The Great Gormenghast Read discussion

Titus Alone > Coming to the city and Muzzlehatch (Chapters 01-20)

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message 1: by Metaphorosis (new)

Metaphorosis (metaphorosisreviews) | 47 comments Peaked opened Gormenghast with a blunt recital of the personalities of relevant characters, regardless of their status. Here, he underlines Titus’ status as an exile, whose only connection to the past is memory and a piece of flint(view spoiler). The opening scenes are full of what seem to be portents and heavily laden imagery – as when he draws in the dust and his scratches fill with darkness, or when he threatens that he’s coming to eat the silver city on the mountain. He presents the city as large and complex, on the side of a mountain, surrounded by forest – which I presume to be a deliberate reference to Gormenghast. (view spoiler)

Most important, we learn that Titus is not simply wandering and lost, but is pursued by sinister, helmet-headed beings who move with sinister smoothness. Are the Helmeteers (as we later come to call them) a subtle reference to The Castle of Otranto? If they were, it was too subtle for me.

Finally, Titus, all unknowing, reaches the city, and begins a series of encounters in which he is acted upon, and an overlapping series in which he is rescued by Muzzlehatch – one of the strongest, best-defined characters in the book. We also ‘meet’ Muzzlehatch’s car – our first indication that the state of the world is not defined solely by Gormenghast and its antique traditions. It also has cars and gadgets and science.

Titus has presumably never seen nor heard of a car, but he doesn’t seem terribly fazed by waking to find himself in a large vehicle carelessly driven at high speed. Nor is he particularly surprised at his benefactor’s menagerie. In fact, both seem more designed to underline aspects of Muzzlehatch’s character than to move the story forward. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t find them particularly effective. They’re oddities, no more. Muzzlehatch, opaque as he is, is a powerful enough figure that he doesn’t need colorful quirks – he is one all in himself.

Peake seems determined to make Titus just as opaque. He flees from Muzzlehatch for no good reason, into a series of portentous but incomprehensible encounters. There seems no clear purpose to the beggar he meets, who swallows all his income. It’s colorful, but confusing, as is Titus’ uncalled-for curse that “when you die, the earth will breathe again.” Whence this strangely vehement anger? In fact, this and his interaction seem the introduction to a new Titus, who, outside the bounds of Gormenghast is both purposeless and cruel. He’s also not too curious. When the disembodied Voice speaks to him and cues some vague philosophy about Gormenghast, he doesn’t pursue it.

He emerges into a strange and poorly described conglomeration of weird, fancy buildings, and hints of aircars and other advanced technology. The fact that Peake pretty much drops this aspect – this is one of the very few wide views the book takes – seems to me an indication that is an early, almost inchoate draft.

message 2: by Cecily, Gormenghast Librarian (new)

Cecily | 166 comments The advanced tech was what most stood out when I first read this: in such total contrast to the previous two books, that could easily have been set one or two hundred years in the past.

The first two have such an overpowering sense of place and very vague sense of period, whereas Titus Alone is almost the opposite: certainly there is no real sense of place at all, and I think that addresses some of your observations about Titus. I think he's so adrift in this alien world that rather than be overwhelmed, he switches off to some extent and isn't really surprised by anything.

message 3: by Sumant (new)

Sumant | 16 comments I got a bit confused when reading the initial chapters as to what exactly Peake trying to tell us, also I did not catch the beings which are pursuing Titus I thought it was some fluke of his imagination on leaving the castle that someone from the castle is trying to get him back.

The reaction given by Titus in the city is somewhat confusing to me because for someone who has spent most of his life until now in the castle been thrown in the city with completely new surrounding and people does not surprise him at all.

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