Violence, Saturday, anxiety stems from the outside of Perowne’s

Violence,
trauma, anxiety and threat are all issues which seem to dominate contemporary
life. Both the novels, Saturday by
Ian Mcewan and Kingdom Come by J.G
Ballard address and deal with these issues using both similar and different
techniques, however most of the themes interlink with one another.

 

Anxiety,
within both of these novels is something which arises from the fear of the
unknown. Within Saturday, anxiety stems from the outside of Perowne’s home in
the public sphere, which he wants to keep away from. Perowne is so frightened
and anxious about the outside world, that he has covered his door in  “three stout Banham locks, two black
iron bolts as old as the house, two tempered steel security chains, a spyhole with
a brass cover, the box of electronics that works the Entryphone system, the red
panic button, the alarm pad with its softly gleaming digits.” This obsession
with security is mirrored in J G Ballard’s novel Kingdom Come when it states that “Warning displays alerted each other,
and the entire landscape was coded for danger. CCTV cameras crouched over
warehouse gates, and filter left signs pulsed tirelessly, pointing to the sanctuaries
of high security science parks.” (Ballard, 6)

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Saturday is a
novel in which 9/11 has happened and so this is a Post Millenial trauma as it
was an event which shook the world and anti Iraq demonstrations were taking
place.We see Perowne act on this anxiety of impending terror due to 9/11 when
he sees a plane I nt he sky and assumes that it is a terror act on London. This
plays into the post millennial anxieties at the time of whom terror is a very
real threat and a concern for modern society. Perowne in Saturday states ‘London,
has a small part of it, lies wide open, impossible to defend, waiting for its
bomb, like a hundred other cities. Rush hour will be a convenient time.. the
authorities agree, an attack’s inevitable. (Saturday 276). This idea of terror
being just around the corner and the public are just waiting anxiously for it
to happen is prevalent within Kingdom
Come too “Never far from the defensive walls of the motorways, there was
more than a hint of paranoia, as if these people of the retail city were
waiting for something violent to happen”(Ballard, 2006:16)  both of these highlight the fear which modern society
faced post 9/11, the heightened security and police presence created a sense of
fear among the public which made them more security conscious. “He takes a step
towards the CD player, then changes his mind for he’s feeling the pull, like
gravity, of approaching TV news. It’s in the condition of the times, this
compulsion to hear how it stands with the world, and be joined to a generality,
to a community of anxiety” Saturday 176)

 

 

This idea of
a longing for something to happen is described by Zizek as “our gaze was
transfixed by the images of the plane hitting one of the WTC towers, we were
all forced to experience what the ‘compulsion to repeat’ and jouissance beyond
the pleasure principle are: we wanted to see it again and again” (Zizek, 11-12)
this highlights how we were almost fascinated with terror and the anticipation
for QUOTE IN BALLARD.

 

Violence is
shown in Kingdom Come through the football hooligans and the Metro Centre and
within Saturday it is through the Iraq War and the character of Baxter, both
acts/instances of terror.

Kingdom Come shows violence as being intrinsically
down to revolving around the metro centre “where do you think this violence is
coming from? The Metro-Centre? It’s possible” (Ballard,58) because of its
representation of consumerism.”This is todays England. Consumerism rules, but
people are bored. They’re out on the edge, waiting for something big and
strange to come along” The Metro Centre “encourages people in the wrong way.
Everyone wants more and more, and if they don’t get it they’re ready to be…
violent?” (Ballard, 24)

There is
quite a clear link between the violence of the Metro station and the violence
of the racists only thing shown in the metro centre was the football screens,
creates a relationship between fascism and consumerism. Dr Maxted, the
psychologist in the novel confirms this link as he states “All this racism and
violence.. people are bored…The danger is that consumerism will need something
close in order to keep going” (Kingdom Come :103) This is then confirmed by Richard
Brown due to his belief that the Metro Centre is a “nightmare utopia in which
racist violence emerges as a way of alleviating the boredom of shopping”
(Brown, 147)

Football
created a new sense of hooliganism within British Society and the hooligans
acted on their anxieties about foreigners and started to use violence against
them. Within the novel the white St George shirts were compared to the “black uniforms
and deaths-head emblems”(Ballard:56) of the SS. The setting of Kingdom Come is
in the suburbs, in a small town which Kumar states is typical of  “These towns along the M25. There’s something
in the air. I take it there are right wing groups here?”(Ballard, 58) who
present themselves as football fans, but really they are only interested in one
sport. Beating people up” (Ballard, 58)

These
hooligans do not target just anyone, they aim for ethnic minorities such as “Asians,
Kosovans, Bosnians”(Ballard, 58) and Eastern Europeans. This highlights how
threatened the Neo Nazi group must have felt by the minorities that they felt
they had to inflict violence upon them. It is almost like it is the fear of the
unknown which scares people.

 

This theme of
hooliganism is also present within Saturday through the character of Baxter.
Baxter forces Perowne, a middle class man who likes to keep himself separate and
away from the outside by keeping his security high as a way of “clearly
eliminating the square and the wintry world beyond it”(McEwan). Perowne never
initially feels threatened or at the risk of violence because he leads a very
privileged life in which many of the everyday problems such as bills do not
affect him as he is a very wealthy man. However, we can see in the novel how
violence and trauma of such kind can not be avoided no matter who you are.
Perowne’s regular saturday routine is interrupted by the protesters below him
and the radio and new reports which are to follow. Cara Cilano believes that “the
novel intends to confront the cultural trauma that haunts the West in the
aftermath of 9/11” (Cilano 31) The novel highlights what we would call a mediated
trauma, as in the fact that it was not directly experienced  by us or Perowne, it was seen on the
television. This experience of watching it through the media is what we call
the Real. “We are unable to intergrate it into (what we experience as) or
reality, and therefore are compelled to experience it as a nightmarish
apparition” p19 Desert of the real. This introduction to the novel highlights
how the modern world are now anxious and fearful that something of the same
kind may happen again and so now think the worst whenever something unusual
happens. Perowne is an example of this when he believes the plane in the sky is
headed towards London, possibly
to commit a terror attack. These everyday thoughts our a typical modern
way of thinking now because of incidents like 9/11 and Perowne accepts this as
part of life now as states that feeling like this is just like how “patients
eventually do to their sudden loss of sight or use of limbs” showing how this
trauma has manifested itself into everyday life and it’s just something that we
have to be fearful of now.

 

Both of the
novels can be seen to be showing attack on the west in the form of capitalism/
consumerism. The causation of 9/11 can be seen to have been because of America’s
interference in the middle east and their Americanisation of the buildings and
society over there. It can be argued that that the bomb attack on Metro was to
wake people up as . Similarily to 9/11 both can be seen as an attack on the
wests capitalism. This is highlighted in Kingdom Come when the bomb at the
metro goes off “A blow struck the side of my head, almost knocking me from my
feet. A huge explosion sounded from a nearby street.” (Ballard:126). Pearson
states that ” Only a direct attack on the great shopping mall would rouse a
deeply sedated population”(Ballard:127). This idea that the blowing up of a
capitalist icon is reinforced by Zizek when he says that “masses
were so deeply immersed in their apolitical consumerist stance that it was not possible
to awaken them through standard political education and consciousness~ raising-
a more violent intervention was needed to shake them out of their ideological
numbness, their hypnotic consumerist state, and only direct violent interventions
like bombing supermarkets would do the job.” (Zizek:9) This use of violence in
both the novels can be seen as a way to wake society up and to stop them being
complicit in what is going on.

Mcewan does this through his use of Baxter infiltrating into
Perowne’s personal space and inflicting violence . Cilano believes that
Saturday represents “terrorism through a displacement, in the form of the
intrusion of violence into the home and into the individual psyche” (Cilano:39)
 Perowne, however realises that he may
have brought Baxter’s violence on himself because he “humiliated Baxter in the
street”(McEwan:210) and did not have any repercussions for it. This therefore
could highlight how sometimes violence can be as a direct result of something
which someone else has done to warrant. Nick Rennison
highlights the fact that sometimes no matter who you are terror and violence is
not immune to you, this is highlighted in Saturday as  “the intrusion of brutal, inescapable reality
into comfortable lives” (Rennison,2005:110) is experienced by Perowne. Through the
intrusion of Baxter into his comfortable life. This experience shown through Perowne
as being personal trauma. Global trauma is something which the majority of the
modern world felt after 9/11 and the Iraq War, but it took the personal trauma
of Perowne when Baxter infiltrated his life for him to really feel the effects
of trauma on every day life. Frank Furedi describes this by saying that when
big global crisises such as 9/11 occur “They also challenge a society’s capacity to make sense
of the unexpected, and its belief in its own way of life.” Frank Furedi 2006