The Traveler's Journey: From Departure to Arrival

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Chapter 6 (v.1) - V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival

Submitted: May 21, 2007

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V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival

Restless would be an apt description of V.S. Naipaul. A West Indian writer whose journeys have taken him from Trinidad to England, Africa, Argentina, India, and many other countries in the world, Naipaul has written extensively on his travels. A major portion of his oeuvre is travel writing, and lately Naipaul has suggested that his travel writing is the most important portion. At a literary festival at Hay-on-Wye sponsored by the New Yorker, Naipaul insinuated that his travel writing was more authentic than his fiction. According to Naipaul, fiction, and more specifically the novel, was disappearing in an increasingly multicultural world, and new forms would have to be developed to take their place. Travel writing, in his view, was one of those new forms, adept at handling a diversity of cultures and perspectives.

For Naipaul, the problem was specialized experience, a key characteristic of travel. In fiction, the narrator is assumed to come from a particular culture, with particular conventions. But with narratives that span cultures, Naipaul is keenly interested in the person that tells the story. He mentions Theroux, who spent several years in Africa among other places, as an author without a typical Massachusetts upbringing, saying "and probably more and more people, as the world gets more confused, will feel the need to define exactly who they are. Otherwise, with the third-person narrative one wonders, ‘Who is writing this?'" (335 Theroux).

The same could be said for Naipaul, whose past is an eclectic mixture of different cultures and traditions. Brought up first in the rural countryside of Trinidad, then educated at Port-of-Spain, then sent to Oxford on scholarship, Naipaul possesses the colonial's anxieties combined with the scholarship of a university education. His works and especially his travel writing, controversial due to their harsh outlook on the countries he visits, raise the question of who is the narrator. In the end, it was Naipaul who tackled that question in his book The Enigma of Arrival.

Naipaul would be loath to call The Enigma of Arrival an autobiography. "I think I would be run out of town, because there's no autobiography there - no family, no wife, no friends, no infidelities, nothing. That whole bit of life is torn out. There's nothing about me apart from my writing" (Naipaul qtd. in Gussow). Indeed, The Enigma of Arrival is a book difficult to comprehend without a certain amount of knowledge about Naipaul. The narrator, nameless in the book, parallels Naipaul's life so closely that the motivations behind Enigma are difficult to fathom without understanding Naipaul's colonial anxieties, his prejudices, and his history of brutal and outlandish statements.

The Enigma of Arrival takes place in the English countryside and concerns a writer of West Indian descent settling into a cottage bought there. The events correspond to Naipaul's own life: after he finished his book The Loss of El Dorado, Naipaul returned to England to look for a place to stay. What he discovered was a cottage in the province of Wiltshire. Naipaul's gradual acceptance of Wiltshire was a formative part of his life in England, and that process is described in The Enigma of Arrival. The book is divided into five sections, each dealing with a broad theme represented by the chapter titles: Jack's Garden, Journey, Ivy, Rooks, and Ceremony of Farewell. The last section is significantly shorter than the first four and serves as an epilogue. The first four sections, each close to a hundred pages, are divided into smaller, unmarked chapters separated only by an extra line. They form the major part of the narrative, which describes the personal changes the narrator experiences when faced with the possibility of death. As Naipaul mentions to his friend Paul Theroux when he finished the book: "Death is the motif" (Theroux 263).

Autobiographical fiction is the term generally used to categorize The Enigma of Arrival. Autobiographical, because as Naipaul explains "the writer, the observer, that is scrupulously myself" and fiction because "the minute other people are in the picture, that is where the fictive element comes in" (qtd. in Gussow). The mixture of fact and fiction, without any clear dividing line, echoes Chatwin's In Patagonia. In fact, the use to which Chatwin employs fact and fiction is similar to Naipaul's: both deal with a symbolic journey. In Chatwin's case, Patagonia was a symbol for human restlessness and In Patagonia an account of his search for the root of his restlessness. For Naipaul, he deals with the symbol of the English estate, but from a very different perspective. Rather than developing the symbol of the English estate, which is supported by a lengthy tradition, Naipaul deconstructs it and discovers in it the incongruities that constitute the core of his book. For Naipaul, the real tension of Enigma lies in "the great irony of coming to rest in this manor house with imperial associations, which is itself in a state of decay." (Naipaul qtd. in Gussow). Naipaul states: "[Enigma] It's about England, a kind of country life, but not as others write about it. It sets ideas about country life on their head" (qtd. in Gussow).

The similarity between Chatwin and Naipaul's approach is reflected in their writing. Many of the rhetorical and structural qualities that make Chatwin's book frustrating as a work of travel writing are what make Enigma of Arrival frustrating as a work of autobiographical fiction. As Chatwin's work can be considered "timeless" in the sense of lacking a sense of time, Naipaul's work, time is hugely distorted, where in places pages might be spent describing one particular scene while in another paragraph weeks go by. As Chatwin weaves current and historical accounts together, Naipaul devotes an entire chapter to a flashback narrative in order to relate the history of the narrator. As repetition is essential to tying together Chatwin's short chapters and connecting them with his themes of exile and restlessness, repetition is what defines Naipaul's slow deconstruction of the symbol of the English estate.

Yet there are essential differences that make Naipaul's work a subtler and more profound book. Though chronology is distorted in both In Patagonia and Enigma, time still serves an essential role in Naipaul's work. Naipaul is much more careful with his treatment of time, and follows a deliberate presentation of the events in each chapter, changing certain elements from one chapter to the next. Rather than dates, it is the changing of the seasons and the accompanying changes in nature that define the passage of time in Enigma. The onset of winter is described by the falling of snow, followed by bare branches and the presence of family of rabbits coming out to play or feed (Naipaul, Enigma 6 - 7). The narrative builds, but at an uneven pace. The reader is aware of the passing of time, but how much time remains in question. Then snow falls again, a family of deer appears and the narrator recalls the rabbits from his first week (Naipaul, Enigma 46). By referencing the changes in nature, one cycle in time is defined.

Cycles then are essential for defining the chronology of the book, and consequently its structure. The book, just as the seasons, is cyclical. Animals, characters, memories, places, and elements of nature surface again and again in the rambling thoughts of the narrator. The first section focuses on a character named Jack, who lives near the cottage of the narrator, and whose daily routines fascinate him. Jack's death provides the pivot on which the first section rests, but he is mentioned in later chapters in connection with his work: his decaying greenhouse (Naipaul, Enigma 205) or a comparison of his routines with the way Pitton, the gardener, works (Naipaul, Enigma 228 -229). The ivy growing on the trees is first mentioned right after Jack's death, but its symbolism is further explored in the second chapter in relation to the narrator's landlord and the decay of the estate. These elements, spanning the different sections of the book, represent different themes that occur throughout the book. The themes are the focal points of the narrator's thoughts, and thus help define the subjectivity of the narrator. Natural cycles, connected with the cycles of human life that the narrator begins to recognize as the book progresses, is one of those themes. Naipaul, in structuring the book cyclically, illustrates the changes in the narrator's perception, from a static view of the world to a more dynamic perspective.

Cycles appear throughout the book, but are established and are of prominent importance in the first section, Jack's Garden. It is this section when the narrator, who already possesses particular prejudices about the English estate and countryside, who knows about its particular symbolism, begins to realize how his idea of the English estate is obsolete and untrue.

"Here was an unchanging world - so it would have seemed to the stranger. So it seemed to me when I first became aware of it: the country life, the slow movement of time, the dead life, the private life, the life lived in houses closed one to the other.

But that idea of an unchanging life was wrong. Change was constant." (Naipaul, Enigma 32)

The narrator's ideal of a pristine, static world is juxtaposed with the reality he sees around him. Ideas and images received from his education, from a childhood spent in an English colony, are revised as the narrator begins to understand the changes that define the place he lives in. "I saw what I saw very clearly. But I didn't know what I was looking at. I had nothing to fit it into. I was still in a kind of limbo" (Naipaul, Enigma 7). For him, Salisbury was the name of a cathedral in a painting by Constable (Naipaul, Enigma 7). Waldenshaw was the conjunction of two woods meaning "wood". Cows were an animal that appeared on the labels of cans of condensed milk. Elements that appeared in the narrator's surroundings were connected with other images, separate from the place he was in. That disconnection would appear in a book like In Patagonia as characteristic of exile: consider the Russian nurse who was a devoted reader of Russian authors. Indeed, the narrator could be said to resemble that of exile.

The condition of exile that the narrator first experiences when he arrives at Waldenshaw changes as the book progresses. The change is represented through certain symbols and their associated themes, each of which reoccur throughout the book. Cycles, one theme, define the first chapter and how the narrator begins to accept that there exists a life within the English estate quite different from what the English estate as a static symbol suggests. The prime example of this life is Jack and his garden. Jack, a neighbor, is at first mysterious to the narrator: "Jack had at first been a figure in the landscape to me, no more. As no doubt I also was to him: a stranger, a walker, someone exercising an old public right of way in what was now private land" (Naipaul, Enigma 28). Yet the figure of Jack becomes more defined as the narrator and Jack casually bump into each other, and a rapport is established. But for the narrator, Jack is defined most clearly not by his "pointed beard" (Naipaul, Enigma 29) or his shout of a greeting, but in the work Jack did in his garden: "I saw him more clearly when he worked in the garden at the front (or back) of his cottage, and most clearly of all when he worked in his wire-fenced bedding-out plot, turning over the soft dark, much-sifted earth below the old hawthorn tree" (Naipaul, Enigma 28). Indeed, in the narrator's mind, Jack's work in the garden and the changes of season representative of the cycles of life, and the life that exists in the English estate.

"His garden taught me about the seasons, and I got to know in a new way things I must have seen many times before. I saw the blossom come on his well-pruned apple trees, got to know the color of the blossom, carried it in my mind (and was able therefore always to recall it), attached it to a particular time of year; saw the small fruit form, hang green, grow with the rest of the garden, and then turn color." (Naipaul, Enigma 30)

The narrator begins to connect the images in his mind with the life around him. Change is established, but with the realization of change comes old ideas about change: ideas of decay that the narrator has brought with him, born out of a lifetime of colonial anxieties. The open paths in the valley become enclosed by barbed-wire fence, and the narrator has to alter the route of his walks. Such a small change to the valley, to the narrator's sense of what the English estate should be, causes him to see decay in the change. His first reaction is the sense of a slow ruin of the estate around him, the traditional supports of the symbol of the English estate disappearing. Though he is beginning his life in the valley in Wiltshire, the narrator counts the years he lives there as if he is always ready, when the moment comes, to leave.

"But I had grown to live with the idea that things changed; already I lived with the idea of decay. (I had always lived with this idea. It was like my curse: the idea, which I had had even as a child in Trinidad, that I had come into a world past its peak.) Already I lived with the idea of death, the idea, impossible for a young person to possess, to hold in his heart, that one's time on earth, one's life, was a short thing." (Naipaul, Enigma 23)

Death, and a sense of exhaustion, is at the heart of the narrator's journey to his cottage in Wiltshire. The search for a place to live, and the eventual settling in Wiltshire was the result of a misunderstanding between the narrator and his publisher over a book written on the history of Trinidad and South America. After selling his flat and flying to Trinidad and South America to work on the book, the narrator discovers that the publisher had envisioned a different sort of book, a much simpler book than the long history the narrator writes. Upon his return to England, the narrator finds himself broke, exhausted, and without a home. Yet to understand why the narrator wrote a book so different from what his publisher had commissioned, why he spent two years gathering documents to attempt to record a more "human" history would require an understanding of the journey that took the narrator from Trinidad to England with the goal of becoming a writer.

The second section, Journey, describes that journey, beginning with his first flight from Trinidad to London, and ending with his arrival in Wiltshire. The focus of the section, however, is the first journey: the trip from Trinidad to London, and his experiences living in a London boarding house before the start of his Oxford education. The experiences of that time would serve as the foundation of what narrator calls the "gap between the man and the writer" (Naipaul, Enigma 110). Arriving in New York, the narrator finds a cinema showing Marius, a French film he has studied and written about in Trinidad as part of his examinations on general culture, but which he has never seen (Naipaul, Enigma 116 - 117). The narrator finds a bookshop in New York and discovers a vast array of books which he has never heard of. The only familiar titles are the Penguin Classics or Modern Library editions: old books that might have been available in Trinidad.

These events highlight the "gap" that narrator describes: the sense of being left behind. As a child, the narrator found nothing odd about the obsolete advertisements in the back of Penguin Classics sold at emporiums in Trinidad, advertising goods that were never available in Trinidad and at the time no longer being made (Naipaul, Enigma 131). The disconnect between Trinidad and the world to which the narrator travels, between the fantasies formed during the narrator's childhood and the realities that exist at his destination, are what informs his conception of change and decay. Traveling with a romantic vision of what formerly existed - obsolete goods made by extinct companies - and then coming to a realization that such a vision was itself archaic suggested to the narrator that change meant a kind of decay, a corrosion of an imaginary ideal. The England implied in his reading, in the literature available, was an England of the past; the English estate was a symbol of Victorian-era power. So finding in Wiltshire the changes he sees, the narrator perceives the change as decay from a more ideal time. "Journey" solidifies the narrator as a character, and explains the preoccupations and preconceptions that he carries with him in Wiltshire: "Not an observer merely, a man removed; but a man played on, worked on, by many things" (Naipaul, Enigma 103). The theme of decay is one of those things.

The idea of decay becomes most prominent after Jack dies and his garden goes to ruins. "The garden was flattened, all but two or three rose bushes and two or three apple trees which Jack had pruned in such a way that they bunched out at the top from a thick straight trunk. And the ground was grassed over. The hedge, once tight at the top, mud-spattered and ragged at the bottom, a half or quarter barrier between garden and rutted farm road, the hedge began to grow out into trees" (Naipaul, Enigma 59). Without Jack and his daily routine, the garden becomes part of the larger estate, part of the general decay. The narrator, after devoting a chapter the last moments of Jack's life, begins the next chapter with a description of ivy. The ivy, which is growing wildly in the estate, choking trees and killing them, reappears again and again in the narrative, and like Jack's garden, becomes representative of a theme in Naipaul's book: this time, the theme of decay.

The third section is titled Ivy and is devoted to the idea of the decay of the English estate. The section begins with the landlord of the estate and the slow revelation of his story: a man who once possessed a great deal of social and artistic potential, but then in middle age suffered a long bout of depression (Naipaul, Enigma 191). The result is what the narrator calls an acedia of the soul and a lifelong isolation in his own manor. The decay, spiritually, socially, and mentally, of the landlord and how the decay is reflected in the decrepitude of the manor grounds becomes the focus the narrator. The ivy acts as both a metaphorical symbol of decay and one of its literal effects. The narrator notes there were once sixteen gardeners taking care of the manor grounds; now, there is only one, a man named Pitton. A consequence of that lack of care is the ivy, which has grown wild and is killing off the trees.

One particularly touching moment occurs when the narrator, seeing a cherry tree collapse under the weight of the ivy matting its surface, attempts to preserve a cross-section of its trunk (Naipaul, Enigma 216 -217). The rings of the trunk, numbering forty-seven, imply the tree was planted in 1930, early enough for the tree to have existed when the narrator made his initial crossing of the Atlantic, when the landlord first closed himself in his manor, and when the narrator, out of sheer financial desperation, began to write. The rings reveal a story about the trees growth and more subtly, about the state of the garden in which it existed. The earlier years, represented by larger rings, suggested faster growth and a healthier garden; the later years are denoted by dark, thin rings, the time when the ivy began to spread. The tree reflected the health of garden, which in turn reflected the vitality of the landlord and the idea of the English estate. The decline of the English estate is not only represented literally by the defunct garden, but also figuratively by the gradual apathy of the landlord in taking care of his manor grounds. This apathy implies that the strength behind the idea of the English estate, which had sustained the manor grounds for a long time, was waning: fewer and fewer peopled cared about keeping such a tradition alive. The remains of the tree were not simply debris, but "part of the debris of the garden, the debris of a life" (Naipaul, Enigma 218) of order and security.

The tree also marks the time period in which the disparate lives of the landlord and the narrator begin to somehow make their way towards each other, one living at the end of a certain age of wealth and security and the other beginning the work that would define his life. The irony of those parallel lives, one on the decline and one on the rise, is essential to the narrator's attitude towards his landlord. The narrator feels sympathy for his landlord because the landlord's decline is towards the same condition that the narrator began from: the condition of exile. As Pitton, the sole gardener, mentions, the landlord says "pe-ony" in a way that rhymed with pony (Naipaul, Enigma 215). The pronunciation, as the narrator recalls from his days at Oxford, was an Edwardian affectation. The pronunciation was once a badge of a particular class, of a particular security. Now it was a vestigial habit from the past. What was happening around the landlord no longer matched the idea of himself and his estate that he still possessed. This disconnect echoes the disconnection experienced by the narrator as a young man in London, just as the landlord's condition echoes the condition of exile that was most prominent in the narrator as a young man.

That the narrator, a West Indian arriving in London without any real idea of what being a writer entailed, without any real idea of what to write about, would one day be successful enough to own a cottage on the grounds of an English estate was improbable. That such a path in life was available implied that space was made for such a person to exist, through both social change and personal willpower. That space available, then, meant that space was taken from somewhere else. Victorian-era England, when the English estate was a strong and vital symbol, would have never made space for a colored English writer from the West Indies. The English estate, born out of an age of more rigorous hierarchies and prejudices, could be said to have no place in a modern England where immigrants can become prominent writers in the English language. The change in the manor grounds, which the narrator first calls decay, was the change that made space for his existence among the grounds. The decay was not simply decay: the decline of one tradition was the creation of another. Gradually, the narrator begins to recognize and accept change.

"I lived not with the idea of decay-that idea I quickly shed-so much as with the idea of change. I lived with the idea of change, of flux, and learned, profoundly, not to grieve for it... Decay implied an ideal, a perfection in the past." (Naipaul, Enigma 210)

The acceptance lays the foundation for appropriation. The last section, titled Rooks, is based on the reoccurring presence of rooks nesting in the trees. Such a symbol can be extended as a metaphor for the narrator establishing his own roots in the valley. The rooks, birds that create nests from twigs and branches fallen from trees, echo the change in the narrator's position on the manor grounds. A newcomer at the beginning of the novel, he is now one of the few, perhaps the last person, who retains entitlement to the manor ground. The passing of time claims many of the characters who inhabited the estate. Pitton, the gardener, leaves. Alan, the writer whose childhood was spent in the manor, commits suicide. Mr. Phillips, a long-time household servant of the landlord, dies suddenly. His wife, Mrs. Phillips, retires and moves on to another man and another life. The landlord further isolates himself from the life around him. Those for whom the manor grounds were once an integral part of their lives slowly disappear from the estate, and soon, the newcomer is the person with the most experience, the one with the most right to be there.

"I knew the walk by heart, like a piece of music. I didn't go all the way to the top of the down. It wasn't necessary. I knew what I would see from there, in that light. I turned back; all the views of the walk unrolled again." (Naipaul, Enigma 332)

In the aftermath of Mr. Phillips' death, the narrator discovers he has been bequeathed Mr. Phillips' walking stick. For the narrator, the stick was more than an object: it represented a life associated with the manor. The life contained in that walking stick, certain associations, was accessible to the narrator, but only because of his experience: "...just as certain memories of down and river, chalk and moss, were to die with the old man, be untransmittable, so, even if I could bequeath the stick to some considerate inheritor, I could not pass on its associations. Without those associations, the stick, like the blond-and-dark disc of the ivy-choked cherry tree which I had had smoothed down and varnished, a souvenir and a record of the later life of the manor garden, would become no more than an object" (Naipaul, Enigma 338).

"The life in that walking stick, the life recorded in the cherry tree: both were elements of the manor ground, a part of the narrator's life there. To recognize that life, to recognize even the name of a cherry tree, was the result of a long and arduous education, not just in the manor grounds, but beginning from a childhood spent on a tropical island. The work began with an education in English, an "abstract learning" (Naipaul, Enigma 152) of a life that was seemingly fantasy. The work continued with his Oxford curriculum, and eventually with his writing. The manor grounds was another place of work, of learning to recognize the fields as "water meadows" and the small hills behind the river as "downs" rather than "flat fields and a narrow river" (Naipaul, Enigma 5).

The narrator's recognition of the life around him is the result of work. The work is also what allows him to begin to appropriate what he sees. Jack, who tended a garden, raised geese as well. The sight of the aggressive geese strutting across the bottom of the valley combined with a bit of information about how geese could be walked to market all the way from Gaul to Rome in the days of the Roman Empire leads the narrator to understand a line from King Lear that commentators found difficult to decipher (Naipaul, Enigma 18 - 19). The combination of learning - about Jack and his geese, the information about Roman history, and the narrator's knowledge of King Lear - leads the narrator to an understanding that connects different aspects of his life. What he has read echoes in what he now experiences, and thus the education, the "abstract learning" becomes defined in reality. In the process, the narrator discovers a new interpretation of an old line. In that interpretation, the line, whose meaning was difficult for scholars to fathom, becomes meaningful to the narrator.

Work, then, defines the narrator's life just as work defined Jack's life. "So much that had looked traditional, natural, emanations of the landscape, things that country people did - the planting out of annuals, the tending of the geese, the clipping of the hedge, the pruning of the fruit trees - now turned out not to have been traditional or instinctive after all, but to have been part of Jack's way" (Naipaul, Enigma 47). Jack's work had shaped his environment and in shaping his environment, Jack had appropriated that small section of the decaying manor grounds for himself. In the midst of a general decay, Jack had created something: a garden, a place for the geese, a hedge, and some fruit trees.

"Jack himself had disregarded the tenuousness of his hold on the land, just as, not seeing what others saw, he had created a garden on the edge of a swamp and a ruined farmyard; had responded to and found glory in the seasons. All around him was ruin; and all around, in a deeper way, was change, and a reminder of the brevity of the cycles of growth and creation. But he had sensed that life and man were the true mysteries; and he had asserted the primacy of these with something like religion. The bravest and most religious thing about his life was his way of dying: the way he had asserted, at the very end, the primacy not of what was beyond life, but life itself." (Naipaul, Enigma 93)

Even on the verge of death, Jack continues his routine of going to the local pub on the weekend, an act the narrator describes as "an act of heroism, poetical" (Naipaul, Enigma 48). Jack's work, the routines, and the cycles: they formed a life and in the face of death were sources of redemption of a heroic and poetical kind. Through his work, Jack had grounded himself in particular place, established a relationship between himself and a larger symbol, a larger tradition. The ideas in his mind corresponded with the reality around him. There was no "disconnect" or "gap". His condition was not one of exile. And thus for Jack, even in the face of death, there was no need to move, to go somewhere.

Exile has been the condition of the narrator. The "gap between man and writer" produced by the anxieties of being marginalized as a youth in London has created a restlessness that characterizes the narrator's life. The first journey from Trinidad to London has begotten many journeys. The narrator mentions his life outside the cottage: traveling to various places and returning to write about them. The journeys are spurred by fantasies: a fantasy of England, a fantasy of London and cosmopolitanism, and eventually a fantasy of home that informs the narrator's various travels. Yet in Wiltshire, in seeing Jack, the narrator discovers the prospect of the end of restlessness and consequently the end of travel. In the idea of the end of restlessness, the narrator finds the possibility of the acknowledgement and acceptance of death, and of relief from the fear of death, which was a fear of failure, of not fulfilling certain colonial fantasies. Jack's work provides the narrator with the idea of work as an assertion of life, an idea echoed at the end of the book.

"Our sacred world - the sanctities that had been handed down to us as children by our families, the sacred places of our childhood, sacred because we had seen them as children and had filled them with wonder, places doubly and trebly sacred to me because far away in England I had lived in them imaginatively over many books and had in my fantasy set in those places the very beginning of things, had constructed out of them a fantasy of home, though I was to learn that the ground was bloody, that there had been aboriginal people there once, who had been killed or made to die away - our sacred world had vanished. Every generation now was to take us further away from those sanctities. But we remade the world for ourselves; every generation does that, as we found when we came together for the death of this sister and felt the need to honor and remember. It forced us to look on death. It forced me to face the death I had been contemplating at night, in my sleep; it fitted a real grief where melancholy had created a vacancy, as if to prepare me for the moment. It showed me life and man as the mystery, the true religion of men, the grief and the glory. And that was when, faced with a real death, and with this new wonder about men, I laid aside my drafts and hesitations and began to write very fast about Jack and his garden." (Naipaul, Enigma 354)

The discovery of the idea of work as an assertion of life and self and the possibility of the end of restlessness was the foundation required to even write the book. Without the idea of work, of cycles, and the symbolism of Jack's garden, it would not have been possible for the narrator to recognize the events that were taking place. The narrator would not have been able to describe the process of his appropriation of this traditional English symbol, of his gradual acceptance of and into the manor grounds. Just as the cyclical structure of the book is essential to its themes, the cyclical structure would not have been envisioned by the narrator at the beginning of the book, by a person who could only see change as decay.

The book as a whole is circular. The reader begins with Jack's garden and ends with Jack's garden. Yet in between a vast amount of experience is described and interpreted. At the end, the narrator is able to finally to understand the forces that had pushed him further away from his original home. In that understanding, and in the creation of the book, the narrator discovers for himself a second home. The journey on which he embarked years ago comes to an end. Even though the place of return is not the same as the place of departure, there is a sense of arrival.


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