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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.3, 477 ~ 506, 2019
Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India: Narrative Dance of Bewildering Contradictions
Seung Hyun Hong
Both Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster realize the instability of signifier from the ambiguity and contradiction. A similar complexity characterizes Lord Jim and A Passage to India because both writers have recourse to chaos to enable them to exemplify a complex modernist narrative form. The constant wavering, sliding narrative of modernist text, in fact, does not nail down words to a fixed meaning. What I wish to explore here is how the coiling uncoiling complexity of their narrative method expresses the instability of contradiction which keeps evoking the mystical abyss. The first part of my argument will briefly elucidate the narrative tact and structure of both novels. The second part will be concerned with an exploration of the crucial idea of contradiction which is the reservoir of mysticism. Finally, I will attempt to elaborate the ambiguous meaning which underlies the writers’ anticipation of the harmony and synthesis in chapters 36-45 in Lord Jim and the last section in A Passage to India. The two modernist writers have tried to deflate in many ways the certainty and fixed meaning through the use of multiplicities. Their efforts present every nuance of the novel, represented by such examples as self-testing narrative, whimsical quick reversals, or subversions of meaning, and open-endedness of the novel. Like a postmodern slipperiness of language, their texts are, in a certain sense, enigmatic, and as richly ambiguous as they are innovative in form.
Key Words
Conrad, Forster, Modernism, contradiction, multi-perspectivism
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