Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Against a mechanized and alienating society, as well as against his own meaningless and mind-numbing labor, Arthur represents youthful rebellion in his colorful yet infantile attempts to transcend his social class and his place in a historical continuum. “Once a rebel, always a rebel. You can’t help being one,” Arthur thinks. It becomes quite apparent in this last chapter, however, that Arthur’s rebellion has been almost completely replaced by complacent resignation. In this connection, fishing serves as a metaphor both for escape (“No one bothered you: you were a hunter, a dreamer, your own boss, away from it all for a few hours”) and for entrapment: “Everyone in the world was caught, somehow, one way or another, and those that weren’t were always on the way to it.” Yet, while he reflects that “he could still disengage his mouth from the nibbled morsel” (from his job and his engagement to Doreen), “he did not want to do so.” Indeed, he has decided that to go through life “refusing all the bait dangled” before him would be “no life at all.... Life would be as dull as ditchwater. You could kill yourself by too much cunning.” More to the point is that Winnie’s husband Bill has brutally shown Arthur that others may “kill” him for his revealed cunning, as Bill “has bested him on the common battle-ground of the jungle.” The immediate result of being “bested” is Arthur’s new awareness when he wakes up in the morning...

(The entire section is 510 words.)