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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.2, 287 ~ 307, 2019
Teleological Narrative and Silence: Anglo-Irish Perception of History in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September
Younghee Kho
This essay explores the complicated working of silence in the narrative temporality of Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September. In particular, this essay argues that the moments of Anglo-Irish silence, despite their attempt to freeze real time and suppress the movement of history, syncopate the novel’s ending - the demise of the Anglo-Irish visualized in the conflagration of the Big Houses. Looking back on the tumultuous period of Ireland in the early 1920s, Bowen writes her novel such that the past-ness of the events is self-evident. She could not free herself from the notion of linear and progressive history, as observed in Bowen’s Court as well as The Last September. The novel is thus designed to move toward the anticipated conflagration of the Big Houses in the ending. Such teleological narrative movement, however, is impeded by silence imposed by the Anglo-Irish whenever they need to articulate their identity and political position. The moments of silence in The Last September are those of Anglo-Irish equivocation and evasion, reflecting their deep-seated anxiety and fear of exposing themselves to the outside world. Wrapped in the illusion created by the Big House and living according to the tempo it generates, the Anglo-Irish have, at their peril, remained blind and deaf to the historical reality outside the Big House. This essay traces such social and psychological deadlock Bowen recorded and especially marked through their silence in The Last September. Only with such acknowledgement, she could restore and preserve their way of life in her art.
Key Words
the Anglo-Irish, History, the Big House, Teleological Narrative, Silence
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