The Final Phase : A Winter In The Hills
A WINTER IN THE HILLS symbolizes "the victory of the week over the strong",1 All the same it also presents the win of "good over evil".2 In doing so the primitive human desires are satisfied to see "bullies thrashed and evil men done away with".3 Besides here John Wain has symbolized Roger, the protagonist, as he "good" whereas Dic Sharp, who asks his men to attack Roger, who according to him is a hurdle in his business of bus service, stands for the "evil". The fight goes on between the 'good' and 'evil' and towards the end of the novel we find Roger (symbolizing good) coming victorious and evil (in the shape of Dic Sharp's business) completely smashed up.
Admittedly, this novel seems framed on a larger scale than Wain's other novels of the fifties and sixties. It converts a very wide extent of ground dimensions he had never reached before. For the first time the plot of the novel centres round a place that is not English. So the novel's main idea is more comprehensive than any he has hitherto treated. It is, moreover, of great interest technically as the most "finished example"4 of the form which the novel has gradually arrived at in his hands. Its guiding principle is plain and radical. It is, already hinted at the clash between order and disorder. Wain perhaps takes the most straight-forward course in making the novel the autobiography of a man who, with no inherited privileges, builds up an important place for himself in social life, till a moment comes when his private life thrusts itself forward and involves the other in its catastrophe. For the sake of convenience, we begin with an examination of the plot.
Roger Furnivall, the protagonist of A WINTER IN THE HILLS, after burying the dead body of his brother, leaves London and goes to Wales to learn Welsh. Philology is the profession. He stays at the Palace Hotel, Caerfenai. He has discovered that the University of Uppsala has a large department of Celtic studies. If he could make a few contributions to Celtic studies and add Welsh and Irish to his "scholarly Armoury"5 he can get hold of a good job at Uppsala. But then, this was not the only motive. As a freelance lover, he also wants to expand his sexual activities. He has a purpose in going to Uppsala. He likes "tall, blonde girls with perfect teeth"6 who were large in number there.
In North Wales he picks up a sort of intimacy with Beverly, "an indolent long-legged doll"7. In no time he persuades her to accompany him to the hill solely with a view to making love to her. He succeeds in kissing her only as Beverly does not "feel in tune with it".8 Out of disgust he leaves the place and, in rain, he joins a group of people in a bar parlour nearby to get the warmth by drink and of the fire. He is able to return to Caerfenai by a bus owned and driven by one Gareth. After overcoming some difficulties he is able to convince Gareth that he is not a man of Dic Sharp (rival of Gareth in his profession). Gareth allows him to conduct his bus. Roger's motive behind conducting the bus is that he will have an opportunity to be "into contact with people who speak Welsh."9 Gareth helps Roger in getting a small flat in Llancrwys that belongs to Mrs. Pylon Jones, a widow, on a nominal charge, obviously because it was not the season for the tourists.
Soon Roger comes into a contact with Jenny, wife of Gerald Twyford, a teacher of Economics. Guessing their marriage a failure, he invites Jenny to his flat to which Jenny agrees; but once again the whole affair, like the previous one, is limited to the kiss only and Roger fails to make her his bed partner though he calls it "as a way of bringing you (Jenny) close to me (Roger)."10 Roger is reminded of his first love with Margot whom he wanted to marry. She was "on the run from a Puritanical upbringing."11 He did not marry her as she hated his lunatic brother Geoffrey who is dead now.
Thus a "lonely and not at all happy"12 Roger hunts for yet another girl named Rhiannon who is a regular traveler in Gareth's bus. He is successful in having an evening with her at Anglesey restaurant. Roger hires a car to make the journey more comfortable without caring a bit for money. But once again he has a series of misfortunes here. Firstly, Rhiannon does not turn up as "she cannot manage to night".13 Secondly, to compensate his frustration (and perhaps with a bleak hope that the girl may come) he takes the costly food in the hotel. He does "what the untransferable French word calls degustation."14 And finally, while returning he narrowly escapes a serious accident when one of the wheels of the hired-car is let loose though he is being convinced by people that "it's going to mean a lot of trouble for you (Roger)".15 Perhaps they want to hit at his "English background".16 It does not take long for Roger to know the hands of Dic Sharp behind all these mishappenings. As no person is ready to sign the witness paper, Roger has to take a lot of troubles. Pylon Jones, too, does not want to incur the hostility of Dic Sharp and as such she gives ultimatum to Roger to vacate the house by Sunday next. At this juncture Rhiannon comes to her rescue and she takes him to an abandoned chapel that belongs to Fraulein whom Roger wrongly pictures as a "lank blonde hair and a self-willed, rather thin mouth."17 Roger manages anyhow and makes it comfortable here.
Roger is on duty everyday on Gareth's bus, yet he is not able to forget Jenny and it gives "pain to remember her".18 His past time is going to the pub and paying attention to the Welsh intonation. He is lucky to pick up friendship with Madog, a Welsh poet, who helps him on more than one occasion. Firstly, he helps Roger in catching the spirit of Welsh and secondly in helping Roger ultimately to win over Jenny; but between these two points Roger has to overcome a lot of difficulties. He writes a very long love-letter to Jenny having any hope. Dic Sharp's men badly injure narrowly escapes an onslaught on him by the hired men of Dic Sharp. But Roger knows he must maintain his "fighting spirit".19
Jenny responds to Roger's letter and goes to him. She looks quite pleased in the company of Roger. She is able to have determination to leave Gerald Twyford, her husband but she cannot forget her children. She does not want "them to suffer".20 The imbroglio is solved by Madog. He tells Roger that in the spring he is acting as host and organiser to a gathering of Celtic poets. They will read their work aloud to "an enraptured audience".21 He further lets him know that Jenny, who is "an educated girl with a knowledge of these matters"22 will be secretary to the whole event. The salary that she will get will be more than sufficient to live along with his children in the Palace Hotel. To Roger it appears that his good days have come. He along with Gareth has already smashed and exposed Dic Sharp forcing him to sell his buses mostly to their original owners and the idea of Madog clicks and is successful to the fullest extent though the show done by the poets is not upto the mark, Thus Roger is successful in winning Jenny and along with Mary and Robin, her two children he happily makes for London after spending a winter in the hills of Wales. Thus we also see "good (Roger) flourish and the wicked (Dic Sharp) destroyed".23
Wain's hero of A WINTER IN THE HILLS shows "alienation in his attempt to go beyond human life".24 Wain is very near to Satre in NAUSEA while analysing men who makes himself into an image. But in his defence of human dignity Wain maintains "an ironic distance"25 from Sarte.
In A WINTER IN THE HILLS, Roger shows alienation to go beyond human life for the first time when he takes Beverly to the hills to make love to her. For this alienation he is prepared to forget for the time being his original schedule :
Sending before the mirror for a last inspection, he noticed the book that lay open on the dressing table. Dr. Conray's BEGINNER'S STEPS IN WELSH GRAMMAR printed at Pontypool in 1904. According to his original schedule, Roger would have been starting work on Dr. Conray this morning. He was glad to be departing from his original schedule.26
However, we encounter the culmination of this alienation when Roger finds himself being deceived by Rhiannon. He rather forgets that he is a man as she has not kept her word of coming to the hotel to spend an evening with him. He catches Gareth's bus and when Gareth bids him good luck, Roger thinks :
And good luck to you, Gareth. Move over, I'm coming to join you on that windy ledge. I'm going to be an eagle like you, and live in a pile of sticks on the mountain, and forget that I was ever a man.
Forget, forget, forget, forget.27
Now it is important to note that Roger's alienation is somewhat different from Lumley's (HURRY ON DOWN). Lumley feels that he lives in an alien society. He further has the notion that "his values are not represented by any section in the English class structure."28 It is in this of alienation that goes in the making of theme of HURRY ON DOWN. Lumley fails to seek work which does not, to some extent, "involve a sacrifice of his independence."29 He has learnt the habits of consideration and tolerating.
He (Lumley) had been equipped with an upbringing devised to meet the needs of a more fortune age, and then thrust into the jungle of the nineteen fifties. The hive was full of wasps, all workers and all identical; but he, who differed from the others in nothing else had been deprived of his sing.30
But Roger, the hero of A WINTER IN THE HILLS, turns himself into an ideal image in order to "protect"31 himself. From the following dialogue between Roger and Dic Sharp emerges a new dimension of Roger's personality. He remains stoically calm and unruffled even after falling a prey to Dic Sharp's crooked plan of killing Roger by loosening the wheelnuts. Only he must argue it out in order to make Dic Sharp realize his error :
'I understand', said Dic Sharp. 'I'm born and bred here and know every corner of it, but I haven't got the brains or the book-learning to have reasons for what I do. You come in and take one look and straight away you can explain everything. Even me'.32
A little later, Roger looks a picture of humanist sympathy, idealism and gentility when he prefers keeping mum to speaking out his heart loudly to Mrs. Pylon Jones when she asks him to vacate the house. Mr. Cledwyn Jones, too, joins hands with her :
Roger opened his mouth to ask him (Cledwyn Jones) what kind of normal life Gareth Jones would be able to go back to, if his last bit of moral and physical support were scared away. But, looking at the two of them standing there with their closed, accusing faces, he said nothing.33
How good hearted Roger was may well be seen in the following words of Roger in which he prefers leaving the village Llancwys to blaming Mrs. Jones or requesting on to give him refuge :
I haven't any idea. Nobody in Llancrwys will take me in. If they did, they'd only get the same harassment - perhaps worse. And I'd be out again. It's better not to wish it on them.34
Roger is by all standards a good soul. Perhaps this image of Roge gives Rhiannon (who once did not meet Roger in the hotel) enough courage to sit beside him in a lonely chapel away from the village :
Gently, the lay beside him. It was as if she had decided to trust him, to breathe as freely in his presence as she did in solitude. And all this without for a moment doubling that his designs on her were carnal, rooted in the need to touch and cling and bite and dig. She accepted him; not as a lover on whom she would have made reciprocal demands, simply as another human being before whom there was no need to wear a mask.35
Even a post and scholar like Madog feels that Roger is the well-wisher of all people and their culture and cultivation. While offering a glass of drink to Roger, Madog accepts it :
And a glass for Roger Furnivall, said Madog, courteously making a half turn towards Roger, because he is a scholar and wishes well to all civilizations.36
The passages mentioned above are some of many that show Wain's "humanist sympathy with individualism".37 Roger wishes to make no roots in society but to be independent of class forming roots only with impersonal things such as places and seasons. Wain's purpose is to show how difficult it is to realize such an ideal. Roger is forced back into a contact with the society by his need to learn Welsh and his passion for Jenny. There is no possibly way in which he could gradually develop independence and make his character a "human nature in its best form."38 He defends this independence and also the humanism through various characters so that the "dignity of a man"39 is not put at stake. Through Braverly Wain is successful in defending humanism and individualism when Roger seems to be successful in making love to her; but she realizes her self-dignity and refuses to yield :
But she was twisting her face away from him, rolling on to her side, pulling the female half of the universe away from the male half. Not fiercely, not in fright, but in a kind of lazy refusal that hurt by its casualness.40
This humanism looks further revived by the guilt consciousness of Roger when he tampers with Gareth's bus. He cannot hide it though he admits that it may be because of his sexual frustration :
He, Roger Furnivell, had injured Gareth. His mood of black recklessness, aroused by sexual frustration and indulged in one freak of anarchic action, had come to Gareth as the last in a long series of blows that threatened to beat him to the ground. What was to be done? Only one thing. He must have a few more drinks, get grogged up sufficiently to muster some courage, and then go the Gareth and own that it was he who had tampered with the bus.41
Proceeding further in our analysis, we find that this humanism is heightened when we find Roger unable to tolerate his beloved Margot's indifferent attitude to his invalid brother, Geoffrey. In course of his talk he tell Jenny :
.....I wanted to settle down but I loved Margot, and she wouldn't settle down with me, first because she hadn't finished having a good time with me, and then afterwards because I wouldn't have Groffrey put away in institution. Finally we split up on that. It took me about twelve months to believe it had happened. I needed Geoffrey as much myself that I couldn't believe anyone could reject him as thoroughly as Margot rejected him. She couldn't bear the sight of him.42
In Wain's world the 'good' cannot retreat giving a chance to 'the evil' to florish. Inspite of adverse circumstances Wain, through Roger, wants to show the 'good' cannot leave the ground so long the evil is there :
To himself he frankly admitted that his chief aim, at the moment, was to stay where he was safe. No, that was putting it too strongly. If safely were all he wanted, all the need do was go down to Caerfenal station the next morning at daylight, and wait for a train to carry him out of the district and beyond the reach of Dic Sharp's myrmidons, for ever. But he had never considered such a thing, and was not considering it now. As long as there was anything to do in the cause of Gareth versus Dic Sharp, he would stay on the scene and do it.43
This towering image of Roger's humanism is felt even by a man like Twyford whose wife Jenny had deserted him and gone to live with Roger :
Oh, take your shinning armour off, Furnivall. Ever since you come into the district you've had a Messiah-complex.44
No doubt Twyford's statement has an undercurrent of sarcasm; all the same he is conscious of the "Messiah-trait" in Roger. Once again it is this trait that gives the final blow to Dic Sharp, the "evil" and forces him to sell his buses mostly to their original owner :
The news, he could see, affected Gareth powerfully. It was as if this morning's sale gave him, at last, concrete evidence that the fight against Dic Sharp had been won. It was understandable that he had found the tension too great and had left the sale-room.45
Partly this attack on 'evil' comes from Wain's frustrated idealism. He finds life around him bitterly disappointing and absurd. He believes in nobility, but this nobility is absent from the life around him. Man in the shape of Dic Sharp is devoid of nobility. He forgets that ultimately death, even if he holds the ground for sometime, will not allow him to continue :
Every battle, every skirmish in every battle, every hand-to-hand struggle round a slit trench, is a separate episode. A separate victory for one, a separate defeat for another. They're not tempted to add it up. They live from day today, from on clash with the enemy to the next... They know their lives will be one struggle after another, and at the end of it, every one of them will lose because death will cut him down.46
This may be seen as a depressive tendency in the novel. We expect that Wain who shows a desire "to affirm human life"47 would defend the individual to find characters with strength, grace and even nobility. But his characters look lonely. They appear to be cut off not only from society but from the respective wives also. Roger, the hero, like Geary (THE SMALLER SKY) looks pathological social masochist, filled with guilt and self-hatred needing to suffer. His masochism and alienation stems from his sexual guilt. He runs from his terror but he knows that he will not escape. When Beverly asks him as to what he does he says :
I suffer. That's my profession. I walk the earth's crust aching all over with misery. I don't do anything.48
And really Roger suffers. Rhiannon fails to keep her word that she will spend an evening with Roger. When she meets him next she tries to justify her absence telling that it was good for both of them. Her conversation with Roger, as given below, very well tell something of Roger's masochism :
'The only thing that isn't quite clear to me is how you knew. I mean, I might have had no plans more ambitious than just taking you out for the evening.'
'But you did, didn't you? She said softly.
'I did what?'
Have plans more ambitions.'
'Not plans, Rhiannon', he said. 'Just dreams.'49
Thus instead of snubbing Rhiannon, Roger prefers suffer silently. Not only this. Sometimes he feels that he has turned out to be a masochist because he had been in association with masochists. When he falls to soothe Jenny who is upset over the lot of her children who are away from her, she tells Roger that she cannot live comfortably. Roger depressed and disillusioned as he is, makes for a pub. He must have a drink. He does not want to go to Mario's pub :
Where else? He drove aimlessly along the street. Most of the pubs were depressing in themselves, doubly so if one were alone and miserable. That dreadful little box of smoke that Gareth frequented from choice... Roger shuddered. Such habits must have their origin in masochism. That was all; he had wasted all there months on a gang of masochists.50
Roger's masochism seems to be partly a result of guilt and self-hatred. He is transformed. He must enter the world as simple human creature, giving up the constructed reality and constructed self. When in the rain, after being rejected by Beverly, Roger takes shelter at Mr. Cledwyn Jones's place, he forgets he is a scholar. He transforms himself and finds as one of those around him and having a drink.
In a moment or two, he would become simply part of the furniture of the pub. Just another fool of a visitor who should never have left the big city. Not enough sense to take proper clothes when walking in the mountains.51
Roger goes to the extent of conducting Gareth's bus. So like Charles Lumley of HURRY ON DOWN, Roger decides to do a work which is not for a man of his qualification. Like Lumley, Roger descends socially, but unlike the former Roger has a purpose. Though non-remunerative, the job would give him an opportunity to come into contact with the people speaking Welsh. This will help him in picking up the intonation of the Welsh language for which he is on tour of North Wales during the winter season. Thus Wain's hero meets "with a strong sense of self the sacrifice of self demanded by social circumstances"52 This sacrifice of the self is demanded by Wain, as it is demanded by Satre, "in the interest of creating a more human person."53 Roger would not have left Mrs. Pylon Jones's house, however great the pressure would have been, but he prefers sacrificing himself to allowing Dic Sharp to create fresh problems for her. When Gito asks why he wants to be left alone by leaving Mrs. Jones's house, he replies :
I suppose everybody knows, said Roger indifferently. 'I had to leave Mrs. Pylon Jones's because somebody who shall be nameless, called Dic Sharp bribed a list of hooligans to make my position intolerable.54
But all these lead Roger to the profession of some 'pioneer qualities'55 making him "inner-directed".56 He can, in an expanding and changing society, cope with the confusion because he possesses the self-discipline to drive towards a goal (learning Welsh, for example, some of them already quoted), illustrating Roger's desire to be "inner-directed" instead of "fitting in".57 He remains a "free spirit"58 with "the preservation of the self"59. In this he is a very much richer character than Lumley. Besides, he is a remarkable departure from the usual angry young man kind. He is an original in that he is out and out an intellectual, 'inner-directed' a character dedicated to a life-style that makes him. He reminds one of the Isabel Archer of Henry James's THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY, where also the life-style triumphs. Nothing else that matter may buy for you. Naturally, this causes a tendency that may lead to some kind of self-mortification. There is in such characters a blending of the fighting spirit with the spirit that is ready for sacrificing the self. Really, this makes the character a rich psychological study and in this Roger is a definite advance on all other Wain's characters we have come across so far.
In a sense, Wain's characters are - by and large - a portion of our contemporaries. It seem scarcely possible that there never were any such persons as Roger, Gareth, Jenny and Dic Sharp. They are to us not only types of English life, but types actually existing. They at once reveal the existence of such people, and make them thoroughly comprehensible. They are not studies of persons, but persons. And yet they have not been idealized and individualised in the sense that the reader does not think that they are drawn slavishly from life. They are very much reproductions. They are creations. They are alive. They are very much themselves. And then the atmosphere in which they live is one of such boundless fun humour, and geniality. Few books are or will be like A WINTER IN THE HILLS, in this respect. Wain here possesses of making the reader feel thoroughly home in an imaginary world, and of being and living and moving in it naturally. No pub of a benevolent old gentleman and a few friends ever has gone as Mario's pub where Roger makes frequent visits. But it seems not merely entertaining and natural, but actually "existing" to the reader. The characters of the novel are drawn from a wonderful variety of sources. Without degenerating into any kind of vulgarity they give a body to what we may imagine to be the varieties and habits of characters in sets of persons with whom we are unacquainted, and so to the North Wales, all that can be said or thought of that portion. The characters of Wain exist almost entirely in what they say, and "this is the highest and rarest form of the art of the novelist."60
Finally, let it be added that Wain has remained to himself always something more than an artist. He has left impact of much of the liberalism on the present day in England and its type. To be liberal, to be found of fun, and to like a happy, innocent home, is the type of excellence he has set before the generation which he has largely influenced. Besides, he is basically a good judicious man, a hater of petty tyranny (in the shape of Dic Sharp). His evident sincerity of purpose makes his novels and gives them a dignity that matches the novelist's own virtues as a person.