Malcom Lowry's Under the volcano as tragedy

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Phyllis Huffman Kluttz (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Randolph Bulgin

Abstract: Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano can be viewed as a tragedy on three levels--Aristotelian, Christian, and existential. With his choice of an epigraph taken from Sophocles' Antigone, Lowry indicates his purpose to present his Consul as an Aristotelian hero. Two basic resemblances between the character of Geoffrey Firmin and Aristotle's concept of a good tragic protagonist are moral and mental superiority and a fatal error in judgment. The Consul is basically a good man, who is intellectually perceptive and strong-willed; but he erroneously believes that total individual awareness can replace human love. The second epigraph, a passage from John Bunyan's Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners, relates Under the Volcano to the tradition of Christian tragedy. As such a tragedy, the novel emphasizes the guilt attending the severance of the spiritual relationship from man's commitment to his fellow man. The Consul assumes various poses of remorse, but he refuses until the closing moments of his life to accept the true source of his guilt. An incident involving a dying Indian and a thief illuminates for Geoffrey his failure to fulfill his human responsibilities so that just before his death he experiences a brief moment of affirmation. Geoffrey's younger brother Hugh represents an expansion of the personal Christian guilt of the Consul to a universal remorse characteristic of a world preparing for war.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1975
Lowry, Malcolm, $d 1909-1957 $x Criticism and interpretation
Lowry, Malcolm, $d 1909-1957. $t Under the volcano

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