Though The Spire is populated by several important characters, in a sense the only character in the novel is Jocelin. Everything in it is rendered through his eyes; all others are seen merely as components of an emerging vision which Jocelin believes is divinely inspired. This story of a “master builder” who builds too high (often compared to Henrik Ibsen’s play of that title) is a deceptively simple account of a man beset by pride and obsessed with his own self-image. From the beginning yf the novel, when Jocelin observes the model of the spire standing in front of the cathedral’s crossways, it is clear that his “prayer” is a phallic gesture, a product of his own self-love:
The model was like a man Iying on his back. The nave was his legs placed together, the transepts on either side were his arms outspread. The choir was his body; and the Lady Chapel, where now the services would be held, was his head. And now also, springing, projecting, bursting, erupting from the heart of the building there was its crown and majesty, the new spire.
This description prefigures what will become in the novel the close identification between Jocelin’s body and the building of the spire; here, it acts as a substitute for his sexual desires regarding Goody Pangall. He remarks that “now there was a kind of necessary marriage: Jocelin and the spire.” He dreams that his body is the...
(The entire section is 541 words.)