Monday, April 02, 2007

Christopher Tietjens's conscience

When reading Twentieth-century ctiticisms I came across interesting observations of the critic. He writes: The appearance of peace hides the corruption ready to war against personal reputations; the appearance of good maners and good form suppresses the violent emotions in human relationships. The war destroyed even the pretense to good form and exposed the rottenness that had always existed underneath. Tietjens, having just been informed by his brother Mark that their own father thought him "a bloddy pimp living on women", comments on this unnaturalness by observing the dead leaves in the base of a fountain: "This civilization had contrived a state of things in which leaves rotted by August. Well, it was doomed"
The motif is related to the idea of good form with its ceremonious sense of good manners, of not creating a scene, of playing the game. "The curse of the army", Tietjens says, "was our imbecile national belief that the game is more than the player. That was our ruin, mentally, as a nation"(p.305-06) At that moment the body of O Nine Morgan, still bleeding, is brought in. If Tietjens were a man without conscience, he could shrug his shoulders and say "That's war," but, since Tietjens's conscience will not allow him to shrug it off, he feels responsible for Morgan's death. By association of ideas, the sight of the blood reminds Tietjens of the wounded horse in Some Do Not...; the link here is not a remembrance of that earlier sight of blood but the whole idea of responsibility. Morgan is beyond patching up, and "the glowing image of the fellow's blood" becomes the symbol of his sense of guilt even though there was nothing he really could have done for Morgan that would have avoided disaster one way or the other.

(Source: Ford. No More Parades. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol.172)

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