The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 10, No 2 (2006)

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The Mentor


Elaborately Wound: Philip Pullman's Marlowean Muse

Lisa M. Miller


Lisa M. Miller earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Wesley College in May of 2004. Getting lost in the pages of a good book has always been one of Lisa's pastimes. Throughout the years, reading has provided her with comfort, perspective, and inspiration. She is currently an editor for Prestwick House, Inc., an educational publisher, and she aspires to become a published author.


The original paper was written in Fall 2003 for Professor Susan R. Bobby's "Adolescent Literature" course.
The course surveys works commonly taught in middle and high school English classes, with an eye towards incorporating critical theory in analyzing both classic and contemporary texts. The final research paper was an essay in which students would choose a either a classic text or a contemporary text rich in classic allusions to craft an analytical discussion of the literary work.
Editing seminar papers for publication involves a variety of concerns; some papers are very specific to their original assignment and require broader explanation and contextualization while others address a wider array of literary or thematic issues that do not allow for much analysis. Others, as with this one, require a little of both.
Lisa's voice is engaging and her style and diction quite expressive. I wanted to retain those qualities even through a revision for publication. Her paper originally incorporated a brief but interesting discussion of magical realism which did not contribute to her primary focus on Pullman's use of Marlowean traditions; I asked her to concentrate her focus there and to remove the magical realism discussion. Additionally, I gave her the complex task of contextualizing her discussion with more of Pullman's elaborate text without over-summarizing—a challenge she met beautifully!
Much is written about Pullman's His Dark Materials; I hope you will enjoy Lisa Miller's exploration of this lesser-known, but quintessentially Pullman text.
(Elizabeth Pandolfo Briggs, editor, The Mentor)

 

Philip Pullman's mastery of the written language is powerful and captivating--words seem to dance under his spell. The sorcery with which he writes captures readers, and his storytelling capabilities evoke wonder and imagination. It obviously takes a brilliant mind to create such interesting and innovative stories, but, as with every author, Pullman, too, has his inspiration. In His Dark Materials, Pullman found his inspiration from John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), among others. Pullman lures his unsuspecting readers in with modern writing techniques and realistic plot lines; then he transports them into the past, using Milton's epic as a model, and exposes his readers to historic themes and symbols. Pullman's incorporation of classic literature is a technique he utilizes frequently when writing fiction. Clockwork—or All Wound Up— (1996) is a prime example of Pullman's willingness to utilize timeless literature as a basis for his fiction.

Like a world-famous chef, Pullman chooses each ingredient carefully and takes his time to ensure that the finished product will be delightful and delicious—leaving his readers eager to indulge. Clockwork—or All Wound Up— is a horror story that comes together by mixing a realistic situation with a handful of chilling magic, adding a touch of fantasy, then interweaving a complex storyline with a classic connection. The realism Pullman incorporates in his fiction is what he describes as 'stark realism': "I'm telling a story about a realistic subject, but I'm using the mechanism of fantasy" (Weich). Pullman's pragmatic storyline and fantastic elements make his story attractive to young readers. However, Pullman also includes subtle suggestions and implications that only an adult would recognize and appreciate, which does not detract from the children's story, but rather, enhances it, exposing deeper dimensions hidden beneath a seemingly simplistic tale.

Clockwork—or All Wound Up— begins in a small German town on the eve of a significant tradition. Karl's apprenticeship with the town clockmaker is coming to a close, and the next day Karl will reveal his new creation for the town clock tower in a special ceremony. Unbeknownst to the townspeople, Karl has no figure for the clock, and he is too ashamed to tell his instructor. Karl's time has run out. As he sits in the bar, drowning his sorrows, Fritz, the town's favorite storyteller, begins to tell his latest tale of fright, but just as Karl has no figure to properly end his apprenticeship, Fritz has no suitable ending for his story. However, Fritz believes that once the story is wound up, he will be able to improvise and create an ending of which he and the townspeople will be proud.

Fritz's story begins with Prince Otto taking his son on a "hunting trip." When the Prince returns, the people find that he is dead, despite the fact that he led the carriage back to the palace. Upon examination, the physician finds that Prince Otto's heart has been replaced with a mechanical clock, which controlled his arm and led the carriage home. The physician knows that only one man in all of Europe, Dr. Kalmenius, is capable of crafting something so intricate:

There was something uncanny about Dr. Kalmenius's clockwork. He made little figures that sang, and spoke, and played chess, and shot tiny arrows from tiny bows, and played the harpsichord as well as Mozart. You can see some of his clockwork figures today in the museum at Schatzberg, but they don't work anymore. It's odd, because all the parts are in place, and in perfect order, and they should work; but they don't. It's almost as if they had...died.
(Pullman 25)

Even though the physician knew the cause of Prince Otto's death, he kept it secret from the palace and from Otto's wife, Princess Mariposa.

Fritz begins to describe this clever clockmaker, when suddenly the tavern door opens, and in walks the doctor himself. Fritz is horrified and flees from the tavern, as do the other patrons, the owner, and the employees. Only Karl and Dr. Kalmenius remain. During their discourse, the doctor learns of Karl's problems and offers the depressed apprentice a clockwork gift—Sir Ironsoul, a knight in shining armor, with a deathly sharp sword at its side. It is the most fascinating mechanical figure Karl has ever seen. The apprentice accepts the generous gift, but then begins to wonder about the mystical creation. In the course of conversation, Karl utters the "magic word" and the knight's mechanisms begin to grind, and it moves threateningly, with its sharp blade, toward Karl. Dr. Kalmenius then whistles a short tune, and the knight stops immediately. The doctor then informs Karl of the intricate figure's idiosyncrasy: Sir Ironsoul's "mechanism is so delicate, so perfectly balanced, that one word, and one word alone, will start him moving. And he's such a clever little fellow! Once he's heard that word, he won't rest until his sword is in the throat that uttered it" (40). Only one specific tune, "The Flowers of Lapland," has the ability to stop the knight. After the transaction, the doctor slips away before Karl can protest or change his mind about accepting the strange clockwork figure.

In part two it becomes evident to the reader how elaborate Pullman's story is becoming. Up to this point, readers will assume that Fritz's story is fiction; however, as part two begins, readers learn about the real Prince Otto and his situation. The Prince and his wife, Princess Mariposa, wanted a child more than anything. Sadly, when they finally had a child, he was too weak to survive. In a fit of panic, the Prince took his son on a supposed "hunting trip," but, instead, they fled to Dr. Kalmenius' workshop and demanded he make the child run by clockwork. Finally, the doctor agreed, and the lifelike child, Florian, lived for many years as if he were a real boy. Eventually, Florian's gears began to rust, and his parts grew old, so Prince Otto returned to the doctor, and asked him to repair his son. Dr. Kalmenius informed the Prince that Florian would not be able to live unless he was given a human heart.

Florian lived and grew for nearly five years with his human heart pumping strongly, but eventually his parts began to rust: "as the winter of the prince's tenth year set in, the dreaded symptoms returned. Prince Florian complained of pains in his joints, of a stiffness in his arms and legs, of a constant chill; his voice lost its human expressiveness and took on the tinkling sound of a music box" (68). The physician knew that young Florian would not survive and convinced Princess Mariposa to send her son into the woods for some hunting and fresh air. Although hesitant, the princess agreed—she did not know how else to save her son. A young man was hired to lead Florian into the woods and bring him back in a few days time, but once they reached the thick of the forest, the young man knew that Florian could not be saved, so he decided to abandon the young prince and flee. Prince Florian, stiff, cold, and lost, began wandering the forest, whistling his favorite tune.

As Florian wanders the forest, young Gretl is cornered by Sir Ironsoul in the parlor. Terrified, Gretl has no idea that she has uttered the "magic word," thus causing the knight to attack. Just then, like out of a dream, Prince Florian's tune comes flowing through the parlor and the knight stops. The Prince has somehow found his way to the small German town. Gretl realizes that this is the prince from Fritz's tale. She can tell the prince needs help, so Gretl runs off to find Fritz—she has to find out how his story ends. Relieved to be inside and warm, Prince Florian sits quietly by the fire, waiting patiently for Gretl to return.

Meanwhile, Karl contemplates and fantasizes about Sir Ironsoul and all the fortune and fame he will acquire if he were to tour with the magical figure. He wants Sir Ironsoul for his own, but he knows that he must have a figure for the clock tower, or he will disappoint the entire town. As he enters the parlor, he notices Sir Ironsoul has moved from where he left it, and he sees Prince Florian sitting in the chair. Determined to have everything, Karl decides to use Prince Florian as the figure for the clock tower so that: "he could keep Sir Ironsoul for himself. And then...Oh, how his mind raced. He could travel the world. He could become famous giving exhibitions and demonstrations. He became quite dizzy as he thought of the uses to which he could put the metal knight" (84). As the story comes to a close, Gretl, the young heroine, saves the clockwork prince, Fritz's story finally has an ending, and Karl's greedy, sinful decision ultimately leads to his death.

With Karl's sinful actions, among many other dexterous subtleties that Pullman includes, it is obvious that Pullman has invoked a muse in crafting his horror story. The primary allusion Pullman incorporates is first seen separate from the context of the story. Prior to the table of contents, Pullman quotes a very famous play:

"The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn'd..."
(Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus)

Not only does this quote set the tone for the horror story, but it also establishes a major connection between the themes and symbols in both literary works. Literary classics are labeled as such because of their ability to withstand time—they relate to modern readers just as well, or even better, than they related to their contemporary readers. In essence, literary classics are immortal; Philip Pullman's pieces may one day be regarded as classics, thus making his own works immortal by maintaining concepts and notions inspired by a nearly 400-year-old play.

Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus" is a classic play that tells of a man who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for necromantic powers. Marlowe and Pullman use similar themes and motifs throughout their works. Both authors concentrate on how any individual can fall subject to the seven deadly sins, how every person is susceptible to succumbing to the temptation of obtaining ultimate power, and how time affects the individual.

Furthermore, a specific comment in Clockwork illustrates that some of Pullman's characters mirror those in "Dr. Faustus." Young Gretl, who is having trouble sleeping, makes the first literal connection between the works. She has had a frightful evening. As she wanders from her room to sit by the warm stove, she reminisces about what took place in the tavern that night. She remembers listening intently to Fritz—what a wonderful storyteller! Fritz elaborately describes the dreadful Dr. Kalmenius of his story:

He [is] very tall and thin, with a prominent nose and jaw. His eyes blaz[e] like coals in caverns of darkness. His hair [is] long and gray and he [wears] a black cloak with a loose hood like that of a monk; he [has] a harsh, grating voice and his expression [is] full of savage curiosity.
(Pullman 25-26)

Just then, the door to the tavern opens, and in walks a man fitting this exact description. It is as though Fritz has hired him for the part, but Fritz is just as horrified by the man's presence as everyone else. Who is the man who barges through the tavern doors?

Back by the warmth of the stove, Gretl expresses her fear to Putzi, the cat: "I'm not sure that people ought to tell stories like that. I don't mind ghosts and skeletons, but I think Fritz went too far this time. And didn't everyone jump when the old man came in! Like Dr. Faust, conjuring up the Devil. . . . " (46).

Although Gretl clearly associates Fritz with Dr. Faustus, Pullman may have intentionally created three representations of the infamous doctor. Fritz, however, seems less like Dr. Faustus and more like Pullman himself. Pullman comments on Fritz's risky storytelling technique from personal experience: "The exhilaration of telling a story and the sense that every step you take is actually on the edge of a yawning pit that might suddenly fall by getting the story wrong or by failing to find something" ("Growing" 187). Even though it seems Fritz represents Pullman, perhaps Fritz is a dual effigy for both Pullman and Dr. Faustus. Fritz and Faustus both sell their souls to the devil, albeit for different reasons. When Fritz is out of ideas for ending his story, he expresses his frustration on paper: "Oh, this is impossible! How can I write an ending for this story? I'll have to make it up when I get there and hope I do it well. If I come up with something good, the Devil can have my soul!" (80). This letter Fritz writes parallels the letter Faustus is forced to write to the Devil. In addition, the theory that Fritz's character symbolizes dual personalities suggests that Pullman has had a similar experience with storytelling; thus, this talented author himself parallels Dr. Faustus. Perhaps, Pullman, too, has been tempted to offer the Devil his soul for the perfect ending to a story...Fritz does come up with the ultimate ending...his story comes to life—now, his soul belongs to the Devil.

Fritz and Pullman are two possible representations of Faustus, but the third is a bit more complex. Karl, the prideful apprentice, also sells his soul to the Devil; however, his contract is more indirect—Karl accepts the Devil's gift as his own, rather than giving it to the town's clock tower. The Devil can appear in many forms. For Pullman, the most obvious demoniac character is the elusive Dr. Kalmenius. Fritz's description of the doctor definitely evokes images of the Devil, especially those eyes—they bring thoughts of a fiery hell in addition to providing hellish imagery and "surrealistic description[s]" (Cuddon 487). Pullman illustrates further: "Dr. Kalmenius smile[s]. It is like a flame suddenly breaking out of an ash-covered log, and Karl recoil[s]" (34). This statement gives Dr. Kalmenius more malevolent characteristics, and Karl's "recoiling" suggests the movements of the serpent, which Dr. Kalmenius clearly represents.

In the scene between Karl and the doctor, several clues warn Karl of the evil that is lurking behind Dr. Kalmenius and Sir Ironsoul, just as Dr. Faustus is warned by Mephistophilis. For Karl, the first sign is the razor-sharp sword held by Sir Ironsoul. This sword draws Karl's blood at the slightest touch, which parallels Dr. Faustus drawing his own blood for his letter to Satan. Richard Wilson references this scene in "Dr. Faustus" in his book, Christopher Marlowe, and he believes Dr. Faustus is having difficulty completing the letter because his "blood congeals and [he] can write no more" (V.61). Wilson recalls how "Faustus' problematic effort at inscribing and subscribing is one of the key signatures of the play. Faustus must write in order that he be damned" (38-39). Wilson's theory can also be applied to Karl: in order for him to be damned, he too must draw blood.

It is interesting how captivated Karl is by Sir Ironsoul: "He does work by clockwork, I suppose? Or is there some kind of goblin in there? A spirit or devil of some kind?" (Pullman 38). Sir Ironsoul answers Karl's question by movement: the figure turns and marches toward the apprentice with its dangerously sharp sword. Finally, Dr. Kalmenius whistles that "haunting little tune" (39) and Sir Ironsoul stops. With these ominous signs, the apprentice has been forewarned. Regardless, Karl still accepts this mysterious gift, which he believes will answer all his problems. After an equally fair warning, Dr. Faustus also receives a type of gift from the Devil—necromantic powers. Once Dr. Faustus expresses his desire for magical powers, Mephistophilis seems to try to sway the doctor from turning to a life of evil:

Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?
O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.
("Dr. Faustus" IV. 76-82)

The comparison of both scenes clearly demonstrates how Pullman alludes to Mephistophilis through Dr. Kalmenius' character.

If Dr. Kalmenius symbolizes Mephistophilis, then Sir Ironsoul must represent the daemons or devils who come to take Dr. Faustus to Hell at the end of Marlowe's play. Once Karl takes Prince Florian to the clock tower and seizes Sir Ironsoul as his own, Karl's soul belongs to the Devil. Karl makes the mistake, however, of saying that magic word, and...time is up! The daemons from Hell come to take Karl away: Sir Ironsoul leads him into a corner and murders him. Unlike Karl, Dr. Faustus is given a specific time limit of twenty-four years to have complete necromantic power. Dr. Faustus is fully aware that the end is near. Karl, too, sees the end: the razor-sharp point of the knight's sword aimed at his heart. In both scenes, the men want to repent, in an attempt to extricate themselves from their inexplicable predicament. Karl tries to whistle that terrible tune: "But his lips [are] too dry. Frantic, he lick[s] them with a dry tongue. No use! He [can't] produce a sound" (Pullman 94). Once a soul is sold to the Devil, it is impossible to revoke the deal, as Dr. Faustus learns the night the clock strikes midnight on his twenty-fourth year when he, like Karl, longs to repent:

You stars that reigned at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon laboring cloud,
That when you vomit forth into the air
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven.
(XIII. 81-87)

Both Karl and Dr. Faustus desire forgiveness for their sins; both are guilty of all seven of the deadly sins; therefore, they cannot be forgiven.

Dr. Faustus and Karl have sold their souls to the Devil, which allows them to become more susceptible to committing sins. Their desire for power and wealth is stronger than their goodwill, which essentially makes them weaker when faced with temptations. According to Millar Maclure, author of Marlowe: The Critical Heritage 1588-1896, Marlowe's play "teaches that the reward for sin is death" (97). The same is true for Clockwork. Pullman drops hints of Dr. Faustus and the seven sins, especially in Karl's character.

Obviously, Karl's procrastination is his first sin—sloth: "I said there won't be a new figure. I haven't made one. I couldn't. I wasted all my time, and when it was too late I found I couldn't do it" (Pullman 34). In the eyes of the scholars, Dr. Faustus has become sick because he is "over-solitary" (XIII. 7-8), which suggests sloth as well. During the play, Dr. Faustus is introduced to each of the seven sins, which all have something to say to the doctor. The ironic element about Sloth's character is seen in his statement: "Let me be carried thither again by Gluttony and Lechery" (VII. 324-325). This statement implies that laziness has the potential to transform into gluttony and lust, both of which Dr. Faustus is guilty.

Lust is a sin Karl is guilty of as well. Karl decides to use Prince Florian as the figure for the clock tower instead of using Sir Ironsoul, because he wants to keep Sir Ironsoul for himself; he begins to dream of ideas for his lucrative future. With Sir Ironsoul, Karl "[can] travel the world. He [can] become famous [...] The gold he [can] steal, the forbidden treasures that [can] be his" (Pullman 84). Karl's lusts parallel those of Faustus. J.A. Downie and J.T. Parnell, editors of Constructing Christopher Marlowe, believe that lust, for Dr. Faustus, is a sin committed because he greatly "desires merely to replace one economy of knowledge with another" (62). The character Lust, in "Dr. Faustus," seems to resemble the aforementioned scene involving lust with Karl in Pullman's tale exactly: "I would desire that this / house, and all the people in it, were turned to gold, that I might / lock you up in my good chest. O my sweet gold!" (V. 292-294). The desire for wealth and fame, seen in each story, manifests into a hunger-like urge. This sense of hunger is evident in both men's longing for large helpings of gold on their greedy plates.

Furthermore, Karl knows he is guilty. He admits to his sins by questioning his actions: "'Oh, I can't bear this!' he said. 'I've done nothing wrong, have I? Then why am I so nervous? What is there to be frightened of?'" (Pullman 93). This compares to the scene in "Dr. Faustus" before the doctor's last dreadful hour of life when the scholars come to visit their sick friend, determined to help him get well: "We'll have physicians to cure him; 'tis but a surfeit: never fear, man" (XIII. 9-10). Dr. Faustus admits to all those in the room that nothing will save him: "A surfeit of deadly sin, that hath damned both body and / soul" (XIII. 11-12). The word "surfeit" suggests gluttony and can be applied to Karl's scene accordingly. In addition, earlier in the play, Dr. Faustus admits to his gluttonous ways: "How am I glutted with conceit of this! / Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please" (I. 78-79). Each scene suggests gluttony because both men admit to overindulging in other sins, like lust and sloth. Each knows he is guilty. Dr. Faustus, however, specifically admits to his sins, whereas Karl is either too proud to acknowledge his sins aloud, or he simply does not desire to confess at all.

Karl does not finish, or perhaps even begin, the final task of his apprenticeship—constructing a figure for the clock tower. He is too proud to admit his failure to his instructor and to the town. Even though he is ashamed, Karl would rather sell his soul to the Devil than hurt his pride and admit to his failure—a sin of which Dr. Faustus is also guilty. Dr. Faustus fills himself so full of knowledge that his ego grows, and he eventually becomes his own worst enemy: "swollen with cunning, of a self-conceit" (I.20.992). Matthew Proser, author of Dr. Faustus and the Limits of Learning, states that "Faustus is movingly incapacitated by his pride" (154). Both men's pride has led them to desire many things. Unable to admit defeat, Karl is also guilty of envy; he longs for many things: wealth, power, an easier profession, the magical Sir Ironsoul, and even immortality.

Karl's envy is evident when he makes a comment to Fritz about storytelling being easier than clock making; he seems jealous of Fritz's talent. Consequently, when Dr. Kalmenius introduces Sir Ironsoul, Karl is overtaken by "drunken power" (Maclure 79), just like Dr. Faustus. Karl is completely intoxicated when Dr. Kalmenius enters the tavern. Once they are alone, Kalmenius shows Sir Ironsoul to Karl. Karl is in awe: "Sir Ironsoul...What a piece of work! Oh, if this were in the tower among the other figures, my name would be made forever!" (Pullman 38). This statement reveals Karl's wish for immortality. For Dr. Faustus, the end is nearing; at the final strike of the clock, the doctor will commit his last sin: the sin of envy. He longs to

[...] be changed
Unto some brutish beast:
All beasts are happy, for when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolved in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagued in hell.
(XIII.98-103)

Both Dr. Faustus and Karl desire to be something they are not, which makes them utterly envious characters. Because each man is guilty of envy, each is also guilty of wrath.

Karl commits the sin of wrath through his own death. One definition of wrath is a "punishment for sins." This punishment is seen with Karl's murder—he is chastised for his carelessness and his decision to take Sir Ironsoul from the dreaded doctor. Sloth, lust, gluttony, pride, envy, and greed bring Karl to this last wrathful moment. Karl's nervousness gives way to his guilt in his final scene. Although he does not specifically admit to being sinful, he does confess subconsciously through his own guilty actions: "Then the long-case clock in the corner began to whirr and wheeze, preparing to strike. Karl leapt as if he'd been discovered in the act of murder, and then leaned weakly against the table, his heart beating like thunder" (92-93). At the end of the play, Dr. Faustus is on his deathbed, anticipating this last moment of life. He declares that he committed each sin, and his scholar friends suggest calling on God for forgiveness. At this moment, Dr. Faustus' wrath is felt. Dr. Faustus and Karl are now left to experience the wrath of Lucifer because evil owns their souls. Greed leads the men to this merciless point.

Karl's greediness begins to overtake him toward the end of Pullman's tale. When Karl finds the Prince Florian "figure," he decides it will make a better character for the clock tower: "Why not put this figure in the clock instead of Sir Ironsoul? It [is] more finely finished, and a handsome boy who [sings] a pretty tune and [will] be far more popular with the crowds" (Pullman 82). Karl believes that if he uses Prince Florian instead of the knight, he "[can] then keep Sir Ironsoul for himself...He [can] become famous giving exhibitions and demonstrations." (83-84). Dr. Faustus' greed is seen similarly when he discusses the wonders of learning necromancy: "Come, show me some demonstrations magical, / That I may conjure in some lusty grove, / And have these joys in full possession" (I.150-153). Both men are greedy for wealth, which will bring them the power they long for as well.

In both "Dr. Faustus" and Clockwork, the characters reveal their craving for power. For Karl, Sir Ironsoul gives him the power to continue, "avoid[ing] the shame" he would have endured if he had admitted his failure to finish the final project of his apprenticeship (Pullman 35). Sir Ironsoul also provides power for Karl's future. He believes that the figure will make him rich and famous; also "[Sir Ironsoul . . . can] be relied on always to kill and never to give [Karl] away!" (84). Karl's conscience is clouded because "all he [can] see [is] the wealth and power that [will] be his if he use[s] Sir Ironsoul in that way" (85). Karl makes the decision to put Prince Florian in the clock tower, but he pays no attention to the fact that the figure is struggling to become free the entire time. This is an unmistakable sign that Karl is becoming too powerful; however, he is beyond help, and he is unable to see how his greed for power affects others.

Dr. Faustus is also searching for power as he is blinded by his own greed. The Devil's magic gives Dr. Faustus the power to play the trick on the Pope in the seventh scene. Playing this trick also shows how arrogant Dr. Faustus has become about the power his deal with the Devil has given him. Maclure believes that Dr. Faustus' "blindness to consequences [is] caused by the imperiousness of desire" (97). Through the entire play, Dr. Faustus fights a war with his conscience because part of him longs for this evil power and the other part of him wishes to repent. Although he seems to be reconsidering his choices at times, he is still unable to resist temptation. Within the same breath, Faustus longs for forgiveness, then vows never to repent, continuing his use of the Devil's magic. Dr. Faustus and Karl are both overcome with hunger for power, so much so that neither is aware of how his time is coming to an end.

Pullman incorporates time deliberately, as does Marlowe. The irony of this motif is that neither Dr. Faustus nor Karl respects or understands the value or concept of time. In "Dr. Faustus," a clock chimes as the last minutes of the doctor's life are approaching. Even though Dr. Faustus is fully aware of his time constraint, Proser believes that he "act[s] as if twenty-four years could never be over, as if time could not end . . . Faustus is absorbed into time; its beginning and its end have become, as they must, his trap" (159-60). This can also be applied to Pullman's piece, in that Karl takes his power for granted, believing his time can never run out. In Pullman's "A Note About Clocks" that prefaces his story, he states: "once you've wound up a clock, there's something frightful in the way it keeps on going at its own relentless pace. Its hands move steadily round the dial as if they had a mind of their own. Tick-tock, tick-tock! Bit by bit they move, and tick us unsteadily to the grave" (xii-xiii). When Karl enters the room in which the fantastic knight is kept, he is nervous and anxious. He is "wound up too tightly" (92). In addition, the symbols of Hell that rise through the pages provide readers with clues that indicate Karl's end is near. The daemons that have carried Dr. Faustus away will also come for Karl: "Some coals settled in the stove, sending a little flare of red out on the floor and making Karl jump nervously. The glow [makes] him think of the fires of hell, and he sweat[s] and mop[s] his brow" (92). For Karl—time is up.

Christopher Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus," a classic tale of destruction, sin, and death, cleverly alluded to within Pullman's Clockwork—or All Wound Up—, gives the story elements that appeal to adults as well as children. Not only does Pullman make a shrewd reference to "Dr. Faustus," but also many of his characters are representatives of Marlowe's characters. Dr. Faustus and Karl prove that any individual might be capable of committing each deadly sin. Consequently, the sins relate directly to the struggle for power and the misconception of time. Both tales can be appreciated as works of art that use sophisticated intricacies and hellish imagery. Elaborately wound, every piece fits perfectly—running like clockwork.

Works Cited

Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1999. 487-488.

Downie, J.A., and J.T. Parnell, ed. Constructing Christopher Marlowe. New York: Cambridge, 2000.

Maclure, Millar, ed. Marlowe: The Critical Heritage 1588-1896. Boston: Broadway House, 1979.

Marlowe, Christopher. "Dr. Faustus." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 2000. 992.

Proser, Matthew N. The Gift of Fire: Aggression and the Plays of Christopher Marlowe. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

Pullman, Philip. Clockwork—or All Wound Up—. London: Scholastic, 1996.

—. "Growing a Book: Clockwork—or All Wound Up—." Talking Books: Children's Authors Talk About the Craft, Creativity and Process of Writing. New York: Routledge, 1999.185.

Weich, Dave. "Philip Pullman Reaches the Garden." Author Interviews at Powells.com. Nov. 2004. http://www.powells.com/authors/pullman.html.

Wilson, Richard. Christopher Marlowe. New York: Longman, 1999.

 

Lisa M. Miller


Volume 10, Issue 2 The Looking Glass 2 April, 2006

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"Elaborately Wound: Philip Pullman's Marlowean Muse"
© Lisa M. Miller, 2006.
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