This is not the "relativism of truth" presented by journalistic takes on postmodernism. Rather, the ironist's cage is a state of irony by way of powerlessness and inactivity: In a world where terrorism makes cultural relativism harder and harder to defend against its critics, marauding international corporations follow fair-trade practices, increasing right-wing demagoguery and violence can't be answered in kind, and the first black U.S. president turns out to lean right of center, the intelligentsia can see no clear path of action. Irony dominates as a "mockery of the promise and fitness of things, " to return to the OED definition of irony. This thinking is appropriate to Wes Anderson, whose central characters are so deeply locked in ironist cages that his films become two-hour documents of them rattling their ironist bars. Without the irony dilemma Roth describes, we would find it hard to explain figures like Max Fischer, Steve Zissou, Royal Tenenbaum, Mr. Fox, and Peter Whitman. I'm not speaking here of specific political beliefs. The characters in question aren't liberals; they may in fact, along with Anderson himself, have no particular political or philosophical interests. But they are certainly involved in a frustrated and digressive kind of irony that suggests a certain political situation. Though intensely self-absorbed and central to their films, Anderson's protagonists are neither heroes nor antiheroes. These characters are not lovable eccentrics. They are not flawed protagonists either, but are driven at least as much by their unsavory characteristics as by any moral sense. They aren't flawed figures who try to do the right thing; they don't necessarily learn from their mistakes; and we aren't asked to like them in spite of their obvious faults. Though they usually aren't interested in making good, they do set themselves some kind of mission-Anderson's films are mostly quest movies in an age that no longer believes in quests, and this gives them both an old-fashioned flavor and an air of disillusionment and futility.
Arved Mark Ashby
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The loudness of tone in Jane Eyre is undoubtedly effective in communicating tension and frustration, but the style does of course have its related limitations. It precludes the use of the small suggestive detail or the quiet but telling observation that Mrs Gaskell and George Eliot are so good at. In such a fortissimo performance as this, the pianissimo gets drowned out, or noted only as an incongruity (which helps to account for the book's moments of unintended comic bathos). Again, it makes the whole question of modulation of tone a difficult one, 6 and it is also hard to manage irony elegantly, as the Brocklehurst and Ingram portraits show. There is unconscious ambiguity but little deliberate irony in Jane Eyre. Hence the remarkable unity of critical interpretation of the book-the reader knows all too well what he is meant to think about the heroine and the subsidiary characters. The novel does not merely request our judicious sympathy for the heroine, it demands that we see with her eyes, think in her terms, and hate her enemies, not just intermittently (as in David Copperfield) but in toto. It was, incidentally, because James Joyce recognised the similar tendency of Stephen Hero that he reshaped his autobiographical material as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, retaining the 'first-person effect' but building in stylistic and structural irony that would guard against the appearance of wholesale authorial endorsement of Stephen.
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