The Forest Path To the Spring Themes
by Malcolm Lowry

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The Forest Path To the Spring Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lowry's real subject is the war which Nature wins over nature, the triumph of the discovered correspondence between elemental forces, the eviction of the individual from his/her spiritual roots, and humankind's abiding but muted selflessness. His entire thrust in The Forest Path to the Spring is summed up by something akin to Thoreau's acknowledgement that his life before Walden had been a sham. Lowry apologizes for the "mere heroics" and "vain gestures" that have characterized his life. Yet he — Everyman — has to "go beyond remorse, beyond even contrition . . . pass beyond the pride I felt in my accomplishment, and to accept myself as a fool again." The real antagonist is the world which Thoreau and Lowry would banish in the interests of discovering the self. The Forest Path to the Spring is the record of a quest for the buried life of the soul.

The final lines of October Ferry to Gabriola are redemptive. The book ends in a deluge of maritime imagery. As the ferry makes for Gabriola, the couple stand arm in arm on the deck. A lonely lighthouse blinks, silver breakers crash against the rocky shore, the "primeval island" heaves into view. The apparent resolution is achieved stylistically, but it is as false to life as the tinkle of a toy train at Christmas.

The eviction theme has not been the tie that binds. It fails both as motif and dialectic. Lowry, whose preoccupation with the forces within a man that are bent on destroying him had no equal in modern literature, could galvanize his vision but once.