Globalisation, History, Realism, Utopia
Chapter Five Maurice Gee’s Marginal Realism
Is my life experience or spectacle? — Sole Survivor1 I am still prone to symbolic acts. — Meg2 Maurice Gee’s Plumb trilogy displays so many of what are the generally accepted nervous tics and personality traits of the realist work that inter- pretation and explanation seem, at first, both gratuitous and redundant. When the objects of analysis themselves gesture so frantically towards significant features of history, labour at producing representations of well- rounded and believable characters engaged in lives expressing ‘typicality’ for their historic periods, and when the triple narratives all concern them- selves with personal growth and development of figures who, ‘sadder but wiser’, ref lect on their state in the world, critical argument about the tril- ogy’s realist status or importance threatens to turn itself into mere dreary repetition and rewriting of the books themselves. When a critic as eminent as Robert Scholes can announce, over a generation ago now, that ‘realism is dead’,3 one is tempted to point to the Plumb trilogy and, like Johnson kicking the stone, refute him thus. 1 Maurice Gee, Sole Survivor (London: Faber, 1983), p. 180. 2 Maurice Gee, Meg (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 41. 3 Robert Scholes, Structural Fabulation: An Essay on the Fiction of the Future (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), p. 7. 186 Chapter Five On any second reading, however, this too-ready identification and mutual confirmation of analysis and object transforms itself from an advan- tage into a critical problem or dilemma of a quite serious kind....
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