Would anyone be able to help pull some techniques and ideas about belonging from the extract below from The Finkler Question? He felt himself to be a stunted shrub in a rainforest of towering...

Would anyone be able to help pull some techniques and ideas about belonging from the extract below from The Finkler Question

He felt himself to be a stunted shrub in a rainforest of towering trees. All around him other trainees rose to startling eminence within weeks of their arriving. They shot up, because there was no other direction you could go but up, unless you were Treslove who stayed where he was because no one knew he was there. They became programme controllers, heads of stations, acquisitors, multi-platform executives, director generals even. No one ever left. No one was ever fired. The Corporation looked after its own with more fierce loyalty than a family of Mafiosi. As a consequence everyone knew everyone intimately – except Treslove who knew no one – and spoke the same language – except Treslove, who spoke a language of loss and sorrow nobody understood.

After more than a dozen years roaming the ghostly corridors of Broadcasting House in the dead of night, knowing that no one was listening to anything he produced – for who, at three o’clock in the morning, wanted to hear live poets discussing dead poets, who might just as well have been dead poets discussing live poets? – he resigned. ‘Would anyone notice if my programmes weren’t aired?’ he wrote in his letter of resignation. ‘Would anyone be aware of my absence if I just stopped turning up?’

He received no reply.

from The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

What we have in this passage is a set of details from Julian Treslove's professional life relating to isolation and failure. Throughout the novel, The Finkler Question, Treslove fails repeatedly to establish himself in any single camp.

He betrays his best friend, Finkler, by sleeping with his wife. He attempts and fails to become Jewish and he misses the opening of Hephzibah's museum even though he helped to curate the exhibits.

In the passage cited above, the most poignant details of Treslove's isolation come at the beginning and the end. Treslove does not feel as fully formed or fully grown as his counterparts at the BBC because he is a morbid person. They are optimists (trees standing in the light and thus growing) and he is a pessimist (relegated to the shadows). 

It is Treslove's morbidity that leaves him behind, his dark nature. If he were like his co-workers at the BBC he would have "shot up" too. 

Also we have details relating to the impotence of his radio voice. This is ironic, of course, but natural for Treslove. Though he is a radio host he produces a show that he knows no one will hear. He is isolated, working at a broadcast in the middle of the night - in the dark - and speaking to no one. 

Sources:
nevra's profile pic

nevra | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Really? These two simple paragraphs are dripping with juicy allusions to belonging! The first sentence:

"He felt himself to be a stunted shrub in a rainforest of towering trees."

The stunted shrub is always in the shadow of the towering trees. In the rain forest, if you're not on the top of the canopy, you're either food or mud; neither is terribly popular to listen to on the radio.

"...Treslove who stayed where he was because no one knew he was there."

No one knew who he was, what he was, or that he existed in their family. With no recognition, who could promote themselves? With no exemplary status as with all the other individuals in "the Corporation", he was unrecognizable; the empty chair no one noticed at the dinner table. The chair existed, so clearly there was supposed to be a body in it. But as it stood empty without Treslove, no one took notice of it; no more notice than if he were in it.

"...and spoke the same language – except Treslove..."

Language is the basic fundamental thread that binds people together. You can have absolutely nothing in common with someone...but if you're the only two that speak the same language in  foreign world, you'll be best friends indeed. Without even the language thread (as he sees it) to bind him to these people, he has no place among them. And when he resigns and receives no reply, his assumptions are correct. He never belonged with them. He was never a part of their "Corporation."


Run with it! It's a beautiful piece!

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