Lanark: Prose Commentary 1
This extract from Lanark ,written by Alasdair Gray, is a highly evocative piece of narrative prose. Set within a church in Lenzies, Glasgow, the excerpt illustrates the loss of love and theloss of self-belief which are inextricably intertwined for the character Duncan Thaw. Writtenin a post-modern style, it is also representative of the subjectivity of perception and its abilityto change with the passage of time. Duncan is forced to reflect upon his experiences as he isvisited by haunting representations of his past, in the form of two characters: Marjory and theunnamed man.The extract begins by immediately evoking a sense of atmosphere: µThe afternoon darkenedearly¶. The setting of the piece at dusk, which marks the beginning of darkness in theevening, creates a sense of ominous foreshadowing in its transition from optimistic brightnessto sinister lack of light, representative of the eerily gloomy images of grief and sorrow. Themovement of the man µworking peeringly¶ is humble and unobtrusive, reflected in the slowrhythm of the sentence. His quiet concentration, though, is abruptly shattered; the harshonomatopoeia of µcough¶ creates a sudden break in the deliberate rhythm of the sentence justas the cough itself creates a sudden break in the tranquillity of the scene.He turns around to µa man and a woman [standing] in the aisle¶. Taking place in a church, itis an image symbolic of a marriage. This in turn signifies the apparent relationship betweenthe two people. In the µbetter light¶ he realises that the woman is not just any woman: thesyntactical arrangement of the sentence causes the emphasis to fall on the name µMarjory¶,illustrating her clear significance to the man. The importance of Marjory to Duncan, on a personal level, is placed in contrast to the namelessness of the man standing by her side, whois referred to using distancing language; he is simply µthe man¶. He is merely a character.This same anonymity, however, heightens the power of his words, tone and actions incompletely upsetting Duncan Thaw. There is no emotional association to a name, and thus heis detached from the reader.Immediately the man is portrayed as a gloating, swaggering, arrogant character; ³We werevisiting friends « and we thought, old times and so forth, why not run in and see Duncan?´That Duncan is simply an afterthought to the man is vexingly offensive; clearly, this meetingdoes not mean much to him at all, and his intention is obviously not to visit him out of friendship - the man does not even choose to identify Duncan as a friend. However, it isinteresting that he should use the inclusive pronoun µwe¶ as if it were Marjory¶s opinion too.This is an indication of the man¶s dominant character. Marjory, her passivity illustrated in her mere µ[raising of] her hand and [smile]¶, has no opinion of her own, even though it is very possible she should want to meet with Duncan, considering their obvious connection.
Lanark: Prose Commentary 2
The man¶s disparaging tone carries an infuriating sense of superiority. ³No no. No no. I quitelike it in this dimness, more mysterious, if you know what I mean« Very impressive. Veryimpressive.´ The constant repetitions in his sentences, which, at first, seem to imply sincerity,in fact have the opposite effect: they emphasise his lack of honesty. His insistence in preserving the µdimness¶ of the light, and therefore the suggestion that Duncan¶s artwork would be less pleasant in its full exposure, reflects his blatant disapproval of the mural. It isan implication of the artwork¶s shortcoming; Thaw is made to feel completely inadequate asan artist. His inner insecurity, then, intensifies when Marjory says something he cannot hear:Duncan¶s fear of disapproval by Marjory, who was evidently once close to him, is embodiedin his fearful ³What?´. Marjory¶s reply, and the only sentence she offers in this interchange,is euphemistic. Her...