Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Gabriel Fielding intended to depict love in all of its various directions, vagaries, and periods of life: love from childhood through adolescence and marriage, parental love, illicit love, sacred love, profane love. In the Time of Greenbloom falls short of this goal, but it covers much territory. In describing John Blaydon’s trials and tribulations, Fielding includes a wide range of human experience. (He even manages to juxtapose two kinds of lust, as when John intrudes on the lovemaking of Victoria’s mother and George Harkness at about the same time that Victoria is being raped and throttled.) John represents the honesty and innocence of youth versus the less-than-pure world of adults. It is obviously not wise to trust anyone over thirty and, judging from John’s relationships with his fellow schoolmates, even those less advanced in years.

The protagonist’s attempt to find meaning and understanding is handled episodically. The book skips from one scene to another, each possessing its own integrity, almost like a short story, albeit linked in the great chain of being which is John’s life from late childhood to early manhood.

Victoria’s death crushes him with prolonged guilt. “Can you tell me,” he asks,why I feel that I ought to be forgiven for something I never did? Why do I keep thinking about it all the time? Why have I felt different since it happened? Was it wrong of me to love her? Is that why I go on and on like this? Will I never be the same again? Happy like other people?

Father Delaura replies, “These are difficult questions.”

John cannot count on others to give him answers, and he becomes increasingly aware that they never will: “No one could ever effectively love or hate anyone else no matter how much they knew, no matter how great their love or their hatred might be, simply because everybody was fundamentally alone.” Apparently, the final realization of Candide is still valid: It is necessary to cultivate one’s own garden.