Chu i Jessica Chu Mrs. E. Richardson University English II 12 November 2010 The Satiric Nature of The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy Thesis: In The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh satirizes American culture through exaggerations of American society, comedic character depictions, and ironic expositions. I. Exaggerations of American society A. Whispering Glades 1. Use of euphemisms 2. Use of art B. Film industry 1. Egotism 2. Fraud C. Incomprehensible illogicalities II. Comedic character depictions A. Juxtaposition of Dennis Barlow and Mr. Joyboy B. Aimée Thanatogenos 1. Contradicted appearance 2. Questionable religion III. Ironic expositions A. Manipulation of names 1. Aimée Thanatogenos Chu ii 2. Mr. Joyboy 3. Happier Hunting Ground 4. Mr. Slump B. Comedic approach to often solemn ideas 1. Death 2. Love Chu 1 Jessica Chu Mrs. E. Richardson University English II 12 November 2010 The Satiric Nature of The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy is a satiric novel examining the funeral business and film industry of the United States through the eyes of a young British poet, Dennis Barlow. Dennis originally comes to Hollywood to become a screenplay writer and work in the film business like his uncle, Sir Francis Hinsley. This endeavor does not succeed, causing him to seek employment at the Happier Hunting Ground, a pet mortuary. At Megalopolitan Studios, Sir Francis Hinsley’s main task is to give a new image to an actress, Juanita del Pablo, but he encounters some difficulties and is fired, causing him to take his own life. After Sir Francis Hinsley commits suicide, his gruesome body is taken to Whispering Glades, a fancy funeral and burial home based on the real life Forest Lawn, where Dennis meets the captivating Aimée Thanatogenos. Dennis falls in love with Aimée just as she is discovering the affection of Mr. Joyboy, the head mortician. The story follows their erratic love triangle and the strange workings of Whispering Glades seen through the eyes of a native Brit. The comedy throughout the story allows readers, even American readers, to laugh at the absurdities of these strange American rituals. In The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh satirizes American culture through exaggerations of American society, comedic character depictions, and ironic expositions. Waugh embellishes Whispering Glades as an exaggerated American view of death through the use of euphemisms. When Dennis Barlow first enters the funeral home, he reads a Chu 2 quote by Wilbur Kenworthy, the Dreamer and the creator of Whispering Glades, stating, “Behold I dreamed a dream and I saw a New Earth sacred to HAPPINESS. There amid all that Nature and Art could offer to elevate the Soul of Man I saw the Happy Resting Place of Countless Loved Ones” (Waugh 39). This exaggerates the burial ground and also echoes the book of Revelations in the Christian scripture. Dr. Kenworthy continues to describe that the loved ones, the name of the deceased used by the employees at Whispering Glades, would be happy in their burial ground just as the waiting ones are also happy of their loved ones new resting place. This is an apt example of how the American culture is not able to accept the reality of death. Those at Whispering Glades also use the reference of the loved one and the waiting ones to tone down the grim idea of death. Even the names of the many zones in The Park present a euphemistic tone such as Pilgrims’ Rest, Lovers’ Nest, Shadowland, Poets’ Corner, and Lake Island, which show how Waugh mocks the American view of death. Whispering Glades even provides gaudy and flashy slumber rooms where the loved one is displayed in his or her casket or on a chaise longue for the waiting ones to pass through. Later, the cosmetician, Aimée Thanatogenos, questions Dennis about the current state and normal physical appearance of Sir Francis in order to make him look as natural as possible. Here, Aimée shows her admiration of Mr. Joyboy’s work and the beautiful corpses he is able to fashion. Critic James Carens comments, “The Loved One gives concrete form to these views as it builds up a picture of an institution devoted to evading reality and to substituting a decadent materialism for traditional moral concepts” (21). Another contrast to a true view of death is seen when Dennis inspects the mortician’s artwork. He finds the unrealistic perfection of Sir Francis’s skin and joyful smile, loved by Aimée and Mr. Joyboy, more horrifying than his disfigured and colored appearance after his suicide. These examples Chu 3 amplify Waugh’s subtle use of euphemisms to give an exaggerated view of death in American culture. Waugh is able to further reinforce the atypical ideas of American society’s views of death through the use of art at Whispering Glades. At common funeral homes the mood is supposed to be reflective and humble, but at Whispering Glades it is like an attraction of art and tacky interpretations of poetry. The zones of the burial ground, called The Park, are categorized and can be chosen by the preference of the loved one or waiting ones. There is also a zone for the rich called Lake Island of Innisfree, which appears fake compared to the poem it is modeled after, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. The closer a plot is to the water, the more expensive it costs. Prices also range differently if the burial plot is beside a certain piece of artwork, sculpture, or church. The hostess of Whispering Glades tells Dennis about some art works stating, “‘Then there is Lovers’ Nest, zoned about a very, very beautiful marble replica of Rodin’s famous statue, the Kiss’” (43-44). Whispering Glades even provides inspirational messages that sound throughout the Park in large speakers and inscriptions everywhere around the gravesites and on statues. The Park also contains beautiful swans, a magnificent landscape, gaudy gates, and an incomprehensible number of statues. Waugh uses art in Whispering Glades confirming that every feature was used to eradicate the reality of death seen by Americans. Another industry comically satirized by Waugh is the stereotypical and vain film business of Hollywood. He also emphasizes on the fraudulent nature of the film and funeral industry. Formerly Baby Aaronson, Juanita del Pablo, the actress Sir Francis was assigned to transform, was a flamenco singer who now is reborn as a “winsome colleen” (Beaty 173). She decides to use Sir Francis’s funeral to her advantage. As critic Don Nilsen observes, “Thus, Juanita del Pablo is a sexy starlet whose career has been personally developed by Sir Francis Hinsley, shows Chu 4 up at his funeral to sing ‘The Wearing of the Green’” (227). This song is in her next movie and she is using Sir Francis’s funeral as a ploy to promote herself. Nilsen goes on to explain that this song is a “fiery IRA song, which is symbolic of the Irish cause, and which is sung to denounce the British” (227). Since Sir Francis is English, it is strangely ironic that Juanita would sing this Irish song at his funeral. She decides to take this time that is supposed to honor Sir Francis to expand her own egocentric career and insult her former agent. Paul Doyle agrees, stating that these events “indicate the basic absurdity, incongruity, and irreverence which characterize the movie colony.” At the beginning of the plot, Sir Francis even gives Dennis advice to not fall into the influences of the film business by stating, “‘The studios keep us going with a pump. We are still just capable of a few crude reactions—nothing more. If we ever got disconnected from our bottle, we should simply crumble’” (14). Gene Phillips confirms the irony of this phrase because after Sir Francis is fired from his studio job “having outlived his usefulness, he goes home and hangs himself” (81). These exaggerations of fraud and selfishness in the American film industry allow Waugh to poke fun at its ridiculous nature. Waugh also makes use of incomprehensible illogicalities to create hidden comedy exaggerating America’s way of life. One example is found when Dennis is writing a poem for Sir Francis’s funeral, “A peach without a stone. That was the metaphor for Frank Hinsley. Dennis recalled that he had once tried to eat one of Mr. Kaiser’s much-advertised products and had discovered a ball of damp, sweet cotton-wool. Poor Frank Hinsley, it was very like him” (86). While praising the taste of the seedless peach, he is actually indicating it is unappetizing as well as insulting Sir Francis Hinsley by comparing him to the flavorless peach. The peach is no longer an authentic peach because there is no pit. Waugh is using this seedless peach to compare people in the film industry, indicating the lack of personality and originality. Another example is Chu 5 found when Sir Francis tells Dennis that “‘They are a very decent, generous lot of people out here and they don’t expect you to listen. . . . It’s the secret of social ease in this country. They talk entirely for their own pleasure. Nothing they say is designed to be heard’” (5). These observations by Sir Francis reveal the superficiality of his own social connections and how he interprets what they say as meaningless. Frederick Beaty suggests, “[Waugh’s] remarks, though meant as praise, can be seen as inadvertent condemnation by the reader, who realizes that much in this baffling society defeats the purpose for which it was intended” (173). This evidence allows the reader to see how Waugh is able to satirize the traits of many Americans through numerous subtle interpretations in the text. Waugh is also able to fuse comedy throughout this dark novel through the juxtaposition of the two conflicting male characters, Dennis Barlow and Mr. Joyboy. Mr. Joyboy and Dennis both possess unique and strange ways of showing Aimée their own affection. Dennis is able to court Aimée through the use of poetry after their meeting at Lake Island, where she tells him about her life before Whispering Glades. They talk about her work and his poems, but Dennis avoids talking about his occupation because Aimée sees the Happier Hunting Ground as a mockery of Whispering Glades. The narrator observes that she is indifferent towards him until he mentions he is writing a poem: “Until then she had treated him with that impersonal insensitive friendliness which takes the place of ceremony in that land of waifs and strays. Now her eyes widened. ‘Did you say a poem?’” (87-88). On the other hand, Mr. Joyboy ironically is only able to show his love for Aimée through death. Mr. Joyboy goes on to say, “‘Miss Thanatogenos, for you the Loved Ones just naturally smile.’ . . . ‘It’s true, Miss Thanatogenos. It seems I am just powerless to prevent it. When I am working for you there’s something inside me says ‘He’s on his way to Miss Thanatogenos’ and my fingers just seem to take control. Haven’t Chu 6 you noticed it?’” (69). Mr. Joyboy also appears both “cartoonish and bland” compared to Dennis (Davis). Aimée finds Dennis intriguing because she has never encountered an English poet. She enjoys the poems he frequently sends to her, which are taken from other famous poems. Aimée especially likes the following line from Keats’s poem, “Half in love with easeful death” (96). She sees “Ode to Nightingale” as exactly “what I’ve thought so often and haven’t been able to express” when she tries to explain her feelings about death and art (96). The mere differences of the two rivals create an entertaining battle over the love and affection of Aimée. Waugh also uses comedic characterization of both Mr. Joyboy and Dennis through their physical, social, and cultural traits. Waugh sees Dennis as “a young man of sensibility rather than of sentiment” (37). Dennis is a British expatriate poet who takes a job at the Happier Hunting Ground, which his uncle finds grotesque. Mr. Joyboy is the head mortician of Whispering Glades and well regarded in his profession. The women who work there all swoon over his charm and excellence as an embalmer. The narrator offers Mr. Joyboy’s stock appearance by stating, “he had scant eyebrows and invisible eyelashes; the eyes behind his pince-nez were pinkish-grey; his hair, though neat and scented, was sparse; his hands were fleshy; his best feature was perhaps his teeth and they though white and regular seemed rather too large for him; he was a trifle flat-footed and more than a trifle paunchy” (66-67). To most people, this is an unattractive description of a man, but to Aimée, he is very appealing. She finds her suitors both attractive; however, Aimée is faced with the issue of Dennis’s unethical trait, unknown British heritage, and uncultured lifestyle compared to Mr. Joyboy, who is ethical and very well known as an embalmer. Dennis also presents the idea of becoming a nonsectarian minister in order to feel a closer connection to Aimée through her work at Whispering Glades. Later, Aimée discovers a surprise when Mr. Joyboy invites her over to his home to meet his Chu 7 mother. Beaty acknowledges, “Most disillusioning is her discovery that Joyboy is dominated by a rude, vulgar mother, who has psychologically castrated him” (178). Mr. Joyboy discovers that Dennis works at the Happier Hunting Ground and that the poems he sends Aimée are plagiarized. The death of his mother’s parrot comes at a convenient time to uncover the truth about Dennis to Aimée. One of their only similarities is that they are around death constantly and have a strange intimacy with the notion of death. The three fall into a volatile yet comedic love triangle that will not reach resolution until the end. Waugh also satirizes the thoughts and actions of Americans through the characterization of Aimée Thanatogenos. When Aimée is introduced she is described with a contradicted appearance. The narrator illustrates her looks as she is walking towards Dennis: “Her hair was dark and straight, her brows wide, her lips were artificially tinctured, . . . Her full face was oval, her profile pure and classical and light. Her eyes greenish and remote, with a rich glint of lunacy” (55). Dennis is attracted to her because she is different from every other girl he has met. He wants a girl who he is not able to find the same product and same views of across the continent. Dennis claims that she was a decadent but as Robert Davis states, “She does have aspirations toward culture and spirituality.” But critic Carens also argues, “The Loved One is an Anglo-American tragedy and that Dennis is also decadent” (22). Dennis is very interested in the workings of Whispering Glades and is very curious about Aimée’s involvement with her job. Aimée’s lack of education is also an advantage for Dennis to use his poetry to trick her. Beaty reasons, “Her delusions about poetry and its connection with death make her highly susceptible to Dennis’s amorous, melancholy verses until she is scandalized by the discovery that they are plagiarized” (176). She becomes fascinated with poetry and creates connections between that and her work. When T.J. Ross examines Aimée, he claims, “Her education has allowed her no Chu 8 hint of the effects of either art or passion” (160). Waugh’s depiction of Aimée represents a dark, comical image of an eccentric American girl, therefore supporting his strange view of Americans. Aimée Thanatogenos’s indecisiveness towards religion further derides Waugh’s view of American society. Aimée is fully committed to Whispering Glades, and the only other place she seeks for advice when it is not available at work is the local newspaper’s advice columnist, Guru Brahmin. When she is facing the challenge of choosing between Dennis and Mr. Joyboy, she does not choose to confide in a religion but instead in Guru Brahmin and the wisdom of Whispering Glades. Beaty writes, “Her morbid ‘religion’ proves so deficient, however, in offering spiritual strength for the problems of life that at the time of her amatory dilemma she turns for advice to the fraudulent Guru Brahmin” (176). Her bitter approach to religion possibly comes from her father’s unsuccessful investment into the Los Angeles-based church of the Four Square Gospel founded by evangelist Aimée McPherson, for whom she is named. She later states in a letter to Guru Brahmin, “I do not think [Dennis] has any religion. Neither have I because I was a progressive at College and had an unhappy upbringing as far as religion went and other things too, but I am ethical” (102). Aimée explains she has had a troubled life and is emotionally stable. She does not understand how to act when life is unbearable. Later, Aimée discovers Dennis’s deceitful ways and becomes newly engaged to Mr. Joyboy. During a confrontation with Dennis, he reminds her, “‘You loved me and swore to love me eternally with the most sacred oath in the religion of Whispering Glades’” (143). She feels guilty and goes back to her “concrete cell which she called her apartment” and she “fell victim to all the devils of doubt” (144). She is in a state of confusion and asks Mr. Joyboy to come speak with her but he refuses. Aimée frantically seeks help from the Guru Brahmin but is left with Mr. Slump who has Chu 9 just been discharged from the paper. Her naïve attitude, gullible nature, and risky faith that she has in Mr. Slump causes her to follow through with his advice and commit a tragic suicide. Aimée’s unconventional religious beliefs cause her to make an irrational and irreversible decision leading to her destruction. Waugh is able to use Aimée’s character to exemplify the irrational foolishness of Americans. Waugh is further able to show humor through many of his ironic expositions presented throughout the novel such as the manipulation of names. Aimée Thanatogenos is a prime example of Waugh’s clever use of names. Thanatogenos literally means, “loved one born of death” in Greek. This is ironic because Aimée loves her job at Whispering Glades and it is as if she was born to be a cosmetician for the dead. Nilsen also declares, “Aimée is ‘the loved one,’ but this name is ironic, because Barlow is not very loving toward her” (227). Both Dennis and Mr. Joyboy love Aimée, but she is not able to choose between the mother lover and the cheating poet. Eventually, she cannot handle it any longer and ironically chooses death as her final fate. Mr. Joyboy’s name is also manipulated as ironic because he is a mortician, a usually morbid and depressing occupation. The name of the pet mortuary, The Happier Hunting Ground, is also ironic because it is a funeral home for pets where they are not happy because they are dead and usually burned. Mr. Slump, also known as Guru Brahmin, is an ironic name for him because he is basically in a slump. Critic Phillips adds, “Her letters are actually answered by Mr. Slump, who lives in an ever-increasing alcoholic haze” (84). Mr. Slump is steadily deteriorating especially due to his smoking and alcoholism as depicted by the narrator, “For the first hours of every day he was possessed by a cough which arose from tartarean depths and was relieved only by whisky. On bad mornings it seemed to the suffering secretary that Mr. Slump would vomit. . . . He retched, shivered, and wiped his face with his handkerchief” (118). Finally, Mr. Slump is Chu 10 fired from his job just as Aimée seeks him for advice. His indifferent personality causes him to give her the impatient and rude advice that leads her to her death. Waugh uses ironic names to give the novel a witty and brilliant edge. Waugh also presents another ironic exposition through the amusing use of usually solemn ideas such as death and love. Death is a recurring theme in The Loved One shown through Sir Francis, Whispering Glades, The Happier Hunting Ground, and Aimée Thanatogenos. Death can also almost be seen as an art, especially to Mr. Joyboy and Aimée because of the fastidious nature of their professions. The mere gaudy formalities of organizing Sir Francis’s funeral at Whispering Glades is funny because every single aspect reduces the reality of death through a perfectly articulated corpse and special burial zone. The Happier Hunting Ground even provides a card to the owners of the dead animal on the anniversary of its death. Aimée’s feelings towards the Happier Hunting Ground are indicated when she states, “‘They try and do everything the same as [Whispering Glades]. It seems kinda blasphemous’” (95). This is comical because Dennis works there and she is unknowingly insulting him. Later, Mr. Joyboy discovers Aimée’s death by lethal injection in his workroom. Also, the way Mr. Joyboy and Dennis go about Aimée’s death is facetious. Mr. Joyboy seeks help from Dennis in order to avoid a scandal. Strangely, Dennis is not greatly affected by the death of Aimée because he is not sentimental. Ironically, he agrees to cremate her at the Happier Hunting Ground instead of at Whispering Glades. Dennis also remembers to write in the books that a postcard should be sent every year to Mr. Joyboy with a message saying, “Your little Aimée is wagging her tail in heaven tonight, thinking of you” (163). Dennis even decides to recite a plagiarized poem before the cremation of Aimée, and it can be seen that Dennis’s love for Aimée perishes the moment he realizes she has died. Naomi Milthorpe supports this justification by adding, “The disposal of Aimée’s body is Chu 11 ripe with the humor of extreme detachment” (211). Beaty also uncovers Mr. Joyboy’s fading love for Aimée and adds, “[Mr. Joyboy] is thoroughly debased by his willingness to conceal Aimée’s death in order to save his reputation and his ‘Mom’” (178). The only reason Dennis is aiding Mr. Joyboy is for a passage back to England, therefore, creating the story that Aimée has run away with him. Neither Dennis nor Mr. Joyboy truly loved Aimée or else her death would have been dealt with in a sentimental and patient way. Waugh is able to weave humorous details in usually serious situations such as the deaths of Sir Francis and Aimée and Aimée’s love triangle. Waugh satirizes the American culture by fusing a humorous mood through the plot by exaggerating American customs, giving characters a dark witty edge, and using ironic explications. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh is a clear representation of his feelings about death and the notion of how Americans deal with death in both the funeral and film industry. Whispering Glades diminishes the reality of death through its materialistic and extravagant services it provides to a loved one. Beaty indicates, “By glorifying and preserving the body, it glossed over the face of mortal decay. By disguising death as an entrance into immediate happiness, it obliterated the possibility of purgatory and hell” (181). Waugh also distinguishes the film industry as an egotistical and fraudulent business whose only concern is what others may think. The characterization of both Mr. Joyboy and Dennis contrast each other and cause Aimée to have doubts on whom to be with. Aimée herself is a comical character because she frequently has no idea what to do with her future. She is naïve and gullible and believes everything Dennis, Mr. Joyboy, and Guru Brahmin tell her. Aimée worships Whispering Glades almost as if it is her religion. Many of the names in this novel exemplify Waugh’s use of irony such as Thanatogenos, Mr. Joyboy, and Mr. Slump. One of Waugh’s greatest sources of comedy Chu 12 come from his ironic approach towards death and love. Death is usually melancholic and sad, but through the numerous vulgarities of Whispering Glades and the death of many characters, Waugh satirizes Americans’ lack of reality and refusal to accept one’s death. The love Mr. Joyboy has for Aimée disappears as soon as he realizes a scandal like this could ruin his career and mother. Dennis only sees the disposal of Aimée’s corpse as a ticket back home to England where he belongs. Through these dark plot lines, Waugh is able to create a novel so brilliantly ridiculous and witty that Americans cannot help but laugh at themselves. Chu 13 Works Cited Beaty, Frederick L. The Ironic World of Evelyn Waugh. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois UP, 1992. Print. Carens, James F. The Satiric Art of Evelyn Waugh. Seattle: The U of Washington P, 1966. Print. Davis, Robert Murray. "Sex, Death, and Art in Hollywood: The Day of the Locust and The Loved One." Evelyn Waugh Newsletter & Studies 38.2 (2007): 1-4. Humanities International Complete. Web. 23 Sept. 2010. Doyle, Paul A. "Evelyn Waugh." British Novelists, 1930-1959. Ed. Bernard Stanley Oldsey. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 15. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. Milthorpe, Naomi. "Death is at the Elbow": The Loved One and Love Among the Ruins. Renascence 62.3 (2010): 201-217. Humanities International Complete. Web. 23 Sept. 2010. Nilsen, Don L. F., ed. Humor in Twentieth-Century British Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print. Phillips, Gene D. Evelyn Waugh’s Officers, Gentlemen, and Rogues: The Fact Behind His Fiction. Chicago: Nelson, 1975. Print. Ross, T.J. "Reconsidering Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One." Modern Age 37.2 (1995): 156-162. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. Waugh, Evelyn. The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy. Boston: Little, 1948. Print.
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