UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Malcolm Lowry's Under the volcano : an interpretation Thomas, Hilda L.


Since its publication in 1947, Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano has been gaining in reputation until it has come to be regarded as one of the masterworks of this century. The aim of this thesis is to consider Under the Volcano in the light of the Romantic and Symbolist tradition in which it belongs, and to provide an interpretation of the novel through an exploration of its structure, symbolism and theme. Chapter I attempts to demonstrate that an understanding of the world view which Lowry adopts in Under the Volcano - the doctrine of universal analogy, which had such a profound influence on the nineteenth-century Romantic and Symbolist writers - is essential to an appreciation of the formal design and the theme of the novel. Chapters II and III examine the implications of two of the major symbols of Under the Volcano - the wheel and the abyss — and attempt to show how these symbols function on several levels to support both the narrative sequence and the mythic framework of the novel. Some attention is paid to the metaphorical identification of the protagonist with the archetypal ‘suffering hero,’ especially in relation to the Promethean and Orphic imagery employed in the novel. Chapter IV is concerned with the tragic stature of the hero, particularly as it is revealed in the culminating scenes of the novel, and with an examination of the paradoxical resolution of the central conflict - the struggle between love and death. The Conclusion contains a brief review of some critical comments on the novel and modern literature in general, which may contribute to an appreciation and understanding of Lowry’s achievement in writing Under the Volcano.

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