Ernest Buckler Warren Tallman - Essay

Warren Tallman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In the severe isolation of David Canaan in The Mountain and the Valley, one encounters an] attempt to discover new ground upon which the withdrawn self might stand in its efforts to move into presence. During his childhood and youth David's vivid impulses fascinate his family and friends…. Throughout childhood and early youth David moves among others with the aura about him of the chosen person, the mysterious Nazarite who is motioned toward an unknowable destiny by unseen gods. But what is an advantage during his early years becomes a disadvantage later when the appealing mystery of his loneliness becomes the oppressive ordeal of his unbreakable solitude. More devastating still, at no point in his life is he capable of actions which might rescue him from the limbo in which he dwells. (p. 12)

That the male mountain and the female valley of the title loom up so prominently in the novel is surely a sign, here as with Wordsworth, that natural objects have been endowed with all the seeming numenousness of their inaccessible human equivalents. Conversely, other persons in the novel are invested with a deceptive glamour. The breath of life fans the nucleus of David's impulses into a glow, but because these impulses are checked they never achieve the release of communication, much less communion. Unable to know his family in their ordinariness, he must create his own knowledge in the image of his arrested, his childish and childlike psychic life. Consequently his parents are perceived as mythical, almost biblical beings and this appearance is sustained as long as David's response is intense enough, the glow white hot. Such intensities are … the hallmark of the novel…. (pp....

(The entire section is 701 words.)