Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Bound together in conflict, Waldo and Arthur represent duality in totality. Separate yet whole, the brothers symbolize the two opposing halves of the self. White advocates the need for both parts as well as for balance between the two. For example, Arthur’s insight—his almost visionary capability—is too otherworldly for this one: In the end, he is removed to a lunatic asylum. Still, White elevates Arthur’s life-affirming stance over Waldo’s philosophy of denial and his reliance on the intellectual faculty. They render him equally unprepared for living among other human beings: Except for Arthur, Waldo is essentially alone. The themes of twinhood and mandalic wholeness pervade the novel, as do other associated themes such as connection and communication.

Sexuality plays a significant role in The Solid Mandala. Both Waldo and Arthur pursue Dulcie and eventually ask her to marry them. Waldo does so half-heartedly, not only because he believes it the right thing to do but also because he presumes that she loves him. Arthur proposes to Dulcie because he is attracted to her innocence; he loves her platonically, as Dulcie does him. Both men, however, appear more asexual than either definitely male or female. Arthur realizes and accepts this ambiguity in himself, but Waldo rejects what he does not understand and what he knows society finds abhorrent; hence, his furious reaction to Arthur’s casual revelation that he has witnessed Waldo wearing...

(The entire section is 506 words.)