Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Despite Beals’s comparison of Mr. Jack to the Ancient Mariner, it is actually Beals’s fate to tell the drama of the Alecto’s cruise over and over to “listeners not over-curious as to the workings of human nature and the emotion of love.” Certainly The Fisher King exists as a tale of lovers both real and mythic; some are tragic, others comic. Love can be two opposites at once—a sacrifice and a demand.

Sacrifice and demand also exist as the elements of celebrity, an important thread in the novel. The demands of fame force Henchman and Barberina to play out the end of their relationship under the scrutiny of the public eye.

The nature of celebrity makes Beals believe that he “owns” a part of Hench man and Barberina simply because he recognizes them as public property. Powell also employs power as an underlying theme; in an unusually talkative mood, Henchman bandies definitions of power with Sir Dixon Tiptoft. Henchman identifies power as an imposition of the will, then goes on to explain his photography as such. Photography, according to Henchman, gives the practitioner power over the Living and the Dead:Photography is one of the aspects of Death and Regeneration. Those who live more photographic lives than one, have more photographic resurrections than one, as well as more deaths. Nowadays a dead person depends almost entirely on photographs for the manner in which he or she is physically remembered.... If that is not...

(The entire section is 440 words.)