The Middle of the Journey

The Middle of the Journey

Lionel Trilling

Language: English

Pages: 196

ISBN: 0380005204

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Published in 1947, as the cold war was heating up, Lionel Trilling’s only novel was a prophetic reckoning with the bitter ideological disputes that were to come to a head in the McCarthy era. The Middle of the Journey revolves around a political turncoat and the anger his action awakens among a group of intellectuals summering in Connecticut. The story, however, is less concerned with the rights and wrongs of left and right than with an absence of integrity at the very heart of the debate. Certainly the hero, John Laskell, staging a slow recovery from the death of his lover and a near-fatal illness of his own, comes to suspect that the conflicts and commitments involved are little more than a distraction from the real responsibilities, and terrors, of the common world.

A detailed, sometimes slyly humorous, picture of the manners and mores of the intelligentsia, as well as a work of surprising tenderness and ultimately tragic import, The Middle of the Journey is a novel of ideas whose quiet resonance has only grown with time. This is a deeply troubling examination of America by one of its greatest critics.

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been. It was also the place where Nancy and Arthur had been. The Party represented what he would reach if he ever really developed in intelligence, virtue, and courage, and the Crooms had pointed out the way he must travel to reach this high estate. He had often thought that he would never reach it by following the path of his natural growth; he had sometimes conjectured, in his moral and political daydreams, that he might be the sort of man who needed street-fighting and barricades—the open

profession. An expert in public housing deals with the basic needs of poor people. He deals with the shape of houses, with steel and brick and with what is even more impenetrable and resistant, the interests of owners of land, of real property, as it is called. And so far as politics went, his friends knew that Laskell was quite as “conscious” as they were. Many of Laskell’s friends were connected with one or another of the radical political parties, either as members or as sympathizers—such was

that and he felt the better for seeing it. It was hot and still on the road. The light, dry dust rose with each step he took. There was not a breath stirring and the unmoving leaves of the trees were dusty. At a rise in the hill he stopped to look around him. He could see a fairish distance in two directions and, standing there with the hot, pictorial landscape before him, the quiet farms in the foreground, the little hills behind, he found it very difficult to remember his apartment and what

offer of the last saving chance for Love gasping on its deathbed— “Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over, From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.” He added in an effort of self-burlesque, “Orthodox sonnet of the Shakespearean type.” But his voice was tired and even now he could not exclude all earnestness from it as he said, “And I hope that explains the principle of fishing for trout to the young lady in the back row, and if it doesn’t, she can see me after class.” He

which rational authority would prevail. Such an order was what the existence of the Soviet Union promised, and although the promise must now be a tacit one, it was still in force. So far as The Middle of the Journey had a polemical end in view, it was that of bringing to light the clandestine negation of the political life which Stalinist Communism had fostered among the intellectuals of the West. This negation was one aspect of an ever more imperious and bitter refusal to consent to the

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