People may be self-centered and immature, however, the crisis of certain occurrences in life assists them in molding their personalities. Everyone in life goes through drastic life changing events such as marriage, starting college or traumatic events like losing a loved one. The course of these events, whether exciting or unpleasant significantly impacts the person. These events may make people stronger, change their beliefs and approach towards life. This compelling theme is also foremost in the novel Yellow Dog by Martin Amis. Xan, the protagonist in the novel Yellow Dog, entirely focuses on his career as a writer and actor as opposed to his wife, Pearl. Later, he re-marries an independent woman and he realizes the true importance of family through her and certain circumstances. Furthermore, Xan tries to overcome every obstacle he is thrown against as it makes his relationship with Russia vulnerable. The novel depicts how Xan Meo, an unstable character, goes from being career centered to a caring husband and father as he withstands the crisis of certain events that reveal the true meaning of family and life.
Xan Meo receives immense fame as an actor and writer. As a result of this prominence he starts to become more ignorant towards his wife, Pearl, and children. Xan starts considering Pearl as a caretaker as opposed to his wife. When their relationship comes to a point where Xan does not value Pearl nor their sons, Pearl becomes upset and tells him, “He had known [her], on and off, since infancy; and the lost world of their marriage was regressive or animalistic or even prehistoric – a land of lizards“ (Amis 66). She shares her emotional thoughts about their twelve year long relationship coming to an end as a result of his careless attitude towards his family. Upon realizing the importance of his wife and children, Xan tries to give some attention to them however, it is too late. The relationship between Xan and Pearl had become so weak that “[the] two boys were down on their knees and begging their parents to separate” (Amis 66). Over the years of the separation, arguments and silence between the adults weakened Xan’s relationship with his sons. As a result of the loneliness of the divorce he starts to regret his hasty attitude towards his family and the decision of divorce. His wrong doings and carelessness causes him distress and he starts to reminisce over the people that mattered in life, craving for family, relationship and love.
Moreover, a bold and independent female figure, Russia, in Xan’s life brings him closer to his family. After a couple of months of depression in loneliness, Xan decides to marry an independent and bold woman named, Russia. Russia entirely reshapes Xan’s lifestyle both professionally and personally. She encourages him to spend time with their two daughters, Sophie and Billie. For instance, he would bath them on weekends and at times read to them bedtime stories. Essentially, Russia becomes a role model for Xan as she forms great example for a working mother who balances her life between work and home. Russia is a much more independent and a stable person compared to Xan’s ex-wife, Pearl. As a proud husband of Russia, Xan usually calls himself, “a fifty-fifty parent, a tender and punctual lover, a fine provider, an amusing companion, a versatile and unsqueamish handyman” (Amis 5). Russia has a significant impact on Xan’s life, making him a caring father and loving husband. Although Xan has great pride in being a punctual lover and fifty-fifty parent, he does not believe he has become the perfect husband or father. Once every year Xan goes to Hollywood to drink at a bar and recalls his unstable childhood that he had spent with his father’s criminal background which resulted in his sister’s death, whom he shared a strong bond with. His father was a well known criminal of his time, known for “[serving] numerous jail terms for armed robbery, theft, fraud, tax-evasion, extortion with menaces, and affray”(Amis 89). Unfortunately, one night at the bar Xan gets viciously attacked by a group of gang members who wanted to seek revenge against their father’s rival enemy. After the attack, Xan is brutally injured and this temporarily disables his ability to walk or talk. During this rough time, Russia is very supportive about his recovery. She takes time out of work to assist Xan in every way possible to help him recover from the injuries. During this point of time, Xan has totally changed his perspective on family and feels grateful for having them by his side when he needs them the most. He starts to recognize that his wife has not only taken care of him in this period but also made him realize the purpose of life.
Furthermore, Joseph Andrews, the rival enemy of Xan’s father, takes revenge on Xan by using all means to ruin Xan’s marriage entirely. Xan is blackmailed by Joseph, who has acquired a recording of Xan performing sexual assault on a woman. Xan is lured into doing so when he is under the influence of alcohol, by one of Joseph’s workers. Joseph blackmails Xan to perform such illegal acts as his father, Mick Meo, did before he passed away in prison. He is forced to commit crimes upon the threat of revealing the recording to his wife, Russia. Over time, Xan has become so protective about his relationship that he is willing to put his life on the line if needed, as he has already been through losing a significant other in his life. He tells Russia, “ [he] [is] greatly afraid of recurrence – I am very greatly afraid of the misery of recurrence. But I feel like a man who wearily consults an old wound or grievance” (Amis 306). Xan emphasizes that he is afraid of the past repeating itself due to his flaws as a husband. His imperfections in him, as a person, make his bond with his family very weak. After a long chaotic scene of rivalry and hatred, when Joseph dies in a road accident, and Russia finds out about the tape, Xan writes an apologetic letter to Russia saying, “ [He] may have done too much damage. [He] may have frightened and disgusted [her] too deeply and lastingly. And there’s one more thing [she] [is] going to have to forgive [him] for – strange kind of family entanglement” (Amis 308). He asks for forgiveness and that says that all of this has happened due to his father’s rivalry with his enemy Joseph Andrews. Xan further says that he would not have done such a disturbing act in his full conscience. The letter emphasizes his love and passion for Russia and their children and that he does not want their relationship to come to an end.
In conclusion, Xan Meo is a dynamic character who has changed over the course of the novel depicting both, his flaws and perfections. He starts off as an arrogant and selfish character who invests his time into career building rather than his family. His lack of effort in family results in his divorce, which makes him recognize the true value of family. Therefore, he values his second wife and children and withstands the obstacles that makes his marriage vulnerable. Hence, when people go through burdensome events in life, they walk through them developing a stronger and bolder personality.