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A “Culpably Helpless” God: An examination of Henry Perowne in Ian McEwan’s Saturday

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dc.contributor.advisor Bennett, Ashly Pryor, Katherine 2013-06-12T19:30:18Z 2013-06-12T19:30:18Z 2013
dc.description.abstract Henry Perowne, the protagonist of Ian McEwan's novel, struggles with various forms of guilt as he attempts to have a relaxing Saturday. Despite Henry's job as a neurosurgeon, none of the guilt‐inducing situations that McEwan presents are due to failed surgeries. They emerge, as his Saturday progresses, from his accidental viewing of a plane crash, then a car crash Henry is partially responsible for, and finally a visit to his senile mother. It is his inaction during the plane crash that causes him guilt, but after this first event the source of and solution to his guilt become increasingly complex. While his guilt after the plane crash fades over the course of the novel, the guilt he feels about his mother is cyclical and appears as if it will never be assuaged. At first it appears that his guilt about the car crash will also fade, but Baxter, the other driver, reappears at the end of the novel and Henry is forced to confront the guilt he felt he had already atoned for. Henry is originally presented as a character who has become callous to everyday events due what he calls “the growing complication of the modern condition, the growing circle of modern sympathy”. He has replaced his sympathy with guilt, an emotion that can conceivably be cured through atonement, unlike sympathy. Guilt too, however, proves to be an uncontrollable emotion and ultimately Henry faces his guilt and is forced overcome the emotional distance he has created to protect himself from sympathetic feelings. Henry's solution for his problem of sympathy is shown to be both unrealistic and destructive through McEwan's Saturday causing the reader to contemplate new solutions for this modern problem.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh McEwan, Ian -- Characters -- Henry Perowne
dc.subject.lcsh McEwan, Ian. Saturday
dc.subject.lcsh McEwan, Ian -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.title A “Culpably Helpless” God: An examination of Henry Perowne in Ian McEwan’s Saturday
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Open Access

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