Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488

On the social level, Caught concerns itself with the war’s chaotic disruption of routine lives. Green takes pains to mar any Churchillian canvas of a gallant, indomitable people braving the odds against aggressive tyranny. Instead, he paints an atmosphere of muddle and rumormongering, pettiness and self-seeking, irresponsibility and emotional laxity,...

(The entire section contains 488 words.)

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On the social level, Caught concerns itself with the war’s chaotic disruption of routine lives. Green takes pains to mar any Churchillian canvas of a gallant, indomitable people braving the odds against aggressive tyranny. Instead, he paints an atmosphere of muddle and rumormongering, pettiness and self-seeking, irresponsibility and emotional laxity, tension and confusion.

Against this background, the novel spins out the dialectic of two men with contrasting backgrounds, minds, fates. Both Pye and Roe are subjected to intense harassments, strains, losses, and loneliness. The unfortunate Pye is destroyed by a complex of inner and outer pressures. Roe, on the other hand, moves from the hollowness of his class-conscious upper crust to a revitalization of his humanity, a reintegration of his life through familiarization with the lives of more vulnerable, ordinary, poorer people. In the book’s last chapter, he recalls to his sister-in-law the scorching recent nights of raids endured, fires fought, and his manhood restored. He sums up the sense of these experiences thus:In some fantastic way I’m sure you only get in war, we were suddenly alone and forced to rely on one another entirely. And that after twelve month’s bickering. Each crew was thrown upon itself, on its own resources. The only thing to do was to keep together.

Dy, imprisoned in insular snobbism, in unable to understand Roe’s cathartic reminiscences. “I wonder what’s the meaning of it all?” she asks. He compassionately yet futilely explains Pye’s existence and death to her. “I can’t help it,” she responds. “I shall always hate him, and his beastly sister.”

Green uses color symbolism more extensively here than in his other novels. He is fascinated by the hues of London at night as well as by feminine sensuality and coldness; he uses a palette of primary colors to capture these feelings and enforce meanings. One conscientious critic states that Caught has more color words (237) than pages (196)—the only Green novel with this proportion.

Blue is the book’s most frequently used color, employed to hallucinatory effect in the abduction episode involving Christopher and in Pye’s fearful memories of his first sexual experience. Traditionally associated with loyalty, constancy, and serenity, blue is linked in this novel with incest, guilt, and psychological aberration. White and red are Green’s other favorites in Caught, as when Roe recalls his wife’s “white clothes” and “creamy” body, while her legs “had been the colour of the white roses about them, the red toenails, through her sandals, stood out against fallen rose leaves of a red that clashed with the enamel she used.” This is an Edenic memory of spellbinding intensity, shored up against the squalor of wartime London where blacks and purples predominate and where the reds are blood colored and flamelike to convey traditional connotations of menace. Green’s variegated colors convey and effectively correspond to an intricate scheme of emotional insinuations.

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