The Great Gormenghast Read discussion

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Titus Alone > Under-River (Chapters 49-62)

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message 1: by Metaphorosis (new)

Metaphorosis (metaphorosisreviews) | 47 comments Peake makes no effort to explain the city’s governance. The Helmeteers have ominous but vague power, and a court and prison exist. That’s virtually all we know. So it’s a little difficult to know what to make of Under-River. It’s interesting and, in shades of gray, colorful, but it doesn’t add up to much. It feels a bit like satire that hasn’t worked, or that was intended for another audience. Crabcalf in particular, with his remaindered books, seems a clever and pointed reference to, if not an individual, at least a type. (view spoiler) It’s a little bit like looking at painting, knowing that the faces were all drawn from life, but whose expressions, without the full frame of reference, don’t add up to a unified image.

Under-River is a fascinating place, and one of the book's most interesting, but the fact is that it can be summarized pretty easily: Muzzlehatch send Titus into darkness, then rescues him and they go home.


message 2: by Kyle, Steerpike (new)

Kyle | 77 comments I would push it back one chapter and include ch 48. Honestly, the under-river was the most thought provoking section for me, and the one that convinced me Peake retained more of his mind then is given credit. Once Titus goes underground, and is once again surrounded by dank and crumbly stone, Peakes writing style changes to something more familiar to us. The pace slows a bit, more emphasis is on description, and context of people; away from the hustle and rapid intensity of the city the writing becomes more Gormenghastian, more ponderous. Titus feels more "aware" of himself, and less like he's in the stupor of the beginning of the book. His fight with Veil is reminiscent of his fight with Steerpike; there is a particular primal quality to it.

I feel like Peake was trying to toss around the ideas of place and identity. The "real" feeling world portrays a more "fake" feeling Titus. A less genuine Titus. The less real feeling worlds, like under river and before that Gormenghast itself, show me a more "real"feeling Titus. It's as though one can only be who they really are in a world remove from time or space. Out in the "real" world, we fight to maintain who we actually are and act as in a depressed stupor, while all the while secretly hoping to find our way back home to where we are our true selves.


message 3: by midnightfaerie (new)

midnightfaerie | 70 comments Just going into this one...I'm looking forward to a more Gormenghastian feel....


message 4: by Metaphorosis (new)

Metaphorosis (metaphorosisreviews) | 47 comments Kyle wrote: "Honestly, the under-river was the most thought provoking section for me,..."

I'd agree that it was interesting, and I think it would have been thought-provoking had I known the specific characters I felt he was mocking. But I didn't, and it felt very much like a gothic set piece grafted onto the story.

I like your idea that it's more Gormenghastian, with all its dark, crumbling stone, and the characters do seem more in line with the castle. I didn't notice a change in the writing. I didn't feel here that Peake was not mentally able - the piece itself holds together - more that he didn't do much with it.

As for Titus being more real-- I honestly thought he was largely absent. There are a host of interesting characters in Under-River (view spoiler) but Titus wasn't one.

I didn't see a logic to his experiences Under-River, though I like your point about a parallel to his fight with Steerpike. I didn't think of that. But in that case, what does it mean that this time he has to be rescued? Is that a demonstration that away from his castle home (or perhaps without his knuckle of flint), he's less capable?


message 5: by Kyle, Steerpike (new)

Kyle | 77 comments B. wrote: "Is that a demonstration that away from his castle home (or perhaps without his knuckle of flint), he's less capable?"

That observation is close to how I see the whole book. Ultimately Titus Alone is about identity, and when Titus tries to shake off his identity (i.e. Gormenghast) he becomes lost, confused, and weak. And so he is throughout the book, until the end where he realizes his Gormenghast has always been with him and always will be.


message 6: by midnightfaerie (new)

midnightfaerie | 70 comments Yup. That about sums it up nicely.


message 7: by Metaphorosis (last edited Dec 13, 2013 11:10PM) (new)

Metaphorosis (metaphorosisreviews) | 47 comments Kyle wrote: "...he realizes his Gormenghast has always been with him and always will be."

That's a more sensible summary of the book than I came up with. (view spoiler)

I'm not sure that's what Peake had in mind (I grant that he meant Titus to be inextricably tied to Gormenghast), but I like it!


message 8: by Kyle, Steerpike (last edited Dec 13, 2013 03:18PM) (new)

Kyle | 77 comments B. wrote: "Kyle wrote: "...he realizes his Gormenghast has always been with him and always will be."

That's a more sensible summary of the book than I came up with. So, he leaves Gormenghast to be free, real..."


Haha, yeah that's kinda what I took away; I'll try to be more specific in my conclusions. I seem to have misplaced my copy, so I can't reference the exact parts. But from memory,(view spoiler)

As a parallel, I grew up in a very small town and I always wanted to move out and see what else was out there. I wasn't a small town-boy, I told myself; I was being held back by my surroundings and my home. The true me was out there somewhere, in the wider world. However, now that I am a little older I realize now that I will (on some level) always be a small-town boy. I cannot escape or deny my upbringing nor should I, as it is an integral part of who I am. Trying to escape my childhood would leave me lost, without direction; I wouldn't be 'myself,' until I found some marker or anchor to keep me linked to who I truly am (like a big rock).

As the Countess said, "All roads lead back to Gormenghast." And so too, do all my actions and morals lead back to my upbringing and personal identity. I can't know where I am, or where I'm going, without embracing where I've been.


Ugh, sorry... that was all a bit tangential, and definitely beyond the scope of this particular section of the book. But, I can't seem to talk about one particular section of the book without talking about others in relation.


message 9: by Cecily, Gormenghast Librarian (new)

Cecily | 166 comments I like the Under-river sections - especially the first time I read it, because it seemed a little more... straightforward than the rest of the book (and very Dickensian).

I agree that this volume is largely about identity - but in relation to place. As Kyle says, poor Titus comes to realise that without Gormenghast, he doesn't have a firm identity. In that respect, it works much better with Boy in Darkness than the main Titus books.


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