Analysis of Coe's The Winshaw Legacy

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Analysis of Coe's The Winshaw Legacy

For a student trustful of today's scientific prowess, the realization that science cannot prove anything came as a surprise to me in high school science class last year. Indeed, a skepticist would say that finding real truth is never possible given the chaotic nature of our world. Such a worldview is among the several interconnected themes in Jonathan Coe's The Winshaw Legacy.

Coe uses the paradox as his primary vehicle of argumentation. The paradox is a statement or argument that seems to be prima facie self-contradictory. However, between the two self-contradictory poles lies some vestige of truth, the mutual hostage of the two opposing sides. Coe's satire is achieved as he points out the absurdities of life at the political fringes, and the dialectic synthesis occurs in the reader's mind as he reconciles the two sides, those being the thesis and antithesis.

The Winshaw family, representing an outrageous contemporary group of capitalist élites, is so absurd that the magnitude of its members' absurdity crushes their believability as characters. In that sense, then, the Winshaws are allegorical of larger sectors of society that possess similar, but less absurd, characteristics. For example, consider Thomas's support of the development of the laser disk. Although it is a "palpably loss-making enterprise," (308), Thomas bankrolls its development because it produces "perfect still frames ... [which suit] his needs so admirably" (308). Certainly Adam Smith did not think of masturbation as being enlightened self-interest, though it is "the very raison d'être" of the laser disk as far as Thomas is concerned (308). His motiva...

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..., readers have only accusations by Michael that the Winshaws have killed some friend or family members of his. Now a disguised Winshaw kills Michael, established earlier as the symbolic link between society and the Winshaws, in the way he dreamt. In the end, then, so long as society is dreaming with Michael, it will continue to be abused by the Winshaws, and, eventually, killed like Michael.

In short, the truth in The Winshaw Legacy exists only in readers' minds and in their interpretation of the satirical events. Paradoxically, the truth therefore exists nowhere unless as a figment of readers' minds. Members of society, caught in a dreamy state and unable to distinguish truth from fiction, enable the Winshaws and eventually find themselves killed by the Winshaws and all the social systems that they represent and that the people support.

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