Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Great Britain’s capital city and largest metropolis. Muriel Spark’s characters do not inhabit the showplace London of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Instead, she sets her story in London’s grubby, everyday, lower-middle-class and middle-class residential corners. Events unfold in coffeehouses, grocery shops, quirky private clubs such as the Pandaemonium, and old houses subdivided into apartments.

None of the characters in The Bachelors appears to be married (except, perhaps, Patrick Seton). Some have been married, some want to be married, others avoid marriage—but all are alone. Patrick, for example, avoids any close connection. He notes that it is easier to escape a pursuing woman in the provinces than in London—where, as he sees it, a woman knows everyone her man knows and can track a fleeing fellow down. The pervasive claustrophobia that Spark creates derives fundamentally from the restricted areas in which the characters move. There is only occasional talk of the world outside London. Patrick, the sinister spiritualist medium/confidence man and forger, imagines escaping to Austria—where he plans to murder Alice, the waitress whom he has impregnated. However, his plans never materialize.

Spark thus cleverly represents in physical terms the themes on which she focuses—tension between the material and the spiritual, contrasts between people who long for love and...

(The entire section is 593 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bold, Alan, ed. Muriel Spark: An Odd Capacity for Vision. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1984. A collection of essays by critics who investigate Spark’s self-conscious style in portraying a sense of spiritual presence behind physical reality. Explores the novel as a sustained prose poem that uses poetic conventions in an unusual way.

Hynes, Joseph. The Art of the Real: Muriel Spark’s Novels. London: Associated University Presses, 1988. An interesting source with a good bibliography and notes section. A long section on the novel explains its investigational motifs. Discusses how Spark’s work conveys her unusual sense of reality.

Kemp, Peter. Muriel Spark. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1975. A long discussion of the novel’s spiritual themes and the way it deals with materialism. Places the work within the perspective of Spark’s other novels and themes.

Malkoff, Karl. Muriel Spark. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968. A discussion of Spark’s use of poetic techniques in the novel to expose the commonplace from a transfigured point of view. Asserts that cataclysmic events force a reexamination of the ordinary. Analyzes the characters in terms of their solitary explorations to find new ways of knowing.

Stanford, Derek. Muriel Spark. Fontwell: Centaur Press, 1963. A memoir rather than a biography. Presents one person’s image of Spark and her work. An interesting look at an unusual writer.