The grouping of codes, as they enter into the work, into the movement of the reading, constitute a braid (text, fabric, braid: the same thing); each thread, each code, is a voice; these braided — or braiding — voices from the writing: when it is alone, the voice does no labor, transforms nothing: it expresses; but as soon as the hand intervenes to gather and intertwine the inert threads, there is labor, there is transformation. — Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Miner
he complex relation of the paradigm to point of view in the arts also appears when one examines its relation to other elements of literary form, such as plot, characterization, and plot resolution. For example, drifting figures appear frequently in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, and their presence reveals a point at which paradigm, theme, and technique converge. In The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction (1966 — also published as The Disappearance of the Hero in Nineteenth-Century Fiction — Mario Praz long ago commented upon the disappearance (or eclipse) of the heroic protagonist in nineteenth-century fiction, and only a brief glance is necessary to convince one that Vanity Fair is but one of many major novels without a hero. The protagonist of Disraeli's Coningsby is thus quite representative of the age when he finds himself forced to confess: "I float in a sea of troubles, and should long ago have been wrecked had I not been sustained by a profound, if vague, conviction that there are still great truths, if we could but work them out" (bk 3, ch. 5). Disraeli's roman à these willingly helps Coningsby work out these "great truths," thus providing the young man with a Tory star by which to guide his vessel.
On the other hand, Dickens, whose Little Dorrit places Arthur Clenham in a similar position, finds no such easy solution. Near the opening of the novel Clenham admits: "I am such a waif and stray anywhere that I am liable to be drifted where any current may set" (bk 1, ch. 2). Like so many characters in Dickens's later work, Clenham is a curiously passive person — honest, honorable, but decidedly unheroic, very much a portrait of a man without purpose. He resembles many another character in English and American fiction of the nineteenth century (and many an author as wen) in the fact that he has cast off a dour Evangelical Protestantism but has found nothing with which to replace it. This state of drifting, of being unable to perceive, much less reach, safe harbor, characterizes Clenham even in the less important aspects of life. Thus while trying to decide whether he should trust Pancks, who has promised to restore Father Dorrit's fortune, he appears "labouring in this sea, as an barks labour in cross seas, he tossed about and came to no haven" (bk 1, ch. 27). Little Amy Dorrit, wiser than her years, looks at Gowan, Clenham's successful rival for another woman, and "wondered whether it was with people as with ships, that in too shallow and rocky waters, their anchors had no hold, and they drifted anywhere" (bk 2, ch. 6). Although Gowan, that most unearnest young man, continues to drift, thus ruining his marriage, Clenham is saved by the love of Little Dorrit at the point when he has already begun to encounter disaster.
Dickens provides no universally applicable ideology, except that which Cazamian called the philosophy of Noel: for the novelist the only anchors (or compasses) are love and self-sacrifice. Thus Sidney Carton, who drifts through the dark apocalyptic world of A Tale of Two Cities, only finds his destination when he gives up his life to save Charles Darnay. Then, shortly before ascending to the guillotine, he recalls the words of Christ promising everlasting life "like a rusty old ship's anchor from the deep" (bk 3, ch. 9). Few, however, can obtain such anchors, and even here Carton's love — and not his last second hope of eternal life — prompts self-sacrifice and gives him direction.
These few examples of the drifting metaphor in fiction forcefully remind us once again that such paradigms function as far more than literary decoration, embroidery, or other embellishment upon the main fabric or core of literary structure. At the very least, such a paradigm participates in the basic nature of many individual works of fiction, for it informs their attitude towards plot, character, and theme. [199/200]
Other intonations of the basic paradigm have similarly complex relations to literary structure. For instance, shipwrecks and comparable situations of crisis often serve in satire, adventure, and science fiction as an effective means of inserting a cast of characters into a strange environment; and although such plot mechanisms rarely function also to convey the fun imaginative force of the paradigm, in some works, such as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Traven's The Death Ship, theme and plot device merge. These paradigmatic situations also serve as a means of resolving the problems of a fictional plot. The Last Days of Pompeii thus builds towards the moment the volcano erupts, and its great destruction simultaneously punishes the guilty, preserves the innocent, and neatly closes off the fictional world of pagan Pompeii.
Autobiography and fiction and poetry taking the forms of such self-history frequently employ these paradigms similarly. Since the shipwreck and its coronary situations of being stranded, drifting, or cast away are often used as paradigms to communicate experience of personal crisis, they are particularly suited to literary forms that often emphasize the primacy of such experiences. Such paradigms are not mere decorations upon a pre-established narrative or conception of self. Rather, they often serve as a means of discovering — or creating — that self which is the subject (in both senses) of the autobiography. Metaphor always plays a crucial role in this autobiographical self-recognition and self-creation since it provides a ready means of perceiving order in an otherwise inchoate experience. In his study of autobiography and autobiographical fiction, Avrom Fleishman argues that a basic means of 'developing coherent accounts of the self . . . is to choose a metaphor of the self and develop it in a narrative or other sequence, which may be caned a conversion of metaphor into myth."1
As one might expect from the way it has pervaded Western thought for several millennia, the paradigm of the life journey has frequently served as a source of such personal myths. For example, at the close of The Golden Ass when Lucius has become an initiate in the worship of Osiris, the high priest congratulates him in terms strikingly similar to those of many Christian authors:
You have endured and performed many labours and withstood the buffetings of all the winds of ill luck. Now at last you have put into the harbour of peace.... Neither your noble blood and rank nor your education sufficed to keep [200/201] you from falling a slave to pleasure.... But blind fortune, after tossing you maliciously about from peril to peril has somehow . . . landed you here in religious felicity. [trans. Robert Graves]
The one major difference between this use of the voyage paradigm by Apuleius and that employed by St Augustine in The Confessions is that the Christian self-historian believes an omniscient God, nor "blind Fortune," directed his journey: "In my pride I was running adrift, at the mercy of every wind," he tells God. "You were guiding me as a helmsman steers a ship, but the course you steered was beyond my understanding" (bk 4, sec. 14; trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin). Under the influence of Augustine, who conceives of himself as a second Odysseus or second Aeneas, this paradigm continues to be popular with writers of spiritual autobiographies.
Thus when Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the most popular preacher in Victorian England, relates his own spiritual history, it appears in the guise of an imperiled, but ultimately successful, voyage.
There was an evil hour when once I shipped the anchor of my faith; I cut the cable of my belief, I no longer moored myself hard by the coasts of Revelation; I snowed my vessel to drift before the wind; I said to reason, "Be thou my captain;" I said to my own brain, "Be thou my rudder;" and I started on my mad voyage.... It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of free thought.2
At first delighted by the brilliant thoughts he encountered, Spurgeon ignored the darkening heavens and rushed onward "with awful speed" past his old points of belief until, at last, his skeptical course led him to doubt even his own existence: "I began to doubt my very existence; I doubted if there were a world, I doubted if there was such a thing as myself." But here at "the very verge of the dreary realms of unbelief" the devil
foiled himself. for the very extravagance of the doubt, proved the absurdity. Just when I was at the bottom of that sea, there came a voice which said, "And can this doubt be true?" At this very moment I doubted not. Faith steered me back; faith cried, "Away, away" I cast my anchor on Calvary; I lifted my eye to God. . . . I have sailed that perilous voyage; I have come safe to land.
Spurgeon's narrative of his own crisis of faith, which turns the ship voyage topos into an allegory, reminds us how long believers have found it possible — and even necessary — to conceive their lives in terms of this ancient, original pre-Christian, metaphor. Like so many nineteenth-century autobiographies, both spiritual and secular, Spurgeon's begins in the condition of belief, moves to a crisis of unbelief, and then resolves that crisis. In contrast, St Augustine, Bunyan, and Newman begin their narratives with an earlier self existing in a state of unbelief and then move towards a true Christian condition. Spurgeon, however, does make the traditional interpretation of his own spiritual crisis and near-shipwreck. Like Crashaw in "Why are ye afraid, O ye of little faith," he would agree that "You are the storm that mocks/ Your selves; you are the rocks/ Of your own doubt." Indeed, the Baptist preacher so emphasizes the element of his own guilt that he transforms the voyage itself into a guilty act, and he can do so only because when he first experienced this situation of spiritual crisis, he was already a Christian in "safe harbour" He therefore left safety, truth, and goodness and voyaged, however briefly, towards destruction.
Any reader of Victorian poetry is likely to recognize that Spurgeon's crisis-narrative is the allegorized equivalent of Tennyson's "The Two Voices." Although Spurgeon's brief record of crisis begins in belief, and Tennyson's poem in doubt, both works, which are set in the past and hence ten of already achieved spiritual victories, depict the speakers moving through a series of doubts towards self destruction; at last the doubts themselves prove too absurd, and the progress towards a better spiritual condition is completed. As Tennyson's unnamed speaker tens the voice of doubt, which has been urging suicide, it has failed "to wreck my mortal ark,/ By making an the horizon dark." Only after one element in Spurgeon's mind demands, "And can this doubt be true?" is faith able to seize the helm and steer him back home. Similarly, only after Tennyson's speaker rejects the voice of doubt can the second voice (of hope) be heard — and only then can the speaker turn to nature and rejoice in its rainbow.
In "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection" Gerard Manley Hopkins makes a somewhat similar use of the shipwreck and imperiled-voyage paradigm to effect a poetic resolution. Unlike Tennyson's "The Two Voices," Hopkins's poem does not take the form of a dialogue. Instead, it begins with the [202/203] poet setting forth the flux and transience that characterize earthly existence, after which he mourns the specific fact of man's transience:
Man, how fast his firedint, his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, an is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indignation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at an so stark
But vastness blurs and time beats level.
Weaving his text from several strands of metaphor, Hopkins combines the notions that light, man's light, disappears into eternal darkness and that his lire is drowned in an "unfathomable" ocean of darkness. Both analogies are informed by the same structure in which that which is living, bright, or burning is engulfed by a surrounding element, and Hopkins resolves the poetic — and spiritual — tensions he has created by an abrupt turn that emphasizes the elements of the shipwreck paradigm only hinted at obliquely before. After grieving at the fact of man's death, Hopkins takes immediate comfort from the thought of the Resurrection, which comes to him a "heart's-clarion" that drives away "grief's gasping, joyless days, dejection." The thought of it, in fact, saved him from spiritual shipwreck:
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam.
Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fan to the residuary worm; world's wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am an at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
Combining the voyage paradigm with that of fire and light, Hopkins makes the resurrection of the body his beacon. He then believes he no longer has anything to mourn when the sun, "nature's bonfire burns on," and yet man, "her bonniest, dearest to her, her clearest selved spark" is quenched, for the fact of the Resurrection reminds him that man's earthly 'trash' win be burned away, leaving only the "immortal diamond" of the soul. Although both more complex and more elegant than either [203/204] Spurgeon's account of his spiritual crisis or Tennyson's "The Two Voices," Hopkins's poem also represents the situation of crisis by means of the same paradigm. What is most interesting to the literary iconsologist about "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire," however, is not the elements it shares with these other records of spiritual crisis. Spurgeon, who exemplifies a completely traditional and rather old fashioned use of the metaphor, leaves the listener in no doubt about his interpretation of the voyage. In particular, his continual allegorization of the voyage emphasizes that he was entirely at fault for embarking in the first place. Whereas Spurgeon's narrative of his spiritual voyagings is explicitly related to the vantage-point of the believer, those by Tennyson and Hopkins begin within the experience of spiritual doubt and only later progress to the condition of faith. The transformation of spiritual conditions that both poems dramatize appears centrally in their use of shipwreck or ship-voyage paradigms. For example, Tennyson's speaker announces that the voice of doubt has failed to "wreck" his "mortal ark," and he thereby transforms a potentially non-Christian figure of isolation and helplessness into a Christian one of secure faith. This transformation of a central paradigm appears more clearly in Hopkins's "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire" because he has preceded the dramatic instant of transformation with oblique introductions of the analogy to drowning and destruction by water. Even more than Tennyson's "The Two Voices," Hopkins's poem employs the paradigm as a poetic center, for it not only provides the poetic resolution of the spiritual problems that create the poem's drama but it also thus creates the "plot" or progress of the poem itself. This convergence of paradigm, poetic organization, and theme also appears, as one might expect, in In Memoriam.
Last modified 15 July 2007