literary criticism

The Role & Representation of the City in Modernist Literature

DublinersIn her essay Characters in Fiction, Virginia Woolf wrote that ‘on or about December 1910, human character changed’ – people began to behave differently, she says – giving the example of behaviour of one’s cook – Victorian cooks stayed below in their kitchens and did their jobs whilst Georgian cooks were always wandering upstairs to borrow newspapers or get advice about a hat.

The implication is that if human character has changed (and according to Woolf at the end of the day all literature is about character) then literature must change as well. What better backdrop than the city to illustrate these changes! The problem is however that not all modernist writers were interested in representing the same changes and even where they were, they did not all do so to the same effect.

Cities provide a convenient container, their infrastructure juxtaposing the old and new. In the section entitled ‘The Fire Sermon’ in his poem The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot uses London’s Thames River to represent the differences between the nostalgic majesty of Elizabethan times (‘Elizabeth and Leicester’ – ‘beating oars’ – ‘a gilded shell’ – ‘red and bold’) and 1920’s London (‘trams and dusty trees’ that ‘undid me’ with little promise of a ‘new start’). Both these representations involve connections (boats/trams) whilst at the same time implying a fundamental disconnect. By choice of images invoked the speaker in this section of The Waste Land seems to suggest that the changes he or she experiences has turned yesterday’s London into a worse place.

Cities also provide a privileged space wherein everything that can happen birth, marriage, death, etc.) does happen with routine regularity. Although the speaker in the Waste Land seems to find little pleasure in his or her London, Virginia Woolf’s heroine, Clarissa, in Mrs Dalloway takes immense pleasure in hers – what with its ‘omnibuses, sandwich men, automobiles, and armies of people’. Little did she know however that just in a few hours wandering about London’s West End, Clarissa would confront so many complex issues –ghosts from her own past (prior lovers Peter Walsh and Sally Seton) and the devastations wrought by war (in the form of the suicide of poor Septimus). It is dislocating just to think of all the things a city throws up to its residents in a single day but the reader of Mrs Dalloway gets the sense that Clarissa finds more plusses than minuses in her London than did the speaker in Eliot’s The Waste Land.

Cities have a way of taking on a life of their own – contracting and expanding according to the needs of society as it changes. In Howards End, EM Forster represents the dislocation felt by the Schlegel family as their long-time London home is pulled down to make room for building a block of new flats. Like Clarissa Dalloway’s London, the Schlegel’s house is a temporal container (albeit in miniature) – for their ghosts. But rather like Woolf’s Clarissa, Margaret Schlegel found her London exhilarating and in the changes that the speaker in Eliot’s ‘The Fire Sermon’ found so threatening, Margaret found the promise for a ‘new start’ which would take her where she had needed go all along, Howards End.

Finally cities become symbols in their own right – representing a particular society as a whole – how characters react to this tells as much about them as the society itself. For example, in James Joyce’s story ‘Clay’ in Dubliners, Maria finds enough to admire in her city. Not only does she have a job that allows her enough money to pick and choose amongst the delightful goods at Downe’s cake-shop (and finally purchase a ‘thick slice of plumcake’) but she also has family with which to share them. Although Maria’s Dublin is more claustrophobic (despite singing nostalgic songs and playing games with her brother’s children, one cannot help thinking that Maria – ‘blushing very much’ – feels a bit put upon by her family) than Clarissa Dalloway’s London, it would appear better then what she might have experienced in days gone by (that a prayer book and subsequent jokes about entering a convent serves to remind everyone how much times have changed for the better, at least for women).

In summary, if as Woolf suggests human character has changed then modernist literature needed change to reflect that. The city provides an excellent opportunity to accomplish this because as a back-drop for the modernist writer’s characters, it is a privileged space – a container or microcosm – of humanity. Naturally with changing times comes feelings of dislocation but the way in which various modernist writers approach representations of their chosen cities suggests that for some such dislocation was welcome (as in the case of Maria, Margaret, and perhaps also Clarissa) while for others like the speaker in The Waste Land it was not.

literary criticism

Use of Fragmentation in the modernist work of Forster, Eliot, and Woolf

montageIn large part, modernist writers responded to the social conditions of modernity which, for a variety of reasons, spelt a serious disconnect with the past; naturally the old has always given way to the new but such transition had never before been perceived as so obtrusive – so fragmented – as it was in the early 20th century.

Not only had scientific advances thrown prior conceptions of physical reality out of the window (for example, the installation of city street lamps had all but eliminated the distinction between night and day) but also philosophers like Nietzsche had undercut traditional notions of an ordered, meaningful metaphysical reality by, for example, eliminating God. If that were not bad enough, psychologists such as Freud and Jung undercut traditional notions of perceived reality with suggestions that it was not human rationality running the show (as had been believed for almost 400 years) but instead an uncontrollable unconscious manifesting either as unruly, repressed personal desires or collective archetypal patterns reflected in myth and dreams.

Hence for purposes of this essay, I define fragmentation as any technique used by modernist writers to address these many fragmented, often seemingly disconnected, strands underlying modern constructions of reality. I suggest that whether or not such techniques are useful depends on the purpose for which the writer chose to use them and whilst we can never know what that purpose was, it is virtually impossible to determine if they were useful except in the limited sense that we as readers get a sense of the turmoil that society must have in some degree felt during this period.

Some modernist writers like EM Forster sought to connect fragmented bits of reality. For example in Howards End, Forster juxtaposed physical manifestations of the old and new; the idyllic countryside (‘untroubled meadows’) is viewed by Mrs Munt from the train on her journey to Howard’s End. She sees it as ‘awakening after a nap of a hundred years’ to such ‘life’ as is conferred by the ‘stench of motor-cars’. But if Mrs Munt was ‘equally indifferent’ to ‘history’ – ‘tragedy’ – the ‘past’ and the ‘future’, Forster was not. He uses that stinky motor-car as a symbol for death and destruction – Charles (with his fit-for purpose ‘gloves and spectacles’) who virtually becomes his car (his father admonishes – your ‘one idea is to get into a motor’) kills Mr Bast, and the paddock is sacrificed for a garage to house the motor, and the motor-car ‘flattens’ a cat. But no matter how often characters urge each other to ‘bridge’ the gap (between what is never made precisely clear) for the most part they seem to fail except perhaps through the marriage of Margaret (old order) and Henry Wilcox (new order) – neither of whom (interestingly) drives a ‘motor’!

But whilst Forster seeks connections, TS Eliot seems to glorify in disconnectedness especially in regards to metaphysical reality; in his poem The Wasteland, there are numerous references to a troubled Christianity – for example in the section entitled A Game of Chess, a reference to the ‘sylvan scene’ (an allusion to the 4th book of Paradise Lost by John Milton where Satan came in the view of Eden) serves as an appropriate forecast for the immediately following allusion to Philomela who was violently raped by her sister’s husband, Tiresias (who may be equated with Satan). The message would appear to be that all hell is breaking loose in creation.

Most certainly as each different section of The Wasteland shifts to the next without transition (or sometimes without even obvious links), we get a sense of how frustrated and lost that society must have felt when all around them they got the same message. But unlike Howards End, The Wasteland seems to suggest connections cannot be made. In What the Thunder Said, we learn from the poem’s speaker that he will be unable to ‘set my lands in order” because ‘London bridge is falling down’ – and that the ‘fragments’ have been ‘shored against my ruins’.

Whilst both Forster and Eliot draw attention to the problems inherent in making connections a fragmented reality, Virginia Woolf seems to suggest everything will sort itself out in the natural course of time. For example, in her autobiographical writings, Moments of Being, she states that she personally takes ‘great delight’ in pulling together her own ‘severed parts’ by dredging through memories (perceptions of time) – much in the same way that many of her fictional characters appear to do.

For example, in Mrs Dalloway, the ebb and tide of Clarissa’s day are a jumble of events, places, and people bound together solely by (often disparate and fragmented) memories spanning more than thirty years. Quite how reflections on the ‘most exquisite moment of her whole life’ when she had been kissed by Sally Seton are connected with her own ‘faults, jealousies, vanities, and suspicions’ (conjured up by Lady Bruton having not asked her to lunch) is left to the reader’s (vivid) imagination. But the way they are presented as a given – we sense that Woolf was never in doubt that they were connected. In Orlando, the only continuity between the hero turned heroine after a four-hundred year romp through history is his/her memories and face. Indeed, memory or personal perceptions of reality, are again here the binding thread – ‘running her needle in and out – up and down – hither and thither’ in a way that clock ‘time’ (which makes ‘animals and vegetables bloom with amazing punctuality’) can never do.

In summary, if we evaluate the usefulness of techniques of fragmentation for modernist writers in terms of whether their readers get some sense of the frustration that 20th century western society must have felt in the wake of changes on so many levels of ‘reality’, I suggest that at least in regards to Forster, Eliot, and Woolf it has been useful albiet in different ways; Forster suggesting that connections can be made between the fragments and provides clues how this might be achieved. Eliot suggests that such connections are inconcievalbe and we had better just make do with what we have with the fragmented ‘ruins’. Finally Woolf suggests that connections are not only are possible (through our perceptions of reality) as we grow older (and presumably wiser) these connections will be naturally be made.

literary criticism

Only Connect: The tension of passion and prose in the writing of EM Forster


According to Colmer (92), the phrase ‘only connect’, the epigraph to Howards End, immediately establishes the master theme as one of achieving harmony. Indeed the importance of bridging tensions across racial, class, and geopolitical barriers is a recurring theme in Forster’s work.

However I suggest that Forster does not always succeed (or perhaps did not wish to succeed) in bridging these tensions. This essay investigates how and why this might be the case in regards to resolving the tension between ‘prose’ and ‘passion’ in five major characters from Howards End and A Room with A View (both novels themselves connected by reference to the English art critic and author, John Ruskin).

Our first encounter with ‘prose’ and ‘passion’ comes shortly after Margaret Schlegel, a liberal intellectual, receives her first kiss from her chalk and cheese fiancé, Henry Wilcox, a conservative businessman. When Margaret finds that ‘the incident displeased her’ because ‘no tenderness had ensued’, she resolves to help Henry bridge the desired gap (HE, 169).

Although the word ‘passion’ is used twenty-three times in Howards End, it is not defined. However given the lack of physical passion in Margaret’s relationship as well as her musings about ‘half-monks’ and ‘half-beasts’ (HE 169), Henry’s ‘soul’ and the ‘whole of her sermon’ (HE 170), I suggest that the passion in question is more spiritual than physical. Although the word ‘passion’ occurs sixteen times in A Room with A View, it is likewise not defined. But given that yet again, there is little physical passion displayed in Lucy’s relationships (her first kiss – RV, 101 – apparently being as much a failure as Margaret’s), I am presuming that for sake of comparison that the passion in A Room with A View is likewise more spiritual than physical although perhaps not quite in the same way or to the same degree as in Howards End. For purposes of this essay, spirituality is presumed to be un-associated with traditional religions, for as Colmer (91) explains, Forster celebrated in all his novels a ‘spiritual aristocracy’ of the ‘sensitive, the considerate and the plucky’, the members of which ‘are to be found in all nations and classes’ and who have a ‘secret understanding between them when they meet.’Unknown

Colmer (90) also notes that the first Mrs Henry Wilcox definitely qualifies as a member of this spiritual aristocracy. I suggest that Margaret might then also qualify given that she was the first Mrs Wilcox’s ‘spiritual heir’ (HE, 90) but that for Mr Henry Wilcox, the businessman who was not ‘spiritually’ as ‘honest’ as Margaret, there would seem little hope, at least not on his own.

I also suggest that although Leonard Bast in Howards End was ‘a born adventurer’(HE, 108) and hence plucky, there was likewise little hope for him because he was ‘poor’ (HE 41). Stone (36), makes clear that Forster was convinced that only the well-off can attend to spiritual concerns. Indeed the narrator of Howards End reiterates this: ‘this story’ deals only with ‘gentlefolk’ (or those obliged to pretend they are gentlefolk) because ‘the very poor’ are ‘unthinkable’ and can ‘only be approached by the statistician or the poet.’ (HE 41).

Although Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with View might initially have been ‘in a state of spiritual starvation’ (RV,5) the narrator assures us that because of her music the ‘passion was there’, even though it ‘could not be easily labelled’ (RV, 28). Lucy continues to struggle with articulating her passion until Mr Emerson, George’s father, reveals that ‘passion does not blind’ (RV 183). With this she finally gets in touch with her passion and by the end of the novel when she and her new husband, George, commence their life together, the narrator assures us that ‘passion’ was ‘requited’ and ‘love attained.’

This brings us to the second half of the ‘prose’ / ‘passion’ equation.

Although in Howards End the word ‘prose’ is used eight times, it is not defined. However given Margaret’s obvious interest in literature perhaps we may justifiably take ‘prose’ to mean at least in part, ‘a composition or passage in prose’ as opposed to poetry (OED A 2 b). In A Room with a View, the word ‘prose’ is used only once and that is in regards to Ruskin who is a common factor for both novels being invoked seven times in Howards End and four times in A Room with a View. Hence I suggest it is not unreasonable to associate ‘prose’ with that of Ruskin. According to Hoy (221), in both these novels Forster tried to do for modern England what Ruskin had tried to do for Victorian England – to redeem her from the repressive forces that threatened to destroy her spirituality through retreat into an idealised view of the classical world, which valued not only high art but also a quality of mind characterized by disinterested contemplation. In other words, truth rises above the rumble and grumble of the everyday material world and hence only detached intellectuals are able to find it.

Most certainly Leonard Bast believed this to be the case; he felt that ‘if he kept on with Ruskin’ not only was he ‘being done good to’, but that he ‘would one day push his head out of the grey waters and see the universe’ (HE, 45). But Bast fails in his quest, killed by a ‘shower’ of the very books he believed would redeem him (HE, 295). Perhaps this was because as Colmer (102) points out, Ruskin not only promoted intellectually fuelled classicism but also ‘preached the gospel of work to invest the new forces of industrialism with value’. Interestingly this would seem compatible with yet another definition of ‘prose’ – that which is ‘plain, simple, or matter-of-fact’ (OED A 1 b) for as I understand it, with Ruskin came serious questions whether definitions of ‘culture’ could include the plain, simple, matter-of-fact rumble and grumble of everyday life or whether it could now only exist above and beyond. Hence for purposes of this essay, I posit that the message of Ruskin’s prose in both Howards End and A Room with a View is that to be valuable, intellectualism must be put to good use through the gospel of work (the word ‘work’ being used an amazing eighty-five times in the former and one hundred eighteen times in the later).

Although it was ‘work (that) Bast wants’ (HE, 206), I suggest it might not have been the type of work that Ruskin had in mind. Colmer (102) suggests that unlike Ruskin who believed that work must not be reduced to mechanics but instead be intrinsically linked with the enjoyment of that which it produced, Forster could see ‘work’ only in terms of counting houses and because Bast was a clerk, as he himself acknowledged, ‘there’s nothing’ he is ‘good enough to do’ (HE, 206).

Although Henry Wilcox may not have strove to be an intellectual as did Bast, he virtually embodies the gospel of work – he and those like him are ‘(s)ane, sound Englishmen! Building up empires’ (HE, 215). As readers we are reminded no fewer than five times that Henry Wilcox is a man of business and by definition this means he is engaged in ‘serious employment’ (OED II 9 a). However if Ruskin requires the marriage of intellectualism and valuable work, this would seem not enough for Henry for he had neither ‘fine feelings’ or ‘deep insight’ (HE, 187); he was a very ‘practical fellow’ indeed and hence ‘more tolerant’ than ‘intellectuals’ (HE, 133).

Likewise it is not enough for Margaret. However much she may talk about work (for example lecturing her brother, Tibby, regarding work as the cure for his empty life (HE, 100)), Margaret remains a secure member of the leisured middle class. According to Colmer (102) this is one explanation why Margaret was attracted to Henry Wilcox; he ‘embodies the importance of work’ which Margaret appreciated but, despite her extension of the gospel of work to women (HE, 100), she failed to take it up personally.

Even if Margaret was not able to ‘connect’ on her own (i.e. by failing to take up ‘serious employment’ she had not personally embraced the entirety of Ruskin’s prose), I suggest that she ‘connected’ through marriage. I suggest that similarly it was through her marriage to Henry that the first Mrs Wilcox connected her ‘passion’ with the ‘prose’ for however spiritual she might have been, she possessed no prose of her own – she was neither an intellectual nor engaged in ‘serious employment’, her ‘idea of business’ being ‘why do people who have enough money try to get more money?” (HE, 82).

In regards to Henry, although Margaret concludes that ‘he had refused to connect’ (HE, 301), I would aruge that he has done. Although he had once refused to give Howards End (arguably itself symbolic of ‘passion’ with its mysterious ‘pigs’ teeth stuck in the trunk’ of the ‘finest wych-elm in Hertfordshire’ (HE, 65)) to Margaret as requested by the first Mrs Wilcox on her death bed, in the final paragraphs of the novel he gives Howards End to his new wife ‘absolutely’ (HE 310). Although he might not have accomplished the ‘connection’ on his own, he was able to do so through marriage.

Like Leonard Bast, Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View is addicted to her Ruskin. When she first arrives in Florence, she is reluctant to consider what might be beautiful without guidance from him (RV, 19). But as she got into her own stride at Santé Croce, she dropped her pretence to intellectualism and was soon advising Mr Emerson that his son, George, ‘wanted employment’ to get over what would appear to be his existential angst (RV, 26). Whether her rhetoric regarding employment matters, I remain uncertain for unlike in Howards End, the thrust of Lucy’s ‘prose’ was neither the (1) intellectualism inspired by Ruskin (although she did experience her inciting events in Italy) nor (2) the gospel of work. I suggest that Lucy was faced with the other definition of ‘prose’ – that which is ‘plain, simple, or matter-of-fact’ (OED A 1 b). Indeed Colmer (44) suggests that the conflict confronting Lucy was that between naturalness and conventionality and I suggest that in breaking off her engagement to Cecil Vyse and eloping with George, the man she loved, she bridged the tension between her ‘passion’ and ‘prose’, albiet perhaps a different ‘prose’ than that bridged by the characters of Howards End.

In summary, Forster does not always succeed (or perhaps did not wish to succeed) in bridging the tension between the (1) ‘passion’ or the spiritual side of man with the (2) ‘prose’ or more rational, material side. With Leonard Bast, I suggest that he not only failed but that he wished to fail in order to emphasize that blind intellectuallism will never win the day and besides, Bast was never to be admitted to the ranks of the spiritual aristocracy because he was poor. With both Margaret and Henry, the connection is made but not on an individual basis for each lacked an essential ingredient in the the ‘prose’ / ‘passion’ equation. Likewise although the first Mrs Wilcox possessed ‘passion’ (in the sense of belonging to the spiritual aristocracy), without her husband she failed to possess ‘prose’ and the connection could only again be made as the result of marriage. Similarly Lucy Honeychurch was neither an intellectual nor an adherent to the gospel of work however her remit was somewhat different; the prose she was meant to achieve was to put aside the pretence of convention in favour of a ‘plain, simple, and matter-of-fact’ approach to life that allowed her to follow the dictates of her own heart. Lucy demonstrated her success in bridging the ‘prose’ and the ‘passion’ when she refused to marry the man society had chosen for her in favour of the choice of her own.



Forster, EM. Howards End. New York: The Modern Library (1999): (HE).

Forster, EM. A Room with a View. New York: Penguin Books (2000): (RV).

Colmer, John. E.M. Forster, the personal voice. London: Routedge & Kegan Paul. (1975).

Eagles, Stuart. After Ruskin: The Social and Political Legacies of a Victorian Prophet, 1870-1920. Oxford Scholarship Online (2011).

Hoy, Pat. C. ‘The Narrow, Rich Staircase in Forster’s Howards End’, Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 32, no. 2/3 Summer-Autumn, (1985) pp. 221-235.

Stone, Wilfred. The Cave and the Mountain: A Study of E.M. Forster. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1966).

literary criticism

Comparison and Contrast Using Jungian (Archetypal) Literary Criticism of Extracts from Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Forster’s A Passage to India



UnknownIn the context of Jungian (Archetypal) Literary Criticism, I suggest that both these pieces are structured using the archetypal motif of a journey toward individuation. But while Forster’s piece makes significance progress by grappling with the conflicting psychological tensions presented, Eliot’s piece never gets off the ground.

One of the primary purposes of Jungian Literary Criticism is to uncover the unconscious dynamics underpinning the work so as to gain a better understanding of their function (Dawson, 277). Hence Jungian Literary Criticism often begins with the question: “What psychological factor (whether image or complex of concerns) might have been responsible for this text?” (Dawson, 274).

Both pieces are structured as important, personal journeys through the countryside which, by the very nature of journeys, provides passage from one point to another; Eliot uses the highly personal and inclusive first person narrative point of view through which to invite us to join her narrator’s journey and although Forster uses the more distancing third person narrative point of view, the piece remains so highly subjective that readers are encouraged to believe they are privy to his narrator’s most personal thoughts and observations.

One explanation of the psychological factor (whether image or complex of concerns) responsible for such journeys might be that which was coined by Jung as the archetype of ‘individuation’ (also known as the Hero’s Journey) – the process by which the unconscious (collective and personal) is brought into consciousness (Jung, Symbols, 301). Individuation suggests the fullest possible awareness of the disparate or conflicting parts comprising one’s personality. Furthermore, it is achieved only by steady, honest, and demanding self-discipline (Hart, 91). It is worth noting that true wholeness such as that required by individuation is never achieved unconsciously, but only in the context of becoming conscious of those conflicting elements making up one’s psyche (Hart, 94).  images

With individuation, the goal is to “overcome the monster of darkness”; to experience the “triumph of consciousness over the unconscious” (Jung, Archetypes,167). Dark, fertile, moist things (especially those found in nature) are often used to represent the unconsciousness (Jung Archetypes, 27, 82), while consciousness is often suggested through religious symbology (Ualnov, 279). Thus for a successful journey toward individuation we should expect to find imagery suggestive of both.

At least in part, we are not disappointed for the archetypal motif of water, the most common symbol of the unconscious (Adams, 114), is employed in both pieces – and not just any water – but the running water of a river suggesting the flow of libido or psychic energy (Salman, 69). While the libido runs freely, the process of individuation is underway. However, when the free flow of the libido is checked or inhibited (suggesting conflicting psychological tensions) the process of individuation is stopped or even reversed (Salman, 69). Hence we might expect both pieces to evidence restricted libido (for the process of individuation is never easy).

Again, we are not disappointed for immediately upon setting out with Eliot’s narrator along her river on its way to ‘the sea’, symbol for the collective unconscious (Jung, Dreams, 122), the ‘broadening Floss hurries’ straight into the ‘impetuous embrace’ of the ‘loving tide’, which ‘rushing to meet it’, immediately ‘checks its passage.’ On this ‘mighty tide’ are also borne ‘black ships’ – black symbolizing the unconscious (Jung, Archetypes, 185). These ships – perhaps suggesting safe passage from one shore to another – (Fontana,112) – are on their way to ‘red-roofed town’ of St Ogg’s or the reality of the material world (Fontana, 174). That these ships may carry something of value is recognized; ‘fresh-scented fir-planks’,  ‘rounded sacks’ bearing ‘seed’,  or the ‘dark glitter of coal’ (diamonds being, like coal, constructed of carbon crystal – Jung, Dreams, 292). Yet no attempt is made to reach the ships. Indeed they and their cargo remain ‘distant’ – perhaps so ‘distant’ it is not even possible to really see (much less smell) what they carry? Likewise St Ogg’s is kept similarly at bay; Eliot’s narrator chooses not to see it directly but only through its ‘soft purple’ (watery) reflection.  Instead, she luxuriates in the reality of her own unconscious as suggested by numerous ‘loving’ references to fertility (‘rich pastures’ and patches of ‘dark earth’ made ‘ready for the seed’). Indeed, the only ‘living companion’ wanted is the river which, not surprisingly, is ‘deaf’ thus ensuring that no uncomfortable questions need be answered.

Likewise in Forster’s piece, the river does not flow freely. It is ‘scarcely distinguishable’ from the ‘rubbish’ it leaves and the very wood of the buildings lining the river seems made of ‘mud’ – a mixture of water and soil, which are both symbols of the unconscious (Fontana 114). This suggests impeded – but not checked – progress (i.e. the mud remains ‘moving’). Not only is the Ganges not holy here, but it might ‘be expected to wash the excrescence (i.e. morbid, abnormal or disfiguring outgrowth, OED, n. 3a) “back into the soil”. This reference intensifies the sense that this libido’s progress endangered. Luckily, Forster’s narrator is able to see his city (i.e. the reality of the material world) of Chandrapore more realistically than did Eliot’s narrator her St Ogg’s. For although the ‘streets are mean’ and the ‘temples ineffective’, suggesting blighted spiritual striving (Fontana, 77), there are still a ‘few fine houses’ that are ‘hidden’ away in ‘gardens’ (perhaps suggesting the Garden of Eden – Fontana, 105).  Make no doubt about it; in Chandrapore, bad things do happen (‘houses do fall’ (into the river) and ‘people are drowned and left rotting’. Luckily, however, the ‘general outline of the town persists’ and life goes on (even if ‘low’, it is ‘indestructible’). Although Eliot’s narrator is unable to bear witness to any conflicting psychological tensions encountered during her journey (all remains ‘lovely’ and ‘dreamy’), Forster’s narrator does and thus keeps moving.

When in Eliot’s piece, a ‘stone bridge’ (suggesting fixity) is reached, the tone changes dramatically; no longer is everything ‘lovely’ and ‘dreamy’. Now there are ‘threatening’ clouds and we are ‘far in the afternoon’ (darkness is about to fall). Despite the initial promise of fertility, it is now ‘leafless’, ‘chill’, and ‘damp’. It would appear that this bridge – symbolic of dangers on the path of psychological or spiritual development (Fontana, 77) – represents a serious unarticulated threat. Eliot’s narrator ‘must stand’ there ‘a minute or two’.  Will she summon the courage and cross it?

It would seem not.  Instead, she allows the ‘rush of the water’ to bring a ‘dreamy deafness ‘like a great curtain of sound shutting one out from the world beyond’. ‘I am in love with moistness’. She ‘envies’ the ‘white ducks’ – suggesting virginity (Fontana, 52, 67) – as they ‘dip their heads far into the water’ and remain ‘unmindful’ of their ‘awkward appearance’ in the ‘drier world above’. Only the horses – the subhuman or animal side of the psyche (Jung, Dreams, 107-108) – cross the bridge. Yet even they are reluctant to do so and require the ‘crack’ of whip’.

Meanwhile, Forster’s narrator moves ‘inland’ (to the ‘drier land above’, which made Eliot’s ducks seem so ‘awkward’). As the river is left behind, the ground continues to ‘rise’ and another ‘garden’ is encountered. Because gardens are symbols of nature under the control of the human soul, which like the garden, must be cared for and cultivated (Fontana, 105), we get the impression this libido has been purposefully directed toward higher ground – perhaps all the way to the Garden of Eden – because it is only through nature – the work of God, (the ‘toddy palms’, ‘neem trees’, and ‘mangoes and pepul’) that heretofore was ‘hidden’ behind the ‘bazaars’ (the work of man) that hope survives. ‘Endowed with more strength than man or his works’, nature reaches beyond the ‘disillusionment’ of man.

At the end of Eliot’s piece, we discover the whole of our narrator’s journey was accomplished as she ‘dozed off’ and sat ‘dreaming’. Although in Jungian terms, dreams can be highly revealing, it is only through steady, honest, and demanding self-discipline that this is achieved (Jung, Dreams, 3-7). We see no evidence of such an attempt here. When this narrator wakes, she is aware only that her arms are ‘benumbed’ and that she had been planning to reveal what others (Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver) had been talking about as they sat in front of their ‘bright fire’ of consciousness (Fontana, 110-111).

By contrast, while Forster’s piece begins and ends with those ‘caves’ – ‘fists and fingers thrust up through the soil’ – perhaps associated with the consciousness sought in Plato’s allegory of the cave (Kugler, 78).  Instead of being trapped in a cave of ignorance taking the shadows on the wall as ‘truth’, Forster’s narrator seeks the sunlight – ‘strength comes from the sun’, which symbolizes the unity and divinity of Self (Jung, Dreams, 157).  This lofty ideal is further suggested by caves being located in the Marabar Hills, which, like mountains, symbolize the meeting place between heaven and earth – consciousness and the unconscious (Fontana, 114). Not only that, but the ‘sky settles everything’. Perhaps this is a reference to heaven and with it, spiritual consciousness, as the ultimate prize? It is most certainly possible, reinforced as it is by more religious imagery – ‘glory’, ‘benediction’, ‘prostrate’ and blessings from heaven in the form of ‘rain’ (Fontana, 113).

In summary, Jungian (Archetypal) Literary Criticism asks what psychological factor (whether image or complex of concerns) might be responsible for this text. The primary purpose being to uncover the unconscious dynamics underlying the work. In regards to the two pieces by Forster and Eliot, I suggest that the image responsible for both is that of a journey toward individuation.

Further, I suggest that Eliot’s narrator fails to complete her journey because she is either unwilling or unable to grapple with the conflicting psychological tensions represented by that stone bridge. However Forster’s narrator makes the transition from the waters of the unconscious to higher ground because his is both willing and able to deal with his conflicting psychological tensions (‘mud’, ‘disillusionment’, ‘ineffective’ as well as ‘unconsidered temples’, ‘gardens’, ‘fine houses’, ‘mean streets’  and ‘rotting’ bodies).




Adams, Michael Vannoy. “The Archetypal School” (101-118). The Cambridge Companion to Jung. ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Dawson, Terrence. “Jung, Literature, and Literary Criticism” (255-280). The Cambridge Companion to Jung. ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Fontana, David. The Secret Language of Symbols: A Visual Key to Symbols and their Meanings. London: Piatkus, 1997.

Hart, David L. “The Classical Jungian School” (89-100).  The Cambridge Companion to Jung. ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Ulanov, Ann. “Jung and Religion; the opposing self (276-313). The Cambridge Companion to Jung. ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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