Student Question

How is the phrase "monument to the temporary" relevant to Ali Smith's Hotel World?

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London’s Millennium Dome was a temporary structure put up at great cost for just one month, January 2000, to commemorate the dawning of a new millennium. It relates strongly to the novel’s theme of the transitory or ever-changing nature of life because its brief existence made it a “monument to the temporary.” Human life itself, the novel is saying, like the dome, is temporary and can change quickly to death. We see this in young Sara’s death: in the briefest of moments, she perishes, just as anyone can. Our short lives, like the dome, are “filled with panic, bluster, rhetoric, and air.”

Another nod to the temporary nature of life comes in the meditation that precedes the mention of the Millennium Dome. We learn of Solomon Pavy, a child actor who died at scarcely thirteen in 1602, 400 hundred years before the novel was published. The transitory aspect of life is universal, and we can only fully capture this in art, be it the poem Ben Jonson wrote about Pavy; the Millenium Dome, which came and went; or the lives and world described in Smith’s novel.

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