t o n a t e the bomb to which he i s w i r e d . Conrad a l s o shares t h e emphasis on b l o a t i n g and  swelling:  i n a f a t - p i g s t y l e " ; Wurmt t e l l s him b l u n t l y , "You  are very  Verloc i s "burly corpulent";  w h i l e growing n e r v o u s d u r i n g h i s i n t e r v i e w w i t h V l a d i m i r , we read t h a t h i s " g r o s s neck became c r i m s o n . "  V l a d i m i r h i m s e l f has a "shaven, b i g f a c e " ;  t h e t e r r o r i s t , Yundt, has hands "deformed by gouty s w e l l i n g s " ; O s s i p o n  has  a " b i g f l o r i d f a c e " ; M i c h a e l i s , a c c o r d i n g to the A s s i s t a n t Commissioner, "was  marred by too much f l e s h , " w h i l e S i r E t h e l r e d , " t h e g r e a t personage"  w i t h an "egg-shaped f a c e " "seemed an expanding man."  The l a t t e r image, as  mentioned i n t h e p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r , a l l u d e s to Humpty-Dumpty, an w h i c h c r e a t e s a nursery-rhyme i r o n y v e r y much l i k e the one dream:  behind  allusion  in Nikolai's  t h e i n n o c e n t and c h i l d l i k e l i e s an e x p l o s i v e l y dangerous,  i f not d e a t h l y power. L i k e so many o t h e r images and m o t i f s i n P e t e r s b u r g , N i k o l a i ' s n i g h t mare image sends out i t s t e n t a c l e s t o connect an a r r a y of themes and periences.  ex-  The passage o b v i o u s l y p o r t e n d s t h e bomb's e x p l o s i o n , but i t  a l s o r e v e r s e s t h e p a r r i c i d e theme i n t h e t e x t . q u e n t l y d e s c r i b e d as a f a t , " b l o a t e d " man,  Nikolai's father i s f r e -  and we r e a d t h a t " i n h i s b r e a s t  128  a r o s e t h e s e n s a t i o n o f a c r i m s o n sphere about t o b u r s t i n t o pieces." (P_, p. 1 4 ) , t h e s e n s a t i o n o f a man plagued by a h e a r t c o n d i t i o n .  Thus, t h e  f a t , b l o a t e d , s p h e r i c a l f e l l o w o f N i k o l a i ' s dream s i g n i f i e s t h e f a t h e r t h r e a t e n i n g t h e son, w h i l e i n t h e p r e s e n t t e n s e o f t h e n a r r a t i v e , i t is. 18 t h e son who t h r e a t e n s t h e f a t h e r w i t h t h e bomb.. c o n t a i n s a p l a y on t h e vowel "eu," pronounced  The quoted passage  also  "oo," w h i c h appears i n t h e  f a m i l y surname, Ableukhov, and w h i c h throughout t h e t e x t p o r t e n d s t h e exp l o s i o n , t h e b l a s t e d s p h e r e , t h e broken c i r c l e and t h e m e a n i n g l e s s n e s s o f "zero-o-o. S i m i l a r l y , t h e sound o f "Pepp P e p p o v i c h Pepp" r e a p p e a r s more than once and e s p e c i a l l y as t h e moment o f t h e e x p l o s i o n draws n e a r .  Nikolai,  who has m i s l a i d t h e bomb and who grows more u n c e r t a i n t h a t h i s f r i e n d , S e r g e i , has removed i t , turbing:  suddenly f i n d s h i s t i c k i n g w r i s t watch, v e r y d i s -  " J u s t a t t h a t t i m e an u n s e t t l i n g sound reached h i s e a r s :  soft t i c k - t i c k , t i c k - t i c k : (P, p. 284).  the sardine tin?  a  ... Pepp P e p p o v i c h Pepp... "  Once more, i n a c y c l i c a l manner, a t e m p o r a l m o t i f c o n n e c t s  childhood experience with present experience.  I n t e r n a l experience  ( N i k o l a i ' s memory o f Pepp P e p p o v i c h Pepp) becomes enmeshed w i t h e x t e r i o r experience (the t i c k i n g watch).  Thus, u n l i k e Conrad who uses t h e measure-  ment o f t i m e t o u n d e r l i n e t h e i n n e r a g o n i e s o f h i s c h a r a c t e r s , B e l y manipu l a t e s t i m e t o t h r u s t h i s c h a r a c t e r s ' e x p e r i e n c e s beyond t h e c i r c l e d  con-  f i n e s o f i n d i v i d u a l e x p e r i e n c e to t h e l a r g e r cosmic c i r c l e o f e x p e r i e n c e where "Time sharpens i t s t e e t h f o r e v e r y t h i n g — i t devours body and s o u l and s t o n e " (P_, p. 97) .  129  The d e v o u r i n g power of t i m e i s nowhere more e v i d e n t than d u r i n g t h e scene i n w h i c h S o f i a r e t u r n s from the masquerade b a l l i n a c a r r i a g e .  She  f a l l s i n t o a h a l f s l e e p , i n t o a k i n d of m y s t i c a l t r a n c e w h i l e the s i l e n c e i s punctuated  by the sounds of t h e c a r r i a g e ' s wheels and t h e h o r s e s '  hooves on c o b b l e s t o n e s .  Behind her f e l l away a p i e c e of what had j u s t been: masquerade b a l l , h a r l e q u i n s , and even, even t h e sad t a l l one. She d i d not know whence she had come. She moved back s t i l l f u r t h e r , i n s e a r c h of some b u t t r e s s f o r c o n s c i o u s n e s s i n the i m p r e s s i o n s of t h e day b e f o r e t h a t , but t h a t day too had f a l l e n away, l i k e t h e c o b b l e s t o n e s on a paved r o a d ; and i t was dashed a g a i n s t some d a r k bottom. And a c o b b l e s t o n e s h a t t e r i n g c r a s h resounded.  j  The l o v e of t h a t f a t e f u l unhappy summer f l a s h e d by, and f e l l away from her memory. And a c o b b l e s t o n e s h a t t e r i n g c r a s h resounded. There f l a s h e d by and f e l l away: her c o n v e r s a t i o n s i n t h e s p r i n g w i t h N i c o l a s Ableukhov, t h e y e a r s of m a r r i a g e , t h e wedding. Thus a k i n d o f v o i d was t e a r i n g o f f and s w a l l o w i n g p i e c e a f t e r p i e c e . There echoed m e t a l l i c c r a s h a f t e r c r a s h , s h a t t e r i n g the c o b b l e s t o n e s . Her whole l i f e f l a s h e d by, her whole l i f e f e l l away, and her l i f e had not y e t e x i s t e d , e v e r , and i t was as i f she had not been born i n t o l i f e . The v o i d began i m m e d i a t e l y behind her back ( e v e r y t h i n g had c o l l a p s e d t h e r e ) , and t h e v o i d c o n t i n u e d on i n t o ages. I n the ages o n l y c r a s h upon c r a s h c o u l d be heard: p i e c e s of l i v e s were f a l l i n g . . . (P_, p. 120, B e l y ' s i t a l i c s ) .  B e l y s i t u a t e s S o f i a , h e r e , on t h e p r e c a r i o u s edge of t h e p r e s e n t , f o r "her l i f e had n o t y e t e x i s t e d , " but t h e cosmic v o i d of t h e p a s t pursues r e l e n t l e s s l y and s h a t t e r s memory.  Even the v e r y s t r e e t on which  t r a v e l s seems to be c o l l a p s i n g s i n c e t h e sounds appear to be the cobblestones." time and h i s t o r y :  her she  "shattering  Thus, B e l y once a g a i n debunks t h e n o t i o n of l i n e a r the past i s not, i n Bely's v i s i o n , a s t o c k p i l e or r e f u s e  130  heap of memories and events; rather, i t i s a great chaotic void which a c t i v e l y pursues, consumes and fragments history.  I t i s the same force,  the absent centre, which fragments both time and space and hurls, narrative pieces throughout the text.  When he fashioned the quoted passage, Bely was very conscious of continuing (or at least defining) a kind of Russian l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n of cab rides.  He noted to Nina Berberova: Pushkin's post chaise, Turgenev's c a b r i o l e t , Chichikov's carriage, Rostov's coach of 1812, Ableukhov's brougham—"A travers les. ages. "^0  The t r a d i t i o n i s not exclusively Russian.  James, i n The Princess Casamassima,  uses Hyacinth's r i d e with Muniment through London streets to suggest a spatial disorientation.  Travelling to see the anarchist leader, Hoffendahl,  "our young man had wholly l o s t , i n the d r i z z l i n g gloom, a sense of their whereabouts" (PC, p. 246).  And i n The Secret Agent, Conrad, too, uses the  same image when Winnie, her mother and Stevie travel to the mother's  new  house where she w i l l d i e . Pulled by an "infirm horse," and driven by a maimed cabman, Conrad's carriage, "the Cab of Death i t s e l f " (SA, p. 142), i s more rickety and grotesque.than Sofia's, yet i t s "wobbly wheels" produce a " j o l t i n g , r a t t l i n g , and j i n g l i n g " which i s j u s t as disturbing as the crashing sounds that Sofia hears.  And just as the abyss pursues Sofia, darkness  and death pursue Winnie's mother:  "Night, the early d i r t y night, the  s i n i s t e r , noisy, hopeless, and rowdy night of South London, had overtaken her on her l a s t cab r i d e " (SA, p. 133).  As the near past disintegrates into  crashing fragments i n the void behind Sofia, so i n The Secret Agent, "the  131  fronts of the houses g l i d i n g past slowly and shakily, with a great r a t t l i n g a j i n g l i n g of glass, ... collapse behind the cab" (SA, p. 131).  Bely  stresses the loss of time i n a cosmic context, but when Conrad's narrator t e l l s us that "Later on, i n the wider space of Whitehall, a l l v i s u a l e v i dences of motion became imperceptible," and that consequently "time i t s e l f seemed to stand s t i l l "  (SA, p. 131), we sense that the " s t a l l " i s r e s t r i c t e d  to the perception of individual characters.  Petersburg i s concerned not only  with matters of perception, but also with the c o n f l i c t between individuals' f a l s e perceptions and a more " t r u t h f u l " metaphysical and h i s t o r i c a l time.  The temporal and s p a t i a l disorientations of Petersburg are a means of fragmenting a locus-centred unity.  An exploded bomb i s , of course, an ideal  metaphor f o r such disintegration, but i t i s also an ideal metaphor for the absent centre of the narrative structure, for an explosion leaves no unifying centre—except, of course, the p r i n c i p l e of fragmentation which would have to be c a l l e d a non-centre.  itself,  Bely, i n addition to his special  handling of time and space, also uses point of view to achieve such narrative fragmentation. At times the narrator seems omniscient when he delves into the innermost psychologies of h i s characters (including two lengthy dream sequences); at other times he wanders unapologetically into the l o f t y Symbolist of planetary spaces.  worlds  He i s s e l f - e f f a c i n g though arrogant, f l i p yet  sympathetic, cynical and b i t i n g but also amusing and sensitive.  Occasion-  a l l y , he frustrates the reader with perspectivism, by l i m i t i n g his narration to a single character's point of view. after the masquerade b a l l ,  When Sofia returns to her husband  she finds herself locked out of her home.  She  132  rings the doorbell but no one answers; she hears heavy breathing on other side of the door, then a "tap-tap-tapping-away," a loud wail  the followed  by running, " s h u f f l i n g and moving of chairs," the t i n k l e of a lamp, the rumble of a table being moved and f i n a l l y , silence.  But the sounds resume  after a moment:  ... a h o r r i f y i n g din, as i f the c e i l i n g were collapsing and as i f the plaster were raining down. In this din, Sofia Petrovna Likhutina was struck by one sound only: the f a l l i n g from somewhere above of a heavy human body (P, p. 122).  The reader may  make guesses, but because the point of view i s so limited to  Sofia's perspective, he cannot interpret the sounds with any certainty.  Not  u n t i l ten pages l a t e r and after several narrative interruptions i s the scene replayed from Sofia's husband's perspective.  Upset at Sofia's f l i r t a t i o n s  with N i k o l a i , and angered by her r e f u s a l to obey his command that she not go to the b a l l , Sergei Sergeyevich makes an earnest but bungled and u t t e r l y laughable attempt at suicide.  A l l the preparations  have been made when  suddenly he hears the doorbell (Sofia's return); he l i s t e n s at the door (heavy breathing), runs away screaming (loud wail), places a chair on of a table, hangs himself  top  to the l i g h t f i x t u r e , pushes away the chair,  whereupon the f i x t u r e r i p s out of the c e i l i n g , f l i n g i n g plaster, rubble his own  body heavily onto the f l o o r .  and  The sounds, of course, are meant to  suggest an e x p l o s i o n — t h i s time comically i n e f f e c t u a l , a miniature version of the larger bomb which i s about to explode and which also i s not without i t s f a r c i c a l consequences. On one l e v e l , t h i s perspectivist or c u b i s t - l i k e point of view attempts to be, l i k e stream of consciousness, mimetic of i n d i v i d u a l perceptual f r a g -  133  mentation.  Like Winnie and Heat i n The Secret Agent, characters i n Peters-  burg f l a i l hopelessly i n the conf ines of their limited points of view attempting to understand the whole.  In Petersburg there i s the added  d i f f i c u l t y that that unity i t s e l f has been fragmented.  On another  level,  however, the device also fragments the narrative i n terms of the reader's experience, f o r he i s as limited and f l a i l s almost as hopelessly as the characters.  Had the narrator allowed himself omniscience when describing  such events as Sergei's attempted  suicide, then the whole would have been  restored and the reader would have experienced, not perspectivism, but dramatic irony.  As i t i s , the reader, l i k e Sergei and Sofia, has no way of  unifying the object of perception u n t i l b o t h — o r a l l — s i d e s of the event have been narrated.  The same holds true for Stevie's death i n The Secret  Agent. Characters i n Petersburg are, then, threatened by a solipsism which r e s u l t s from their i n a b i l i t y to unify their immediate worlds; they are unable to control either the s p a t i a l or temporal orderings of their r e a l i t y . Hyacinth faces a similar kind of solipsism when h i s world collapses.  But  whereas for James the source of solipsism l i e s i n an incorrect view of the world to begin with, f o r Bely the source of solipsism i s the very apocalyptic nature of the age.  Thus, just as the bomb which N i k o l a i loses w i l l  explode  his own immediate world according to i t s own laws of time and space, the apocalyptic age w i l l reorder the very age i n which the characters of Petersburg l i v e .  Samuel D. Cioran concurs:  The ticking bomb becomes, therefore, the arch-symbol of apocalypse not only for the characters of the novel, but indeed for Petersburg, Russia and a l l con-  134  cepts about r e a l i t y of the perceived world.  The only strategy a v a i l a b l e to characters faced with such a cosmic bomb i s to organize, unify and systematize their l i v e s as much as they can.  That i s why  the c i t y of Petersburg  i s such an enticing i l l u s i o n ; i t s  " r e c t i l i n e a r prospects" offer a s u p e r f i c i a l geometry to the obscure chaos which frequently, l i k e the fog and smoke, hangs over the c i t y . chant for order and geometry also appears prominently  The pen-  i n The Secret Agent,  iii the sense that Verloc and the Inspector, for: example, think that they can plan and control events i n a r a t i o n a l i s t i c way,  though the Greenwich  bomb, that sudden hole i n time and space, proves them wrong.  Similarly,  Apollon i s so f e a r f u l of Russia's cold, ice-locked landscapes  and so  intimidated by the disorderliness of the factory workers on the o u t s k i r t s of bureaucracy, that he arranges h i s own he can muster.  l i f e with a l l the geometry that  Thus, a l l of his personal belongings are catalogued  and  placed, according to compass points, on a l p h a b e t i c a l l y lettered shelves. His gloves, for example, appear on shelf B-northwest.  Apollon f e e l s most  secure and removed from disorder, the unwashed masses and the solipsism of apocalypse,  when he rides i n h i s cube-like carriage with i t s "four per-  pendicular walls."  The cube, i n fact, i s for Apollon a kind of Dickensian  tag:  After the l i n e , the f i g u r e which soothed him more than a l l other symmetries was the square. At times, for hours on end, he would lapse into an unthinking contemplation of pyramids, triangles, parallelepipeds, cubes, and trapezoids. While dwelling i n the center of the black, perfect s a t i n - l i n e d cube, Apollon Apollonovich revelled  135  at length i n the quadrangular walls. Apollon Apollonovich was born f o r s o l i t a r y confinement. Only h i s love f o r the plane geometry of the state had invested him i n the polyhedrality of a responsi b l e position'(P, p. 11).  N i k o l a i i s less extreme, but nonetheless,  h i s obsession with Kant  (The C r i t i q u e of Pure Reason) makes him uncomfortable with disorder and fragmentation.  Much of the irony i n Petersburg r e s u l t s from the characters'  i n e f f e c t u a l f i g h t against the chaos of their immediate l i v e s ; this same f i g h t functions as a kind of synecdoche for the larger f i g h t they face with the more pervading  threat of apocalyptic chaos.  I t i s a f i g h t f o r which  they are, apparently, unprepared, f o r N i k o l a i , we are told, has never read the book of Revelation. sessed with upholding  And of course, i t i s i r o n i c that Apollon, so ob-  the status quo, should have a name close to that of  Apollyon, the King of Angels i n the bottomless p i t described i n Revelation. The ticking bomb i s a constant reminder to the reader that their f r a n t i c e f f o r t s to maintain composure i n the face of the apocalyptic threat are doomed to f a i l u r e .  Yet when the bomb goes off, i t hurts no one; Apollon i s only mildly shaken; Anna Petrovna returns to Spain, and N i k o l a i retreats safely to Egypt.  "Someone" i s questioned  by the authorities but no one i s arrested.  We are forced by this a n t i - c l i m a c t i c undercutting of suspense, by the unexpected closure, to r e a l i z e that the most spectacular explosion i s the one which has been going on during the entire narrative.  In a sense, the  characters experience i t ; they f i g h t against i t unknowingly at every f o i l e d turn they make.  And as readers we c e r t a i n l y experience the explosion of  136  conventional nineteenth-century narrative l i n e .  But because the apoca-  l y p t i c mover i s outside the comprehension of characters' immediate experience, and because this same explosive f o r c e — t h e spoiler of unifying centres—governs  the narrative, the text assumes i t s absent-centred  nature.  Conrad's. "sudden holes i n time and space" imply a kind of moth-eaten unity, destructive gaps i n the moral and s o c i a l f a b r i c of society. ragged, undoubtedly, but i t i s s t i l l recognizably c l o t h . modern unity i s much more complete i n i t s d i s i n t e g r a t i o n .  The cloth i s  Bely's v i s i o n of Thus, what  Lippanchenko, the double agent i n the novel, imagines just before.his death, accurately describes the absent-centred  structure of Petersburg:  The c e n t r i p e t a l sensation has been l o s t ; we are blown to b i t s ; and only the consciousness of shattered sensations remains whole (P, p. 262).  137  Notes.  ^ Oleg A. M a s l e n i k o v , The F r e n z i e d P o e t s : Andrey B i e l y and t h e R u s s i a n S y m b o l i s t s ( B e r k e l e y : U n i v e r s i t y o f C a l i f o r n i a P r e s s , 1952), p. 84. 2 A n d r e i B e l y , Memoirs, as quoted i n K o n s t a n t i n M o c h u l s k y j A n d r e i B e l y : H i s L i f e and Works, t r a n s l a t e d by Nora S z a l a v i t z (Ann A r b o r , M i c h i g a n : A r d i s , 1977), p. 147. 3 Samuel D. G i o r a n , The A p o c a l y p t i c Symbolism o f A n d r e j B e l y j (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), p. 138. The c r i t i c quoted i n C i o r a n ' s passage i s A l e k s a n d r Z a k r z e v s k i j , R e l i g i j a : P s i x o l o g i c e s k i e p a r a l l e l ! ' ( K i e v , 1973), p. 111. 4 A n d r e i B e l y , P e t e r s b u r g , t r a n s l a t e d by Robert A. Maguire and John E. Malmstad ( B l o o m i n g t o n : I n d i a n a U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1978), p. 163. F u r t h e r c i t a t i o n s as P_. The 1959 t r a n s l a t i o n o f t h e n o v e l by John Cournos (New Y o r k : Grove) i s now g e n e r a l l y agreed t o be i n a d e q u a t e . I have cons u l t e d i t o n l y f o r comparison's sake i n p a r t i c u l a r l y d i f f i c u l t passages. 5  S i d n e y Monas, " U n r e a l C i t y , " i n Chicago Review 13 (1959): 1Q2-112, p. 111.  Helene Hartman-Kyer, "The Time Bomb," i n Andrey B e l y , A C r i t i c a l Review, e d i t e d by G e r a l d Janacek ( L e x i n g t o n , Kentucky: U n i v e r s i t y o f Kentucky P r e s s , 1978), p. 124. ^ N i n a B e r b e r o v a , "A Memoir and a Comment: The ' C i r c l e ' o f P e t e r s b u r g , " i n Andrey B e l y , A C r i t i c a l Review, e d i t e d by G e r a l d Janacek ( L e x i n g t o n , Kentucky: U n i v e r s i t y o f Kentucky P r e s s , 1978), p. 116. Henry James, The A r t o f t h e N o v e l (New Y o r k : S c r i b n e r ' s , 1962), p. 110. 9  As quoted i n N i n a B e r b e r o v a , "A Memoir and a Comment," p. 116.  138  Sharon Spencer's n o t i o n of t h e " a r c h i t e c t o n i c n o v e l " s u p p o r t s the n o t i o n of James's M o d e r n i s t p e r s p e c t i v i s m . Indeed, her own geometry seems i n s p i r e d by James: I n the c e n t e r i s the s u b j e c t of t h e n o v e l , the t h i n g that i s being observed. Each c i r c u m f e r e n c e about t h i s c e n t e r p o i n t may be s a i d to r e p r e s e n t a type of p e r s p e c t i v e , and each i n d i v i d u a l p o i n t upon t h a t c i r c u m f e r e n c e d e s i g n a t e s a s p e c i f i c s t a n d p o i n t i n time and space from w h i c h t h e c e n t e r i s r e g a r d e d . See: Space, Time and S t r u c t u r e i n t h e Modern N o v e l U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1971), p. 87. ^  As quoted i n N i n a B e r b e r o v a ,  (New York: New  York  "A Memoir and a Comment," pp. 116-117,  12 Andrey B e l y , K o t i k L e t a e v , t r a n s l a t e d by G e r a l d Janacek A r b o r , M i c h i g a n : A r d i s , 1971), p. 16.  (Ann  13 John E l l s w o r t h , " A n d r e i B e l y ' s Theory of Symbolism," i n Forum f o r Modern Language S t u d i e s , 2 (1975): 327. E l l s w o r t h i s paraphrasing B e l y ' s A r a b e s k i (Arabesques) Moscow, 1911. 14 Robert A. M a g u i r e and John E. Malmstad, " T r a n s l a t o r ' s I n t r o d u c t i o n , " P e t e r s b u r g (Bloomington, I n d i a n a : I n d i a n a U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1978) , p. x i v . ^ A l a i n R o b b e - G r i l l e t , Two N o v e l s by R o b b e - G r i l l e t : J e a l o u s y and I n The L a b y r i n t h , t r a n s l a t e d by R i c h a r d Howard (New Y o r k : Grove, 1965), p. 144. ^ The f u l l e s t treatment of B e l y ' s S y m b o l i s t t h e o r y a p a r t from b i o g r a p h y i s J . D. E l l s w o r t h ' s " A n d r e i B e l y ' s Theory of Symbolism," i n Forum f o r Modern Language S t u d i e s , 2 ( 1 9 7 5 ) : 305-333. ^ Robert A. Maguire and John E. Malmstad note the e x p l i c i t a l l u s i o n to P o r f i r y P e t r o v i c h , the i n t e r r o g a t o r i n Crime and Punishment who i s d e s c r i b e d as a bouncing b a l l . P e t e r s b u r g , p. 337. And P a t r i c i a M e r i v a l e n o t i c e s t h a t Orr i n Catch-22 s t r e n g t h e n s h i s hands by squeezing rubber balls. " ' L i k e one of those c r a z y guys you read about,' perhaps a zany t r i b u t e to t h e P r o f e s s o r . " See: "Catch-22 and The S e c r e t Agent: M e c h a n i c a l Man, The H o l e i n the C e n t r e , and t h e ' P r i n c i p l e of I n b u i l t Chaos,'" i n E n g l i s h S t u d i e s i n Canada, 8 (1981) 4: 428.  139  Like many other themes i n Petersburg, the parricide theme i s prefigured i n Bely's early work. See the short story, "Adam" (1908), i n Andrey Bely, Complete Short Stories, translated by Ronald Peterson (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1979). In this story the son returns to k i l l the reactionary father and thereby ushers i n a new era. He observes about h i s father that "He's s w e l l i n g — s w e l l i n g into h i s grave," p. 117. 19 I am indebted to Robert A. Maguire and John E. Malmstad f o r the observation i n Petersburg, p. 318. 20 As quoted i n Nina Berberova, "A Memoir and a Comment," p. 16. In the same way, Bely also continues the Russian l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n of the c i t y of Petersburg i n Pushkin, Gogol and Dostovesky. For a d i s cussion of t h i s t r a d i t i o n see: Ada Steinberg, "Fragmentary 'Prototypes' in Andrey Bely's Novel Petersburg," i n The Slavonic and East European Review, 56, 4 (October, 1978): 522-45. 21 Samuel D. Cioran, The Apocalyptic Symbolism of Andrej B e l y j , p. 138.  i  140  CHAPTER V  Joseph H e l l e r ' s Catch-22:  The S e c r e t of Snowden  I f the absent c e n t r e of The S e c r e t Agent r e s u l t s from the n a r r a t i o n o f a c e n t r a l event which i s p u r p o s e f u l l y a v o i d e d , and  indirect i f the ab-  sent c e n t r e i n P e t e r s b u r g r e s u l t s from a n a r r a t i v e p e r s p e c t i v i s m which i s mimetic  o f a world view o f d i s u n i t y and f r a g m e n t a t i o n , then Joseph  Catch-22 (1955) r e p r e s e n t s an amalgam o f those two  strategies.  and s p a t i a l s t r u c t u r i n g o f Catch-22 i s j u s t as d i s r u p t i v e — i f  Heller's  The  temporal  not more  so—  than i n P e t e r s b u r g , w h i l e a t the same time, H e l l e r r e l i e s on Conrad's d e v i c e of r e l u c t a n t l y but i n e x o r a b l y r e t u r n i n g event.  to a c e n t r a l l y  absented  Thus, j u s t as the n a r r a t i v e o f The S e c r e t Agent i s always  directed  towards a d d i t i o n a l d i s c o v e r i e s which l e a d to the t r u t h c o n c e r n i n g S t e v i e ' s death and the c i r c u m s t a n c e s s u r r o u n d i n g the e x p l o s i o n , so i n Catch-22, g r a d u a l l y expanding  the  n a r r a t i v e f l a s h b a c k s p o i n t to the t r u t h of Snowden's  d e a t h and i t s subsequent  e f f e c t s on Y o s s a r i a n ' s b e h a v i o u r .  But whereas c h a r a c t e r s i n The S e c r e t Agent must imagine or r e c o n s t r u c t S t e v i e ' s death, i n Catch-22, proximity.  Y o s s a r i a n w i t n e s s e s Snowden's death i n p a i n f u l  S t e v i e ' s death appears d i s t a n c e d by v i r t u e of the f a c t  that  the d e t a i l s and c i r c u m s t a n c e s become i n c r e a s i n g l y vague as V e r l o c and S t e v i e t r a v e l from the house to Greenwich Park.  We  have a v e r y p a r t i c u l a r ,  almost o m n i s c i e n t knowledge of what t r a n s p i r e s i n the domestic  scenes of  141  the Verloc household, but when Stevie and Verloc leave the house, we see them only from Winnie's point of view.  From a distance (and from behind),  they appear to her as "father and son,"the kind of relationship she wishes i t to be, but which can exist only i n her imagination when they are removed from the domestic r e a l i t y which shows her i t i s otherwise.  We seem to be  losing touch with the pair, for after this point, we have only the f r a g mentary observations of people i n the Maze H i l l station.  Then, as though  Conrad i s removing Stevie from the narrative focus altogether, Verloc sends Stevie alone into the park with the f a t a l bomb.  Like the footsteps and the  s t r e e t l i g h t s t r a v e l l i n g o f f into eternity, Stevie, too, seems to be t r a v e l l ing into the void, into one of those "sudden holes i n time and space." Petersburg also f i t s the distancing pattern i n the sense that Apollon and N i k o l a i imagine but never experience their own deaths by explosion, and i n the sense that the explosion i s "removed" because N i k o l a i has l o s t the bomb— when and where i t w i l l explode, they can only guess.  In f a c t , they are i n  another part of the house when the bomb f i n a l l y detonates i n the dining room.  Thus, the explosion which occurs i s a mere shadow of the apocalyptic  one they feared.  Yossarian, however, meets face to face the experience of  gruesome death; Snowden's very e n t r a i l s "explode" into Yossarian's view.  A  piece of f l a k has "blasted out" and created a "gigantic hole i n [Snowden's] ribs."  1  Yossarian was cold too, and shivering uncontrollably. He f e l t goose pimples clacking a l l over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had s p i l l e d a l l over the messy f l o o r . I t was easy to read the message i n his e n t r a i l s . Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and h e ' l l f a l l . Set f i r e to him and h e ' l l burn.  142  Bury him and h e ' l l r o t , l i k e o t h e r k i n d s of garbage. The s p i r i t gone, man i s garbage. That was Snowden's s e c r e t . Ripeness was a l l (C-22, pp. 457-58).  The f l a s h b a c k s t o t h i s scene, i n t e r s p e r s e d throughout the t e x t , seem to o c c u r r e l u c t a n t l y , as though a g a i n s t Y o s s a r i a n ' s w i l l . F r e u d i a n way,  He i s , i n the  a v i c t i m of r e p r e s s i o n , o f r e l e g a t i n g to the subconscious  h o r r o r too d i s t u r b i n g to be lodged.permanently i n the c o n s c i o u s mind.  a So  whereas c h a r a c t e r s i n The S e c r e t Agent t r y d e s p e r a t e l y to know about S t e v i e ' s d e a t h , Y o s s a r i a n would r a t h e r f o r g e t Snowden's, e s p e c i a l l y because rememberi n g i s a p a i n f u l reminder of h i s own  vulnerability.  Conrad's.characters,  however i n e f f e c t u a l l y , pursue knowledge w h i c h i s "by a c c i d e n t " d i s t a n c e d from them; Y o s s a r i a n f l e e s an immediately  experienced  knowledge t h a t i s too  h o r r i b l e to c o n t e m p l a t e .  D e s p i t e t h i s d i f f e r e n c e i n the n a r r a t i v e d i s t a n c i n g of the absent c e n t r e , S t e v i e ' s d e a t h , when the d e t a i l s a r e f i n a l l y r e c o n s t r u c t e d , i s d e s c r i b e d w i t h some i m p o r t a n t  s i m i l a r i t i e s t o Snowden's d e a t h .  The  local  p o l i c e c o n s t a b l e i n The S e c r e t Agent l a y s out S t e v i e ' s remains f o r I n s p e c t o r Heat i n a "heap o f nameless f r a g m e n t s " t h a t i s j u s t as s h o c k i n g as " d a n g l i n g shreds of d r y i n g f l e s h " and  the  " m o t t l e d q u a r t s of Snowden" t h a t a r e  l a i d out f o r Y o s s a r i a n : Another waterproof sheet was spread i n the manner of a t a b l e c l o t h w i t h up over a s o r t of mound—a heap of b l o o d s t a i n e d , h a l f c o n c e a l i n g what a c c u m u l a t i o n of raw m a t e r i a l f o r a p. 7 7 ) .  over t h a t t a b l e the c o r n e r s turned r a g s , scorched and might have been an c a n n i b a l f e a s t (SA,  143  Snowden's meat,"  leg  and  wound w h i c h Y o s s a r i a n t h i n k s  "the  bits  of  stewed  tomatoes"  looked  that  like  "live  hamburger  Y o s s a r i a n sees  spilling  with  2 Snowden's v i s c e r a response  from  Stevie's  remains  novels to  a revulsion  the  the  of  body  is  straddle  the  a  agent,  code of  fence  that  Yossarian  of  but  to  die  absurdity,  of  the  so  deeply violated  and  liberal  l i f e  But than the  a  the  for  thematic  Agent,  bungled  the  them  and  the  Snowden's death),  it  text  into  agent  the  is who,  to  victim,  not  of  like  human d e s i r e death  to  like  such,  Heller  of  is  points  to  a  a late  descendent  values  human l i f e ,  physical  of  like  with  whose m o r a l  slightly  its  live  others.  here  since  unknowable  as H e l l e r lacks  to  Stevie's,  Conrad)  disperses,  fragments,  Stevie  and  men  symbolical world  Because the  how f r a g i l e  w h i c h demands o f  differs  repetition,  "garbage,"  an attempt  which  both  exemplary  sanctity  be n o t e d ,  In  the  then,  the  to  up  is  bringing  James and  against  in  Snowden i s  the  As  sick.  a double  "catch-22"  contradict  shovels  corrupt.  d e v i s e d by  establishment  should  narrative  who  "matter"  uses Stevie  and h o r r o r .  in  by  loyalties.  bind,  d e v i c e of  function.  into  plot  nature,  (Dickens,  exists  temporal  avoidance of  Secret  him  it  makes  mere  victimized  s e r v i c e of  crimes  Bely,  to  park  the  is  they  f u t i l i t y  by  literally,  Snowden's death,  moralists  spiritual.  much o f  of  the  understandable  it  a double  the  of  The  illustrates  military  in  feast."  decomposition which  moral  Snowden t h a t  The r e p e t i t i o n inanity,  and  his  of  keeper  that,  duplicitous  ruthless  and  willingness  when  of  the  "raw m a t e r i a l , "  a cowardly  slothfulness  double  to  and u n n a t u r a l  vulnerable  the  is  reduced  a wasteful  in  Conrad's "cannibal  b o t h Y o s s a r i a n and  man i s  victim  suggest  uses centre  it, (by  and  so  realities.  has  more  virtue  P e t e r s b u r g and  temporally  are  spatially  of  The dis-  144  rupted  scenes w h i c h a r e r e p e a t e d and  s h i f t e d backwards and  a w e l l - s h u f f l e d deck o f p l a y i n g c a r d s .  The  forwards  like  h o s p i t a l scenes, the scene i n  w h i c h Y o s s a r i a n appears naked i n a t r e e , M i l o ' s numerous c a p i t a l i s t i c ventures,  and  the v a r i o u s bombing m i s s i o n s  a l l f i t this pattern.  immediate e f f e c t of such a d e v i c e i s , o f c o u r s e ,  to d i s o r i e n t the  a s e r i o u s " d e f a m i l i a r i z a t i o n " , to use t h e F o r m a l i s t term.  The reader,  However, as  the  scenes a r e r e t o l d , or r e s h u f f l e d , u s u a l l y w i t h a d d i t i o n a l i n f o r m a t i o n , c h r o n o l o g y and itself.  The  the " l o g i c a l " sense of the n a r r a t i v e b e g i n  to  the  reconstruct  scene w h i c h h e l p s to o r g a n i z e most t h i s a n a r c h i c n a r r a t i v e i s  Snowden's d e a t h because, i n the sense t h a t t h e n a r r a t i v e i s an analogue for  Yossarian's  source—just perience  consciousness,  as Y o s s a r i a n ' s  i t owes i t s f r a g m e n t a r y n a t u r e to t h a t  a n t i c s and  confusions  o r i g i n a t e from the  ex-  of Snowden's d e a t h .  Some of the c r i t i c a l  c o n f u s i o n about Catch-22 r e s u l t s from  the  r e l u c t a n c e o f c r i t i c s to g i v e Snowden's d e a t h t h a t prominent p o s i t i o n . C l i n t o n S. Burhans J r . , f o r example, s t r e s s e s M i l o as a u n i f y i n g f o r c e i n 3  the n o v e l ;  John Wain a t t e m p t s to t r e a t the n o v e l as a r e a l i s t i c r e n d i t i o n  of World War  I I f l y i n g e x p e r i e n c e and r a t h e r u n c o n v i n c i n g l y  explains  the 4  novel's and  t e x t u r e as an a c c u r a t e  p i c t u r e of "the f a c t s of a f l y e r ' s  life";  James M. M e l l a r d sees the t r e e scene i n w h i c h Y o s s a r i a n r e j e c t s M i l o  as the c e n t e r of g r a v i t y of the n o v e l , f o r i n t h a t scene o c c u r t h e keys to H e l l e r ' s method, t h e p i v o t a l p o i n t i n Y o s s a r i a n ' s development, and t h e images of d e a t h and b i r t h t h a t g i v e t h e n a r r a t i v e i t s shape and s i g nificance.-*  145  In that same a r t i c l e , however, Mellard also claims that  the narrative center of the novel i s Yossarian's p a i n f u l recognition of h i s own mortality and personal involvement, h i s acceptance of i n d i v i d u a l g u i l t and a need for a new set of values.^  Inasmuch as Yossarian's  "painful recognition of h i s own mortality" i s a  d i r e c t r e s u l t of Snowden's death, Mellard i s closest to the mark.  Here,  as i n other absent-centred novels, c r i t i c s seem to have d i f f i c u l t y focusing on the c o n t r o l l i n g function of a force, scene or event which the author i n t e n t i o n a l l y absents.  Jan Solomon, however, chooses Snowden's  death for s p e c i a l treatment and agrees that i t i s "the c r i t i c a l event i n the novel," and Tony Tanner agrees that " I t i s the spectacle of Snowden's h o r r i b l e death that the book c i r c l e s around...."^  The event i s both  c r i t i c a l and c e n t r a l because, l i k e the explosion which k i l l s Stevie i n The Secret Agent, the explosion of f l a k which k i l l s Snowden i s both a source for  the fragmentary texture of the novel and the c l i m a c t i c end or solution  to which the narrative inexorably moves. patient slowly unearthing  Rather l i k e a psychotherapy  the centre or the structure of his neurosis,  Catch-22 gradually approaches the "grim secret" which explains i t s d i s ruptions.  So too Yossarian  i s a kind of patient (he i s very fond of  h o s p i t a l s ) , for so shattered i s h i s psyche by Snowden's death that his perception of the war  likewise assumes a shattered nature.  that much of the narrative i s r e a l l y mimetic of Yossarian's  This means consciousness,  though the f i r s t person pronoun and the other textual clues which would normally place a narrative within an i n d i v i d u a l ' s consciousness are absent. We are compelled to situate portions of the t h i r d person narrative, espe-  146  c i a l l y the repeated flashbacks, within Yossarian's mind because they are so e f f e c t i v e l y coloured by a s t y l e and voice that simulates Yossarian's irreverence and desperation.  Moreover, the very nature of repeated  flash-  back seems to be that i t cannot remain innocently omniscient; the reader accommodates i t by treating i t as a device which i s d e s c r i p t i v e of i n d i v i d g ual consciousness and of memory i n p a r t i c u l a r . The r e p e t i t i o n of Snowden's death, however, i s more than simply a recurring  scene employed as symbol and disrupter of chronology.  i t i s wrong to c a l l the device r e p e t i t i o n at a l l , since new always added when the scene i s replayed. as a structuring device of expansion,  Really,  information i s  I t i s more accurately described  for the circumstances  of Snowden's  death are at f i r s t told only sparingly, and then gradually, as the scene i s remembered, more d e t a i l and description are added u n t i l a l l of the facts are clear to us.  At f i r s t , for example, we know only that "Snowden had  been k i l l e d over Avignon when Dobbs went crazy i n mid-air and seized the controls away from Huple" (C-22, p. 30). the Snowden's of yesteryear?"  Yossarian then asks:  "Where are  No one, however, understands what Yossarian  i s talking about, and the conversation dissolves into i n a n i t i e s about Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn.  Sixteen pages l a t e r we get one long  paragraph describing the confusion i n the plane over the intercom.  At  f i r s t , Dobbs, i n control of the plane, thinks that "the bombardier" i s dying.  The bombardier i s , however, Yossarian, who  paragraph ends with the single sentence: (C-22, p. 46).  This small but important  "And  is s t i l l alive.  The  Snowden lay dying i n back"  confusion as to who  i s actually  dead or dying i s not unlike the larger confusion surrounding Stevie's  147  death i n The Secret Agent i n which Ossipon and the Professor speculate from newspaper reports that i t i s Verloc who has been k i l l e d .  In The Secret  Agent the confusion, which i s more extended than i n Catch-22 i n the service of suspense, underlines, when i t i s sorted out, the horror of Stevie's death.  That i s to say, i t i s " l o g i c a l " or understandable  that Verloc, a  double agent dealing with anarchists and police, should die, but i t i s i n explicable and morally grotesque  that a half-wit c h i l d l i v i n g under h i s  protection should be blown to b i t s .  In Catch-22, the confusion suggests an  i d e n t i f i c a t i o n or a degree of interchangeability between Yossarian and Snowden, f o r the lesson that Yossarian learns i s that, i n the randomness of war,  he i s especially vulnerable.  Snowden's death brings powerfully home  to him not only the r e a l i z a t i o n that he i s mortal but also the r e a l i z a t i o n that h i s death w i l l be neither " s p e c i a l " nor s i g n i f i c a n t .  Yossarian dead  or Snowden d e a d — i t makes no difference i n the context of war.  Clevinger,  l i k e Yossarian, i s also puzzled by the fact that war does not d i s t i n g u i s h when i t comes to death:  Clevinger knew everything about the war except why Yossarian had to d i e while Corporal Snark was allowed to l i v e , or why Corporal Snark had to d i e while Yossarian was allowed to l i v e . . . That men would d i e was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance... (C-22, p. 65, Heller's emphasis). Following the long paragraph which stresses the confusion of i d e n t i t i e s i n the back of the plane, there are only a few passing references to Snowden u n t i l the scene where we learn that Yossarian moves through the crawl space to the back of the plane to help Snowden who, wounded, l i e s there "freezing to death" (C-22, p. 230). But the chapter quickly turns to other matters,  148  such as the plot to k i l l Cathcart and Milo's egg ventures.  There are  again only passing references to Snowden u n t i l pages 343-44, when we learn that Yossarian t r i e s to bandage Snowden's "wrong wound" which i s "the yawning, raw, melon-shaped hole as big as a f o o t b a l l i n the outside of his thigh."  Once more, however, the matter i s dropped and not u n t i l page 453  i s the f u l l scene played out i n i t s expanded form to a powerful conclusion. The memory of the f u l l scene i s triggered by Yossarian's sensation of f e e l i n g cold as he l i e s i n hospital, "bathed a "throbbing c h i l l  i n an i c y sweat" and f e e l i n g  [oozing] up his legs" (C-22, p. 453).  Once more,  Yossarian's i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with Snowden i s stressed, for Snowden's r e f r a i n as he l i e s dying i n the plane i s "I'm  cold."  This death scene i n Catch-22 functions, then, as an expanding symbol, not unlike the bomb i n Petersburg which i s described as a "rapid of gases" and which s i g n i f i e s the ever-expanding  expansion  threat of explosion.  The  force of the bomb's threat i s the image of the hole which characters imagine i t w i l l leave when exploded, one just l i k e Snowden's wound, a "yawning, raw, melon-shaped hole as big as a f o o t b a l l . "  And Yossarian,  every b i t as paranoid as N i k o l a i , r e a l i z e s that he i s involved i n a war which threatens to do the same to him—reduce him to nothingness,  to a  gaping hole.  H e l l e r ' s comic yet poignant use of mushroom imagery reinforces the s t r u c t u r a l pattern of expansion, points to the apocalypse of atomic  ex-  plosion, and at the same time, connects Yossarian's condition to the c r u c i a l event of Snowden's death on the Avignon mission.  In the same way  that Bely's narrative expanded from the topographical point of Petersburg,  149  infusing and reinforcing i t s e l f with echoes of that image (the bomb, Apollon's heart, d i l a t i n g eyes, and Nikolai's expanding toy), so too Heller finds images which echo the narrative expansion that originates with Snowden's death.  After the Bologna mission, during which Yossarian per-  suades Kid Simpson to turn back, Yossarian goes immediately to his tent and s t r i p s :  "He f e l t much better as soon as he was naked."  He then goes  swimming, but on h i s way through a path i n the woods, he notices that  ... two of the three enlisted men stationed there lay sleeping on the c i r c l e of sand bags and the t h i r d sat eating a purple pomegranate, b i t i n g o f f large mouthfuls between his churning jaws and spewing the ground roughage out away from him into the bushes. When he b i t , red j u i c e ran out of h i s mouth. Yossarian padded ahead into the forest again, caressing h i s bare, t i n g l i n g b e l l y adoringly from time to time as though to reassure himself i t was a l l s t i l l there. He r o l l e d a piece of l i n t out of h i s navel. Along the ground suddenly, on both sides of the path, he saw dozens of new mushrooms the r a i n had spawned poking their nodular fingers up through the clammy earth l i k e l i f e l e s s stalks of f l e s h , sprouting i n such necrotic profusion everywhere he looked that they seemed to be p r o l i f e r a t i n g r i g h t before his eyes. There were thousands of them swarming as f a r back into the underbrush as he could see, and they appeared to swell i n s i z e and multiply i n number as he spied them. He hurried away from them with a shiver of eerie alarm and did not slacken h i s pace u n t i l the s o i l crumbled to dry sand beneath his feet and they had been l e f t behind. He glanced back apprehensively, half expecting to f i n d the limp white things crawling a f t e r him i n sightless pursuit or snaking up through the treetops in a writhing and ungovernable mass (C-22, pp. 144-45).  Like the stewed tomatoes that s p i l l with Snowden's v i t a l organs into Yossarian's view, the "roughage" and the "red j u i c e " spew from the pomegranate, another image of cannibalism which i s p a r a l l e l to ones i n The Secret Agent and which functions here for Yossarian as echo of Snowden's  150  death but for us as portent, since we read this passage some three hundred pages before the f u l l description of his death.  Worried that a fate  similar to Snowden's w i l l b e f a l l him, Yossarian caresses reassure himself that i t has not been "exploded."  h i s stomach to  (As early as page s i x -  teen, the explosion motif i s established, for "Yossarian gorged himself i n the mess h a l l u n t i l he thought he would explode....")  The mushrooms, too,  are an exploding image, f o r they appear to "swell i n s i z e " and "multiply in number," and since they are l i k e "nodular f i n g e r s " and "stalks of f l e s h , " they also suggest the phallus, which Yossarian, no doubt, considers the most " v i t a l " l i f e - g i v i n g organ of a l l .  But as f l e s h , the mushrooms  are also "necrotic" and " l i f e l e s s , " and so appear to Yossarian as Snowden's shattered remnants reincarnating themselves to haunt and  horrify—Stevie's  fragments i n Winnie's imagination haunt j u s t as powerfully.  On yet another  l e v e l , the mushrooms, because they s i g n i f y p o t e n t i a l explosion, also suggest the "mushrooming clusters of f l a k " (C-22, p. 147), mentioned during the Bologna mission.  And since, f o r us, the "mushroom cloud" i s synonymous  with wartime disaster of apocalyptic proportions, Heller makes, here, a kind of anachronistic and tragi-comic joke.  It i s also s i g n i f i c a n t that Yossarian sees these mushrooms on his way  to have a swim, for on his return from the Avignon mission, during  which Snowden was k i l l e d , we know that Doc Daneeka helped Yossarian, stunned and speechless, from the plane and "washed Snowden o f f him with cold wet b a l l s of absorbent cotton" (C-22, p. 268).  Because Yossarian  feels that he i s unclean, that he has been contaminated  with Snowden's  mortality, he i s , from this point onwards, irreparably s e n s i t i z e d .  We  151  understand h i s disquiet, then, when during the second mission to Bologna, McWatt takes the plane on a sharp climb upwards to avoid gunshot and makes a quick turn that "sucked  [Yossarian's] insides out i n one enervating  s n i f f and l e f t him f l o a t i n g f l e s h l e s s i n mid-air" (C-22, p. 148). Similarly, we understand why Yossarian f e e l s threatened by a "mutative mass" of mushrooms that appear so much l i k e the v i t a l organs which he so preciously guards as the source of his own continued existence.  Neverthe-  less, swimming " u n t i l he f e l t clean" i s not s a t i s f a c t o r y purgation, f o r just as he i s relaxing on the beach (the same beach on which he watched McWatt's airplane k i l l Kid Sampson), the sound of airplane engines returning from the Bologna mission remind him that he i s s t i l l trapped i n the snare of catch-22, that he s t i l l must f l y more missions, and that he must face death yet again.  In fact, each of the novels that we have so f a r discussed (and Gravity's Rainbow w i l l not be excepted)  foregrounds this prominent theme  of a great fear of the o b l i t e r a t i n g power of death.  Hyacinth, i n The  Princess Casamassima, discovers that h i s mother committed murder, and when he i s l a t e r asked to shoot a Duke, thereby repeating the crime which has overshadowed h i s l i f e , he refuses to do so and k i l l s himself instead. Much of The Secret Agent concerns i t s e l f with various characters' obsession with the actual moment of Stevie's death, and they display a grotesque fascination f o r the d e t a i l s of h i s dismemberment.  The Professor, to be  sure, c a r r i e s the obsession with death to i t s extreme, keeping, as he does, a bomb i n h i s pocket.  Similarly, Petersburg i s f l u s h with imagery  of impending death by explosion and paranoid characters incapacitated by  152  thoughts of their own mortality.  So great i s this fear of death that i t expands to image i t s e l f i n terms of apocalypse and universal death.  Hyacinth, distressed and d i s -  i l l u s i o n e d , sees London i n such a corrupt way  that he asks himself "What  remedy but another deluge, what alchemy but a n n i h i l a t i o n ? " and wonders "for  a planet overgrown with such vermin, what redemption but to be hurled  against a b a l l of consuming f i r e " (PC, p. 410).  In The Secret Agent,  the Professor's solution for the weak i s comparable: dom  of earth.  Exterminate.  Exterminate!"  "Theirs i s the king-  (SA, p. 243).  Apocalyptic  death i n Conrad's novel assumes i t s power, not i n the largeness of a single explosion or death, but i n the vastness of a pervasive atmosphere of isolated deaths i n the labyrinthine c i t y .  Thus, the infirm horse  which carries Winnie's mother i n "the cab of Death i t s e l f " i s no mere nag but "the steed of apocalyptic misery" (SA, p. 139) as though p u l l i n g a grim conveyance for the numerous dead.  Bely prefers the grand gesture i n  Petersburg, and so characters' observations, perceptions and speculations usually expand to cosmic proportions that include past, present and future. N i k o l a i , as he ponders the predicament of the activated bomb i n his house, suddenly sees the sun casting i t s rays into the room:  It cast i t s sword-beams. The thousand-armed age-old t i t a n illuminated spires, roofs and the s c l e r o t i c forehead pressed against the pane. The thousand-armed t i t a n mutely lamented i t s solitude out there: "Come ye, come unto the age-old sun!" But the sun seemed to him a c o l o s s a l thousandlegged tarantula, f l i n g i n g i t s e l f on the earth with insane passion (P_, p. 157).  153  And l a t e r , as he wanders i n the corridor, he imagines death t h i s  way:  Everything, everything, everything: t h i s s u n l i t g l i t t e r , the walls, the body, the s o u l — e v e r y t h i n g would crash into ruins. Everything was already collapsing, collapsing, and there would be: delirium, abyss, bomb (J?, p. 157).  Yossarian, also, i n Catch-22, i s not beyond invoking the grand gesture: eloquently rants against the "phantasmagorical, air  he  cosmological wickedness" of  f i g h t s and describes dropped bombs with imagery that r i v a l s the apoca-  lyptic :  The f i r s t one f e l l i n the yard, exactly where he had aimed, and then the rest of the bombs from h i s own plane and from the other planes i n h i s f l i g h t burst open on the ground i n a charge of rapid orange flashes across the tops of the buildings, which collapsed instantly i n a vast, churning wave of pink and gray and coal-black smoke that went r o l l i n g out turbulently i n a l l d i r e c t i o n s and quaked conv u l s i v e l y i n i t s bowels as though from great blasts of red and white and golden sheet lightning (C-22, p. 148).  Each of these absent-centred  novels assumes i t s apocalyptic theme because,  in pondering the horror of v i o l e n t death and explosion, i t enlarges  the  question to ask what, i f anything, remains after the gaping hole l e f t by an explosion of apocalyptic proportions.  This hyperbolic fear of the end, of  the o b l i t e r a t i n g power of death and i t s a b i l i t y to reduce l i f e to nothingness—both one man's l i f e and a l l man's l i f e — i s well with absent-centred  structure.  a theme which co-habits  It gives symbolic resonance to the  absent centre beyond i t s structuring function for p a r t i c u l a r narrative manoeuvres.  154  Faced w i t h a war  experience  of a p o c a l y p t i c p r o p o r t i o n s t h a t p r o m i s e s  a d e a t h as gruesome as Snowden's, Y o s s a r i a n ' s " Y o s s a r i a n was 45).  the b e s t man  response i s  avoidance.  i n the group a t e v a s i v e a c t i o n . . . . " (C-22, p.  Thus, Y o s s a r i a n f i n d s i t p h y s i c a l l y prudent to a v o i d t h e " t r u t h " of  German a n t i - a i r c r a f t guns, j u s t as he f i n d s i t p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y prudent to a v o i d the t r u t h o f Snowden's d e a t h .  He can a v o i d the war  itself  i n two  way  f l y more m i s s i o n s , r e a c h the quota and be d i s c h a r g e d , or a v o i d f l y i n g a l t o g e t h e r by v i s i t i n g t h e h o s p i t a l as o f t e n as p o s s i b l e .  Of c o u r s e , n e i t h e r  s o l u t i o n i s s a t i s f a c t o r y , s i n c e C o l o n e l C a t h c a r t keeps r a i s i n g the quota of m i s s i o n s , and  s i n c e h i s minor a i l m e n t s a r e never s e r i o u s enough f o r an  tended s t a y i n h o s p i t a l . w i t h Doc  There i s a t h i r d o p t i o n w h i c h Y o s s a r i a n  Daneeka:  Y o s s a r i a n l o o k e d a t him s o b e r l y and t r i e d a n o t h e r approach. " I s Orr c r a z y ? " "He s u r e i s , " Doc Daneeka s a i d . "Can you ground him?" " I s u r e can. But f i r s t he has to a s k me t o . That's p a r t of t h e r u l e . " "Then why doesn't he ask you t o ? " "Because he's c r a z y , " Doc Daneeka s a i d . "He has to be c r a z y to keep f l y i n g combat m i s s i o n s a f t e r a l l t h e c l o s e c a l l s he's had. Sure, I can ground O r r . But f i r s t he has t o ask me t o . " "That's a l l he has to do to be grounded?" "That's a l l . L e t him ask me." "And then you can ground him?" Y o s s a r i a n a s k e d . "No. Then I can't ground him." "You mean t h e r e ' s a c a t c h ? " "Sure t h e r e ' s a c a t c h , " Doc Daneeka r e p l i e d . "Catch22. Anyone who wants t o get out of combat duty i s n ' t r e a l l y crazy." There was o n l y one c a t c h and t h a t was C a t c h - 2 2 , w h i c h s p e c i f i e d t h a t a c o n c e r n f o r one's own s a f e t y i n t h e f a c e of dangers t h a t were r e a l and immediate was the p r o c e s s o f a r a t i o n a l mind (C-22, p. 4 1 ) .  ex-  discusses  155  The  Catch-22 i s s i m u l t a n e o u s l y an a s s e r t i o n and a n e g a t i o n which, when  used a s a code f o r m i l i t a r y behaviour, i n a limbo  of n e u r o t i c u n c e r t a i n t y .  leaves characters l i k e Yossarian  I t " c a t c h e s " c h a r a c t e r s i n the double  b i n d o f a c t i o n and n o n - a c t i o n and l e a v e s them c o n t e m p l a t i n g  i t s dizzying  irrationality.  Yossarian's predecessor,  Hyacinth,  i n James's The P r i n c e s s  Casamassima, f a c e s h i s own v e r s i o n o f Catch-22. is  idealistically  On t h e one hand  Hyacinth  committed to P a u l Muniment's r e v o l u t i o n a r y aims, w h i l e  on t h e o t h e r hand, he v a l u e s t h e P r i n c e s s ' s g r a c e f u l and s o p h i s t i c a t e d world o f a r t and manners, t h e v e r y world  he has vowed to d e s t r o y .  Confronted  w i t h such an a g o n i z i n g c h o i c e and armed w i t h a h e a l t h y dose o f w e l l intended  introspection, Hyacinth  takes what he t h i n k s i s t h e o n l y  honourable o p t i o n — s u i c i d e , a l t h o u g h factorily  t h i s a c t i o n can never be s a t i s -  i d e a l i z e d because he i s a c h a r a c t e r too s m a l l f o r t r a g e d y .  James's i d e a l i s m r e s i d e s not so much i n H y a c i n t h ' s p a t h e t i c and unnecessary  Y o s s a r i a n i s n o t so p o n d e r o u s l y  n e v e r t h e l e s s , h i s moral conscience  r e a l i z e t h a t he too must opt out o f Catch-22. contrast to Hyacinth's  H i s d e c i s i o n to d e s e r t , i n  " d e s e r t i o n , " i s g e n e r a l l y viewed  i s a g r e a t e r m o r a l success  the double b i n d n o t by evading accept place.  than H y a c i n t h ' s  it,  self-conscious  i s s e n s i t i v e enough to  debate about H e l l e r ' s ending) as r e s p o n s i b l e a c t i o n . then,  c h o i c e as i n t h e  waste o f a l i f e r i c h i n s e n s i b i l i t y but im-  p o v e r i s h e d by g u l l i b i l i t y . as H y a c i n t h ;  final  ( t h e r e i s some  Yossarian's desertion,  s u i c i d e because i t s o l v e s  as H y a c i n t h does, but by r e f u s i n g t o  the f a l s e premises on which the bind i s c o n s t r u c t e d i n t h e f i r s t  156  In The Secret Agent Verloc, too, finds himself nervously under the pressure of a Catch-22, Sir Ethelred who  sweating  e s p e c i a l l y during h i s interview with  makes him account for his lack of d i l i g e n c e i n carrying  out the anarchist antics he has promised to perform.  Verloc's double bind  i s l a r g e l y the r e s u l t of his own making, for he i s , a f t e r a l l , a double agent by choice, a choice made to protect h i s own  petty c r i m i n a l i t y from  the notice of the p o l i c e .  But i t i s this very d u p l i c i t y which eventually  leads him  ignominious action.  to foolhardy and  Unlike Hyacinth, however,  he acts neither from despair nor idealism; rather, he i s motivated only by a ruthless s e l f - s e r v i n g pragmatism.  Thus, Stevie's u n c r i t i c a l l o y a l t y , a  kind of g u l l i b i l i t y , becomes Verloc's most convenient and valuable t o o l when concocting h i s plan.  Verloc's fate—seemingly  carving k n i f e — i s measure of poetic j u s t i c e .  slow death by Winnie's  Nikolai, in  Petersburg,  stumbles into a double bind not so much c r i m i n a l l y as f o o l i s h l y . Stevie and Hyacinth, he i s duped and victimized as a r e s u l t of h i s naivety.  Like own  Sworn impulsively to an anarchist act directed against his  father, he finds himself no longer with the necessary conviction to carry i t out; his error i s to treat statements of conviction c a r e l e s s l y and without regard for their seriousness, and so, unlike Hyacinth who passionately, N i k o l a i has conviction thrust upon him.  chooses  His s o l u t i o n to  the dilemma of the double bind i s mere bumbling, a comic dance which proves f u t i l e ,  since events conspire i n their own  way  regardless.  Catch-22  d i f f e r s from these others because the double bind i s not reduced to a single issue or s i t u a t i o n (to shoot or not to shoot a Duke; to explode or not to explode a bomb); rather, the double bind i n H e l l e r ' s novel i s a vague force, an unwritten  law which, while powerfully v i s i b l e i n e f f e c t ,  157  i s beyond inspection i n the obscurity of a muddled and muddling  bureaucracy.  In fact, Yossarian's r e a l triumph i s to see the s i t u a t i o n with c l a r i t y . Once he does, he can then formulate the appropriate moral  response—  desertion.  There i s also a comparison to be drawn between these texts i n regard to the spuriousness of the double bind. hero.  Hyacinth's downfall i s his own  to make a choice.  Often i t i s an i l l u s i o n of the  short-sightedness and his i n a b i l i t y  His error i s to assume that he cannot renounce commit-  ments, for he i s overly stringent and i d e a l i s t i c about their sanctity, even when he i s given the opportunity to opt out of the double bind.  He  weights the terms of his a n t i t h e s i s too symmetrically and f a i l s to r e a l i z e that both the Princess and Paul Muniment are flawed characters.  For a l l  p r a c t i c a l purposes, the c r i s i s of the bind ceases to exist when Paul gives up h i s commitment and j o i n s the Princess.  Verloc's double bind i n The  Secret Agent i s spurious i n the sense that i t i s f o o l i s h of Verloc to think that he can straddle the fence with duplicitous l o y a l t i e s and to think that he can reap benefit, safety and protection from both.  The spuriousness of  Nikolai's double bind becomes evident when we r e a l i z e how  insignificant his  dilemma r e a l l y i s , shrunk to microscopic proportions beneath the great shadow of transcendent  r e a l i t y that marches h i s t o r i c a l l y onwards regardless  of the sordid doings of Petersburg bureaucrats and anarchists.  Yossarian,  i n Catch-22, i s much more e x p l i c i t about the spuriousness of h i s dilemma. He comes to r e a l i z e l a t e i n the narrative that i t does not exist at a l l , that i t i s a mere concoction.  What began as a mystifyingly i r r a t i o n a l  rule for the discharge (actually the non-discharge  of bombardiers) has  158  grown to absolute license f o r a war bureaucracy to wield absolute power. Leaving the brothel i n Rome after i t has been raided, we f i n d Yossarian  ... cursing Catch-22 vehemently as he descended the s t a i r s , even though he knew there was no such thing. Catch-22 did not exist, he was p o s i t i v e of that, but i t made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought i t existed, and that was much worse, f o r there was no object or text to r i d i c u l e or refute, to accuse, c r i t i c i z e , attack, amend, hate, r e v i l e , spit at, r i p to shreds, trample upon or burn up (C-22, p. 424).  "Catch-22," then, at t h i s point i n the novel, i s nothing r e a l or s o l i d ; i t i s , i n essence, the excuse for brute power and the r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n for the abdication of moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t y .  Thus, the MP's  clear out the g i r l s  from the brothel, ignoring the protests of the old Madam who  explains to  Yossarian that "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing" (C-22, p. 422).  Yossarian asks why she didn't make  them show her and the g i r l s the Catch-22, but as the woman says, Catch-22 i t s e l f dictates that "they don't have to show us Catch-22" (C-22, p. 423).  "Catch-22" poses as law, but because i t i s the law of madmen and moral brutes, i t leads not to order but to anarchy.  I t inspires i n the  c i t i z e n s of Pianosa who l i v e under i t s shadow, not reason informed by s e n s i b i l i t y but contradiction and u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y .  The text i s s i m i l a r l y  governed by the absent centre which disrupts order and unity into a kind of narrative fragmentation which poses as anarchy and lawlessness—"poses" because, paradoxically, i t i s the very p r i n c i p l e of fragmentation—symbolized by Snowden's disembowelment—that u n i f i e s the text. ways seen i t this way,  C r i t i c s have not a l -  especially the early reviewers of Catch-22 who  seemed to be at pains to discover any structure at a l l beneath the surface  159  anarchy.  What troubles readers most about Catch-22 i s the severe d i s t o r t i o n of time, more severe than i n either The Secret Agent or Petersburg. while we may  For  lurch suddenly backwards and forwards i n Conrad's dank London  and i n Bely's befogged Petersburg, we are never so far removed from a recognizable temporal chronology as to lose our way.  And despite i t s  fragmentation, Petersburg i s remarkably u n i f i e d i n terms of i t s temporal structure, spanning as i t does a neat twenty-four hour period.  Conrad, and  to a lesser extent, Bely, are always careful to situate us p r e c i s e l y i n t h e i r temporal schemes even though discontinuity i s used to considerable ironic effect.  Heller, however, drops most of the textual clues which  would help orient ourselves i n the anarchy of Pianosa l i f e . only sure way  to keep track of events, temporally, i s to log c a r e f u l l y the  number of bombing missions flown or required to be f l o w n . ^ c r i t i c s have done i n the past laboriously accurately."'""'"  In f a c t , the  By now,  This task  i f , at times, s l i g h t l y i n -  however, we can be confident that the chronological  sequence i n Catch-22 does hold together i n an i n t e l l i g i b l e way,  though this  scarcely matters since H e l l e r ' s themes originate not from t h i s "deep structure" but from the p r i n c i p l e of disunity which i s made confusedly clear to us.  It i s the unity of l i n e a r time, after a l l , that characters attempt to evade because, i n Heller's war, death.  The only way  i t f l i e s them d i r e c t l y to the threat of  to protect oneself i n the face of such v u l n e r a b i l i t y  i s to f i g h t ruthless time i t s e l f , and there are characters other than Yossarian who do precisely that.  Hungry Joe, for example, states his  160  p o s i t i o n on the m a t t e r q u i t e c l e a r l y to H u p l e :  " L i s t e n k i d , " he e x p l a i n e d h a r s h l y to Huple v e r y l a t e one evening, " i f you want to l i v e i n t h i s t e n t , you've got to do l i k e I do. You's got t o r o l l your w r i s t watch up i n a p a i r of wool socks every n i g h t and keep i t on the bottom of your f o o t l o c k e r on the o t h e r s i d e of t h e room" (C-22, pp. 47-48).  L i k e Q u e n t i n i n F a u l k n e r ' s The Sound and the  Fury  when he smashes h i s  w r i s t watch i n an attempt to escape time, so too these c h a r a c t e r s , f a c e d w i t h the t h r e a t of d e a t h on each bombing m i s s i o n , d e v i s e methods of e v a s i o n w h i c h , l i k e those of Q u e n t i n and of N i k o l a i and A p o l l o n i n P e t e r s burg, i l l u s t r a t e  the a b s u r d i t y of d o i n g so.  S i m i l a r l y , i n The  Agent, c h a r a c t e r s must f i g h t a p a i n f u l l y prolonged  Secret  time; the c l o c k on  the  l a n d i n g o f t h e s t a i r s to V e r l o c ' s bedroom counts o f f the seconds which seem l i k e hours i n t h e s i l e n c e s between W i n n i e and V e r l o c , and, of t h e bomb i t s e l f  i s intended  m a t i c a l demarker o f  course,  to blow up the Greenwich meritdian, the mathe-  time.  The f i g h t a g a i n s t t i m e i s p a r t l y a f i g h t a g a i n s t the i n s t a n t of d e a t h , f o r i t can, i n P i n c h e r M a r t i n f a s h i o n , c o n t a i n an e t e r n i t y of horror.  I n s p e c t o r Heat so imagines S t e v i e ' s d e a t h , as do N i k o l a i  A p o l l o n t h e i r own.  Y o s s a r i a n , because of t h i s f e a r , i s drawn to h o s p i t a l s  where d e a t h i s more " r e a s o n a b l e , "  where i t takes " l o n g e r " ; t h e r e i s "none  of t h a t now-I-am-and-now-I-ain't" (C-22, p. 168).  He  expresses  more p o w e r f u l l y i n the f o l l o w i n g passage w h i c h d e s c r i b e s the of f l i g h t  combat:  and  the i d e a  experience  161  ... hung o u t t h e r e i n f r o n t l i k e some goddam c a n t i l e v e r e d g o l d f i s h i n some goddam c a n t i l e v e r e d g o l d f i s h bowl w h i l e t h e goddam f o u l b l a c k t i e r s o f f l a k were b u r s t i n g and booming and b i l l o w i n g a l l around and above and below him i n a c l i m b i n g , c r a c k i n g , s t a g g e r e d , banging, p h a n t a s m a g o r i c a l , c o s m o l o g i c a l wickedness t h a t j a r r e d and t o s s e d and s h i v e r e d , c l a t t e r e d and p i e r c e d , and t h r e a t e n e d t o a n n i h i l a t e them a l l i n one s p l i n t e r o f a second i n one v a s t f l a s h o f f i r e (C-22, pp.  44-45).  Dunbar, t o o , i s obsessed w i t h t h e moment, b u t he f e a r s t h a t t h e moment does not c o n t a i n enough t i m e : "Do you know how l o n g a y e a r t a k e s when i t ' s g o i n g away?" Dunbar r e p e a t e d t o C l e v i n g e r . " T h i s l o n g . " He snapped h i s f i n g e r s . "A second ago you were s t e p p i n g i n t o c o l l e g e w i t h your lungs f u l l o f f r e s h a i r . Today you're an o l d man." "Old?" asked C l e v i n g e r w i t h s u r p r i s e . "What a r e you t a l k i n g about?" "Old." "I'm n o t o l d . " "You're i n c h e s away from d e a t h every time you go on a m i s s i o n . How much o l d e r c a n you be a t your age? A h a l f m i n u t e b e f o r e t h a t you were s t e p p i n g i n t o h i g h s c h o o l , and an unhooked b r a s s i e r e was as c l o s e as you ever hoped t o g e t t o P a r a d i s e . Only a f i f t h o f a second b e f o r e t h a t you were a s m a l l k i d w i t h a ten-week summer v a c a t i o n t h a t l a s t e d a hundred thousand y e a r s and s t i l l ended too soon. Z i p ! They go r o c k e t i n g by so f a s t . How t h e h e l l e l s e a r e you ever g o i n g t o slow down t i m e ? " Dunbar was a l m o s t angry when he f i n i s h e d (C-22, p. 3 4 ) .  The "how e l s e " r e f e r s t o c o n s c i o u s l y sought boredom and d i s c o m f o r t , Dunbar's s o l u t i o n t o t h e r a p i d passage o f t i m e . h o s p i t a l w i t h Y o s s a r i a n "working  Consequently,  Dunbar l i e s i n  hard a t i n c r e a s i n g h i s l i f e span" by  " c u l t i v a t i n g boredom" (C-22, p. 3 ) . And l a t e r we read t h a t  Dunbar l o v e d s h o o t i n g s k e e t because he hated every m i n u t e o f i t and time passed so s l o w l y . He had  162  figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people l i k e Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years (C-22, p. 33).  He would agree with Ossipon who, at the end of The Secret Agent, i n s i s t s to the Professor:  "It's time that you need.  Y o u — i f you met a man who  could give you f o r certain ten years of time, you would c a l l him your master" (SA, p. 245). Dunbar's perception of time f l i t t i n g by the present and then, once past, seeming l i k e a moment, i s not unlike Sofia's perception of time during her carriage r i d e through Petersburg.  She experiences  "pieces" of her l i f e " f a l l i n g away" into the past which i s a kind of void "swallowing  piece after piece."  Her entire l i f e " f a l l s away" as though  "her l i f e had not yet existed" (P, p. 120). Paradoxically, i n these novels, the moment, p a r t i c u l a r l y the instant of death, can seem l i k e an eternity, yet extended experience over a period of years can be reduced to a f r a c t i o n of a second.  The paradox i s encapsulated  i n Dunbar's reaction  to the Bologna mission:  Bologna should have minutes dawdled and Instead i t tortured to be k i l l e d (C-22,  exulted Dunbar, because the the hours dragged l i k e centuries. him, because he knew he was going p. 110).  Dunbar's solution works only i f the prolonging, boring a c t i v i t y i s innocent—such  as shooting skeet—but  when the solution i s dangerous—  shooting at men who shoot back—then the delight of discomfort turns to sheer torture. Yossarian's solution i s the only a l t e r n a t i v e .  For Dunbar, then, shooting skeet (another kind of evasive action l i k e  163  Yossarian's)  i s h i s s o l u t i o n to t h e p a i n f u l s e n s a t i o n of a d i s t o r t e d  t h e d i r e c t r e s u l t o f war e x p e r i e n c e .  Such d i s t o r t i o n makes i t s e l f  time,  felt  a t t h e l e v e l o f s t y l e as w e l l as a t t h e l e v e l s o f image and n a r r a t i v e structure.  E s p e c i a l l y i n t h e f i r s t h a l f o f t h e n o v e l , where t h e chronology  of events i s most c o n f u s e d , quency o f t e m p o r a l c l u e s .  H e l l e r ' s language i s c o n s p i c u o u s f o r t h e f r e Many o f h i s sentences b e g i n w i t h o r c o n t a i n t h e  phrase " t h e time when," and t h e f o l l o w i n g passage c o n t a i n s a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e number o f l i n g u i s t i c t i m e m a r k e r s :  On t h e o t h e r s i d e o f Havermeyer stood t h e t e n t McWatt no l o n g e r shared w i t h C l e v i n g e r , who had s t i l l n o t r e t u r n e d when Y o s s a r i a n came o u t of t h e h o s p i t a l . McWatt shared h i s t e n t now w i t h N a t e l y , who was away i n Rome... (C-22, p. 13, i t a l i c s m i n e ) . T h i s compact package o f events makes l i t t l e sense u n t i l those same events have been n a r r a t e d l a t e r i n t h e n o v e l .  On o t h e r o c c a s i o n s , t h e s t y l e  turns  to a k i n d o f s l a p s t i c k c o n f u s i o n , an absurd c h a i n o f cause and e f f e c t : I t was a n i g h t o f s u r p r i s e s f o r A p p l e b y , who was as l a r g e as Y o s s a r i a n and as s t r o n g and who swung a t Y o s s a r i a n as hard as he c o u l d w i t h a punch t h a t f l o o d e d C h i e f W h i t e H a l f o a t w i t h such j o y o u s e x c i t e ment t h a t he turned and busted C o l o n e l Moodus i n t h e nose w i t h a punch t h a t f i l l e d G e n e r a l D r e e d l e w i t h such mellow g r a t i f i c a t i o n t h a t he had C o l o n e l Cathc a r t throw t h e c h a p l a i n out o f t h e o f f i c e r ' s . c l u b ... (C-22, p. 5 2 ) .  The itself  same d e v i c e works f o r t h e n o v e l ' s s p a t i a l imagery w h i c h m a n i f e s t s  i n a house-that-Jack-built  style:  Immediately a l o n g s i d e [ Y o s s a r i a n ' s t e n t ] was t h e abandoned r a i l r o a d d i t c h t h a t c a r r i e d t h e p i p e t h a t c a r r i e d t h e a v i a t i o n g a s o l i n e down t o t h e f u e l t r u c k s a t t h e a i r f i e l d (C-22, p. 1 2 ) .  164  T h i s s p a t i a l l i n e w h i c h goes d i r e c t l y from Y o s s a r i a n ' s t e n t t o t h e a i r f i e l d i s c o n t i n u e d l a t e r i n t h e n o v e l by a bomb l i n e on a map, "a narrow red r i b b o n tacked across the mainland"  (C-22, p. 118), w h i c h v i s u a l i z e s  t h e f l i g h t p a t h from t h e a i r f i e l d t o t h e t a r g e t a r e a .  I t a l s o , of course,  i s a v i s u a l symbol f o r t h e j o u r n e y w h i c h b r i n g s them t o t h e t h r e a t o f death.  And t h u s , j u s t as t h e n o v e l ' s l i n e a r t i m e l i n e goes d i r e c t l y t o  Snowden's d e a t h , so t o o t h e s p a t i a l l i n e p o i n t s t o t h e same p o s s i b i l i t y f o r Y o s s a r i a n and h i s c o l l e a g u e s .  So p o w e r f u l i s t h i s image t h a t , as they  w a i t f o r t h e o f f i c i a l go-ahead f o r t h e Bologna m i s s i o n , t h e l i n e begins t o assume ominous p r o p o r t i o n s : For hours they s t a r e d r e l e n t l e s s l y a t t h e s c a r l e t r i b b o n on t h e map and hated i t because i t would not move up h i g h enough t o encompass t h e c i t y . When n i g h t f e l l , they congregated i n t h e darkness w i t h f l a s h l i g h t s , c o n t i n u i n g t h e i r macabre v i g i l a t t h e bomb l i n e i n b r o o d i n g e n t r e a t y as though hoping t o move t h e r i b b o n up by t h e c o l l e c t i v e weight o f t h e i r s u l l e n p r a y e r s (C-22, p. 1 1 9 ) . T h i s advancing  r e d r i b b o n b e g i n s t o t a k e on some o f t h e t o p o g r a p h i c a l s i g -  n i f i c a n c e o f B e l y ' s d o t w i t h i n a c i r c l e w h i c h s i g n i f i e s t h e expanding growth o f t h e c i t y and w h i c h i n f o r m s t h e n o v e l as a s t r u c t u r i n g  principle.  The bomb l i n e i s n o t so i n t e g r a l t o t h e s t r u c t u r e o f Catch-22, but i t does p r o v i d e an a p t t o p o g r a p h i c a l image f o r t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e c h a r a c t e r s on P i a n o s a and t h e w o r l d beyond.  The g e o m e t r i c  image, e s p e c i a l l y o f t h e c i t y , h a s , f o r James and  Conrad, i t s o r i g i n i n t h e D i c k e n s i a n l a b y r i n t h i n e g r i d o f s t r e e t s , i n t h e monotonous r e g u l a r i t y o f Coketown's s o o t y s t r e e t s (Hard T i m e s ) , and i n t h e confused  s n a r l o f London's l a n e s and a l l e y s ( M a r t i n C h u z z l e w i t ) .  While  165  H e l l e r ' s geometry i s n o t so p e r v a s i v e as Conrad's i s i n The S e c r e t Agent, G e n e r a l Peckem's d i r e c t i v e t h a t " a l l t e n t s i n t h e M e d i t e r r a n e a n t h e a t e r of operations  ... be p i t c h e d a l o n g p a r a l l e l l i n e s " (C-22, p. 2 1 ) , r e p r e s e n t s ,  n e v e r t h e l e s s , t h e a b s u r d i s t c u l m i n a t i o n o f D i c k e n s ' s " d e v i o u s mazes" and o f Conrad's " i n t e r m i n a b l e s t r a i g h t p e r s p e c t i v e s . "  I t i s a l s o G e n e r a l Peckem  who i n s i s t s t h a t t h e bombardiers f l y i n p a r t i c u l a r f o r m a t i o n s  so t h a t  t h e r e w i l l be a n a t t r a c t i v e p a t t e r n when t h e bombs e x p l o d e c l o s e as seen from an a e r i a l photograph.  together,  Such geometry i n P e t e r s b u r g ,  as we have  seen, has numerous m y s t i c a l and h i s t o r i c a l nuances; as imagery, i t i s an v e l a b o r a t e s e t o f symbols i n t h e S y m b o l i s t mode.  H e l l e r ' s imagery  forgoes  the nuances o f t h e emblematic o c c u l t , y e t inasmuch as h i s geometry i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e b u r e a u c r a t i c , o v e r l y r a t i o n a l mind, i t f u n c t i o n s t h e same way as i t does i n b o t h P e t e r s b u r g  and The S e c r e t Agent.  Senator A p o l l o n A p o l l o n o v i c h i s , a f t e r a l l , a s l a v e to the " o f f i c i a l c i r c u l a r s " which flow voluminously l e s s l y t h r o u g h government o f f i c e s .  from h i s d e s k and w h i c h c i r c u l a t e endB u r e a u c r a c y expands s i m i l a r l y i n Catch-22  (as i t does i n t h e C i r c u m l o c u t i o n O f f i c e o f D i c k e n s ' s L i t t l e D o r r i t ) , f o r we read t h a t Major M a j o r ' s " s i m p l e communications s w e l l p r o d i g i o u s l y i n t o huge m a n u s c r i p t s "  (C-22, p. 9 1 ) . The " L o y a l t y Oath" becomes a b u r e a u c r a t i c  t a n g l e and W i n t e r g r e e n ' s communications g e t h o p e l e s s l y c o n f u s e d . j u s t as c o m p l i c a t e d  by b u r e a u c r a c y i n The S e c r e t Agent i n w h i c h V e r l o c  endures t h e p r e s s u r e s  of three o f f i c e interviews i n a bureaucratic  a r c h y , and i n w h i c h t h e I n s p e c t o r ' s d i l i g e n c e i s m o t i v a t e d ladder-climbing.  Action i s  hier-  by b u r e a u c r a t i c  The b u r e a u c r a t i c mind i n each o f t h e s e n o v e l s  i s the  o v e r l y r a t i o n a l mind t h a t l o s e s t o u c h w i t h e f f e c t i v e and c o n t i n g e n t  166  r e a l i t i e s ; i t i s thus unable to make moral d i s t i n c t i o n s .  And whether this  i s the governmental mind (Bely's Senator) or the s c i e n t i f i c mind (Conrad's Professor) or the m i l i t a r y mind (Heller's Generals, Majors and Colonels), i t makes l i t t l e difference; they are a l l capable of crimes against the powerless and the weak.  While geometry provides the s p a t i a l metaphor for the p a r t i c u l a r nightmare of extreme r a t i o n a l i t y , i t i s , i n Catch-22, the c i t y of Rome which provides a larger metaphor for the more general nightmare of the 12  bombardier's war experience.  In a kind of Dostoevskyian dream scene,  Rome i s imaged with s p a t i a l d i s t o r t i o n s , p a r a l l e l to the temporal ones, i n much the same way that London i s f o r James and Conrad, and Petersburg f o r Bely.  As Yossarian walks through Rome l a t e i n the novel, he could be i n  either London or Petersburg when he notices "the yellow bulbs at the entrance which s i z z l e d i n the dampness l i k e wet torches. A f r i g i d r a i n was falling.  He began walking slowly, pushing u p h i l l " (C-22, p. 427). Going  further, he encounters a young boy, poor, s i c k l y , and wretched; Yossarian i s reminded of cripples and of cold and hungry infants and unhoused animals. He i s struck by " a l l the shivering, stupefying misery i n a world that never yet provided enough heat and food and j u s t i c e f o r a l l but an i n genious and unscrupulous handful. What a lousy earth!" (C-^22, p. 428). The yellow l i g h t s and the d r i z z l i n g r a i n are very much l i k e the imagery of The Secret Agent, but the passage a l l i e s Catch-22 more closely to The Princess Casamassima at the end of which Hyacinth bemoans, l i k e Yossarian, a world ridden with corruption.  He moves among people who "reek with g i n  and f i l t h , " who are "foul as lepers," and who are "saturated with alcohol  167  and v i c e , brutal, bedraggled, obscene." "planet overgrown with such vermin" Hyacinth, Rome i s to Yossarian:  The entire earth, he thinks, i s a  (PC, p. 410).  Thus, as London i s to  a pathetic f a l l a c y f o r misery and despair.  Both characters, at the end of their respective novels, have reached a point of c r i s i s , when they can no longer bear the s t r a i n of contradictory forces (Catch-22's) p u l l i n g at their moral s e n s i b i l i t i e s .  Yossarian's walk through Rome, however, i s more e x p l i c i t l y a walk through violence than Hyacinth's.  In this respect, and i n the general  atmosphere of the c i t y , Catch-22 i s closer to The Secret Agent.  In the  "shadows of the narrow winding street," Yossarian travels down a corridor of c r u e l t i e s : mobs.  blood, hunger, rape, robbery, corpses, and "mobs, mobs,  Mobs with clubs were i n control everywhere"  (C-22, p. 432).  Like  Ossipon, he walks, i t seems, interminably through a labyrinth of winding streets.  And just as characters seem to appear mysteriously out of lamp-  posts i n Conrad's foggy London, so too the characters are distorted by Rome's s t r e e t l i g h t s which s p i l l "gloom over half the street, throwing everything v i s i b l e o f f balance" (C-22, p. 430).  In The Secret Agent,  l i g h t and shadow are melodramatic; Conrad creates a world of ominously cloaked shadows stalking aimlessly and endlessly, victims of g u i l t and their own moral corruption.  In Petersburg, where lampposts and shadows are  just as prominent, the emphasis rests mainly on the reduction of characters to mere "shades" of a more powerful and enduring r e a l i t y .  In Catch-22,  Heller stresses the fact that everything i s "off balance"; "The tops of the sheer buildings slanted i n weird, s u r r e a l i s t i c perspective, and the street seemed t i l t e d " (C-22, p. 427).  The scene, l i k e the logic of Pianosa  168  l i f e , governed as i t i s - b y Catch-22, i s d i s t o r t e d i n t h e s t y l e o f e x p r e s s i o n ism.  L i k e t h e t e m p o r a l s t r u c t u r e o f t h e book w h i c h p l a y s havoc w i t h  c h r o n o l o g i c a l t i m e , t h e s p a t i a l imagery o f t h e Rome scene c r e a t e s a h o r r i f y ing  illogicality  t h a t s u g g e s t s t h e d i s t o r t e d space o f n i g h t m a r e .  I n y e t another p a r t o f t h e Rome s e c t i o n o f t h e n o v e l , t h e r e i s an uncanny j u x t a p o s i t i o n o f t e m p o r a l and s p a t i a l imagery w h i c h hearkens back s t r i k i n g l y t o Conrad.  The l i g h t on t h e n e x t lamppost was o u t , t o o , t h e g l o b e broken. B u i l d i n g s and f e a t u r e l e s s shapes f l o w e d by him [ Y o s s a r i a n ] n o i s e l e s s l y as though borne p a s t immutably on t h e s u r f a c e o f some r a n k and t i m e l e s s t i d e (C-22, p. 4 3 2 ) .  I n The S e c r e t Agent, t h e s t r e e t l i g h t s below V e r l o c ' s bedroom window echo the  s t e p s o f a p a s s e r b y who "had s t a r t e d t o pace o u t a l l e t e r n i t y , from  gas-lamp t o gas-lamp i n a n i g h t w i t h o u t end..." (SA, p. 5 5 ) , a f t e r w h i c h V e r l o c hears t h e "drowsy t i c k i n g o f t h e o l d c l o c k . "  The gas-lamps  here  p r o v i d e t h e s p a t i a l image w h i c h echoes t h e t e m p o r a l images o f f o o t s t e p s and t i c k i n g c l o c k .  Heller's rendition i s s l i g h t l y d i f f e r e n t , yet the fact  t h a t t h e s t r e e t l i g h t s a r e broken and c o n s e q u e n t l y t h a t t h e shapes a r e " f e a t u r e l e s s " and, most i m p o r t a n t , t h a t they f l o w " n o i s e l e s s l y " by on a " t i m e l e s s t i d e , " means t h a t t i m e and space f o r Y o s s a r i a n , as f o r Conrad's p a s s e r b y , go on t o e t e r n i t y . negation.  I n a way, H e l l e r ' s image i s a c o r o l l a r y o f  F o r Conrad, a v i s u a l image echoes a t e m p o r a l image:  echo t h e sound o f f o o t s t e p s .  gas-lamps  I n Catch-22, t h e s t r e e t l i g h t s a r e broken  and so they echo s i l e n c e ; shapes f l o w p a s t " n o i s e l e s s l y . "  169  H e l l e r ' s e x p r e s s i o n i s t i c s t r e e t s , however, a r e more than an image of anarchy and s p i r i t u a l v a c a n c y .  Rome, we a r e reminded by the t i t l e of  of H e l l e r ' s c h a p t e r s , i s the " E t e r n a l C i t y . "  one  B e i n g an e t e r n a l c i t y , i t i s  a p p r o p r i a t e t h a t Y o s s a r i a n s h o u l d d i s c o v e r t h e r e not o n l y p r e s e n t and decay but a l s o p a s t c e n t u r i e s of m i s e r y and decay.  misery  At t h i s p o i n t ,  the n o v e l a m p l i f i e s i t s thematic o u t c r y a g a i n s t the contemporary t h e a t r e of war  t o i n c l u d e t h e much l a r g e r h i s t o r i c a l one.  I t i s not the l a r g e ,  h i s t o r i c a l panarama of B e l y ' s P e t e r s b u r g , but i t i s l a r g e enough, n e v e r t h e l e s s , f o r Y o s s a r i a n to r e a l i z e w i t h i n s i g h t of the Colosseum, w h i c h has been bombed t o a " d i l a p i d a t e d s h e l l , " t h a t  Someone had to do something. Every v i c t i m was a c u l p r i t , every c u l p r i t a v i c t i m , and somebody had t o stand up sometime to t r y to break t h e l o u s y c h a i n of i n h e r i t e d h a b i t t h a t was i m p e r i l i n g them a l l (C-22, p. 421). A few pages l a t e r , f o l l o w i n g the example of Orr who Y o s s a r i a n d e s e r t s and inherited habit."  rows to Sweden,  thereby s y m b o l i c a l l y breaks t h i s " l o u s y c h a i n of  U n l i k e o t h e r c h a r a c t e r s , Y o s s a r i a n has the m o r a l back-  bone t o q u e s t i o n t h e p a t t e r n s of h i s t o r y and t o d e v i s e a v a l u e system on w h i c h to a c t i n d e p e n d e n t l y .  Not  t h a t mankind's i n a n i t i e s can be h a l t e d by  his a c t i o n , f o r H e l l e r ' s idealism, inherent i n Yossarian's desertion, i s c o l o u r e d by the f a t a l i s m of the o l d man s t a n d s h i s t o r y i n a way  i n t h e b r o t h e l i n Rome.  t h a t most c h a r a c t e r s do  not.  "Rome was d e s t r o y e d , Greece was d e s t r o y e d , P e r s i a was d e s t r o y e d , S p a i n was d e s t r o y e d . A l l great c o u n t r i e s a r e d e s t r o y e d . Why not yours? How much l o n g e r do you r e a l l y t h i n k your own c o u n t r y [America] w i l l l a s t ? Forever? Keep i n mind t h a t the e a r t h  He under-  170  i t s e l f i s destined to be destroyed by the sun i n twenty-five m i l l i o n years or so." (C-22, p. 249).  Thus, amid the r e a l i z a t i o n that destruction and despair are fixed and permanent p r i n c i p l e s , Yossarian's desertion i s , at best, the action of a meliorist. The old man's oration on history, which ends with the notion of the apocalyptic destruction of time and space, i s r e a l l y the grand culmination of the "destruction" of time and space which originated, f o r Yossarian, with Snowden's death.  Thus, just as Stevie's death enlarges i n characters' minds  to the "damned hole" of eternity, and j u s t as, f o r N i k o l a i and Apollon, the individual death expands, as they imagine i t , to apocalyptic proportions, so too Snowden's death functions as synecdoche f o r the apocalyptic upheaval of time and space.  The explosion which causes Snowden's death i s circumscribed  i n the text because i t i s the structural metaphor that explodes the narrat i v e s p a t i a l l y and temporally and which, at the same time, i s defined by that same narrative.  If we accept Joseph Frank's view i n The Widening Gyre that the modern novel, l i k e modern painting, has moved away from depth and perspective where objects exist n a t u r a l i s t i c a l l y i n time and space towards a plane of s p a t i a l 13 form where disequilibrium i s made possible, Catch-22 f i t neatly into the scheme.  then both Petersburg and  Facing the apocalyptic disequilibrium  of h i s time and place (revolution i n early twentieth-century  Petersburg),  Bely sought refuge i n the mystical Symbolism of geometry, of l i n e , cube and sphere, where h i s t o r i c a l depth and perspective are collapsed into a more  171  confined time (twenty-four  hours).  a l imagination has been transformed  I t i s as Frank s p e c u l a t e s — t h e h i s t o r i c into a mythic imagination f o r which  h i s t o r i c a l time as such does not e x i s t . from i t s temporal  Heller, too, takes the novel away  shackles towards a kind of extended horror of the moment,  the kind that Inspector Heat imagines Stevie to have experienced Secret Agent.  i n The  But while H e l l e r ' s novel i s , undoubtedly, temporally  collapsed, the mythic dimension i s not so evident as i t i s i n Petersburg. In i t s place, Heller i n h e r i t s the humanist moral and s o c i a l s e n s i b i l i t y of Dickens, James and Conrad.  The absent centre of Catch-22 helps to  i l l u s t r a t e how firmly rooted that t r a d i t i o n i s , regardless of the novel's Post-modernist  innovations and i t s forays into the absurd.  172  Notes  p. 457.  Joseph H e l l e r , Catch-22 (New Y o r k : Simon and S c h u s t e r , 1955), F u r t h e r r e f e r e n c e s to t h i s e d i t i o n f o l l o w t h e a b b r e v i a t i o n C-22.  2 P a t r i c i a M e r i v a l e draws the c o n n e c t i o n t h i s way: The b i t s of S t e v i e , p i c k e d up w i t h a s h o v e l to f u r n i s h f o r t h V e r l o c ' s c a n n i b a l f e a s t , remind u s , as the e v i s c e r a t e d Snowden does w i t h the c a n n i b a l h i n t s of the extruded stewed tomatoes, t h a t "man i s garbage" (C-22, p. 450). See: "Catch-22 and The S e c r e t Agent: M e c h a n i c a l Man, the H o l e i n the C e n t r e , and the ' P r i n c i p l e s o f I n b u i l t Chaos,'" E n g l i s h S t u d i e s i n Canada 7 (December, 1981) 4: 436. 3 C l i n t o n S. Burhans J r . , " S p i n d r i f t and the Sea: S t r u c t u r a l P a t t e r n s and U n i f y i n g Elements i n Catch-22," i n T w e n t i e t h Century L i t e r a t u r e 19 (October, 1973) 4: 230-50. 4 John Wain, "A New 5 (1963): 168-73.  N o v e l about Old T r o u b l e s , " i n C r i t i c a l Q u a r t e r l y  James M. M e l l a r d , "Catch-22: Deja. Vu and the L a b y r i n t h of Memory," i n A Catch-22 Casebook, e d i t e d by F r e d e r i c k K i l e y and W a l t e r McDonald (New Y o r k : Thomas Y. C r o w e l l , 1973), pp. 117-118.  p.  ^ James M. M e l l a r d , "Catch-22: Deja Vu and 115.  the L a b y r i n t h of Memory,"  ^ Jan Solomon, "The S t r u c t u r e of Joseph H e l l e r ' s Catch-22," i n C r i t i q u e : S t u d i e s i n Modern F i c t i o n 9 (1967) 2: 48. Tony Tanner, C i t y of Words (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971), p. 83. 8  » James M. M e l l a r d t r e a t s t h e use of f l a s h b a c k s as d e j a v u : O p e r a t i n g w i t h i n the minds of the i n v i s i b l e n a r r a t o r ... t h e method of d e j a vu " p r o c l a i m s " t h e w r i t e r ' s a b s o l u t e need of the r e a d e r ' s c o o p e r a t i o n , an a c t i v e , c o n s c i o u s creative assistance. "Catch-22: Deja" Vu and the L a b y r i n t h of Memory," p. 110.  173  Simon W i n c e l b e r g c l a i m s : "There i s almost no p l o t to speak o f , a t l e a s t u n t i l the v e r y end, by w h i c h time p r a c t i c a l l y everyone you c a r e about, w i t h t h e e x c e p t i o n of t h e h e r o , i s dead or m i s s i n g . " See: Frederick K i l e y and W a l t e r McDonald, A "Catch-22" Casebook (New York: Thomas Y. C r o w e l l , 1973), p. 17. John J . Murray c o n c u r s : " ... i t ' s not a n o v e l a t a l l but a s e r i e s of Overburyean (and o v e r b e a r i n g ) c h a r a c t e r s k e t c h e s conn e c t e d l o o s e l y by the p i c a r e s q u e h e r o , " K i l e y and McDonald, A Casebook, p. 5. And Roger H. Smith i n Daedalus 92 ( W i n t e r , 1963): 155-65 says n a i v e l y : "The book t e l l s no s t o r y " ; he w o r r i e s t h a t " a r b i t r a r y m i x t u r e , f o r m l e s s n e s s and s u c c e s s " a r e duping a r e a d e r s h i p i n t o t h i n k i n g t h e author i s " e x p e r i m e n t a l and 'modern.'" The o b s e r v a t i o n i s P a t r i c i a M e r i v a l e ' s i n "Catch-22 and The Agent," p. 431. 1 0  Secret  Jan Solomon i n "The S t r u c t u r e of Joseph H e l l e r ' s Catch-22," C r i t i q u e : S t u d i e s i n Modern F i c t i o n 9 (1967): 46-57, c l a i m s t h a t H e l l e r creates a chronological i m p o s s i b i l i t y . C l i n t o n S. Burnhans J r . , i n " S p i n d r i f t and t h e Sea: S t r u c t u r a l P a t t e r n s and U n i f y i n g Elements i n Catch-22," T w e n t i e t h Century L i t e r a t u r e 19 ( O c t o b e r , 1973): 239-50, a l s o has t r o u b l e w i t h H e l l e r ' s p l o t . Doug Gaukroger, however, i n "Time S t r u c t u r e i n Catch-22," A Casebook, r e f u t e s Solomon and s o r t s out the c h r o n o l o g y f o r us a c c u r a t e l y . 12 There a r e two a l l u s i o n s to R a s k o l n i k o v : Y o s s a r i a n s e e s , i n Rome, a man " b e a t i n g a dog w i t h a s t i c k l i k e the man who was b e a t i n g t h e horse w i t h a whip i n R a s k o l n i k o v ' s dream" (C-22, p. 4 3 0 ) , and e a r l y i n t h e n o v e l , C l e v i n g e r accuses Y o s s a r i a n by s a y i n g "You're no b e t t e r than R a s k o l n i k o v — " (C-22, p. 1 5 ) . 13 Joseph Frank, The Widening Gyre.: C r i s i s and Mastery i n Modern L i t e r a t u r e (Bloomington, I n d i a n a : I n d i a n a U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , M i d l a n d Books, 1968) .  174  CHAPTER VI  Thomas Pynchon's G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow: The  S i n g l e Root -Lost  Henry Adams, t h e American d i l e t t a n t e who was so d i s c o m f i t e d i n i t i a t i o n into twentieth-century  by h i s  s c i e n c e , l i k e n e d h i s t o r y to the curve of a  cannon b a l l w h i c h a c c e l e r a t e d t h r o u g h t h e ages u n t i l 1900 when, s u d d e n l y , " t h e c o n t i n u i t y snapped.""'"  The chaos, f r a g m e n t a t i o n  and u n p r e d i c t a b l e  explosion  w h i c h r e s u l t s , presumably, from t h a t snap of c o n t i n u i t y , i s what Thomas Pynchon explores  i n h i s reworking  o f t h e metaphor as a r o c k e t t r a j e c t o r y i n G r a v i t y ' s  2 Rainbow (1973).  C e r t a i n l y , i n Henry Adams, as an i n t e l l e c t d i s p l a y i n g t h e  t r i p l e t h r e a t o f l i t e r a t u r e , s c i e n c e and p o l i t i c s , Pynchon c o u l d n o t f i n d a b e t t e r a n c e s t r a l countryman.  G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow r e p r e s e n t s , by i t s d i s t o r t i o n s  of n a r r a t i v e c o n t i n u i t y , t h e k i n d o f " v e r t i g i n o u s v i o l e n c e " t h a t Adams prophes i e d and f e a r e d would c h a r a c t e r i z e t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y  life.  Encyclopedic i n  3 scope,  t h e n o v e l spreads b e f o r e us v i r t u a l l y a l l o f t h e themes and i m a g e s —  and many o f t h e n a r r a t i v e s t r a t e g i e s — w h i c h have been accumulated and developed within the Dickens-to-Heller t r a d i t i o n . t h e s e themes (anarchy, war, t h r e a t e n e d and c o r r e s p o n d i n g  But i t i s n o t so much t h e presence of humanism and encroaching  objectivism)  images ( o f t i m e , space, l a b y r i n t h i n e c i t y and e x p l o s i o n )  w h i c h i s s i g n i f i c a n t as i t i s t h e i r d i s t o r t i o n i n t h e n a r r a t i v e . d i s t o r t i o n which f o c u s e s  s h a r p l y f o r us t h e P o s t - M o d e r n i s t  Pynchon's work now o c c u p i e s  a comfortable  It isa  landscape i n which  and even c e n t r a l p o s i t i o n . .  175  On the most v i s i b l e l e v e l , Pynchon's n o v e l seems c l o s e r to Petersburg  than to works by n o v e l i s t s i n the E n g l i s h / A m e r i c a n t r a d i t i o n , n o t -  withstanding who  Bely's  t h e f a c t t h a t b o t h Catch-22 and  i s d r i v e n to extreme p a r a n o i a  of t h a t c h a r a c t e r , however, and  G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow s h a r e a hero  by the e x p e r i e n c e of war.  i n i t s h i s t o r i c a l and  e s p e c i a l l y i n i t s e x p l o i t a t i o n of a c o m p l i c a t e d Rainbow d i s p l a y s a f f i n i t y w i t h P e t e r s b u r g .  In i t s handling  g e o g r a p h i c sweep, and  Symbolist  gadgetry,  Gravity's  S p a t i a l l y , Pynchon's n o v e l t r a v e l s  v i r t u a l l y w o r l d wide w i t h s i g n i f i c a n t scenes i n E n g l a n d , A m e r i c a , F r a n c e , S w i t z e r l a n d , A f r i c a , R u s s i a and Germany.  E q u a l l y as w i d e - r a n g i n g i s the sweep  of h i s t o r i c a l time w h i c h moves from s e v e n t e e n t h - c e n t u r y Europe to post-war Germany t o modern-day C a l i f o r n i a . from m e d i e v a l i n v a s i o n s of R u s s i a  B e l y , we r e c a l l , s h i f t e d us  to the a b o r t e d r e v o l u t i o n i n 1905  t h e snow-swept expanses of S i b e r i a to the b u r e a u c r a t i c and  to the a r i d E g y p t i a n  desert.  unapologetically  c e n t r e of  and  from  Petersburg  E s p e c i a l l y i n the scenes which d e a l  with  T c h i t c h e r i n e ' s a d v e n t u r e s i n R u s s i a , Pynchon's sense of the R u s s i a n l a n d s c a p e i s c l o s e to B e l y ' s .  I n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow, the n a r r a t o r speaks of  t e c h n o c r a t i c wolves e r e c t i n g s e t t l e m e n t s out of t u n d r a , ^ e n t i r e urban a b s t r a c t i o n s out of i c e and snow .... Pynchon has, no doubt, P e t e r s b u r g accurately described  i n mind, f o r more than most c i t i e s , i t i s  as an "urban a b s t r a c t i o n , " planned m a t h e m a t i c a l l y  by  P e t e r t h e Great i n an i n h o s p i t a b l e c l i m a t e i n an i n h o s p i t a b l e l o c a t i o n . n o t i o n of the c i t y as an a b s t r a c t i o n and  The  as a c o n s t r u c t w h i c h i s the r e s u l t  of " t e c h n o c r a t i c w o l v e s " — t h a t i s , a r a t i o n a l i s m w h i c h d e v o u r s — f i t s Pynchon's t h e m a t i c purpose as n e a t l y as B e l y ' s . c e n t r a l s o u r c e and  For B e l y , however, the image i s the  shaper of n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e ; f o r Pynchon i t i s o n l y  one  176  of many s u p p o r t images i n the l a r g e r network of g e o m e t r i c and  scientific  imagery w h i c h i s c o n t r o l l e d u l t i m a t e l y by the r a i n b o w a r c of B e l y d i s t o r t s the r a t i o n a l i s m of R u s s i a n c i t y s c a p e and  rocketry. character  with  b i t t e r i r o n y but r a r e l y , u n l i k e Pynchon, w i t h the i r r e v e r e n t l y g r o t e s q u e . Petersburg,  the e q u e s t r i a n  s t a t u e of P e t e r  the Great comes to l i f e and  t h r o u g h t h e s t r e e t s of t h e c i t y , i l l u s t r a t i n g v i s i b l y t h a t the s p i r i t history returns.  But  transformed i n t o plundering  r e v o l u t i o n a r y manhood, and  some w h i s t l i n g sweep of q u i l l s a c r o s s her s p i n e s t a t u e i n a square, and  p. 399.  Pynchon's i t a l i c s and  R u s s i a n themes and  t i m e and  ...  i n Petersburg  "buttocks  s t e e l hooves, t e e t h ,  the r i n g i n g bronze of  an  Pavlov,  of Pyn-  s i g n i f i c a n t l y , c a r r i e d out  a t t h e t u r n of the c e n t u r y ,  the  precise  I n f a c t , Pynchon makes s p e c i f i c mention  the n a r r a t o r , d e s c r i b i n g Pointsman's experiments on  dogs a t The W h i t e V i s i t a t i o n i n E n g l a n d , speaks of the s c a l e used to measure t h e drops of dogs' s a l i v a : a s c a l e marked o f f i n " d r o p s " — a n a r b i t r a r y u n i t , p r o b a b l y not the same as t h e a c t u a l l y f a l l e n drops of 1905, of S t . P e t e r s b u r g . But the number of drops f o r t h i s l a b and Dog Vanya and t h e metronome a t 80, i s each t i m e p r e d i c t a b l e (GR, p. 90).  The  image i s t h e m a t i c ,  ..."  ellipses).  images a l s o e n t e r G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow by way  l o c a t i o n of B e l y ' s n o v e l .  of the events of 1905;  ...  so she s t o o p s ,  her f a c e , p r e s s e d i n t o the s e i s m i c e a r t h  chon's c r i t i q u e of P a v l o v i a n c o n d i t i o n i n g . most of h i s r e s e a r c h  of  s t a t u e becomes T c h i t c h e r i n e  arched skyward, a w a i t i n g the f i r s t t o u c h of h i m — o f It  (GR,  gallops  i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow, f o r G a l i n a , the s e v e r e schoolmarm  i s o l a t e d i n remote R u s s i a , t h e famous P e t e r s b u r g  equestrian  In  f o r s c i e n t i f i c experiment, d e s i g n e d to c o n t r o l the  random, i s i m p l i c i t l y connected h e r e to p o l i t i c a l b r u t a l i t y and  the s p i l l a g e  177  of human b l o o d , t h e c o n n e c t i o n which Pynchon chooses t o e x p l o r e , i n t h e g r a n d e s t p r o p o r t i o n s , as t h e c h i e f cause o f "The Great D y i n g " of World War I I . Slothrop's u n c l a s s i f i a b l e behaviour—he  reverses the stimulus-response  p a t t e r n — t h u s r e p r e s e n t s a f o r c e f u l t h r e a t t o Pointsman, One o f the most prominent  the a r c h - b e h a v i o u r i s t .  p l o t l i n e s i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow f o l l o w s t h e chase  t h a t ensues from t h a t c o n f l i c t and S l o t h r o p ' s p o t e n t i a l danger i n t h e hands of  experimenters. P a v l o v r e p r e s e n t s f o r Pynchon t h e q u i n t e s s e n t i a l s c i e n t i s t , t h e  p a s s i o n a t e devotee o f a r a t i o n a l i s t i c e x p l a n a t i o n o f a l l b e h a v i o u r .  B.P.  B o b k l n , P a v l o v ' s b i o g r a p h e r , n o t i c e d t h a t P a v l o v , even a t t h e age of s i x t y two, was s t i l l unwearied  i n h i s enthusiasm  f o r students'  experiments:  He l o o k e d l i k e a happy l o v e r , f o r whom n o t h i n g e x i s t e d but t h e o b j e c t o f h i s l o v e and t o whom a l l e l s e was o f secondary c o n s i d e r a t i o n . P a v l o v was a t r u e s c i e n t i s t , a s c i e n t i s t by God's grace!"' Pointsman i s the d i s t o r t e d e x t e n s i o n o f t h a t m e n t a l i t y ; h i s hands become h o t and m o i s t as he l e a f s t h r o u g h P a v l o v ' s t h e o r y , which he c a l l s "The Book" and which "might have been a r a r e work o f e r o t i c a " (GR, p. 101).  Pointsman,  how-  e v e r , i s n o t w i t h o u t h i s h u m a n i s t i c s i d e , f o r l a t e i n the n o v e l we l e a r n t h a t he was something  o f a poet.  Pavlov, too, i s not without a humanistic side;  he had v e r y r e s p e c t a b l e l i t e r a r y c o n n e c t i o n s , f o r h i s w i f e was a f r i e n d of Dostoevsky's, great t a l e n t " :  and t h e P a v l o v s h e l d l i t e r a r y s o i r e e s a t t e n d e d by " a l l t h e Dostoevsky,  Turgenev, P l e s c h e e v , M e l n i k o v and o t h e r s .  Pavlov,  a c c o r d i n g t o B o b k i n , was a s t a u n c h f a n o f H e r b e r t Spencer (propounder o f e d u c a t i o n i n t h e s c i e n c e s and o f a p h i l o s o p h y based on D a r w i n ) , and a t t h e same t i m e , P a v l o v was f r e q u e n t l y heard t o say t h a t i t was Shakespeare who  178  brought him and h i s w i f e , S a r a ,  together.  Pynchon appears to have a f a s c i n a t i o n f o r f i g u r e s whose l i v e s , h i s own,  like  c o n t a i n the m i x t u r e of s y s t e m - b u i l d i n g ( p r i m a r i l y s c i e n t i f i c )  literature.  and  I n a d d i t i o n t o P a v l o v and Henry Adams, we c o u l d add a t l e a s t  two o t h e r i n f l u e n t i a l f i g u r e s t o t h e l i s t :  V l a d i m i r Nabokov, the n o v e l i s t -  l e p i d o p t e r i s t ( P a v l o v a l s o c o l l e c t e d b u t t e r f l i e s ) and J o r g e L u i s Borges, the l i b r a r i a n and way,  short story w r i t e r .  Each o f t h e s e men  t h e dilemma of c o n c o c t i n g systems i n a seemingly  explores, i n his  own  chaotic world.  And  whether i t i s P a v l o v d i l i g e n t l y c l a s s i f y i n g u n p r e d i c t a b l e b e h a v i o u r ; Adams d e v i s i n g a dynamic t h e o r y o f h i s t o r y to account f o r the anarchy of contempor a r y e v e n t s ; Nabokov b u i l d i n g f o r h i s c h a r a c t e r s e l a b o r a t e and  often  c r i m i n a l schemes w h i c h a r e f o i l e d by f a t e ; or Borges s t r u c t u r i n g myths to b l u r v i s i b l e r e a l i t y — t h e p a t t e r n i s the same. l e p i d o p t e r i s t and l i b r a r i a n — t h e y a l l ,  elegant  Scientist,  historian,  l i k e Pynchon, a r e enamored of  b e a u t i f u l c o n s t r u c t and, a t the same,time, a r e f e a r f u l t h a t i t may  the  collapse  o r grow out o f c o n t r o l . System-building  i s e s p e c i a l l y e v i d e n t a t The W h i t e V i s i t a t i o n where  Roger Mexico, a s t a t i s t i c i a n , keeps a g r i d of V-2 London B l i t z .  rocket s t r i k e s during  The g r i d i s Pynchon's h y p e r b o l i c v e r s i o n of the  c i t y w h i c h we have seen i n D i c k e n s ' s  geometric  Coketown, Conrad's London, B e l y ' s  P e t e r s b u r g and H e l l e r ' s P i a n o s a and Rome. however, Pynchon's London fades behind  More than t h e s e o t h e r  cities,  the g r i d , to the e x t e n t t h a t the  system a c h i e v e s a g r e a t e r r e a l i t y than the c i t y i t s e l f . an  the  Mexico works from  office dominated now by a g l i m m e r i n g map, a window i n t o another l a n d s c a p e than w i n t e r Sussex, w r i t t e n names and s p i d e r i n g s t r e e t s , an i n k ghost of London, r u l e d  179  o f f i n t o 576 squares, a q u a r t e r square k i l o m e t e r each. Rocket s t r i k e s a r e r e p r e s e n t e d by r e d c i r c l e s (GR, p. 6 3 ) . The r e d c i r c l e s on t h i s mapped g r i d o f s p i d e r i n g s t r e e t s a r e u n c a n n i l y to the t o p o g r a p h i c a l image of a dot w i t h i n a c i r c l e w h i c h opens and  close  extends  through Petersburg. When Mexico o v e r l a y s a map  of S l o t h r o p ' s s e x u a l s c o r e s on t h i s  t h e r e i s a p e r f e c t c o r r e l a t i o n , f o r S l o t h r o p , when an i n f a n t , was  grid,  mysterious-  l y c o n d i t i o n e d by L a s z l o Jamf to Impolex-G, an e l e c t r o n i c a l l y s e n s i t i v e p l a s t i c used i n t h e c o n s t r u c t i o n of r o c k e t s .  The r e s u l t i s t h a t  e r e c t i o n s become an a c c u r a t e i n d i c a t o r of r o c k e t t a r g e t s .  Slothrop's  I n Borges's s t o r y  "Of E x a c t i t u d e i n S c i e n c e , " the o v e r l a y of maps creates an e q u a l l y f a n t a s t i c r e n d i t i o n of s c i e n t i f i c r a t i o n a l i s m gone to the extreme. cartographers  become so obsessed w i t h t h e a c c u r a c y  I n " t h a t Empire"  of t h e i r map  that  they  extend the s c a l e u n t i l , when i t i s o v e r l a i d on the l a n d , i t matches p o i n t f o r p o i n t each l o c a t i o n of the Empire. cumbersome, and  Such magnitude, of c o u r s e , makes the  so i t i s abandoned t o " t h e R i g o u r s of sun and R a i n . "  i n t h e w e s t e r n d e s e r t s of t h i s l a n d do remnants and t h e map  map  Only  t a t t e r e d fragments of  remain; "no o t h e r r e l i c i s l e f t of the D i s c i p l i n e of Geography."^  The r a t i o n a l i s t i c system, then, grows out o f c o n t r o l and r e t u r n s to open f o r m l e s s n e s s .  I n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow, S l o t h r o p meets i n the Zone an  A r g e n t i n e named F r a n c i s c o S q u a l i d o z z i who  expresses  t h i s same theme i n r e g a r d  to South American empire b u i l d i n g : We a r e a l l obsessed w i t h b u i l d i n g l a b y r i n t h s , where b e f o r e t h e r e was open p l a i n and sky. To draw ever more complex p a t t e r n s on the b l a n k s h e e t . We cannot a b i d e t h a t openness; i t i s t e r r o r t o us. Look a t Borges. ... t h e A r g e n t i n e h e a r t , i n i t s p e r v e r s i t y  180  and g u i l t , longs for a return to that f i r s t unscribbled serenity ... that anarchic oneness of pampas and sky... (GR, p. 307. Pynchon's i t a l i c s ; the f i r s t e l l i p s i s i s mine) .  The absent-centred nature of Gravity's Rainbow r e s u l t s from precisely this, kind of desystemization.  The post-war Zone i s the kind of anarchic,  un-  structured world that Squalidozzi longs f o r .  "In ordinary times," he wants to explain, "the center always wins. Its power grows with time, and that can't be reversed, not by ordinary means. Decentralizing, back toward anarchism, needs extraordinary times ... this W a r — t h i s incredible W a r — j u s t for the moment has wiped out the p r o l i f e r a t i o n of l i t t l e states that's prevailed i n Germany for a thousand years. Wiped i t clean. Opened i t " (GR, pp. 307-308. Pynchon's emphasis) . Such openness i s a mixed blessing, for while Squalidozzi i s exuberant about the German Zone because "hope i s l i m i t l e s s , " he also r e a l i z e s that "so i s our danger." The metaphor, of course, works at the l e v e l of narrative structure, for at  the same time that Gravity's Rainbow i n v i t e s the paranoiac tendency to see  connections everywhere and c e n t r a l i z e the novel's themes, plots, characters and  images into a u n i f i e d a r t i s t i c system, i t also i n v i t e s the opposite  dency of anti-paranoia which means refusing to see connections anywhere.  tenThe  novel manages this not only by the use of themes and images of entropy, but also by flaunting the very largeness and m u l t i p l i c i t y of i t s f i c t i o n a l parts, which demand to remain unsystematized and decentralized.  In this sense,  Gravity's Rainbow shares a narrative structure more l i k e that of than of The Secret Agent or Catch-22.  Petersburg  The l a t t e r two novels achieve absent-  centredness by v i r t u e of indirectness around a central event; Gravity's  181  Rainbow, l i k e P e t e r s b u r g ,  achieves  i t s a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n e s s by v i r t u e of a  n e g a t i o n of what B e l y c a l l s t h e " c e n t r i p e t a l s e n s a t i o n . " n a r r a t o r of P e t e r s b u r g  And  c l a i m s i s the r e s u l t of t h a t n e g a t i o n  a c c u r a t e d e s c r i p t i o n of G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow:  what the i s also  an  " o n l y t h e c o n s c i o u s n e s s of  s h a t t e r e d s e n s a t i o n s remains whole" (J?, p. 262) . The n e g a t i o n of the c e n t r i p e t a l s e n s a t i o n , w h i c h becomes an a f f i r m a t i o n of a b s e n t - c e n t r e d n e s s , means t h a t t h e c i t y , l i k e the c h a r a c t e r s who it,  i s s p a t i a l l y c o n t o r t e d by t h a t n e g a t i o n .  h a n d l i n g of the c i t y , however, i s t h a t no one  The  inhabit  s p e c i a l f e a t u r e of Pynchon's  c i t y predominates i n the n o v e l .  B o t h London and B e r l i n , f o r example, share the same q u a l i t y of urban n i g h t mare w h i c h has been e v i d e n t i n the c i t i e s from D i c k e n s onward.  In Gravity's  Rainbow, i t i s as though the s i n g l e c i t y l o s e s the c e n t r i n g f u n c t i o n i t p e r formed i n the n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e s of p r e v i o u s a b s e n t - c e n t r e d  works and  e x p l o d e s i n t o a number of c i t y f r a g m e n t s .  There has been a " s i n g l e r o o t  way  p. 605).  back t h e r e i n t h e May  d e s o l a t i o n " (GR,  and E n g l i s h zones i n B e r l i n a t t h e end of the war t r a t i o n of t h i s p r i n c i p l e .  "Separations  The R u s s i a n ,  American  a r e the p o l i t i c a l  are proceeding.  lost,  illus-  Each a l t e r n a t i v e  Zone speeds from a l l t h e o t h e r s , i n f a t a l a c c e l e r a t i o n , r e d - s h i f t i n g , f l e e i n g t h e C e n t e r " (GR, nothing  p. 605).  1  The c e n t r e or t h e " s i n g l e r o o t , " however, i s  t h a t can be e a s i l y d e f i n e d or r e g a i n e d ;  i t e x i s t s mainly  as  an  a b s t r a c t i o n , as a s t r u c t u r i n g p r i n c i p l e w h i c h g i v e s shape to randomness. Thus, " i n t h e Zone a f t e r 'The  Great D y i n g ' i s heard a soprano v o i c e  s i n g i n g n o t e s t h a t never a r r a n g e themselves i n t o a melody, t h a t f a l l i n t h e same way  as dead p r o t e i n s ..."  (GR,  p. 723).  cent of t h e one James uses to express H y a c i n t h ' s anarchist, Hoffendahl.  The  apart  image i s r e m i n i s -  d i s i l l u s i o n e d v i e w of  the  L i k e t h e P r i n c e s s ' s mastery of the piano ( t o which  182  H y a c i n t h l i s t e n s w i t h fawning  a d m i r a t i o n ) , H o f f e n d a h l ' s m a n i p u l a t i o n of  p e o p l e i s l i k e t h e mastery o f so many notes  i n h i s g r e a t "symphonic massacre."  A s i m i l a r u s e o f music i s found i n The S e c r e t Agent: piano executes  a mechanical  roller  " p a i n f u l l y detached n o t e s " w i t h an " a g g r e s s i v e v i r t u o s i t y . "  I n t h e c o n t e x t o f wartime o r a n a r c h i s t disarrangement,  melody, t h e s e t e x t s  t e l l us, i s e i t h e r impossible or d i s s o n a n t l y mechanical. The movement towards f r a g m e n t a t i o n and d e c e n t r a l i z a t i o n i n t h e l a b y r i n t h o f t h e German Zone does n o t o n l y d e s t r o y coherence; i t a l s o i n v e r t s e x i s t i n g structures.  Thus, t h e Zone i s imaged as an i n v e r s e mapping o f t h e w h i t e and geometric c a p i t a l b e f o r e t h e d e s t r u c t i o n — t h e f a l l o w and l o n g - s t r e w n f i e l d s o f r u b b l e , t h e same w e i g h t o f t o o much f e a t u r e l e s s c o n c r e t e ... except t h a t here e v e r y t h i n g ' s been turned i n s i d e o u t . The s t r a i g h t - r u l e d b o u l e v a r d s b u i l t to be marched a l o n g are. now w i n d i n g pathways through the w a s t e - p i l e s ... I n s i d e i s o u t s i d e . C e i l i n g l e s s rooms open t o t h e sky ... (GR, p. 4 3 4 ) .  This post-apocalyptic d e s c r i p t i o n of the c i t y contains a v e r i t a b l e  catalogue  of t h e c i t y images w h i c h have appeared i n t h e n o v e l s so f a r d i s c u s s e d .  The  "rooms open t o t h e s k y " i s an image r e m i n i s c e n t both o f Conrad's "empty s h e l l s a w a i t i n g d e m o l i t i o n " and H e l l e r ' s Colosseum, a " d i l a p i d a t e d s h e l l . " " s t r a i g h t - r u l e d boulevards," l i k e Dickens's  symmetrical  The  s t r e e t s i n Coketown,  Conrad's s t r a i g h t p e r s p e c t i v e s i n London, and B e l y ' s p a r a l l e l p r o s p e c t s i n P e t e r s b u r g a r e h e r e , i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow, r e v e r t i n g t o "winding  pathways"  and "strewn f i e l d s o f r u b b l e " — t o "Pampas and sky," t h e k i n d of open t h a t S q u a l i d o z z i l o n g s f o r i n Buenos A i r e s .  landscape  Exploded and reduced t o r u b b l e  and waste, t h e Zone's i n o r g a n i c u r b a n i t y r e v e r t s t o o r g a n i c randomness. The emptiness and " t h e f e a t u r e l e s s c o n c r e t e " remind one e s p e c i a l l y o f  183  H e l l e r ' s e x p r e s s i o n i s t i c d e s c r i p t i o n s o f Rome i n Catch-22, and the r e v e r s a l of i n s i d e and o u t s i d e  i n Pynchon's passage shows an uncanny analogue with.  Snowden's d e a t h whose " i n s i d e s " when brought t o t h e " o u t s i d e " so a f f e c t Yossarian  and indeed govern h i s a c t i o n s .  Physical inversion also  character-  i z e s p e o p l e who wander i n t h e Zone's c i t y s c a p e :  Old men w i t h t i n s s e a r c h i n g t h e ground f o r c i g a r e t t e b u t t s wear t h e i r l u n g s on t h e i r b r e a s t s (GR, p. 434). Not  so v i v i d l y gruesome as H e l l e r ' s image, t h i s one does, n e v e r t h e l e s s ,  t r a t e f o r c i b l y that characters  illus-  who i n h a b i t p o s t - o r mid-war zones a r e ,  f i g u r a t i v e l y i n Pynchon's n o v e l and l i t e r a l l y i n H e l l e r ' s , t u r n e d i n s i d e o u t . Man's " m o r t a l e n v e l o p e , " t h e n a r r a t o r ' s p h r a s e f o r V e r l o c ' s The  S e c r e t Agent, i s t o o d e l i c a t e a membrane t o w i t h s t a n d  corporeality i n the  disproportion-  a t e l y p o w e r f u l f o r c e s o f w a r — t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y " o v e r k i l l " which body and s p i r i t The and  destroys  alike.  e x p e r i e n c e o f war wrenches t h e v e r y i n t e r i o r o f man t o t h e e x t e r i o r ,  t h e c i t y becomes, once t u r n e d i n s i d e o u t , the analogue f o r t h i s c o n d i t i o n ,  w h i c h i s a l s o a c o n d i t i o n o f c o r r u p t i o n and decay. p l a y i n g on the answer to t h e q u e s t i o n  As t h e n a r r a t o r  explains,  about the meaning o f "Sacrament" i n  the Catechism i n The Book o f Common P r a y e r ,  "the c i t y can be the outward and  v i s i b l e s i g n o f inward and s p i r i t u a l i l l n e s s o r h e a l t h " (GR, p. 433). The c i t y , l i k e a character,  becomes a v i c t i m , an i d e a w h i c h i s made c l e a r when  t h e n a r r a t o r r e f e r s t o London as " t h i s c i t y , i n a l l i t s bomb-pierced m i l e s : t h i s i n e x h a u s t i b l y k n o t t e d v i c t i m ..." (GR, p. 105). And f o r Roger M e x i c o , the red rocket  c i r c l e s on h i s maps become "red pockmarks on the pure w h i t e  s k i n o f l a d y London." f e a r i n g the v e n e r e a l ,  He wonders, c o n t e m p l a t i n g " d i s e a s e  on s k i n , " and  i f she c a r r i e s "the f a t a l i n f e c t i o n i n s i d e h e r s e l f " (GR,  184  p. 146).  These Images e x p l a i n , i n p a r t a t l e a s t , why  u a l ' s c o n d i t i o n and  so o f t e n the  the c i t y ' s c o n d i t i o n are inseparably l i n k e d .  of one depends on t h e h e a l t h of the o t h e r .  and  s p i r i t u a l l y i n v e r t e d , man  The  health  N o r t h r o p F r y e a r r i v e s a t the same  theme when he says of t h e modern c i t y i n g e n e r a l t h a t "no i t seems more l i k e - a community turned  individ-  i n s i d e out."  l o n g e r a community,  D e p r i v e d of h i s humanity  i s no l o n g e r c a p a b l e of s o c i a l or humane  a c t i o n , and t h e c i t y , fragmented and c e n t r e l e s s , cannot r e s c u e him by p r o v i d i n g an o r g a n i z e d  structure.  I n f a c t , Pynchon's l a b y r i n t h i n e c i t y i s c o n s t r u c t e d any  t o work a g a i n s t  chance of o r g a n i z a t i o n , as i s i l l u s t r a t e d by i t s c o n s t a n t  shifts,  and phantasmogoric a l t e r a t i o n s . T h i s i s due p a r t l y to the n a t u r e of c i t y ' s technology,  changes the  f o r t h e Germans b u i l t a complex underground system of  f a c t o r i e s and r o c k e t works. T r a v e l g e t s c o m p l i c a t e d — a system of b u i l d i n g s t h a t move, by r i g h t a n g l e s , a l o n g grooves of t h e RaketenS t a d t ' s s t r e e t - g r i d . You can a l s o r a i s e or lower the b u i l d i n g i t s e l f , a dozen f l o o r s per second, to d e s i r e d h e i g h t s or l e v e l s underground, l i k e a submarine s k i p p e r w i t h a p e r i s c o p e — a l t h o u g h c e r t a i n paths a r e n ' t a v a i l a b l e t o you. They a r e a v a i l a b l e to o t h e r s , but not to you. Chess. Your o b j e c t i v e i s not the K i n g — t h e r e i s no K i n g — b u t momentary t a r g e t s such as the R a d i a n t Hour (GR, p. 786). T h i s i s the most f u t u r i s t i c a l l y s u r r e a l c i t y s c a p e t h a t we have seen. Rome t i l t e d and wavered i n an e x p r e s s i o n i s t i c way t h a t we f i n d i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow.  Heller's  but never to the degree  Yet the p a t t e r n i s r e c o g n i z a b l e :  the  b u i l d i n g s i n the quoted passage escape d e s i g n a t i o n , j u s t as Todgers' i n Martin Chuzzlewit bassy i n The  remains i n a c c e s s i b l e though v i s i b l e , and j u s t as the  S e c r e t Agent seems m i s p l a c e d .  Here, Pynchon has extended  image to suggest a k i n d of m e c h a n i c a l f i l m s e t f o r some s c i e n c e  fiction  emthe  185  t h r i l l e r , F r i t z Lang's Metropolis, f o r example.  And as b e f i t s that mode, the  c i t y labyrinth, which i n the works of Pynchon's predecessors  remains s t a t i -  c a l l y confusing, i n Gravity's Rainbow becomes dynamically dislocating by v i r t u e of war technology which permits the labyrinth to actually move. Viewed from the a i r , the "ceremonial c i t y " i s one i n which "nothing here remains the same," and which w i l l "always be changing"  (GR, p. 846).  Like the novelists of absent-centred structure before him, Pynchon images the structuring/destructuring feature of the c i t y i n terms of the maze or labyrinth.  The maze i s a rigorously planned construct, but at the same  time, i t i s a construct i n which one r i s k s becoming hopelessly l o s t .  The  structure becomes over-structured, as though, i n an attempt to systematize chaos, i t has turned to chaos i t s e l f .  The paradox contained i n that image  i s especially suited to Pynchon's d i a l e c t i c a l imagination.  As for James,  the symmetry of opposites i s for Pynchon a favourite ploy of narrative structure.  The maze i s also a useful image for absent-centred narrative  structure because the centre of the maze, f o r James, Conrad, Heller and Bely, i s either death-giving, hollow or exploded, while for Pynchon i t i s undiscoverable.  Thus, Slothrop never reaches the centre of h i s quest; search-  ing f o r Springer, who he hopes w i l l lead him to the rocket, Slothrop "feels the whole c i t y around him going back roofless, vulnerable, uncentered is."  as he  Through tangled barbed wire and "windowless mazes," he makes his way  to a block of tenements nested one inside the other—boxes of a p r a c t i c a l joker's g i f t , nothing i n the center but a l a s t hollow courtyard smelling of the same cooking and garbage and piss decades o l d . Ha, ha! (GR, p. 509).  186  Pynchon expands t h e image here to i n c l u d e the t h i r d ( v e r t i c a l ) d i m e n s i o n of the l a b y r i n t h ; f o r h i s predecessors, s t r e e t l e v e l , t w o - d i m e n s i o n a l and  t h e maze r e m a i n s , f o r t h e most p a r t , a t  topographical.  By i n v o k i n g the  "practical  j o k e r , " however, Pynchon i n v i t e s us t o i n s p e c t not o n l y t h e absence a t  the  i n n e r c e n t r e of the maze but a l s o t h e absence of the o u t e r c e n t r e of c o n t r o l , t h e c o n s t r u c t o r above the maze.  For i t i s not a t a l l c e r t a i n t h a t the  c a l j o k e r e x i s t s , l e t a l o n e t h a t he has c o n s t r u c t e d a j o k e . dilemma of t h e p a r a n o i d .  The  practi-  Such i s the  same p r i n c i p l e w h i c h b e l e a g u e r s S l o t h r o p  also  b e l e a g u e r s most of the o t h e r c h a r a c t e r s i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow, f o r t h e "Them" and  t h e "They" who  appear t o govern so much of the Zone's war madness never  a c h i e v e an i d e n t i t y beyond t h e p r o n o u n — i n Pynchon's w o r l d , the a n t e c e d e n t i s permanently l o s t o r , a t b e s t , e x i s t s o n l y i n the i m a g i n a t i o n of t h e James and  Conrad do not j o k e about such m a t t e r s .  accompany the l a b y r i n t h image (moral and f e l t to be p a r o d i e d  and  The  themes w h i c h  s o c i a l a l i e n a t i o n ) a r e too  spoofed as they a r e i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow.  t h e t r e a t m e n t of t h e s e themes i s a c h i e v e d  paranoid.  w i t h a wry  then, i t i s an i r o n y of the utmost s e r i o u s n e s s .  Not  poignantly At  best,  s m i l e of i r o n y , but  even  t h a t Pynchon's treatment  of t h e l a b y r i n t h i n e c i t y l a c k s s e r i o u s n e s s ; on t h e c o n t r a r y , h i s f o r a y s i n t o a b s u r d i t y and b l a c k humour a r e meant, by t h e i r j u x t a p o s i t i o n w i t h the s e r i o u s , to suggest the extreme degree of d i s t o r t i o n w h i c h b e s e t s c h a r a c t e r s i n the Zone.  B e l y e x p l o i t s t h e a b s u r d i s t f e a t u r e s of the l a b y r i n t h image o c c a s i o n -  a l l y , but the m e t a p h y s i c a l  nuances of the image a r e , f o r him,  s i g n i f i c a n t , too i n t e r e s t i n g l y and w i t h parody.  Even H e l l e r , who  too  socially  i n t e l l e c t u a l l y complex, to be u n d e r c u t  i s so fond of the absurd i n the f i r s t  sections  o f Catch-22, abandons t h a t mode when he e x p l o r e s t h e l a b y r i n t h i n t h e Rome chapter  of t h e n o v e l .  For Pynchon, however, no s u b j e c t , theme, c h a r a c t e r  or  187  i m a g e — r e g a r d l e s s of what c o n v e n t i o n a l c o n n o t a t i o n s of r e v e r e n c e o r d i g n i t y may  be a t t a c h e d to i t — i s  beyond spoof.  C h r i s t - C h i l d , motherhood, d e a t h , or  Dorothy i n O z — n o n e i s immune from Pynchon's d i a l e c t i c a l i m a g i n a t i o n w h i c h , as a m a t t e r of n a r r a t i v e p r i n c i p l e , i s d i r e c t e d t o e x p l o r i n g g r o t e s q u e opposites.  Thus, w h i l e Pointsman's experiments a t the l a b o r a t o r i e s i n The  White V i s i t a t i o n a r e f i t s u b j e c t m a t t e r f o r m o r a l o u t r a g e , they a r e , n e v e r t h e l e s s , the o c c a s i o n f o r u n r e i n e d h i l a r i t y .  I t i s p r e c i s e l y because o f t h a t  u n c o m f o r t a b l e j u x t a p o s i t i o n t h a t t h e humour i s p a i n f u l .  The n a r r a t o r  intro-  duces us t o Pointsman's w o r l d w h i c h he c a l l s " P a v l o v i a " where t h e r a t s i n the e x p e r i m e n t a l mazes come t o l i f e complete w i t h New Y o r k g a n g s t e r a c c e n t s . Mouse A l e x i warns L e f t y and L o u i e t h a t S l u g "waz f u c k e d up r u n n i n ' dat maze.  f r i e d " "da f o i s t time he  A h u n d r i t v o l t s " (GR, p. 267) .  Then, i n  C h i n e s e box f a s h i o n (a t h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l maze r e m i n i s c e n t of t h e n e s t of tenement b o x e s ) , t h e n a r r a t o r t u r n s t o t h e b e h a v i o u r i s t e x p e r i m e n t e r s themselves :  R e i n f o r c e m e n t f o r them i s not a p e l l e t of f o o d , but a s u c c e s s f u l experiment. But who watches from above, who notes t h e i r responses? (GR, p. 267, Pynchon's emphasis) L i k e t h e s e s c i e n t i s t s , Pynchon's c h a r a c t e r s a r e v i c t i m s i n the m i l i t a r y i n d u s t r i a l and s c i e n t i f i c maze; they can never be s u r e t h a t they a c t from v o l i t i o n . They must l i v e w i t h t h e p a i n f u l p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t they a r e m e r e l y c o n d i t i o n e d s u b j e c t s i n some l a r g e r and p r o b a b l y h i d e o u s experiment, t h e d e s i g n of w h i c h they can never know.  They e x i s t as crooked l i n k s i n a d i s -  t o r t e d " c h a i n o f B e i n g , " l i k e Borges's Golem, a simulacrum c r e a t e d by L i o n , a r a b b i of Prague.  Judah  He c r e a t e s h i s demigod from a d o l l by f i n d i n g t h e  "Name" w h i c h i s t h e a r c h e t y p e f o r Omnipotence.  However, i n t h e " p e r m u t a t i o n s /  188  Of l e t t e r s and  complex v a r i a t i o n s , " he must have made an e r r o r , f o r the  c r e a t u r e i s more s i n i s t e r than benign, cat/Would h i d e . . . . "  "For a t h i s approach the r a b b i ' s  The c h a i n of b e i n g i s demonstrated i n the d e s c r i p t i o n  of t h e Golem's eyes which a r e " l e s s a man's than a dog's/And even l e s s a dog's than a t h i n g ' s — "  And  thus the r a b b i says w i t h r e g r e t :  Why d i d I d e c i d e to add to the i n f i n i t e S e r i e s one more symbol? Why, t o t h e v a i n S k e i n w h i c h unwinds i n e t e r n i t y Did 1 add a n o t h e r cause, e f f e c t , and woe? Pynchon's c h a r a c t e r s f i n d themselves caught i n j u s t such an " i n f i n i t e T h e i r r e s p o n s e i s a manic, t r a g i - c o m i c dance, l i k e the r a t s who the l o n g a i s l e s and m e t a l a p p a r a t u s , o r c h e s t r a " (GR,  p. 267).  series."  dance "down  w i t h conga drums and a peppy t r o p i c a l  T h e i r song i s b l a c k l y humorous:  I t was s p r i n g i n P a v l o v i a - a - a , I was l o s t , i n a maze ... L y s o l b r e e z e s perfumed t h e a i r , I'd been s e a r c h i n g f o r days. I found you, i n a c u l - d e - s a c , As b e w i l d e r e d as I — Autumn's come, to P a v l o v i a - a - a , Once a g a i n , I'm a l o n e — F i n d i n g sorrow by m i l l i v o l t s , Back t o neurons and bone Nothing's l e f t i n P a v l o v i a , But t h e maze, and the game ...  (GR,  p.  267).  Unaware of t h e source of h i s P a v l o v i a n c o n d i t i o n i n g , S l o t h r o p i s v e r y much l i k e one of t h e s e r a t s " f i n d i n g sorrow by m i l l i v o l t s . " operates  i n two ways:  the devastated  The maze, then,  t o p o g r a p h i c a l l y or t w o - d i m e n s i o n a l l y  as an image of  post-war g r i d t h r o u g h w h i c h S l o t h r o p wanders h o p e l e s s l y ,  t h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l l y (boxes w i t h i n boxes) as a m e t a p h y s i c a l  t e a s e r to  and  invite  189  s p e c u l a t i o n about a prime and  s i n i s t e r mover whose e x i s t e n c e i s e i t h e r doubt-  f u l o r unknowable. W h i l e S l o t h r o p f i n d s o n l y a " h o l l o w c o u r t y a r d " i n t h e c e n t r e of h i s maze, Pointsman, a t The W h i t e V i s i t a t i o n , i s t r u e r t o the m y t h i c a l o r i g i n s o f t h e image and f i n d s , not an absence, but a M i n o t a u r .  Of Pynchon's  o n l y James e x p l i c i t l y i n v o k e s the m y t h i c a l nuances of t h e image.  predecessors, Hyacinth,  we r e c a l l , f i n d s i n the f i r s t l a b y r i n t h he v i s i t s , M i l l b a n k p r i s o n , the " h o l l o w b l o o d l e s s mask" of h i s d y i n g mother.  L a t e r i n The P r i n c e s s Casa-  massima, he boasts to the P r i n c e s s t h a t he has been on the " s t e p s of temple" and  t h a t he has seen the " h o l y of h o l i e s " i n the "innermost  the sanctuary"  o f t h e a n a r c h i s t l a b y r i n t h , though he f a i l s t o heed the warning t h a t he i s no Theseus, t h a t he i s , i n f a c t , a " s a c r i f i c i a l lamb." maze as temple and  These nuances of  the  tomb remain o n l y i m p l i c i t i n t h e works of Conrad, B e l y  and H e l l e r , but Pynchon b r i n g s the myth back to v i g o r o u s l i f e i n G r a v i t y ' s Rainbow.  We  a r e t o l d t h a t i n the c e n t r e of Pointsman's " l a b y r i n t h of con-  d i t i o n e d r e f l e x work" i s K a t j e , p o s s i b l y a d o u b l e a g e n t — " V e n u s and  Ariadne."  Yet p u r s u i n g her i s w o r t h t h e r i s k , even though Pointsman f e a r s t h a t agents of the S y n d i c a t e " w a i t i n t h e c e n t r a l chamber." Ariadne,  the Minotaur,  "They own  even, Pointsman f e a r s , h i m s e l f " (GR,  everything: p. 102).  .dreams of r u s h i n g i n t o t h e l a s t room, b u r n i s h e d sword a t the r e a d y , screaming l i k e a Commando, l e t t i n g i t a l l out a t l a s t — some t r u e marvelous peaking of l i f e i n s i d e him f o r t h e f i r s t and l a s t t i m e , as t h e f a c e t u r n e d h i s way, a n c i e n t , weary, s e e i n g none of Pointsman's humanity, ready o n l y to assume him i n another l o n g - r o u t i n i z e d nudge of h o r n , f l i p of hoof (but t h i s t i m e t h e r e would be a s t r u g g l e , Minot a u r b l o o d the f u c k i n g b e a s t , c r i e s from f a r i n s i d e h i m s e l f whose m a n l i n e s s and v i o l e n c e s u r p r i s e him) ... (GR, p. 166).  He  190  S o l v i n g t h e b e h a v i o u r i s t p u z z l e of S l o t h r o p ' s c u r i o u s c o n d i t i o n i n g might be a s u c c e s s t h a t would save him from the t y r a n n y of t h e S y n d i c a t e ,  though  there  i s a s t r o n g l i k e l i h o o d t h a t " i n t e r m e d i a r i e s " w i l l come between " h i m s e l f h i s f i n a l beast."  They w i l l