Edward Morgan Foster played a pivotal role in the history of English literature in the 20th century as a novelist. He was born in a middle-class family in London. He attended Turnbridge College in his youth and entered King’s College, Cambridge University as an adult to study history and classical literature. researcher. He wrote six novels in his life: “Where Angels Don’t Go”, “The Longest Journey”, “A Room With a View”, “Howard Manor”, “A Journey to India”, “Morris”; two short fantasy The collection of novels “Heavenly Stagecoach” and “Eternal Moments”. He is also the author of literary criticism “Aspects of the Novel”, a collection of essays “Abinzhe Harvest Collection” and so on. Most of his major works were completed in the early 20th century, and his overall creation time is not long, but his works are enduring because of the universal significance of the profound themes expounded in his novels.
The Transcendence of Reality
Fantasy is a form of creative imagination, a description of the impossible or supernatural. It is an original tendency of literature, often with an allegorical character. The fictional elements in fantasy novels are not just fantasies, and they contain realistic elements no less than realist works. Western fantasy novels appeared in the late 18th century, mainly developed on the background of myths and folklore. Ancient myths and stories mostly became the source of fantasy novels, such as ancient Greece, Roman mythology, Homer’s epics, Aesop’s Fables, legends of King Arthur, etc. The rise of Gothic novels at the end of the 18th century also had a great impact on the development of fantasy novels. Fantasy novels take real life as the basic reference, and rely on rich imagination to show strange stories and narrate incredible things that happen in real life.
Foster has had a special discussion on fantasy and fantasy novels. In “Aspects of the Novel”, a special chapter is devoted to discussing fantasy in fiction. He defines fantasy as follows: “There is more than time or character or logic or They are derivatives, even more than destiny. When I say ‘more than’, I don’t mean something more that excludes all of the above, or includes and includes them all. I mean Say that there is something, like a ray of light that traverses all of the above, here it may be closely connected with them, illuminating all their problems in detail, and there it will sweep over them Passing through them or penetrating them as if they didn’t exist, turning a blind eye to it. We shall give this light two names: fantasy and prophecy.” His definition of fantasy has clearly gone beyond realism, fantasy. It may be a flash in the work, or it may have a profound impact on the work.
As a special narrative mode, fantasy has challenged the traditional narrative mode from the very beginning, injecting novel and unfamiliar feelings into the description of the real world that we are familiar with, giving people a strange experience and profound enlightenment. Fantasy novels provide a new perspective for us to know and understand the world, immerse us in another world and re-examine the real world we live in. Fantasy novels, like poetry, are metaphors and extensions of reality, emphasizing and transcending experience, leading us to a new world.
Foster’s fantasy novels, though small in number and short in length, shine brightly with the profound themes they contain. His fantasy novels refer to a group of short stories he wrote in different periods before the “World War I”, such as “Terror”, “Alternative Kingdom”, “Heavenly Stagecoach”, “The Assistant Priest’s Friend”, “Eternal Moment”, ” “The Road from Colonas”, “The Other Side of the Hedge”, “The Story of Sai”, “Collaboration”, “The Machine Stopped” and so on. These novels either imitate the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, or quote famous writers and characters in their works, and express the themes of the novels implicitly in poetic and condensed language, and use allusions and myths to metaphorize the theme, and the plots are bizarre. Absurd, with rich and profound implications, it leaves a rich imagination space for readers.
Foster’s novels are full of travel, and the protagonists in the novels “Where Angels Don’t Go” and “A Room with a View” travel to Italy: the title itself of “The Longest Journey” and “A Journey to India” Just pointing out the travel, it can be seen that Foster’s preference for travel, he himself has traveled to Italy, Greece, India and other places many times. Travel is just a way for characters to explore. They leave the closed and narrow middle-class life circle and come to places such as Italy with beautiful scenery and simple folk customs, and feel the joy of being released.
One of the characteristics of his fantasy novels is also to express the theme through travel, and the characters are often taken away from the tangible daily life to go to a strange fantasy world. They traveled in Italy, Greece, the kingdom of heaven, the imaginary country, the UK, and often felt a new spiritual experience in the travel, which often contradicted their original concepts, and they either tried to reconcile, or resisted, Either accept it safely, or miss it.
A sincere interpretation of life,
”Heavenly Stagecoach” tells the story of a little boy’s happy journey to heaven; “The Road Begins at Coronas” not only has a realistic trip to Greece, but also the spiritual journey of the protagonist Lucas ; “The Other Side of the Hedge” presents an abstract life journey; “Terror”, “The Story of King Sai” and “Eternal Moment” describe the story of a group of British people traveling to Italy; The protagonists in Friends and Collaboration are outings to nearby woods, hills, and seaside farmhouses. Their characters are exploring in their travels, they are exploring the lost innocence in the adult world, or the peaceful spiritual home, or the ideal paradise, or the true meaning and meaning of life, or the moment when true love appears.
”Heavenly Stagecoach” tells the story of a young boy who travels to heaven on a stagecoach. In an empty alley near the boy’s home, the little boy found an old road sign that read “To Heaven”, which is said to be a joke made by a man named Shelley. In the evening, he came to the alley alone and saw the notice issued by the shuttle company that the only carriages leading to heaven were the sunrise shuttle and the sunset shuttle. Maybe it was just a joke, he thought, but in the dream he seemed to actually see the stagecoach. So, in the early hours of the morning, he came to the alley again out of curiosity, and really saw the carriage leading to the kingdom of heaven. The carriage was driven by Mr. Thomas Brown, and the boy came to heaven with Sir Brown, saw the rainbow bridge, the mountains, the river, and the singing people, thus ending his day of truancy. He told his parents about the stagecoach, only to be laughed at by his father.
The boy thinks his father’s friend Mr. Bunce is the smartest man in the world, so he tells the story of the stagecoach to Mr. Bunce, and the curious Bunce decides to travel with the boy the next day. Mr. Bunce had never expected a carriage, this time driven by Dante, which made Mr. Bunce all the more astonished. He taught the boy to be polite and respectful, but as soon as the boy saw the beauty out of the window, Mr. Bunce’s teaching was gone with the wind. The boy told Mr. Bunce about the beauty again, but Mr. Bunce could see nothing. When the carriage reached the finish line, the boy saw Achilles, jumped off excitedly, and was caught by Achilles with his shield. Mr. Bunce was so frightened that he begged Dante to send him back, but was refused, and in the end he fell to his death from the air. At the end of the novel, the news of Mr. Bunce’s death is explained in the tone of news reports.
In order for Dante to send him back to the real world, Mr. Bunce expressed his respect for Dante, and told Dante that he had bound his writings on parchment, but Dante replied, “I am the means, Not the purpose. I am the food, not the life. You stand alone, like the boy. I cannot save you. Because poetry is a spirit; those who worship poetry must worship its spirit and the truth it conveys .” As Foster expressed in “The Machine Stopped”: “Man is the flower of all living things, the noblest of all visible living beings; Reflected in the constellations: beautiful naked people suffocated by their own knitted clothes and dying…as long as it is clothing and nothing else, as long as man can take it off at will, according to his own soul essence and equally sacred body Live by the essence, and it will always be good.” Mr. Bunce mistook means for ends and food for life. Talent is life and purpose, while clothes and books are only means and food. Boys who seem to be ignorant understand life and purpose best. Isn’t this what we are trying to find?
The novel takes us on a fantastical journey to paradise, where the boy and Mr. Bunce are in stark contrast. The boy believed in everything he saw and experienced, and although he had no profound knowledge, his sincerity and innocence were the most touching; while Mr. Bunce thought he had read a lot of books, but he could not see the fantastic and beautiful vision of heaven. The ignorant boy was caught by Achilles’ shield, and he was crowned with a laurel, while the knowledgeable Mr. Bons fell from the sky and died. Foster shows us the value of innocence through a fantastical journey to paradise.
The search for the true meaning of life
”The Road Begins at Colonas” tells the story of Mr. Lucas’ travel experience in Greece accompanied by his youngest daughter Ethel. Mr. Lucas is in his old age. When he was young, he longed for ancient Greek civilization and finally came to Greece after forty years. One day, as they passed a small hotel in the middle of a greenery, Lucas noticed a clear spring flowing from the trunk of a hollow sycamore. When he was in the sycamore tree, he suddenly experienced a strange feeling. “He was awakened by a shock—perhaps the shock of reaching his destination—for when he opened his eyes, something unimaginable and indeterminate floated over everything, making everything understandable , become beautiful. There is a certain meaning in the gesture of the old woman bending over to work, in the cheerful movements of the little pig, in the wool shuttle that gradually becomes smaller in the hands of the old woman… The sun shone on the tree’s extending roots in a pattern that was anything but disordered; clusters of nodding evergreens and the sound of running water contained intent. In a short time Mr. Lucas not only discovered Greece, but Discovered England and the whole world, discovered life.” His soul was shaken, and he found the beauty of the outside world in the surrounding scenery, found harmony and meaning, found the destination of the soul and the sparkle of the true meaning of life.
He immediately decided to stay here, but Ethel and his companions couldn’t understand it and took the old man away forcibly. The novel ends with a description of Mr. Lucas’s scene one morning after returning home. The old man was distraught and complained to his daughter about the noise around, when Mrs. Forman sent flower seeds wrapped in a Greek newspaper, which Ethel was surprised to read from the old newspaper, just as they were passing by the small hotel. That night, there was a disaster, the small hotel was overwhelmed by a fallen tree, and the people inside died, but Mr. Lucas seemed indifferent.
The material for this fantasy novel is taken from Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus at Colonas”. The play tells the story of Oedipus’ self-exile after learning that he killed his father and married his mother. Antigone finally came to Coronas, where Apollo had predicted that Oedipus would die. In a way, “The Road Begins at Colonas” is a parody of “Oedipus at Colonas”, comparing real-world people with characters in ancient Greek mythology. Thus touching a certain emptiness deep in the hearts of modern people. The novel clearly points out the correspondence between the two characters. Mrs. Forman, who is with her, always says that Ethel is Antigone, while Mr. Lucas tries to play the role of Oedipus. When she talked about the scenery here, she said that it reminded her of the Colonas of Sophocles, and the small hotel they passed through happened to correspond to the Colonas in the tragedy.
Foster does not simply imitate, but uses myth to express a different theme. Oedipus reached the end of his life in Colonas, but Foster let Lucas reach his “Clonus” and had to leave, missing the inner peace he had found. Lucas, who returned to his daily life, could not bear all kinds of noisy sounds, but the small hotel in Greece and the clear spring water left him with fond memories. The comparison of the two pictures reflects his helplessness and disapproval of real life. Greek yearning. Lucas, who had found the true meaning of life, missed the true meaning of life again, which was beyond his control.
Solace to the Soul
”The Other Side of the Hedge” presents an abstract life journey. “The Other Side of the Hedge” symbolizes the other side of the established life, an imagination of the ideal life due to dissatisfaction with the real life. The protagonist “I” walks on a drab, dusty road with only crackling brown hedges on either side. “I” walks like everyone else, the monotonous scenery makes “I” feel depressed, and the long-term walking makes “I” exhausted and difficult to move forward. A gust of wind from the other side of the hedge was refreshing. So “I” longed to cross the hedge and see what was on the other side. After crossing the thorns and the boundary river, “I” came to the other side of the hedge, where there are vast spaces, bright sunshine, magnificent mountains, clear ponds, tall trees, happy people, beautiful scenery, and people live happily.
When “I” knew that there was nowhere to go, I felt that this place was just a prison and I couldn’t trust the people here. No matter how the guide advised me, “I” still tried to return to the old road. Until the guide showed me two doors, when I saw the monotony, dust and brown hedges on the road outside, I suddenly felt uneasy. At this time, someone passed them with a can of wine, as if the can of wine could make people forget the past, “I” grabbed the can from his hand and drank it. Then, “I” fell asleep peacefully. In the dream, I heard the singing of the nightingale, smelled the smell of hay, and saw the stars pierce the dark sky. The man who was robbed of the wine by “I” was my brother.
This novel is a bit like Tao Yuanming’s “Peach Blossom Spring”, and “I” is like the fisherman who broke into the fairyland by mistake. Tao Yuanming’s fisherman left the Peach Blossom Spring and was never found again. The “I” in Foster’s writings remains “on the other side of the hedge” forever. Most of the ideal worlds of human beings are closed, such as the Garden of Eden in the West, the Peach Blossom Garden in ancient China, and the “other side of the hedge” written by Foster is also closed. It can’t go anywhere, but there are two doors, one door is open to the outside, which is the beginning of the road, and human beings go out through this door; the other door is open to the inside, and it is the end of the road. Enter the door. This may be some kind of prophecy, indicating that the human beings who walked out from here will eventually come back. The human beings now seem to be a group of lost children, who are lost in their blindness, and will eventually cross the boundary river and hedges like “I” and return to ” The other side of the hedge”. At the end of the novel, “I” fell asleep peacefully. Isn’t the scene in the dream exactly what Foster wanted to convey to us? The song of the nightingale, the smell of hay, and the starry sky appeared in the sleep of “I”, “I” found a home for the soul and felt the true meaning of life.
In short, Foster combines travel and exploration in his fantasy novels, and the characters wander in fantasy, which not only blurs the reader’s sight, but also affects the reader’s heart. They were on the way to heaven for a while, and then they appeared in the Greek countryside surrounded by green trees. We seemed to see the Rainbow Bridge and hear the cheerful laughter of the little boy. The scene changed quickly, and a road with no end in sight was lined with brown hedges and full of dust, and people were walking wearily. These fanciful visions are real and illusory, but the boy’s laughter, the serene face of the old man, and the beautiful vision on the other side of the hedge are real and moving. Through the way of travel and exploration, Foster makes the characters explore in the travel, explore the pure nature, and explore the true meaning of life.