The Human Necessity for Stories in Waterland

Maya Rao '97 (English 168, 1996)

The cyclical time set forth by Waterland, Oscar and Lucinda, and Possession constructs a living past that the characters shape into a story to give meaning and bring order to the chaos of reality. This cyclical structure alleviates the oppression of linear time and provides meaning and explanation in an age of religious doubt. In Waterland, the cyclical time frame produces the past as a story by producing the past within a narrative structure. Crick does not present the past chronologically but narrates his past as a story by "relating the events of his life in some sort of order... He constructs history- his story" (Landow, 199). In addition to this non-chronological order, Crick structure the past as a story with his creation of "a mystery (for us) where none exists" (Landow, 207). From the beginning of the novel, Crick knows that his brother killed Freddie Parr, but he narrates the story as if he does not know this information and leads the reader through the process by which he realizes his brother's actions. This mystery constructs the past as living. By not immediately revealing the killer to the reader, Crick involves the reader in his past and shows that he presently still works through the past, though he knows the truth about the murder.

Calling man "the animal that craves meaning" (140), Crick explains why stories are so important to human beings. Stories (and history) fulfill a basic human need to give meaning to and find an explanation for events. Equating history with fiction, Crick suggests that history is an "attempt to give an account, with incomplete knowledge, of actions themselves undertaken with incomplete knowledge" (108). Narrating his past to his students, Crick attempts to find an explanation for Mary's actions. The text suggests that whether this explanation does or does not provide the true reasons for Mary's actions is insignificant as long as the explanation helps Crick cope with reality. Waterland shows the irrelevance of truth in narrative by suggesting that "both history writing and the telling of stories are performative forces. What matters is not there truth, truthfulness, plausibility or mimetic success, but their effect" (Alphen, 206). Storytelling helps Crick cope with reality by providing a "means of ordering" (Landow, 201) his life, and thereby giving him a sense of "control" (Janik, 83) over it Explaining the necessity of stories to escape the disorder of reality, Crick tells his students that wherever man goes

he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker-buoys and trail-signs of stories. He has to go on telling stories, he has to keep on making them up. As long as there's a story, it's all right. (63)

Ordering the events of his past into a narrative structure, Crick's story gives him the control he presently lacks and allows him to find meaning to replace doubt.

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