Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The ability to create the meaning of one’s life, to construct one’s own dreams and possibilities, is the central theme of the novel. Often this means rejecting traditional concepts of reality or even walking the fine line between sanity and madness. Like the historical Sigismund, whose attempt to unify Sweden and Poland resulted in hostility and wars that lasted twenty years after his death, and like the stories of Uncle Stig and Aunt Clara, the quest for political harmony, for freedom, for love, may appear to end in failure. Yet the belief in the possibility and the risks one must take to sustain that belief make the human condition bearable. Each attempt is a triumph as long as it is preserved in human memory. The fact that Uncle Stig’s dreams are shattered in a rain-soaked field does not stop the Monteverdi wind that he has generated from blowing across time and turning the narrator in the direction of freedom.

Yet freedom itself is a problematic concept in the novel. Although the narrator is attracted to some of the promises of socialism, he finds few answers in politics of any kind. Neither capitalism nor socialism fosters creativity or individual expression. Symbolically, Gustafsson’s vision of Hell, the ultimate socialist utopia, is static and boring. Secure from monetary worries, violence, even taxes, it nevertheless lacks passion or growth. Laura G. finds it tedious and is nonplussed at the absence of children or bicycles. As the narrator tells Zwatt, “We would live much worse off in a utopian society if there were...

(The entire section is 631 words.)