The conflicts and oppositions that emerge in both texts are chiefly a result of the absorbed protagonists, dedicating their time to a singular preoccupation. McEwan’s protagonist develops an obsession with his great grandfather’s diaries and Dr Faustus makes a decision to pursue dark magic as the only occupation that might fulfil him, having grown bored of other disciplines. These decisions are afforded by a kind of freedom, a freedom from social constraints that leaves time for reading and other activities. This privilege allows both characters to reach extremes, go further in a certain direction than few previous to them have managed. The consequences of this choice come to bear in the climax of each text, the tension and conflict is resolved and the audience left to make up their own minds. Literature like this, which is interested in extremes and excesses, is often more engaging and therefore more affecting than subjects of lesser intensity. This extremity is not of course at the cost of subtlety, the contrasts in both McEwan’s story and Chaucer’s play move across a spe...
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... to end. Without the various polarities like good and bad, male and female, heaven and hell, rational and emotional, the themes wouldn’t hold nearly as much impact. Both texts in their own way show the consequences of over investment in one aspect of life, while neglecting other areas that are equally important. The breakdown of relationships and a loosened grip on sanity are direct costs of an all-consuming preoccupation. Much of the action in Marlowe’s play and McEwan’s short story are symptoms of a deeper problem, both Faustus and the narrator of Solid Geometry have chosen themselves over others, and neither at any point thinks there is reason to re-examine their choices. While the individual works are very different they are unified in their depiction of a man’s decline, both protagonists end the play without the sympathy of the audience, facing a bleak future.
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