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Something to keep us separate [electronic resource] : patterns of confinement and escape in the novels of Elizabeth Bowen /

by Nunley, Constance Elizabeth

Abstract (Summary)
Through a wide range of characters, situations and events, Elizabeth Bowens novels reveal the significance of controls or restraints which limit characters freedom of choice, movement, feeling-even their ability to love. These restrictions, sometimes internal or involuntary and sometimes external and deliberate, almost always grow in number and variety throughout her novels. Confinements of place extend beyond enclosures to include external influences such as social class, nationality and war-with a progression toward freedom in a place of ones own. Bowens children and adolescents experience confinements of propriety and knowledge imposed on them by adults. As they learn of love and pain, they also learn conventional ways to protect themselves from pain through confinement of emotion. In addition to the sometimes-attractive confinements of safety and shelter, marriage demonstrates the limitations of loneliness and unrequited love; death, the confinement of incomplete fulfillment; suicide, the great escape. Social class presents a prefabricated structure either reassuring or confining to those within it, and attractive to those outside. The primary impetus of confinement inside the class structure is to keep those outside in their place. Authority figures further this process of exclusion when possible and help to protect innocence and the status quo. Only when authority degenerates into the authority of power does the confinement it imposes become destructive, even evil. The inability to communicate is the ultimate confinement in Bowens novels. Some characters seek to limit others by defining, stereotyping or ignoring them while others need someone to communicate to them their own existence, identity or worth. Finally, however, it is the inescapable psychological distance imposed by alienation that Bowen believes to be humanitys greatest obstacle to communication, and she dramatizes this isolation by giving her characters physical limitations of vision, hearing and speech. The inability to connect is for Bowen the most impoverishing limitation. Without connection, there is no reciprocal love; love, then becomes Bowens most difficult and distinctive achievement.
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School:The University of Georgia

School Location:USA - Georgia

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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