In his study Reading the Thirties Bernard Bergonzi remarked of Warner’s first novel, The Wild Goose Chase that it ‘moved from crude allegory to… genuine symbolism… and back again disconcertingly’.1 This comment, while pointing to an intermittently productive tension in the text which need not be so cavalierly dismissed, speaks eloquently of the post-Romantic critical assumptions as to the relative status of allegory and symbol. A writer setting out in the late 1920s with a commitment to an allegorical method — and in Warner’s case to a revival of the tradition of Protestant quest-narrative, where doubt journeys towards faith — is running deliberately aslant the contemporary literary tendencies. Insofar as the challenge of allegory at such a moment involves posing certainty against liberal indefiniteness, abstraction against naturalism, satirical outline against fine interpersonal discrimination, or the process of history against the hypostatisation of the moment, it consorts with radical political alternatives, appropriating for secular modern ends conventions much older in origin.
KeywordsFairy Tale Personal Quest Productive Tension Wild Goose Provincial Town
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