Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 489

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The principal aim of The Revenge for Love is to expose the underlying falseness of the Communist cause, a falseness resulting from not only the wrongness of the ideas espoused by the party but also the insincerity of the members of that party. Lewis became the Enemy during the 1930’s, when he took the unpopular side of Fascism both in his fiction and in his books of political analysis. As has been remarked elsewhere, T. S. Eliot was regarded as simply eccentric for his political beliefs; Lewis was regarded as dangerous.

What Lewis feared most, and what this novel attacks, is the expanding power of a mass cult, which socialism was producing as a result of its insistence on centralized political control. The homogenization of humanity was for Lewis an anathema, because it decreased the value of individualism, once a hallowed English tradition. In his portrayal of British leftists, he tried to demonstrate the insidious erosion of such traditional values. In addition, Lewis took great pride in being an outsider, and he believed that the outside was the only place for a true artist, if he was to depict society and its values with any perspective. To be inside was to be blinded. His theory is even reflected in the way he constructed his novels: always from the outside, never allowing his vision to be distorted by the personal involvements of his characters.

The theme of fakery, which is introduced early in the fiction through the presence of the false bottom in the peasant girl’s basket, remains a primary focus throughout the work and supplies the book with a symbolic continuity. It is worthy of note that Victor, Tristy, and Isaac Wohl all take to forging pictures at the same time that Freddie Salmon and Abershaw forge Victor’s name to the documents which implicate him in the gunrunning scheme. The various parlor characters are more or less false Communists, and the professionals have become mired in their own false personal ambitions, to the detriment of the political cause that they purport to serve. Even the end of the novel contains yet another false bottom. As Victor and Margot escape their would-be captors in Spain, they discover that the cargo for which they have been risking their lives is only a batch of bricks and not the contraband weapons that they supposed. It is a moment of supreme discovery as the Stamps realize that they have been sent on a fool’s errand. It is a joke wasted on Margot, who, in a moment of prescience, understands the cosmic irrationality of their whole enterprise, setting the mood for Percy’s final cynicism and also his recognition of Victor’s and Margot’s transcendence of the foolishness of the political world. It is then that Percy can shed his tears both for his two friends and for himself, as he now also stands at the edge of a precipice.