The Solid Mandala

by Patrick White

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Elaborate upon the thematic preoccupations of The Solid Mandala.

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The central theme of this novel is indicated through the principal characters of Waldo and Arthur. Although they seem locked together in constant conflict, what is key to realise abotut them is that they are used to symbolically represent the two opposing halves that make up the self that lies with all of us. White seems to be arguing that we all need both parts within us, but kept in some kind of balance. Ideas of wholeness and twinhood, together with issues such as communication and profound links between humans is therefore something that is a significant part of this novel.

Another theme that you could comment upon is that of sexuality and how human sexuality is expressed through these characters. Both Arthur and Waldo propose to Dulcie in this book, but their motives are hardly based on pure love or even lust. Waldo proposes because he thinks this is what society calls him to do, and Arthur proposes because he is more in love with Dulcie's innocence than with Dulcie herself. Both men are presented as being more asexual, or as having characteristics that are neither male or female. For example, Waldo wears one of his mother's old dresses at one stage. White suggests in this novel that every self is actually made up of elements of both genders, and that if we allow one to gain control over the other this can actually be unhealthy for us.

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