Riddley Walker Themes
by Russell Hoban

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Riddley Walker Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Riddley Walker explores the ethical dimensions of power. When Riddley ultimately realizes that the Ram seeks the secret of the "1 Big 1," and when he learns that the "Prime Mincer," Abel Goodparley, is on the verge of rediscovering the "1 little 1" (gunpowder), he asks himself why anyone would not wish to recapture the power of the earlier age. He recognizes that his desire for the lost knowledge of destruction is very strong. Later, however, he formulates his belief that "The onlyes Power is no Power," and almost immediately events confirm this belief when the rediscovery of gunpowder results in the deaths of those who have managed to concoct the mixture.

By the end of the novel, Riddley has determined a new course for his life. At the beginning he had, through the death of his father, risen to the hereditary position of "Connexion Man" (one who translates the significance of the government's "Eusa Show" for his community). By the end, however, he has determined to stage puppet shows of his own, not "Eusa" shows but puppet shows featuring Punch. Although, as he explains to the first community in which he performs his show, the puppet show is for entertainment rather than for. governmental instruction, one can assume that Riddley's Punch shows will convey some of Riddley's newfound awareness in the form of post-holocaust morality plays.