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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 29 / 50





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worlds to use the intellectual inventions of another person. Copyright laws preclude the narrator from acting out his theory directly. This may be at the core of the narrator’s reasons for writing his manuscript, rather than simply a work with borrowed characters. The narrator is able to hide behind his complex narrative structure, just as O’Brien does, to avoid retaliation from his targets of satire. In addition, the bizarre coming to life of literary conventions, a major part of the narrator’s work, would be impossible if the narrator’s manuscript was grounded in reality and not fantasy.

As I discussed above in chapter two, Trellis forces "all his characters to live with him in the Red Swan Hotel so that he can keep an eye on them" (47). All characters are, according to the narrator’s theory, akin to actors. If one remembers the narrator’s theory, it is the stage that is the most "wholesome" form of story-telling, and the narrator hopes to incorporate its conventions into his writing. Within the Red Swan, all characters have a literary career that they remember, or are confused by the lack of one due to their recent creation; even non-literary characters from visual art have a life. During Trellis’ introduction to the reader, he is on a tour of the Red Swan to ensure that his creative surroundings are in order, when, "Fearing his bed would cool, he hastened past the emptiness of the hall, where a handsome girl stood poised without her clothes on the brink of a blue river. Napoleon peered at her in a wanton fashion from the dark of the other wall" (44). Even characters from paintings have life in them. The description of the interaction between these two paintings gives the impression that the two are models continuously posing for their portraits, like live manikins. Napoleon is yet another example of a historical figure who appears deep inside a fictional world, just as Huxley, Joyce and Pound are mentioned in the first narrative plane. This description of visual art gives the impression that all art within the narrator’s manuscript involves the use of sentient characters. All artists have an obligation to their subjects, not only those who work with language as their medium.

Dermot Trellis exposes all sides of this creation debate in his work. Following the narrator’s theory, Trellis borrows all of the characters that he can readily appropriate, only creating those who cannot be found. This gives the narrator’s audience a chance to view the consequences of both styles of character development. A new character’s creation in the narrator’s fictional universe is somewhat more complicated than one might expect, as characters can exist outside of literature when they are unemployed by an author. A discussion takes place between Trellis and a friend that reminds the reader of the narrator’s talk with Brinsley, documented in an "Extract from Manuscript where Trellis is explaining to an unnamed listener the character of his projected labour" (48). Trellis explains that "It appeared to him that a great and a daring book--a green book--was the crying need of the hour--a book that would show the terrible cancer of sin in its true light and act as a clarion call for torn humanity" (48). In order for this moral tale to be popular and interest its intended audience, as the narrator has explained, there will have to be "plenty of smut" and outrageous moral offences. The narrator claims that Trellis’ "book will be so bad that there will be no hero, nothing but villains. The central villain will be a man of unexampled depravity, so bad that he must be created ab ovo et initio. A small dark man called Furriskey" (48).

Although Trellis creates John Furriskey himself, Trellis cannot simply bring this villain into the novel without explanation. In fact, in a highly reflexive manner, Trellis uses an "Extract from Press regarding Furriskey’s birth" (54) to announce and explain this new creation. Even Trellis uses techniques of narrative disruption to explain his novel. Furriskey has indeed been created as an adult character, lacking a childhood and parents, among countless other tiny aspects of a long maturity into adulthood. Trellis announces and explains the technical aspects of Furriskey’s creation in this newspaper report on the extraordinary invention of Furriskey:


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