While chewing over our in-class content and discussion, I remembered another novel where the main character is revealed to have repressed sections of himself in order to try and reclaim his happiness: Fight Club. Chuck Paluniuk’s book opens with the main character listing the many lavish, expensive items within his apartment, only to come home to the entire living space blown up and on fire. The twist of the novel (spoiler alert) is that the charismatic man who takes him in and turns his life around, Tyler Durden, is in fact an id-like personification of himself, projected into the real world by the narrator himself. The main character, unhappy with his life standing and addiction to objects, created someone that would destroy his collections and free himself to start the search for actual fulfillment.
Is the “repressed” Chris that returns home from the war id-like as well? Is he repressed or liberated? The point is fractured in Rebecca West’s novel. She seems to say on the one hand that post-war Chris is living in a superior reality, one unburdened by his possessions – in this instance the house and its objects, of course, but also his wife Kitty and even Jenny. The things that used to support him now confuse, trip and obstruct him (see Jenny, the new set of stairs – it is his dead son’s clothes, after all, which provide the final cracking of his psyche). He is free from war, and (since Margaret’s husband can barely handle a shovel much less his wife) apparently free to pursue Margaret. His only punishment, then, is the perception of him from the outsider’s perspective, that he is stunted and not truly a “man”. His self-centered demeanor is viewed as something that will ultimately separate him from being able to interact with society.
In a book with so many feminist angles to pursue, it is interesting to see that Chris’s gender perception is hinged this way. To be young and in love, free of burden, free of object obsession, is to be a child. To be old and burdened to the hilt with possessions material and mental – that is adulthood and true maleness. Which Chris, then, is truly more repressed: Chris at his first entrance into the novel or on his final walk up to the house?