Malcolm Lowry's design-governing postures : a rhetorical analysis of Under the volcano
Author(s)Grove, Dana Anthony
Contributor(s)Thornburg, Thomas R.
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AbstractLowry's controversial and enigmatic book has spawned diverse critical analyses geared toward arriving at a single understanding of the novel; however, what too many of these works fail to take into account is the eclectic nature of Lowry's techniques as well as his themes. Hence, though we usually get a very clear picture of one approach to the book in these individual exercises in explication, when we turn once again to the story itself, we are apt to be a bit confused as to exactly how the design that they offer governs the unity of the book. Therefore, in order to glean the author's intent, one must take a more comprehensive, a rhetorical, view of the piece.For future reference, chapter one -- "A Review of Criticism" -summarizes and evaluates book reviews and critical studies done on Under the Volcano, the critical studies being organized into source, theme and technique analyses, respectively,Chapter two, "Rhetorical Analysis Defined," considers the critical theories of Edward Corbett, Mark Schorer and Wayne Booth to adumbrate the notion that a rhetorical analysis addresses the writer's intent, his work and thee work's impact upon its aud4ence to evaluate the effectiveness of a piece of literature. As an illustration, Lowry's essay "Garden of Etla" is explicated rhetorically here.In chapter three, "A Rhetorical Analysis of Under the Volcano," a chapter-by-chapter, detailed approach to the novel is used in order to illuminate the techniques which promote and define Lowry's themes. The techniques include those that establish stream of consciousness (interior monologues and dialogues), those that determine its direction (syntax, time and space montage, and mechanical devices) and those that add depth and dimension (figures of speech, puns and distorted English).The last chapter, "Malcolm Lowry's 'Design-Governing Postures, ," examines unifying structures which range the entire book and which thereby impose order on it. These designs include Lowry's use of the traditional unities, leitmotifs, parodies, symbolic structures, formal arrangements and "cyclic" themes.Critics of the novel contend that though enjoying isolated moments of direction and lucidness, Under the Volcano fails to convey it purpose effectively because the themes are nebulous and because the techniques segment rather than solidify the story. By explicating the book rhetorically, however, one learns to understand and appreciate the techniques that Lowry employs to amplify the fragmentation endured by the Consul, the people closest to him and, in fact, the entire world around him. Indeed, Lowry offers up a cogent cautionary vision of a twentieth-century world disintegrating because it lacks that force singularly capable of unifying it -- love.