The Ginger Man Question #21 ~ A Recurring Theme

by J.P. Donleavy

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The Ginger Man Question #21 ~ A Recurring Theme

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:48 am

What do you make of the recurring theme of death in the novel?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 23, 2006 4:47 pm

I think it is related to his existentialist view on life which reflects the post World War II attitude of disillusionment, anxiety and alienation.
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Unread postby suec » Sun Apr 23, 2006 6:36 pm

I hardly know what to make of it, though it pervades the novel. But I agree with you Liz.

There are two significant deaths in the book: that of Ginny, which happened some time in the past, and that of his father, which is anticipated earlier anyway. Clearly, both impact on SD, for different reasons. I don't think he ever got over Ginny's death, whereas with his father, it is something he seems to be waiting for. He is caught between the two. Oh, and there is the supposed death of Percy for a while. And then there is so much that I can’t remember being mentioned, so many dead during the war. But there are still the deaths of the anonymous, the funeral processions that he follows and watches. One passage is especially absurd, where he writes to O’Keefe about buying a bicycle and a black flag to follow the funeral processions. I’d suspect him of anting to benefit at the wakes, with food and booze but another passage is beautiful and lyrical: ‘Hospital morgue where they were looking upon dead strangers with love and the white beauty of those dead young. Candles flickering in the carriage lamps in the alleyways of the funeral furnishers.’ p85. Another memorable moment is the conversation with Marion where she tells him he can’t be serious about anything and he says: “I just asked you about death. Want to know how you feel, really get to know you. Or maybe you think this is forever.” P56 He is indeed very serious. Death seems to be the one thing in his life that is certain, that he can rely on, though the how, where and when is unpredictable. He is caught in the glare of its headlights, killing time, and obsessing about it.

Elsewhere, O'Keefe, in a telling sentence, is 'seeking out the sign which pointed the road to the limbo of the living' p46. It does all beg a few questions about the lives they are living, actually (or not living). At one point, O’Keefe says he’d rather be dead than living the life he is. I can see his point. SD is more interesting. He does have some interesting things to say about the state of his soul (cold, in concrete) which seem to tie in.
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Unread postby Bix » Sun Apr 23, 2006 6:52 pm

Liz wrote:I think it is related to his existentialist view on life which reflects the post World War II attitude of disillusionment, anxiety and alienation.
Good answer, Liz. I don't think any of us Americans can really know what the aftermath of WWII was like in England and Ireland and, even though JPD was American, I do think he picked up on these feelings as he adjusted to and settled into life there. Some of the passages you quoted, suec, illustrate that also.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:18 pm

Tough question today... :perplexed:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 24, 2006 3:06 am

Isn't his obscession with death because he is essentially in an almost depressed state himself.I'm not sure it is a sign of the times most people certainly in England were looking to a better future, I can't comment on Ireland.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:48 am

Funny, GG, how I never really thought of him as being depressed. I think he tried every trick in the book to escape depression. Maybe his obsession with death was his depression showing through.
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Unread postby Endora » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:07 pm

I found this question very tricky. BUt as I've read what people have said about the war, an idea struck me about his depressed state. I know nothing of psychology, but isn't it the case that people who survive when those near to them were killed often suffer from terrible guilt? They cannot understand why their friends, who were no worse that them, were killed while they were spared? Today people can go to talk this through, we are aware of the serious nature of after the event stress, but then, the attitude was one of pull yourself together. Perhaps the war is the key to how Sebastian behaves, and his almost unhealthy interest in death. It doesn't excuse his behaviour, but it may explain it.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:33 pm

Liz wrote:Funny, GG, how I never really thought of him as being depressed. I think he tried every trick in the book to escape depression. Maybe his obsession with death was his depression showing through.


sometimes those who suffer depression do not recognise it when they have it. It was something that struck me about him suddenly when I was reading the question and the answers already given, there is something in his lethergy and the way he is.
Endora I believe you are right about the guilt thing.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:36 pm

I think you could be on to something, there, Endora. I think that is a quite common reaction from vets. I forget what the pschological term is for it. And you are right that back then there was probably no outlet for these war vets to vent their feelings in this regard.
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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:41 pm

Liz wrote:I think you could be on to something, there, Endora. I think that is a quite common reaction from vets. I forget what the pschological term is for it. And you are right that back then there was probably no outlet for these war vets to vent their feelings in this regard.
It's called survivor guilt.

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:42 pm

Liz wrote:I think you could be on to something, there, Endora. I think that is a quite common reaction from vets. I forget what the pschological term is for it. And you are right that back then there was probably no outlet for these war vets to vent their feelings in this regard.


Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom, or something like that isn't it?

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:45 pm

I kept thinking post traumatic stress, but I knew that wasn't it. It is survivor guilt. Thanks, Fansmom. :cool:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 24, 2006 2:32 pm

Liz wrote:I kept thinking post traumatic stress, but I knew that wasn't it. It is survivor guilt. Thanks, Fansmom. :cool:


I've not actually come across that term before :cool:

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Unread postby SamIam » Mon Apr 24, 2006 2:42 pm

I have to confess that I skipped through a lot so I could turn it on time to my school's library however there was so much death during WWII that it had everything to do with survivor guilt especially from Sebastien.
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