Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The most obvious distinguishing feature of Simon’s novels is his radical break with traditional forms of fiction. His avant-garde style is inextricably interwoven with his themes. The narrator of The Battle of Pharsalus describes things and people as he observes them; he also intermixes sense memories and fantasies with his descriptions. This mixture of thought processes and sensations produces a style that goes a step beyond the stream-of-consciousness technique. By this method of narration, Simon is reinforcing his idea that all human experience is one. The past and the present are not distinct time periods for him, but a blend of experiences that cannot be neatly divided.

Another theme in The Battle of Pharsalus is the sadness of the human condition. O. continually repeats that he suffers. He suffers mainly from jealousy, his inability to trust his lover, as Uncle Charles suffered over Odette. This theme of jealousy, unfaithfulness, and their hurt is also developed in a scene in which Charles goes to Van Velden’s studio to find Odette. There, Charles is confronted by Van Velden’s jealous wife, who seems certain that her husband is also having an affair with Odette. Rather than talk directly about her suspicion, Mrs. Van Velden nervously chatters to Charles about her plans to visit Morocco with her husband.

Almost as pervasive as the theme of jealousy in The Battle of Pharsalus is the theme of aggression and...

(The entire section is 589 words.)