A. S. Byatt s Possession
If I had read A. S. Byatts fresh Possession without holding had British Literature, a batch of the novels significance, analogies, and literary enigma would hold been lost to me. The full book seems one large mention back to something we ve learned or read this May term. The first few lines of chapter one are poetry attributed to Randolph Henry Ash, which Byatt wrote herself. Already in those few lines I hear reverberations of category, lines written in flowery Pre-raphaelite tradition. The snake at its root, the fruit of gold. At the old universes rim, /In the Hesperidean grove, the fruit /Glowed aureate on ageless boughs, and at that place /The firedrake Ladon crisped his jewelled ( sic ) crest. Because of category, I was able to pick up on this poesy tradition right off. This narrative within a narrative is strengthened by Byatts ability to compose Victorians accurately. Until I read some of the reappraisals, I thought Byatts Victorian characters were existent historical literary figures, when really they are fabricated, and their diaries, letters, and poesy are written by Byatt.
The action of the book takes topographic point in two periods. The two chief characters, Roland and Maud, are literary bookmans populating in the 1980s. Their love narrative is shared and played out by the journals, poesy, and correspondence of two poets and lovers from the 1860s-Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Although the book is modern fiction, much of it is a Victorian novel every bit good. Possession is characteristic of Byatts love for intertextuality and imbedded texts. Possession is besides an illustration of several literary genres, all written into one book. At assorted times it gives grounds of poesy, mythology, a love affair novel, a detective narrative, a fairy narrative, diaries and journals, and scholarly Hagiographas.
There are several subjects in Possession that tie this book to earlier texts that we have read. Individual versus group individuality, feminism, gender and the nexus between present and past are subjects that Byatt trades with in her novel. Interestingly, Byatt expresses many of these subjects utilizing symbolic colour imagination, a technique that makes her composing reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite manner.
Harmonizing to Byatt, the battle of the person to detect and so populate out her ain individuality, an individuality etched out merely with tremendous attempt and findingis a major subject running through many of her novels, particularly this 1. The rubric itself brings out the first inquiries of identity-Possession. Who possesses whom? Does he possess her, or does she possess him? Are they having and possessing their literary history, or does it possess them?
Individual individuality is lost in the manner the book is written. Many times, the reader can non state one twosome from the other-who is reading Ashs poesy, snoging, running off on a honeymoon of kinds, and doing love? Is it Roland and Maud, or is she all of a sudden composing about Christabel and Ash once more? Throughout the book, Byatt frequently makes these switches in characters between scenes without stating the reader. The consequence is that the narrative is basically no different for each twosome life in different clip periods. The same love narrative that defines Christabel and Ash in the 1860s besides describes Roland and Maud in the 1980s.
In Victorian tradition, it was the adult male who ownedthe adult female, his married woman. Yet in this modern Victorian work, that becomes twisted. When Ash attempts to claimChristabel on page 308 by keeping her and doing love to her, the act of ownership is switched about. He is seeking figuratively to hold on her, and she was liquid traveling through his grasping fingers, as though she was moving ridges of the sea lifting all unit of ammunition him.He tries to take her all in, to cognize her, and her muliebrity eludes him, as personality ever will. Byatts message seems to be that a personality can non be taken or possessed by person else, that individualism ever remains, even in Victorian state of affairss of female subjugation and domination by males. This interwovenness and connexion between the two twosomes through subjects and state of affairss, serves besides to link the yesteryear to the present, the Victorian to the Post-modern.
Feminism is an of import facet in each clip period of the novel. Maud is a modern women’s rightist, trying to equilibrate her individuality as a adult female with her individuality as an academic bookman, and Christabel was seeking to get the better of her muliebrity by life as a hermit with another adult female before she met R. H. Ash. Similarly, Maud is a withdrawn individual, wary of work forces, and distrustful. Christabel is making what many adult females of her clip were making, that is, fighting for masculine freedom in a universe that was really limited for a adult female. Maud is making what many adult females today are trying to make, that is, seeking to accommodate and accept her muliebrity in an academic, typically male, environment. Byatt played up this feminist position of literature and society by taking to establish Christabels poesy ( which Byatt wrote ) on the strongly feminist poesy of Emily Dickinson, instead than on the softer voice of Christina Rossetti.
Another character, Rolands old girlfriend Val, is anything but a feminist portraiture. She seems to function as a balance and takes on a typical, subservient, Victorian adult females function, even though she is a modern adult female. She takes a occupation as a typist, even though she is a university bookman, invariably berates her occupation and herself as humble,and her thesis essay entitled Male Ventriloquism: The Women of Randolph Henry Ash is discredited and attributed to a male author. Val and the decrepit Victorian house where she and Roland portion an flat represent oppressive Victorian society, while Roland and Maud are populating the more liberated version.
Sexuality is another issue that connects the two clip periods. On page 6, there is a transition on R.H. Ashs poem stand foring Proserpina, an ideal Grecian adult female, as gold-skinned in the somberness? grain aureate? [ and ] edge with aureate links.This is an illustration of idealised birthrate and gender in Victorian adult females. It represents gender as something that can be conquered and possessed, like gold or grain. The suppression of gender in the Victorian epoch is a subject throughout the book, in both clip periods, as is the sexual freedom that both twosomes finally reach. The hints of gender in Victorian society have to be searched for and exposed in Possession. There are intimations of sapphism, expressed by LaMottes retreat from society and puting up house with another adult female. Ash and LaMottes love matter is hidden, in their ain twenty-four hours and to the modern bookmans, who have to delve through diaries, poesy, and letters left by the two Victorian lovers to bring out it. Even Mauds hair is symbolic, and ties her to Victorian society. She wears it covered with a scarf, symbolic of pent-up Victorian gender.
The apposition and nexus between the yesteryear and the present is a really important facet of Byatts novel. The storyline supports switching from the 1860s to the present, and the characters are really similar. It is frequently hard to state which twosome Byatt is composing approximately in any given state of affairs, because their love affairs are so similar. The manner this romantic narrative tantrums both twosomes and clip periods seems to propose that non so much has changed, and love affair from one clip to another is non so different as we thought. The characters mix the old and the new ; Maud wears a broach one time belonging to Christabel, and another Ash bookman, Mortimer Cropper, carries Ashs pocket ticker. In the terminal of the novel, the last love missive written by Christabel enables Maud to eventually bask the value of love in the present, and give her trust to Roland. The cyclical clip frame of the novel provides an interesting contrast to the normal, smothering, additive clip frame of typical literature and mundane life.
The manner Byatt expresses many of these subjects through her symbolic usage of colour is important. Byatt pigments with words, doing her reminiscent of the Pre-raphaelites. She gives colour descriptions for her characters, painting the adult females such as LaMotte and Christabel in gold and green description, while individuals whose characters are level and ne’er well-developed, such as Paola the secretary, are described in colorless footings. Paola has long, colorless hair edge in a gum elastic setimmense mothlike spectacless, and dust-covered Grey tabletsfor fingertips. Her deficiency of colour sets her off from the beginning as a really level character.