Hell is where the heart is : a study of symbol, myth and motif in the fiction of Malcolm Lowry
In his projected cycle, The Voyage That Never Ends, Malcolm Lowry intended an investigation of the journey undertaken by man's unconscious as he struggles with his basic impulses towards love and destruction, and with his relationships with his fellow-man and God. Lowry designed his cycle of fiction with a structure parallel to that of Dante's Divine Comedy. While this study is also structured according to Lowry's Dantean concept, it does not simply analyse the references to Dante. Lowry's fiction is founded upon a vast and complex network of symbolic and mythic allusion, by which themes are underpinned on numerous levels. Allusions to this body of symbolic material - what is termed the "symbolic legacy" - are also incorporated into the motifs of the author's works. Thus Lowry's references are to no single tradition in literature; the symbols and myths are drawn from numerous sources including the Classical, Mystical/Cabbalistic, Christian and Romantic traditions, and from Modernist reworkings of these traditions. This study, therefore, represents an analysis of the references employed by Lowry, and the relating of the various traditions which are used as sources of allusion. While Under the Volcano contains the fullest exposition of Lowry's symbolic patterning, other works contain further evidence of his endlessly reverberating matrix of symbols. The mythopoeic drive is so strong that often several versions of the same myth or symbol are worked into his fiction. This leads to a contradictory exposition of certain thematic concerns. The antitheses established are integral to Lowry's vision of a complex world in which "civilized" man is endangering both himself and his environment and for whom there exists both the possibility of accepting the downward spiral which has been history and, simultaneously, the means to redemption, according to what he aspires to most.