Progression and Regression in Waterland

Brian L. Perkins '96 (1992)

So I began to demand of history an Explanation. Only to uncover in this dedicated search more mysteries, more fantasticalities, more wonders and more grounds for astonishment than I started with, only to conclude forty years later -- notwithstanding a devotion to the usefulness, to the educative power of my chosen discipline -- that history is a yarn. And can I deny that what I wanted all along was not some golden nugget that history would at last yield up, but History itself, the Grand Narrative, the filler of vacuums, the dispeller of fears in the dark? (53)

If nothing else, Waterland is definitely self-reflexive and thorough. Tom Crick examines and re-examines his own history looking for some grain of security from his troubled life. He reflects, connects one event with another, all in defence against fear, unsure of the "why" behind his situation. Swift's novel is not one of confident Modernist tones, as A. Kidd asserts in "Post Modernism in Waterland", but one of post modernism's deconstructionist ideas. The book is far removed from the spirited and confident individualist fires that fueled modernist thought. It is more reluctant, filled with ideas of revolution, not as radical change but as a return to the original position. One step forward equals one step backward. Crick and Swift question the reality of progress. With the confidence of the Modernist Era behind him, Swift has created a thought inspiring novel questioning progress and the root of human curiosity.

United Kingdom