The Solid Mandala

by Patrick White

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Discuss the motifs that are central to the novel The Solid Mandala.

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The Solid Mandala is the 1966 novel written by Patrick White. The narrative tells the story of Waldo Brown and Arthur Brown, two brothers with a symbiotic relationship.

The overarching motif in the novel is that of the symbiotic relationship of warm and cold, which represent the two halves of human nature.

Waldo Brown is naturally antagonistic. He is cold and overtly rational. On the other hand, Arthur Brown is warm, kind, and dependent. On their own, each brother would not be able to be as successful in life because they are unable to act as their brother acts. While they have mastered one realm of human nature, they are completely barren in the complementary emotional realm.

Arthur is presented as a character who suffers from some form of mental slowness, which would allow him to get taken advantage of easily. Waldo’s character, valuing the rational over the emotional, aids Arthur.

Ultimately, the novel places an importance on the need for kindness and warm-hearted nature, even though Arthur appears less capable of taking on the world. With an understanding that every human falls somewhere along the spectrum from cold to warm, it becomes easier to relate to others and better understand their decision making processes, highlighted through the extreme examples of Arthur and Waldo.

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