Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266
James Pullman, a man who has recently died. He exists in an indistinct dimension in which time and space are flexible. At first, he does not know where he is going or what he is doing. Gradually, he realizes that he is one of many petitioners to a...
(The entire section contains 781 words.)
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- Critical Essays
James Pullman, a man who has recently died. He exists in an indistinct dimension in which time and space are flexible. At first, he does not know where he is going or what he is doing. Gradually, he realizes that he is one of many petitioners to a court that will decide if he should be allowed to enter Heaven. He is an intellectual and was a writer of satire in his former life.
Satterthwaite, called Satters, a childish individual who was at school with Pullman. The two meet again shortly after they arrive in this mysterious afterworld. Satterthwaite had been unable to cope with his peers and therefore was dependent on Pullman when they were at school; he assumes the same subservient role in this life. Unfortunately, he has many destructive and bullying tendencies. When the two drift into the seventeenth century, he casually destroys Tom Paine.
The Bailiff, the director of the court in the afterworld. In his first appearance, he seems a rather buffoonish figure who presides over the petitioners’ requests, dispensing completely arbitrary judgments. He tells all who wait that they have no rights, except the right to petition. He arrives at the court announced by trumpets and borne in a litter carried by Nubian slaves. His personality changes constantly. Although he is a powerful figure, he delights in adopting new and often ridiculous personas.
Hyperides (hi-PEHR-ih-dees), the main challenger to the rule of the Bailiff. At first, he appears as an intellectual, espousing a classical view of life that challenges the Bailiff’s arbitrary vulgarity.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313
James Pullman, no longer a petitioner, having been passed to the next level. He discovers that it is not Heaven but only The Magnetic City, a sort of mad antechamber of Paradise. Soon after he arrives, he becomes aware of a plot by the devil to attack the city and capture its ruler, the Padishah. Pullman gradually becomes enmeshed with the devil’s plans, joining the dominating forces in the city, as he becomes heavily involved in the Bailiff’s schemes. As their plans collapse, Pullman and the other conspirators are forced to flee to Matapolis, or Hell.
Satterthwaite, a figure even more childish and inept than he appeared at first. In The Magnetic City, it becomes clear that individuals have assumed the roles most typical of their lives. Thus, Satterthwaite will be forever an incontinent schoolboy. He becomes involved with the juvenile gangs who drunkenly roam the streets, causing havoc and destruction.
The Bailiff, whose appearance and identity change yet again in The Magnetic City as he becomes a sinister figure, allied with the devil. Although he appears elegant and statesmanlike, he controls the violent forces that terrorize the city.
Hyperides, who is no longer admirable as a classicist and now is decried as a fascist. He is hated by all except his ardent followers. Even his name is derided as an affectation. In a clash between his forces and those of the Bailiff, he is brutally murdered in a parody of the Crucifixion, stabbed with a nail through the throat, and then dressed in a white pointed cap with “Fool” printed on it. The Bailiff gleefully dances over his corpse.
Father Ryan, a priest. He represents the voice of traditional religious authority in The Magnetic City. When he debates with his opponents, he argues for theocracy and proclaims the glory of the Divine.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 163
James Pullman, who has become increasingly fascinated by the devil, Lord Sammael. The two enjoy long philosophical conversations, and eventually Pullman becomes the devil’s unofficial counselor. In the end, he is rescued from Matapolis, carried away by God’s forces, two angels. He turns his thoughts away from the human age to the divine one.
Lord Sammael, the devil, a witty and urbane figure. He is both friendly and charming. His ultimate goal is to remove the distinctions between Heaven and Hell. By eliminating the divine, he can bring about the human age. He requests Pullman’s help in drafting the message he plans to send to God discussing various complaints he has held since before Genesis, revealing his plans for the future.
Satterthwaite, who flees with Pullman to Matapolis, where he finds employment as an apprentice gardener, a role he enjoys.
The Bailiff, who in Matapolis continues to be a murderer and a bully.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 39
Chapman, Robert T. Wyndham Lewis: Fictions and Satires, 1973.
Jameson, Fredric. Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist, 1979.
Kenner, Hugh. Wyndham Lewis, 1954.
Pritchard, William M. Wyndham Lewis, 1968.
Wagner, Geoffrey. Wyndham Lewis: A Portrait of the Artist as Enemy, 1957.