Abstract The Orators, and other works about the


in modern age appears as a reaction against all means of totalitarianism and industrialism
which they work together side by side to devalue the individuals. Writers responded
to this new world in a variety of ways. In their works, they show the
destruction of people’s life psychologically.

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   For example, Lowry’s Under the Volcano
has to be considered in the context of Europe from the decades of the 1920s and
1930s which produced Ulysses, The Waste Land, The Orators, and other works
about the modern “breakdown of values.”  
Lowry was interested in conveying the awe and wonder, the pity and
terror that alcoholism could arouse in the Consul’s as a kind of tragic game,
in which there are as many moves as moods, played by the Consul to deceive the
others, but still, more to deceive himself.

   The paper is about modernism and the
modernist fiction in general and Under the Volcano as a modernist
fiction in relation with the works of Dante’s Inferno, Christopher Marlowe’s
Doctor Faustus, William Shakespeare’s tragic plays(Macbeth and Hamlet), and
John Milton’s Paradise Lost.








Abstract……………………………………………………….. II

1- Introduction………………………………………………….4

2- Modernist Fiction……………………………………………5

2-1 Malcolm Lowery and Under the Volcano…………………7

2-2 Under the Volcano as a Modernist Fiction…………………9

3- Literary allusions in Under the

3-1 William Shakespeare’s tragic Plays and Under
the Volcano 12

3-2 Dante’s Inferno and Under the Volcano……………………13

3-3 Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
and Under the Volcano ………………………………………………………..14

3-4 John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Under
the Volcano…..….15

4- Conclusion ………………………………………………….16













1- Introduction

   Modernism is “A comprehensive but vague
term for a movement (or tendency) which began to get underway in the closing
years of the 19th century and which had a wide influence
internationally during much of the 20th century. The term pertains
to all the creative arts, especially poetry, fiction, drama, painting, music,
and architecture “(Cuddon, 2003, p.441).

   It can be considered as a period of changes
in all fields of life including science, technology, politic, and religion. In
Science there are many discoveries that made the traditional view of science
upside-down, for example, discoveries in medicine, wireless, railway,
airplanes, telephone, and electricity provide a better life in general. Also,
the technology which has a positive effect on human life goes with the negative
side that brings pollution. After the two World Wars political situation of the
world was changed for example the rise of Fascism. In modern age, there is no
place for religion or spirituality because people mostly were under the
influence of Nietzsche’s statement ‘God is dead’.

   So these changes made writers and everyday
people move away from traditions and write in a modernist style and subject,
for example, the disillusionment of two World Wars that destroyed the psychology
of people especially those who participated and see the catastrophes of war.
Also, they try to answer social and religious questions.



2- The Modernist Fiction

   Literature in the modern period has been
different from all other periods because modern age was the age of all changes
in every aspect of life especially the life after the two World Wars. Philosophers
developed their writings and theory under the impact of these changes and
writers under the impact of their philosophy and theory write a literature
which was totally different from previous literature.

   Sigmund Freud was a psychoanalyst; he wrote ‘The
Interpretation of Dreams’ in 1900 claims that we have suppressed desires in
our unconsciousness such as sexual desires, anger, rage, and guilt we want to
reveal it but we cannot because of our social status and society’s rules, so
these suppressed desires appears to us in the form of images or symbols in our
dreams or our writings.

Freud “literary works must then be treated like a dream, applying
psychoanalytic techniques to texts to uncover the author’s hidden motivations,
repressed desires, and wishes.” So depends on this characters will not be
simply understood because of irrational urges that might be hidden even from
themselves.  (Bressler, 2012)

  Modernist fiction is so complex because it is
dealing with consciousness, and also with the subconscious and unconscious
workings of the human mind that we cannot simply understand but using the stream
of consciousness in modernist novels helps readers to understand better.


   In the modernist novel, the actions arise
from a point usually from the beginning without putting a full stop or without
any solutions. We do not know the real “beginning,” and its ending is usually
“open” or ambiguous, leaving the reader in doubt as because they cannot decide
the destiny of the characters. The novels are usually  an allusion to or imitation of literary models
or mythical archetypes, and the repetition-with-variation of motifs, images,
symbols – a technique variously described as “rhythm,” “Leitmotif,” and
“spatial form.” (Kern, 2011)

   Sartre’s theory of ‘Being and Nothingness’
(1943) had a great impact on modernist writings. It developed the notion of
existentialism and pushes the writers to search a meaning in the meaningless of
life in showing characters especially the protagonist that always questioned
about his/her existence in the modern and complex world and usually they commit
suicide or prefer death rather than life. (Yeganeh, 2006)

   German philosopher, Fredrick Nietzsche’s
work ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ (1886) Nietzsche claims that “morality
was, in fact, an expression of power, merely the force of group beliefs, and
not an innate set of truths.”(Tew and Murray, 2009)  He also deals with nihilism in the modern age
with his statement ‘God is dead’ that is why he developed his philosophy
circular time, which means we do things in this world again and again. There is
no life after death.




Malcolm Lowry and Under the Volcano

   “God, how pointless
and empty the world is! Days filled with cheap and tarnished moments succeed
each other, restless and haunted nights follow in bitter routine: the sun
shines without brightness, and the moon rises without light. ”   Malcolm Lowry

   Malcolm Lowry (1909-57) “Novelist. In
youth, he sailed to China as a deckhand on a merchant ship and studied at St
Catharine’s College, Cambridge. Then, an alcoholic and a wanderer, he lived in
Mexico and British Columbia before returning to Britain.” (Ousby, 2012)

his childhood, he loves to read books. He was influenced by both modern and
traditional writers, for example, Faulkner, Henry James, Joyce, and others, also
by Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and the Cabbala; this made his novel Under
the Volcano to achieve a great success. He traveled to Spain, where Lowry
met his first wife, an American, Jan Gabrial, who was the first model for
Yvonne, the ex-consul’s ex-wife in “Volcano.” From 1936 to 1938 they
lived in Mexico. But Gabrial left him because of Lowry’s drinking and violence.
(Bowker, 1996)

   Under the Volcano first published as
a short story but then Lowry developed into a novel. “Under the Volcano
has to be considered in the context of the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s which
produced Ulysses, The Waste Land, The Orators, and other works about the
modern ‘breakdown of values’.” (Spender, 2012)



   The difference between Eliot, Joyce and
other modern writers with Lowry is that although Lowry’s novel was
autobiographic, personal, and subjective it gives you universal reality,  Eliot, Joyce and other modern writers aimed
at their writing to escape from personality, but  Lowry’s intention is to express the personality.

   Lowry himself like the Consul (Geoffrey
Firmin) separated himself from the world in general but this does not mean that
his loneliness and isolation from public events prevents him to know about all
the events of the 1930s. By reading under the volcano one can notice that he
was totally aware about what happened to the world politically. For example,
the Spanish Civil War and there are pages from the novel which devoted to
uncover the evilness of fascism.

   The Consul himself has a bad experience about
politics and was known in Mexico of being a “spider,” a spy because in general
in Latin America consuls are suspected of being spiders. “There is a drunken
conversation between Hugh and Consul in which Hugh says that the Nazi system,
“even though dead, continues to go on swallowing live struggling men and
women!” To which the Consul replies, “It would do just as well for any other
system … Including the communist system.” This shows that Malcolm Lowry/the
Consul supports the Spanish Republican, and sided with George Orwell, disliked
the communist intellectuals. (Spender, 2012)




 2-2    Under the Volcano as a Modernist

   Modernist literature was appeared from
roughly the 1910s into the 1960s as a reaction against dehumanizing of human
being in industrialized world, new technology and the horrifying events of both
World Wars that made writers to raise the question of the future of humanity by
using many techniques in their writings and showing the life of individuals in
modern world. There are some modern themes and techniques that can be seen in
Lowry’s Under the Volcano:

a- Alienation and helplessness: Most of characters from the novel seem to alienated
from society because of their inner suffer of guilt, for example, The alcoholic
guilt of the Consul and of the hero of Through the Panama, the
political guilt of the Consul’s brother Hugh, who has abandoned his comrades
for journalism in North America and he protected himself from love because he thinks
that love prevents him from isolation; and the sexual guilt of his wife,
Yvonne, who has come back to him but did not stay. (Wolfenden, 1960)  But all of these guilt have been repeated
in their unconscious mind ,for example, ‘Body of Firmin found drunk in bunker’
is just a repetition in Consul’s unconscious mind,                it is Freudian compression of
all the Consul’s subconscious fears of drink, death, the Hell Bunker. (Rostrums,2012)

Samaritan case to be reopened, Commander Firmin believed in Mexico.” “Firmin
found guilty, acquitted, cries in box.” “Firmin innocent, but bears guilt of
world on shoulders.” “Body of Firmin found drunk in bunker,” (Under
the Volcano, p. 259)


b- Absurdity: In modern age people
want to know the meaning of their life, and try to ask where God is. Why He is
silent when He sees these miseries and catastrophes that happened to the world?
Does He leave humanity without any support? These unanswered questions turned
people to run away from life and prefer death like The Consul, he wants to
escape from absurdity of life by drinking alcohol.  Also there are some philosophers, for
instance, Nietzsche who rejects the existence of God, by saying ‘God is dead’.
“The novel uses Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence or circular
time: it opens in the present day, but then spools back to the same point a
year earlier, giving the sense that Firmin is repeating the same trajectory
over and over again”. (Goodall, 2017)

c- Using Symbols: symbols in any works of literature give the reader
a deeper reality and they go beyond the surface description of things. Lowery
in Under the Volcano uses many symbols to make his novel more interesting.  Tony Bareham says “The purpose of the
symbols in his Lowry’s always nearly – factual fiction is to give artistic
coherence to these correspondences, to work a literary exorcism against the
randomness of life as he saw it.”  (Macleod,
1982) many symbols in the novel relate to each other and to Lowry’s literary
models. For example, The Consul’s wild and overgrown garden stands for his life.
His last speech was two words he hears as he lies dying are “Compafiero” and “pelado” (p. 374),
these words, signifying his association both with the dying Indian whose own
last word is “Compafiero” (p. 247) and with the pelado with
“smeared conquistador’s hands” who stole the Indian’s money (p. 250)  (McCarthy, 1994)


D- Primitivism: Modern civilizations are an ironic civilization;
it goes back to the past as a revolution to the present as J. S Newton
describes the influence of modernism and primitivism combined: “The modern
artist wanted to confront the restrictions of academic, aesthetic and moral
convention.  The aim was to shock society and to challenge political and
psychological repression”. (Newton, 1996) T. S. Eliot in Ulysses believes
that writers use allusions to the past as “a way of controlling, of
ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of
futility and anarchy which is contemporary history” but Lowry Instead of a
temporally imposed distinction of order and chaos, sees an alikeness in the
human disorder of past and present. In Under the Volcano, literary
and historical allusions link figures across time by means of analogy, through
a sameness of condition and identity. He links Shakespeare’s tragedies to the
tragic life and death of the Consul.  (Harrison, 1984)

D- Stream of
Consciousness: As characters in
modernist fiction have inner conflict the reader can understand the characters
straggle by using the techniques of stream of consciousness. Lowry in this
novel uses Faulkner’s technique which takes us as close to the heart and mind
of the narrator as is within the power and range of language. Also he is juxtaposing
the past and the present of the character. (Mathuramani and Ganesan, 2012) As it shows in chapter
three “Have you forgotten the letters Geoffrey Firmin” The tone and style here is consciously Faulknerian. The
voices will haunt the Consul all day, growing in intensity before his
“suicide” in the Farolito. (Rostrums, 2012)


3- Literary
allusions in Under the

3-1   William Shakespeare’s tragic plays and Under the Volcano:

    The novel is a chronicle of Firmin’s demand
for love, justice, and truth but he cannot reach them. So this leads to his tragic
suffering and especially an inner one; his human agony is the torture of the
mind. From the novel one can discover the themes of alienation, complicity,
love, guilt, death, self-destruction, damnation and un decidability, most of
them are irrelevant with Shakespeare’s tragic plays:

   for example the Consul is not sure about
whether he drinks or not, he repeat the famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet “to be or not
to be” (III.1.56-90) but instead the Consul says” to drink or not to
drink” (chapter X) this is the theme of un decidability that both Hamlet
and the Consul suffer. Also in another chapter he prays to make Yvonne happy
” Please let me make her happy, deliver me from this dreadful tyranny of
self” but at the same time when she returns the Consul rejected her.

   The expression which the Consul used in
chapter five “murdering sleep” is referring to Macbeth II.i.36-41,
where Macbeth, having murdered Duncan, is tormented by guilt also the Consul
cannot sleep because of his interior conflict about guilt:

                       Methought I heard a
voice cry “Sleep no more!                         
Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,
  Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave
of care. (Rostrums, 2012)

3-2     Dante’s Inferno and Under the

    Dante’s Inferno which contains deals with Dante’s journey through the nine circles of
Hell. He guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell
and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through
the twenty-four circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of
the damned – from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers – who
tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante’s life. (Esolen,

     In Canto XIII of the Inferno,
Dante and Virgil enter a complex wood full of wild trees. Hearing a mournful
wailing but seeing no one, the poet stops and is asked by Virgil to break off a
twig from one of the trees. Dante does so; the tree becomes dark with blood and
begins to cry: “Perché mi scerpi? / non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?”
(“Why do you tear me? / Have you no spirit of pity?”). The trees are
the suicides, and are therefore fixed for eternity in barren sterility.  (Rostrums, 2012)

Lowry refers to the same story in Under the Volcano (P.141) when the Consul says “Touch
this tree, once your friend: alas, that that which you have known in the blood
should ever seem so strange! Look up at that niche in the wall over there on
the house where Christ is still, suffering, who would help you if you asked
him: you cannot ask him. Consider the agony of the roses. He pulled some roses, but suddenly the tree broke and blood streamed
from it. The agony of roses is symbolized his agony.


3-3      Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Under the

Marlowe wrote The Tragicall
History of life and death of Doctor Faustus based on the legend
the true character of Faust. He became a typical Renaissance scholar having
early compassed the whole scope of human knowledge and in despair further
aspiration so he sold his soul to the devil. But what Lowry’s Under the Volcano
different is that the Consul sold his mind and soul to the alcohol and by end
they both fear the damnation and regret for what they do but it was too late.

chapter three “a voice said in the Consul’s ear.” The first
appearance of Geoffrey’s voices which, like the good and evil angels in
Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, they are challenging is he the man to
drink at this critical and longed-for hour of Yvonne’s return, or will he be
able to resist the temptation? His answer to the challenge is implicit in the
words “five hundred drinks”

   In chapter seven “he
was in hell himself”. An echo of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus iii:

Where are you damned?                                                   
Mephistopheles:  In hell.
Faust:  How comes it then that thou are out of hell?
Mephistopheles:  Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

 As if the Consul now in a real
hell, echoed in Milton’s Paradise Lost I.254-55: “The
mind is its own place, and in itself, / Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of
Heav’n.”  (Rostrums, 2012)


3-4      John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Under the

   Milton’s Paradise Lost focuses on Eve and
Adam and on the crucial misuse of reason and free will into which Satan leads
them.  Milton’s purpose is to “justify
the way of God to men” to make plain how fatal and irretrievable are the
actions of human being without Christian grace. (Abbott, 2004)

  Lowry like
Milton focuses on the Consul that although he has free will as well but he
followed his ambition to drink and Satan. The Garden of Eden in Milton’s Paradise
Lost(Bk. IV), symbolizes the innocence before the Fall of Man. Lowry
comments” The allegory is that of the Garden of Eden, the Garden
representing the world”. The Chief of Gardens is that Garden by the
Fascists who decree Geoffrey’s end.

unlike Milton, views man’s exile from the Garden of Eden as irrevocable.
Milton’s gives the hope of a regained Paradise sustains Adam and Eve after
their expulsion and promises a future in which “the earth shall all be
Paradise.” The Consul, unlike Adam, he cannot forgive his wife’s “willful

   The novel emphasizes
the eternal suffering in Hell because the Cons. A detail from Geoffrey’s early
life, his attendance at “a strict Wesleyan school” (p. 18), partly
accounts for his guilt about sexuality and his sense of damnation. In page (74)
he says:

“the awful bell would actually touch the
doomed child with giant protruding tongue and hellish Wesleyan breath” (under the volcano, p. 74)


4- Conclusion

Lowry’s semi- autobiographical novel Under the Volcano can be regarded as an unlocked novel because one can read it from
different perspectives; it is about the last hours of an alcoholic retired
Consul who was lived in Mexico. He faced a set of internal and external
conflicts, and died under suspicious circumstance. His life was empty from
love, family, and friends; the only faithful and lovable thing to him is a
bottle of alcohol. The root cause of his drinking is loneliness, guilt, and the
sense of damnation which leads him to downfall and tragic end.

refers back to the traditional and Elizabethan’s work of literature to make the
novel valuable and to show that he is really aware from previous age’s texts.
Also he uses many mythical allusions and related them to modern life to show
the relationships between modernism and traditional way of thinking. As well as the novel has relationship to
other modern literary masterpiece.

  The moment
when you finish the novel you can realize that how a drunk think and feel
sometimes you get lost in, a big fatalistic forest of fear and confusion and
belligerence, full of flashbacks and misadventures, betrayals  and copious bottles of mescal drunk down to
the worm. It shows you the collapsing values and morality in modern age.