The Solid Mandala

by Patrick White

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What are the themes in The Solid Mandala?

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The central theme of this novel is indicated through the principal characters of Waldo and Arthur. Although they seem locked together in constant conflict, what is key to realise abotut them is that they are used to symbolically represent the two opposing halves that make up the self that lies with all of us. White seems to be arguing that we all need both parts within us, but kept in some kind of balance. Ideas of wholeness and twinhood, together with issues such as communication and profound links between humans is therefore something that is a significant part of this novel.

Another theme that you could comment upon is that of sexuality and how human sexuality is expressed through these characters. Both Arthur and Waldo propose to Dulcie in this book, but their motives are hardly based on pure love or even lust. Waldo proposes because he thinks this is what society calls him to do, and Arthur proposes because he is more in love with Dulcie's innocence than with Dulcie herself. Both men are presented as being more asexual, or as having characteristics that are neither male or female. For example, Waldo wears one of his mother's old dresses at one stage. White suggests in this novel that every self is actually made up of elements of both genders, and that if we allow one to gain control over the other this can actually be unhealthy for us.

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Discuss the motifs that are central to the novel The Solid Mandala.

The Solid Mandala is the 1966 novel written by Patrick White. The narrative tells the story of Waldo Brown and Arthur Brown, two brothers with a symbiotic relationship.

The overarching motif in the novel is that of the symbiotic relationship of warm and cold, which represent the two halves of human nature.

Waldo Brown is naturally antagonistic. He is cold and overtly rational. On the other hand, Arthur Brown is warm, kind, and dependent. On their own, each brother would not be able to be as successful in life because they are unable to act as their brother acts. While they have mastered one realm of human nature, they are completely barren in the complementary emotional realm.

Arthur is presented as a character who suffers from some form of mental slowness, which would allow him to get taken advantage of easily. Waldo’s character, valuing the rational over the emotional, aids Arthur.

Ultimately, the novel places an importance on the need for kindness and warm-hearted nature, even though Arthur appears less capable of taking on the world. With an understanding that every human falls somewhere along the spectrum from cold to warm, it becomes easier to relate to others and better understand their decision making processes, highlighted through the extreme examples of Arthur and Waldo.

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