The Squash Games By James Joyce, Ian Mcewan Essay

The Squash Games By James Joyce, Ian Mcewan Essay

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Very few novels occur over a single day, with the notable exceptions of Ulysses by James Joyce, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday. When using this as a device, every detail of the story must serve a specific purpose, thematically or otherwise. An example might include using a character or event to represent a recurring theme. McEwan, in particular, enjoys exploring how the public affects the personal, as seen in his article “Beyond Belief”. Throughout, he constantly refers to his personal reaction; sitting “hungrily, ghoulishly” in front of the television “in a state of sickened wonderment” (“Beyond Belief”). In his novel Saturday, McEwan uses the squash game to highlight Henry’s aggressive nature, to demonstrate how public events influence our private lives, and to represent Henry’s struggle with finding a stance regarding the Iraq war.
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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