Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Arnold Bennett's reputation has been hampered by the disfavour that he incurred among the leading modernists and the critical tendency to treat realism as an attempt to achieve social mimesis. If realism is regarded as a mode of fiction, Bennett's Five Towns books can be seen as an endeavour to formulate a coherent social vision rather than as a reproduction of the Staffordshire Potteries. In Anna of the Five Towns, The Old Wives' Tale and Clayhanger, the best of the Five Towns works, the characters' environment displays an increasing propensity to divide into personal and social worlds, both of which are animated by a force that is peculiar to each work. The society described in Anna is impelled by Social Darwinism, whereas a principle of cyclical change governs the diffuse universe portrayed in The Old Wives' Tale. Although the social milieu of Clayhanger is distinct from Edwin's personal sphere, both aspects of the novel's universe are ruled by human suffering.;The characters in these novels strive with an increasing degree of success to understand the powers that rule their worlds. Anna Tellwright learns to detect the impact of Social Darwinism on her personal realm, but since her development is delineated from the novel's outset she is unable to apply this insight on a social scale. Constance learns to view the influence of change on her personal world as evidence of continuity--a realization that is free from the irony that tinges Anna's discovery--but she cannot understand the same force when it is manifested socially. Sophia perceives the cycle of change as a force that intensifies her sense of alienation, and she learns to deal with her angst by concentrating upon practical affairs. Unlike his predecessors, Edwin Clayhanger attains full comprehension of the misery that prevails in his personal world and in society as a whole. Bennett, moreover, manipulates a number of stylistic devices, such as narrative point of view, imagery and symbolism, in order to enhance the fictional exploration of the relationship between man and society.
Malcolm, Douglas William, "Social Vision And Individual Learning In Arnold Bennett's Five Towns Fiction" (1983). Digitized Theses. 1229.