The Living and the Dead

The Living and the Dead

Infobox Book |
name = The Living and the Dead

image_caption = Penguin Books paperback edition (1992)
author = Patrick White
country = United States
language = English
genre = novel
publisher = AMS Press
release_date = June 1941
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 383 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = NA & reissue ISBN 0-404-15240-6

"The Living and the Dead" is a novel by Australian Nobel Prize laureate Patrick White, his second published book (1941). It was written in the early stages of World War II whilst the author alternated between the United Kingdom and the United States.

"The Living and the Dead" is predominantly set in 1930s London. The Standishes—mother Catherine, son Elyot and daughter Eden—lead disparate lives under the one roof. The relationships between the three remain detached throughout the novel, each privately searching for purpose in a rapidly changing world. Their insignificance is overshadowed by the advance of war, deepening the portrayal of their inner bleakness.

As is typical of White's work, "The Living and the Dead" is more significant in its character penetration than the complexity of its plot.

Plot summary

"The Living and the Dead" opens in London's Victoria Station. Elyot Standish bids farewell to his younger sister Eden in a manner that is not particularly emotional or final. Elyot returns to an empty house, somberly observing the memories that remain amongst its silent possessions.

Chapter 2 takes the reader several decades earlier, where a young Kitty Goose begins to find her way through England's upper classes. Catherine marries Willy Standish and bears him two children, but separates some years afterwards due to Willy's infidelity. Catherine's children, Elyot and Eden, are raised by her maid Julia and, during World War I, by surrogate guardians.

Following the war, Catherine, living on the dwindling remnants of pre-war affluence, struggles to relate to her children. Elyot, a Cambridge graduate and professional writer, isolates himself in intellectual pursuits. Eden, a bookshop attendant, is influenced by left-wing politics.

As the Spanish Civil War rises in the conscience of British society, the Standishes are forced to face their inner dissatisfactions. This is brought into focus by the failures of their sexual relationships. Catherine, who finds herself irrelevant in a much-changed world, pursues a romance with the younger Wally Collins, an American musician. The relationship is severed when Wally loses interest in Catherine, who spills her emotions whilst drunk at a fashionable party. Elyot, whether with family or with women, never allows himself a relationship of any depth. He distances himself from both Muriel Raphael, an artistic socialite, and Connie Tiarks, an unattractive but devoted childhood friend. The two are complete opposites, yet neither satisfies the purposeless Elyot.

It is Eden who suffers the most tragedy, yet, paradoxically, offers the best hope of a meaningful existence. Her first lover, a married man, discards her to pursue an overseas position. The secrecy surrounding her abortion isolates her further from her family. Her second romance with the leftist Joe Barnett gives her a long-sought happiness, but this is taken away in cruel circumstances. Joe, facing his own conscience, disappears to Spain and is killed in action. It is Joe Barnett's firm direction that all others fail to achieve.

With the death of Catherine to cancer, Eden decides that her rightful place is in Spain, even without her deceased lover. At the station, Elyot does not expect to ever see her again, and thus the reader understands the full significance of the opening chapter's sterility. "The Living and the Dead" raises deep questions about life, death and those in between.

Literary significance & criticism

Patrick White won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973, however, "The Living and the Dead" is not usually included amongst his better-known works. "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" lists two Patrick White novels: "The Living and the Dead" and "Voss".

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

Events of the early 20th century figure prominently in "The Living and the Dead". Much of Catherine's development is shaped by World War I. The central plot revolves around the Spanish Civil War and the influences of the Great Depression and Communism. Numerous locations in London are described. The rise of American culture is noteworthy, particularly through the character of Wally Collins, a Jazz band member.

Release details

*1941, United States, AMS Press ISBN 0-413-42780-3, Pub date June 1941, Hardcover
*1962, United Kingdom, Eyre & Spottiswoode ISBN 0-413-42780-3, Pub date December 1962, Hardcover
*1968, United Kingdom, Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-002623-1, Pub date January 1968, Paperback
*1992, United Kingdom, Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-018526-7, Pub date June 1992, Paperback
*1996, United Kingdom, Vintage ISBN 0-09-932431-8, Pub date September 1996, Paperback

ources, references, external links, quotations

* [ Review: why bother with patrick white?]
* [ Review: the complete review]
*"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die", Peter Boxall (editor), 2006

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Altar of the Dead — Infobox Book | name = The Altar of the Dead author = Henry James country = United Kingdom, United States language = English genre = Short story publisher = William Heinemann, LondonHarper Brothers, New York City release date = Heinemann: May 15,… …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead 60s — Origin Liverpool, England Genres Dub Punk Ska Years active 2003–2008 Labels Deltasonic/ …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead (short story) — The Dead Author James Joyce Country Ireland Language English Genre(s) Short story or Novella …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead and Dreaming — Studio album by Dry Kill Logic Released October 5, 2004 Genre …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead School — (1995) is a novel by Irish writer Patrick McCabe. ynopsisSet in small town Ireland, The Dead School tells the intriguing story about two interacting characters: Raphael Bell, an old schoolmaster, and Malachy Dudgeon, a young teacher. Like other… …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead Boys — Jeff Magnum redirects here. It is not to be confused with Jeff Mangum. Dead Boys Background information Origin Cleveland, Ohio, US …   Wikipedia

  • The House of the Dead III — Infobox VG title = The House of the Dead III caption = European arcade flyer for The House of the Dead III . developer = Wow Entertainment publisher = Sega designer = released = collapsible list|title=2002|Arcade 2002 Xbox vgrelease|NA=February… …   Wikipedia

  • The City of the Dead (film) — Infobox Film name = City of the Dead image size = caption = director = John Llewellyn Moxey producer = Max Rosenberg Milton Subotsky Donald Taylor writer = George Baxt Desmond Dickinson narrator = starring = Venetia Stevenson Christopher Lee… …   Wikipedia

  • The Dead Hate the Living! — Infobox Film name = The Dead Hate the Living! caption = DVD Cover director = Dave Parker producer = Charles Band writer = Dave Parker starring = Eric Clawson, Jamie Donahue, Brett Beardslee cinematography = Thomas L. Callaway music = Jared… …   Wikipedia

  • The Quick and the Dead (1995 film) — Infobox Film name = The Quick and the Dead caption = The Quick and the Dead Theatrical poster director = Sam Raimi producer = Joshua Donen Patrick Markey Allen Shapiro writer = Simon Moore starring = Sharon Stone Gene Hackman Russell Crowe… …   Wikipedia

  • The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies — Infobox Film name = The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies!!? caption = Theatrical poster for The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies director = Ray Dennis Steckler… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.