The Solid Mandala


The Solid Mandala

The Solid Mandala: The Solid Mandala, the seventh published novel by Australian author Patrick White, Nobel Prize winner of 1973, first published in 1966. The Solid Mandala It details the story of two brothers, Waldo and Arthur Brown, with a focus on the facets of their symbiotic relationship. It is set in White's fictional suburb of Sarsaparilla, a setting he often employed in his other books, such as with Riders in the Chariot. The Solid Mandala The book is typical of White's writing style, and is slow-paced, with little considerable action, instead focusing upon the inner turmoils of the aforementioned characters.

The Solid Mandala: In Patrick White‘s novel twin brothers, Arthur and Waldo Brown, cannot seem to reconcile the fact that they once shared a womb, the two of them being so different in temperament and personality. The Solid Mandala And yet, there’s a strange kind of reliance on one another, especially in old age, when the two share a bed and often walk about town holding hands. The Solid Mandala Even their lack-lustre love lives (neither of them get married) are remarkably similar, when, as teenagers, they both fall for Dulcie Feinstein and then, as adults, when they strike up a close friendship with their neighbour, Mrs Poulter. But despite their differences and their tendency to secretly loathe one another, they cannot escape their lifelong familial bond. The Solid Mandala It is their ongoing struggle to find a balance between intimacy and independence that marks the lives of these two very different men. Arthur, the older of the two, is good-natured, if a little simple, and is content with his lot in life, working as an assistant to Mr Allwright, the grocer. But Waldo, the bookish one who works in a library, has literary aspirations and thinks himself superior to most people but lacks the confidence to chase his dreams. The Solid Mandala First published in 1966, The Solid Mandala is Patrick White’s seventh novel (he wrote 12 in total, along with two short story collections, a memoir and a bunch of plays) and is set in Sydney, Australia, in the early part of the 20th century. The Solid Mandala The Browns are recently arrived immigrants from England and the twins are already marked out as different by the mere fact that the family refuses to go to church like every other good Australian citizen. The Solid Mandala This effectively sets a pattern for the rest of their lives, because neither Waldo or Arthur ever really fit in.

The Solid Mandala: The Solid Mandala follows the day-to-day lives — from cradle to grave — of these seemingly unremarkable men. Both twins have a chapter each in which to narrate the story. The Solid Mandala This makes the relatively drab subject matter come alive by showing how alternative perspectives on the same events and incidences can be vastly different from one person to another and how those said perspectives are coloured by individual prejudices, personalities and beliefs.

Ruthless and brutal in places, the prose is also illuminated by White’s distinctive literary flourishes — the tendency to drop punctuation when he wants to convey a character’s excitement, for example — and wonderfully descriptive passages about Australian life and landscapes:

The Solid Mandala: It was really the grass that had control at Sarsaparilla, deep and steaming masses of it, lolling yellow and enervated by the end of summer. The Solid Mandala As for the roads, with the exception of the highway, they almost all petered out, first in dust, then in paddock, with dollops of brown cow manure — or grey spinners — and the brittle spires of seeded thistles.

There is much grace and beauty here and plenty of laughs, but in places I felt overwhelmed by the sadness that effuses the story, the sense of loss and regret and the inability to escape the past and to truly grasp life by the horns. And the near-perfect ending, I have to say, came as somewhat of a shock, so much so it’s taken me a month to write this review, because I wanted to think about this book before I put pen to paper.

The Solid Mandala

The Solid Mandala: In the broad area of Gender Studies, Men’s study is quite a new concept which deals with the men’s role and activity in society. In this area of studies, the male characters seem to be normal in public life but they want to prove their masculinity in all possible ways. The Solid Mandala Furthermore, ‘Performativity of Gender’ can be critically applied to the male characters in the literary context. In this aspect, Judith Butler’s concept can be considered in which she unveils the relationship between gender identity and performativity in her book “Gender Trouble” (1990).

“There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results”.  (Butler, GT 33)

According to the author, gender identity does not depend merely on the expressions of a person in his social life. In addition to this, Performativity is a referential word which implies the activity of persons as a social norm. Moreover, Judith Butler had written about ‘Performativity’ even in her another critically acclaimed book “Bodies that matter”:

The Solid Mandala: “Performativity is thus not a singular ‘act’, for it is always a reiteration of a norm or set of norms, and to the extent that it acquires an act-like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repetition” (Butler, BM 12). In this statement, the author did not imply any confined meaning to the word ‘performativity’ and she regards it as a repetitive practice of a society.

When it comes to the topic of Men’s studies, the main factor is nothing but the job or designation of men. Everyman’s work doesn’t remain the same in every society as it varies from person to person and the mode of work represents the gender roles in society. The Solid Mandala Therefore, men are preferentially hired for Industrial works which require physical strength to work effectively.

The Solid Mandala: Even though all kinds of jobs require both physical and mental strength, men’s jobs are complicated than that of women as the former’s work demands much more physical strength to do strenuous works than the latter. But the male characters of ‘The Solid Mandala’ seem to be different in terms of physical ability as they inclined to stay in their house rather than going to work outside. It clearly shows their homesickness in which normally women possess. It is a novel that depicts the life of two unmarried brothers with opposite nature and behaviour. Both of them reside in the same parental house from their birth age to senility but they lack brotherly affection and family concern.

Reflection of ‘Effeminacy’ in the male characters :

The Solid Mandala: The author has written this novel in four chapters. Among them, second chapter is the biggest which is related to the personal confessions and judgemental opinions of Waldo brown. It has Waldo’s perspective which is the longest section whereas the third chapter has been narrated from Arthur’s point of view. In these sections, Brown brothers defend themselves for their actions and accuse each other. For readers, their confession seems to be correct in many aspects. Hence, it is important to critically examine the characters of twin brothers. Waldo brown is physically challenged and intends to stay at his house most of the time due to his inability to work efficiently. But Arthur brown maintains amicable relationship with his friends and relatives, unlike his brother. This fact has deeply hurt Waldo who considers his brother as his foe in his social life.

“He hated his brother Arthur, although, or perhaps because, Arthur was the thread of continuity, and might even be the core of truth”.( The Solid Mandala 187)

The Solid Mandala: Waldo feels that he has been continuously cornered not only because of his physical disability but also Arthur’s influence on others. Two brothers though born to same parents possess different interests and wishes. In sociological context, Arthur as a gregarious person earns social respect and becomes a respectful person whereas Waldo maintains reticence and stays out of the company of his friends, acquaintance and his relatives as well. Apart from this, Waldo’s character is portrayed as an effeminate person due to his transvestic disorder as he aspires to wear women’s garments in solitude. Though he was a librarian, he did not like his job of sitting for a long time without motion in the library. His inferiority complex has increased day by day due to his motionless activity and loneliness. In brief, his homesickness and dressing nature unveil the effeminacy in his personality. In his childhood, he was instructed by his mother to pray. She also had advised him to be strong which was not possible to him.

“Waldo had been taught to pray, because, said mother, everything depends on your own will, it would be foolishness to expect anything else, we can achieve what we want if we are determined if we confident that we are strong”. ( The Solid Mandala 77)

The Solid Mandala: Similarly, Arthur’s character is no more different than Waldo in the aspect of masculinity as he wishes to stay with the women’s company instead of men’s. As proof, he always works for the two ladies in which one among them is his love interest. Dulcie Feinstein and MrsPoulter are the two ladies in which he has been associated with them for a long time. In his entire lifetime, the two women are prominent to him and he has no male friends at all. Normally, every person will have many friends of a respective gender. But it is not seen in Arthur’s social contacts and his female affinity shows his womanish nature which can be observed in his unconditional support to them. Meanwhile, Arthur’s friendly relationship with Dulcie turns into love for which she denies and gets married to another person. In spite of having a passionate love for her, Arthur fails to impress and loses her permanently. The same thing happens in the case of Waldo who aspired her to be his wife but gets rejected by her. Therefore, Brown brothers determine to remain lifelong bachelors instead of opting for any martial plans. Dulcie’s stern denial to their love plea depicts the human relationship and the woman’s expectation on her suitors which mainly depends on sexuality as well.

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