Allen, Richard Francis (1971)
The place of irony in George Moore's prose-narratives.
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This study of George Moore's work attempts three things: an account of his development as a writer, an explanation of why he should have written what were, conventionally, idiosyncratic books, and a consideration of Moore as an individual responding to the situation of his class in society in the years 1880-1920. In his first novels Moore tried to gain a reputation for himself in the romantic world of art far from the dying world of Galway. First he sought to gain notoriety as a leader of fashionable society, and then a more permanent fame writing serious Naturalist novels. But he could not sustain this sociological viewpoint or the belief in a new world because he felt that all progress was futile, and that the heroism necessary to confront the meaninglessness of the world was impossible. He turned then to shorter novels which concentrated on the plight of individuals. Moral problems became passive subject-matter for a display of aesthetic skill, most noticeably in the use of irony. This is remarkable because effective irony demands a control of language and thought conspicuously lacking in the earlier novels. Moore ostensibly continued to believe in a new cultural renaissance, but in the long prose-narratives the intellectual consideration of the characters ' motives becomes predominant and Moore uses characters as ironic reflections of each other to expose the falseness of the old world. This irony is apparently based upon a "natural" way of life. But the value Moore really believed in was the work of art as a guarantee of stability in a shifting world. The tragedy was that he fled for security to his writings, but they could only remind him he could no longer hold his youthful dream.
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom).