David Lodgeâ€™s Out of the Shelter: Dialogic Narrative and the Problem of Literary Recidivism
Keywords:Adolescent consciousness, Bildungsroman, cultural exchanges, dialogized, â€˜internationalâ€™ novel.
In his â€œAfterwordâ€ to the revised edition of Out of the Shelter, David Lodge has described the novel as a generic combination of the Bildungsroman and the Jamesian â€˜internationalâ€™ novel of conflicting ethical and cultural codes. Although Lodge had previously published three other novels, Out of the Shelter was the first to turn on international travel, a feature of most of his later fiction. It represents the first of many cultural exchanges between Britons and Americans that characterize Lodgeâ€™s fiction. It is also his most directly autobiographical novel. Timothy Young, the central figure, is Lodgeâ€™s counterpart in Out of the Shelter. In the character of Timothy, Lodge shows an acute and sensitive understanding of adolescence. Lodge filters public events through the consciousness of the boy, and effectively catches the climate of feeling of the immediate postwar period. The most important aspect of Out of the Shelter is its sharp and moving presentation of a restricted childhood, and an adolescent consciousness trying to overcome the limitations of family and environment. In his shyness and naivetÃ©, in his persistent curiosity, and in the series of epiphanies that define his developing awareness, Timothy resembles the young Stephen Dedalus, though Lodgeâ€™s portrayal of Timothyâ€™s sexual longings takes on an increasingly comic tone more similar to Kingsley Amis, with whom Lodge has admitted a strange community of feeling, than to Joyce. Timothy learns a lot as he emerges from the shelter, and the reader shares the boyâ€™s sense of himself as absurd as well as vulnerable. In this narrative Timothy is poised between two worlds, two sets of values, two meanings; the choices he faces are dialogically presented rather than monologically distinct. As the narrative nears its end, Timothy finds himself discontented, not because he has failed to mature but because the process of â€˜coming out of the shelterâ€™ is continual. He comes to realise that his desire for shelter and his counter desire for freedom cannot be reconciled, only dialogized.