Poet, novelist, critical theorist, autobiographer, and mythographer Robert Graves is rightly regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most important authors. Although Watch the North Wind Rise is not among the works for which he is most readily remembered, it is both interesting in its own right and significant as an elaboration of the cultural and mythographic theories set forth in The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948).
Although some reviewers have complained that when Graves cannot rely on history for structure, his novels are weakly plotted, a close reading of Watch the North Wind Rise reveals Graves’s careful foreshadowing of significant events and properly organic grounding of the action in character. The novel’s developing conflict, however, is sometimes overshadowed by its utopian focus. Consciously writing within the utopian tradition, Graves describes the artifacts, customs, and structures of New Crete in detail. His assessment of the ideal society he has created is balanced; he realizes that utopian perfection paradoxically entails problems of sociocultural sclerosis. The resolution of this paradox is the focus of the novel. Graves’s belief that all cultures serve the Goddess, who incorporates destructive as well as creative and nurturing aspects, allows him to characterize his utopian society as but one stage in the dialectic of history. Throughout Watch the North Wind Rise...
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