UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Violence : the devil within us examined in four contemporary British novels : Anthony Burgess, "A clockwork orange"; Flann O’Brien, "The third policeman"; Iris Murdoch, "The time of the angels"; Muriel Spark, "The ballad of Peckham Rye" Davis, Sarah Gasquoine


This thesis examines violence as a thematic concern in four contemporary British novels: Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange", Flann O'Brien's "The Third Policeman", Iris Murdoch's "The Time of the Angels" and Muriel Spark's "The Ballad of Peckham Rye". Violence pervades these novels, affecting every character and situation, and it is revealed in elements of fantasy, grotesqueness and surrealism in language, theme and character. A vital link between the novels is that each possesses a demonic character (or characters) whose demonism is symbolic of the darker side of man's nature. These novelists portray life as being a continual struggle—this struggle is the choice between the opposing forces of good and evil; and from this struggle violence erupts. These demonic figures represent the dark and violent choice of evil. An examination of the characters of the demonic figures in these novels reveals that each exists in a strange or curious sort of hell or inverted world. Alex, in "A Clockwork Orange", creates a hell for others which, in turn, sends him to a hell created by society. Violence is the means used by both sides, thus neither Alex nor society appears totally innocent nor totally guilty. The nameless Narrator in "The Third Policeman" is literally dead and in hell--a hell he has created by his own earthly actions. However, he is not alone in his hell, for his accomplice in murder and the peculiar policemen are also oddly affected. In "The Time of the Angels", the characters' hell is confined to a fog-bound rectory in which they are virtually trapped. Leo, however, seems to possess a fey quality which enables him to somehow evade the others' predicament. In contrast, Carel, his aging counterpart, has despaired and is doomed. In "The Ballad of Peckham Rye", Dougal Douglas purposely creates a hellish situation for a chosen group of people; his reason is psychological manipulation—the result is violence. The focal point of the novels seems to lie in the obsession shared by these demonic figures—obsession with self and self-gratification. Essentially, it is the obsession of these protagonists which warp and influence the nightmare worlds which all the characters inhabit, worlds in which violence and destruction seem inevitable. This violence is a reflection of the growing violence of our modern, technological society in which psychopathy (comparable to that practiced by these demonic figures) is on the increase and humanism is on the wane.

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