Picking Up the Thread



Much could be said about threads, apart from their use as material for nest-building. We can, for example, get so wet that we haven’t a dry thread on us; there is the thread of life which Lachesis, her cloak encrusted with stars, snips with her shears when the time’s up, so that our lives can be said to hang by a thread, and our fortunes too; there is the thread of an argument which is always more tenuous than we hoped it would be; and there is the thread that led Theseus out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur, the thread having been laid out from inside information by his lover Ariadne. Any of these threads could serve my purpose, but it’s the last one I have especially in mind — not for Ariadne’s sake (though I think she deserved better from Theseus than she got on the island of Naxos) but because of the labyrinth; and not because the thread would lead us out of the labyrinth as it did Theseus, but because it could lead us back into the labyrinth where we belong. We may take heart from reliable witnesses who tell us that there is not always a voracious Minotaur at the heart of the labyrinth.


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  1. 1.
    Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, ed. B. C. Southam (London, 1968) pp. 127, 130.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    M. Lascelles, Jane Austen and her Art (Oxford, 1939) p. 106.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Edwin Muir, The Structure of the Novel (London, 1928) pp. 42–6.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1985

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