mai
19

The Lost World

Author // DEDENYS Caplice Siobhan
Posted in // Literature

You may recognise the title from the screen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name; however I would like to talk to you about the first novel sporting this title: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original The Lost World, which has little in common with the film. Perhaps his most famous work after the Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, it depicts the fictional expedition, lead by Professor Challenger, into the Amazon and more specifically onto a mysterious and seemingly unreachable plateau.

400px-Cover_(The_Lost_World,_1912)The point of view from which the story is delivered is, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the novel. The events are related through the letters young reporter, Edward Malone, sends to his editor. Indeed each chapter is addressed to Mr McArdle and starts by either a short recap of previous events or by immediately setting the mood when the expedition group are in a tense situation. Doyle even plays on this sometimes having Edward write as though he only hopes his letters to be found when he is unsure of surviving or whether the letter reaches its correspondent at all.

This would have been particularly effective at the time of this novel’s first release (in 1912) as it was published serially in a well-known magazine. Although I wish I too could have experienced such a fresh and suspenseful reading, I found that the overall tone set by Doyle through Edward’s eyes and pen was still very entertaining. Moreover this novel being such a classic nowadays I already knew some of the main plot points, but nonetheless I caught myself several times pondering excitedly about events to come or the resolution of some predicaments the protagonist is in.

Not only is suspense well built in and between chapters but The Lost World handles the theme of discovery and exploration masterfully. Indeed it features great descriptions of the lush Amazonian jungle, taking us through what transpired as quite a varied landscape. The narration of the long journey to the actual destination and the preparations made, prior and during, really conveys the feeling of being involved in the expedition. Doyle manages to intrigue, if not amaze, his reader throughout the book.

The main characters composing the core of the expedition team are all well fleshed out and intriguing in their own right but the portrayal of the peculiar Professor Challenger outshines the rest. Behind the instigation of the whole journey he is depicted as an irascible individual convinced of his intellectual superiority, very provocative, aggressive even, in his speech and also prone to resorting to violence. He is a very interesting character whose interventions further contribute to the dynamic rhythm of the novel. Doyle later wrote four other stories featuring this prominent figure among the protagonists.

I will end this post by a warning, or at least a caution, some passages may shock you slightly as an underlying assumption of white superiority can be felt and more broadly that there is a hierarchy of “races”. Especially when it comes to the way the leading members of the team consider the rest of their party, composed mostly of natives. [Minor spoiler ahead] Notably it can also be perceived in their reaction to a specific primitive tribe and what they deem as acceptable or natural in how they treat them. However I thought this dated perception was rather enlightening; as long as you are well aware of it, the differences in mentalities helps to emphasise the changes since then. It can also be appreciated as a way to contextualise this piece of work and to some degree “ease into” a similar reading atmosphere, a kind of sample if you will.

 

-Guillaume C.

 

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DEDENYS Caplice Siobhan

English Teacher in Rubika. Started the blog with students hope they keep it alive !

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