In Russell Hoban's novel Riddley Walker, what does Riddley mean when he says, "THE ONLYES POWER IS NO POWER"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, the title character at one point comments, in his highly peculiar post-apocalyptic English, about a thought that has come to him:

. . . that thot come to me: THE ONELYES POWER IS NO POWER. Wel now I sust that wernt qwite it. It aint that its no Power. Its the not sturgling for Power thats where the Power is. Its in jus letting your self be where it is. Its tuning into the worl its leaving your self behynt . . .

Despite its strange expression here, this is an old idea that is especially associated with such ways of thinking as Bhuddism and Stoicism. The only way to be in control of one’s life is to renounce thoughts and concerns with worldly things, including worldly power. The only way to achieve true autonomy and authenticity is to put aside worldly ambitions and worldly pride. “Power,” in this sense, involves a sense of inner peace and calm. It involves letting go of worries and desires. It involves no longer struggling for power – no longer competing for it or trying to take it from others. It involves a kind of quiescence, in which one is unaffected by not only the troubles but also the joys of the world. “Power,” in this sense, is not power over other people or over material things but over one’s own thoughts and feelings.


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