UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aspects of the quest in the minor fiction of Malcolm Lowry Robertson, Anthony


Although Malcolm Lowry is recognized as a major writer largely for the novel Under the Volcano, his lesser known works, Lunar Caustic, "Through the Panama" and "The Forest Path to the Spring", in Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, are as clearly representative of his place as a twentieth century writer as Under the Volcano, These three novellas were intended by Lowry to be a part of his proposed cycle, The Voyage That Never Ends, and their relationship to the rest of his work can be clearly seen. This thesis examines Lunar Caustic, "Through the Panama", and "The Forest Path to the Spring", in terms of the clear relationship to the proposed cycle. They are analysed primarily in thematic terms, through an analysis of each novella as a separate entity. At the same time, the integral relationship between them will be shown. All Malcolm Lowry’s work is an attempt to defeat chaos and alienation by establishing identity through the exploration of the various masks of self. This process of exploration can be called the quest for self. Accepting this as a basis, the thesis attempts to define and clearly evidence the aspects of the quest in the three novellas. The process is one of discovering the separate masks of self in each novella, and then establishing the links between each mask and their progressive nature. This should clearly delineate the interconnective nature of the three novellas and their link to the remainder of Lowry’s work. This thesis hopes to prove that the design and pattern of Lowry’s operation of the quest, while beginning in despair and chaos, eventually moves to a point of order and redemption, while at the same time showing that in personal and creative terms, the quest and its literary reconstruction are primarily destructive. In the novella Lunar Caustic, despair and chaos prevail and the protagonist fails in his quest for self, although the terms of that quest have been established. Sigbjorn Wilderness, the protagonist of "Through the Panama", moves further towards an acceptance of himself in terms of his past and the disordered world around him. It remains, however, for the nameless protagonist of "The Forest Path to the Spring", to finally reach a point of self acceptance and of salvation. He does this as a composite figure, made up from his predecessors in Lunar Caustic and "Through the Panama", and from Malcolm Lowry himself.

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