David Storey Long Fiction Analysis
David Storey’s writing is difficult to classify, although his critics and admirers have tried. Early in his writing career, Storey defied the category into which reviewers tried to slot him. When his first novel, This Sporting Life, was published, critics linked him with the emerging group of British fiction writers known as the “Angry Young Men” because the novel deals with the generation gap between a coal miner father and his newly educated son. The theme was timely, as a new rank was then emerging in English society, the educated and upwardly mobile. This new generation drove wedges into the tightly structured British class system after World War II. Storey, however, felt that it was not education itself that ignited the clash; rather, the core conflict lay in the mystical value and the quality of salvation the parents gave to education. The parents would never be able to experience what education could or could not do, so their perceptions of its benefits were flawed. Education served only as a vehicle that exacerbated the cultural transformation of English society at the end of the twentieth century.
Among the recurring themes found in Storey’s novels and dramatic writings are the psychological duplicity of a person’s physical and spiritual personas, the alienation and estrangement between parents and their newly educated children, and the depression and disillusionment that arise from an unsatisfying job. Storey’s prose is taut, matter-of-fact, and rich in visual imagery. The imagery adds clarity and impact to Storey’s narratives; his descriptions border on the visceral and pull readers deep into the scenes, so they hear the sound of a piercing whistle, a roaring crowd, and the slash of a knife cutting across a cornstalk.
This Sporting Life
This Sporting Life opens with the protagonist, star footballer Arthur Machin, deep inside a brutal and dangerous rugby scrum, with elbows, knees, and bodies shoving to reach the ball. The novel is written in the first person, and the reader experiences the smells of sewage mud, liniment, and leather. During the game Machin has six teeth knocked out, and he is taken to the hospital. While under either, he slips back to the beginning of his rugby career. The first five chapters move smoothly between Machin’s memories as a rookie player, when he rented a room from the dowdy, washed-out widow Valerie Hammond on Fairfax Street, and the present, which is punctuated by visits to the dentist and a rowdy Christmas party at the team owner’s home. The novel then moves into the present and remains there.
Machin describes himself as a “super ape,” yet he searches for something more than athletic success. He joined the rugby league to escape the lot of the ordinary factory worker living in the North of England. He is a lonely man looking for a deeper meaning to his life, and he comes to believe that his landlady, Mrs. Hammond, is the woman with whom he can build something lasting, “to have something there for goodto make me feel whole and wanted.” Mrs. Hammond rejects Machin, however; she chooses to regard this powerful battering ram of a man as a threat to her passive peace of mind, which overflows with hopelessness. She maintains her willful indifference to his exalted status as a rugby hero and refuses to show any gratitude for his kindnesses, even when he buys her expensive gifts and takes her family out for Sunday rides. She fears that Machin only wants to see her give in and admit to her need for him before he abandons her.
Machin wants more than a brief sexual...
(The entire section is 1475 words.)