Part of the squash game’s function is to illustrate Henry’s more aggressive characteristics. In Saturday, Henry Perowne is portrayed as a kind, honest, and peaceful man. Perowne sets himself apart from other surgeons, explaining how he “doesn’t… relish personal confrontation” (Saturday 84). Instead, people are “put at ease by [his] unassertive manner” (McEwan 20), even though Perowne recognizes that his demeanor is slightly misleading. The lack of aggression ascribed to Henry throughout the novel is merely self-reflection on his part. Due to the novel’s limited point of view, McEwan must reveal Henry’s flaws through his squash match against Jay Strauss. Even Perowne admits that the game exposes “the essentials of his character” (McEwan 106) and all of his defects. During the game, both men “hurl themselves into every corner”, with “every point… bludgeoned from the other” (McEwan 113). Henry turns into a ...
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... smashes it with his forehand” (McEwan 114), earning the point. This point is disputed by Strauss, however, and he ends up winning after calling a ‘let’. Unclear as to who really won, and which mindset triumphed, the squash match accurately describes Henry’s internal struggle with the Iraq war.
There are many themes and ideas present within Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday. Since the book takes place over the course of one day, everything that occurs in the novel serves either a thematic or character-driven purpose. In this sense, McEwan uses the squash game to reveal character traits about Henry that speech and reflection alone may not. He also uses it to explore the relationship between public and private lives, and how certain external events can shape one’s perception. Lastly, McEwan uses the squash game to externalize Henry’s struggle with an opinion on the Iraq war.
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