Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Helplessness in the face of destiny is a main theme in The Watchmaker of Everton. Watchmaking as a symbol of creation is employed ironically in the novel, since Dave is completely removed from the processes which determine his existence. He is controlled by life rather than controlling it. That his story is essentially plotless is a mirroring of reality, for life does not move along a course determined by those people living it. Ironically, Dave believes that, somehow, he can bring order to disorder, change the unhappy past to make a happy present and future.

Guilt is a natural consequence for Dave when things do not go well. He blames himself more than he does Ben for the murder of the salesman. He is brought to this conclusion, as well, by the fact that he believes that others blame him too. Although it is not his fault that his wife deserted him, leaving him alone to bring up Ben, he is right in believing that society has censured him for the absence of a maternal influence on his son.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for Dave to explain himself, and it is equally impossible, in the world of Simenon’s novel, for anyone else to comprehend him. The universe and its inhabitants are incapable of understanding or of being understood. From this truth comes a more comforting truth, that there are no absolutes for judging individuals: The person who is not entirely innocent is also not entirely guilty. After all, the universe is made up of human beings.

A person, having human limitations, has, or ought to have, little expectation of life, of lasting happiness. If Simenon’s characters do not always show that they are aware of this, Simenon always leaves his readers...

(The entire section is 698 words.)