Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

All three of them important writers, the Powys brothers are often confused with one another. John Cowper Powys, the eldest, outlived T. F. and Llewelyn by some years. Perhaps predictably, his distinctive quality was that of presenting twentieth century ideas and dilemmas in what is essentially a nineteenth century mode of expression. A follower of Fyodor Doestevski and Thomas Hardy, John Cowper Powys employed the idioms of English Romanticism in exploring the nature of psychological compulsion and metaphysical isolation.

In this novel, Powys presents against a contemporary setting some of his ideas on the mystical power that shapes all men’s actions. The hero, Wolf Solent, attempts to find himself and his place in the universe, but he is constantly caught between the dictates of his own nature and the conventions of the world in which he lives. This world is not merely conventional, for Powys’ Dorset is a mystic place of powerful spirits affecting human beings and conducive to strange nocturnal wanderings as well as a community haunted by incest, disturbing graves, and sinister suggestions of murder.

The powerful spirits are reflections of the animal nature of human beings, forces springing from man that defy his best efforts to impose a rational order on himself and his world. Many of the names of the characters, such as Wolf Solent and Jason Otter, suggest this idea of the animal nature of man. At times, Powys had his characters dwell at...

(The entire section is 541 words.)