Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The totality which is engendered, but not controlled, by Potter and Roarty embraces the dialectic between good and evil, intellect and sense-experience, and love and murder, which Bogmail quietly yet ambitiously delineates. The two main characters’ experiences not only are complementary but also, taken together, form a dual perspective on the novel’s larger interests. This perspective ultimately enables the reader to come to terms with the abstractions which pressingly reside behind the faiade of the novel’s diurnal commonplaces. Thus, while the story of Bogmail deals with violence and obsession in remote rural Ireland, its meaning encompasses such matters as reason, identity, time, nature, and death.

Access to such concerns is provided through Roarty’s preoccupation with things of the mind, from his reading of the Encyclopedia Britannica to his passion for the music of Robert Schumann. Roarty’s acute awareness of his own thought processes leads him to plan Eales’s elimination: Based on his analysis of the evidence, Eales is a bad influence and must be removed. Roarty’s plan backfires, however, and in such a manner as to call into question what Roarty understands to be the power of the mind. Judging by his predilections for learning and lore, Roarty’s sense of the mind’s capacities derives from an appreciation of how to amass and utilize knowledge. Yet Eales’s murder creates a situation in which Roarty is...

(The entire section is 535 words.)