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Peake and Steerpike

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  • Melinda Jane Harrison
    Hello All! I just finished the books. And well, I shall probably think about these novels for a long time. I am going to say something and I feel certain
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 4, 2000
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      Hello All!

      I just finished the books. And well, I shall probably think about these
      novels for a long time. I am going to say something and I feel certain
      that no one will probably agree with me, but Steerpike is the true hero of
      these stories, in my most humble opinion. Flaws, murder, his own death and
      all. Titus is really impotent, as is all of Gormenghast and its inhabitants.

      I often wonder now, after reading it, if Peake, after his experiences with
      War and his thoughts on his times, if subconsciously he was writing about a
      hero who was going to throw over the old order of the world---Gormenghast
      being our world of capitalism, war, etc. and that Steerpike used those very
      tools, in a modest <g> sort of personal way to throw out the order of
      Gormenghast. Even the new earl leaves at the end, but to what end I don't
      know or can imagine, since "there is nothing new out there." <G>

      But then again.......

      I may be totally wrong. But that's how I see it now. Steerpike reminded
      me of Hamlet in some ways. Not Titus. I actually got where I liked
      Steerpike and understood him. Of course that's a dangerous thought in some
      respects. No matter how I tried, I could not see Titus as the heroic figure.
      He was a baby, then a child, then not much more than that. He was always a
      child and acted upon.
      And when he did act, say when it was about his love for The Thing, etc. it
      reminded me of an impotent boy. And quite honestly, I don't know if he
      would have ever ACTED and left if it had not been for Steerpike's actions.

      So who is the real hero? And who won?

      Of course, Peake was planning more novels, but I think readers would have
      been disappointed in many ways. Gormenghast was the center. The third,
      well, I discount it. Peake was ill and hardly able to write. What he
      began centered around Gormenghast and around Steerpike. I don't
      know...it's disturbing in some ways. And I am disturbed by it. <G>

      Jane
    • vaar aragon
      I only read 3/4 of the first book (I like Gothic, but I happened to believe there s more to Gothic than just the gargoyles. Gormenghast is just about the
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 4, 2000
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        I only read 3/4 of the first book (I like Gothic, but I happened to
        believe there's more to Gothic than just the gargoyles. Gormenghast
        is just about the gargoyles ;) so I'm not a good judge. But my
        feelings were about the same as yours, I admired Steerpike, sort of
        liked Titus & some of the other characters (including that trusty-
        servant-whose-name-I-can't-remember-but-I-think-is-played-by-
        Crhistopher-Lee-in-the-miniseries ;), but really couldn't imagine
        imagine any of them as plausible heroes except Steerpike.

        The trouble is (& this may be the point Peake is trying to make) is
        that there wasn't any compelling reason to perceive Steerpike as a
        proper villain. Just an underdog doing mildly distasteful political
        things to get to the top of a mildly distasteful pecking order...

        --- In mythsoc@egroups.com, Melinda Jane Harrison <jharrison3@m...>
        wrote:
        > Hello All!
        >
        > I just finished the books. And well, I shall probably think about
        these
        > novels for a long time. I am going to say something and I feel
        certain
        > that no one will probably agree with me, but Steerpike is the true
        hero of
        > these stories, in my most humble opinion. Flaws, murder, his own
        death and
        > all. Titus is really impotent, as is all of Gormenghast and its
        inhabitants.
        >
        > I often wonder now, after reading it, if Peake, after his
        experiences with
        > War and his thoughts on his times, if subconsciously he was writing
        about a
        > hero who was going to throw over the old order of the world---
        Gormenghast
        > being our world of capitalism, war, etc. and that Steerpike used
        those very
        > tools, in a modest <g> sort of personal way to throw out the order
        of
        > Gormenghast. Even the new earl leaves at the end, but to what end
        I don't
        > know or can imagine, since "there is nothing new out there." <G>
        >
        > But then again.......
        >
        > I may be totally wrong. But that's how I see it now. Steerpike
        reminded
        > me of Hamlet in some ways. Not Titus. I actually got where I liked
        > Steerpike and understood him. Of course that's a dangerous thought
        in some
        > respects. No matter how I tried, I could not see Titus as the
        heroic figure.
        > He was a baby, then a child, then not much more than that. He was
        always a
        > child and acted upon.
        > And when he did act, say when it was about his love for The Thing,
        etc. it
        > reminded me of an impotent boy. And quite honestly, I don't know
        if he
        > would have ever ACTED and left if it had not been for Steerpike's
        actions.
        >
        > So who is the real hero? And who won?
        >
        > Of course, Peake was planning more novels, but I think readers
        would have
        > been disappointed in many ways. Gormenghast was the center. The
        third,
        > well, I discount it. Peake was ill and hardly able to write. What
        he
        > began centered around Gormenghast and around Steerpike. I don't
        > know...it's disturbing in some ways. And I am disturbed by it.
        <G>
        >
        > Jane
      • David S. Bratman
        ... Steerpike is certainly a more active protagonist than Titus is, but whether Steerpike can be called the hero depends at least in part on what you think the
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 7, 2000
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          On Wed, 4 Oct 2000, Melinda Jane Harrison wrote:

          > I just finished the books. And well, I shall probably think about these
          > novels for a long time. I am going to say something and I feel certain
          > that no one will probably agree with me, but Steerpike is the true hero of
          > these stories, in my most humble opinion. Flaws, murder, his own death and
          > all. Titus is really impotent, as is all of Gormenghast and its inhabitants.

          Steerpike is certainly a more active protagonist than Titus is, but
          whether Steerpike can be called the hero depends at least in part on what
          you think the word "hero" means. Would "anti-hero" be applicable, perhaps?

          And Titus realizes his impotency and that of Gormenghast. That's why he
          leaves. It's he, more than Steerpike, who understands this: Steerpike
          wishes to control Gormenghast, which implies it's something worth
          controlling, and it is the castle's vast inertia which, in the end,
          defeats him. (This is insofar as Steerpike has a plan: a totally
          subjective madness is also part of him from the beginning.)

          > Of course, Peake was planning more novels, but I think readers would have
          > been disappointed in many ways. Gormenghast was the center. The third,
          > well, I discount it. Peake was ill and hardly able to write. What he
          > began centered around Gormenghast and around Steerpike. I don't
          > know...it's disturbing in some ways. And I am disturbed by it. <G>

          You can't dismiss _Titus Alone_ by the author's illness. Its basic
          thrust and plan were determined before he became incapacitated, and most
          of the writing was done before then too. If it's "disappointing" (I
          prefer the term "disillusioning" for the attitude it implies towards
          Gormenghast) it was meant to be. The existence of _Titus Alone_ it
          itself a criticism of the castle, one along the same lines as your own
          criticism. Nobody in _Titus Alone_ really believes Titus's story, and by
          the end he has almost come to disbelieve it himself: thus the ending of
          the book.

          David Bratman
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