The Significance of Loved Ones in Yellow Dog and London Fields
Often people make decisions in life that may or may not result in the desired consequence despite their good intentions. In the urge to achieve the best, people become self centered and choose to follow their aspirations without considering the impact of their decisions. This compelling theme is foremost in the novels Yellow Dog and London Fields by Martin Amis. He uses two characters, Xan Meo from Yellow Dog and Nicole Six from London Fields, to portray how people face afflictions, but eventually learn to develop the courage to overcome them. The author conveys how loved ones are crucial to withstand the difficulties that one may face in life. In Martin Amis’ Yellow Dog and London Fields, he portrays how characters experience catastrophic events and have the support of loved ones who encourage them to achieve stability in life, thus helping them to overcome all the challenges they face.
In both the novels, Martin Amis uses bold characters that have the audacity to remain consistent to their goals without any concern about things that matter in life. In Martin Amis’ Yellow Dog, Xan Meo receives boundless fame and success in his writing and acting career through his hard work and dedication. However, in doing so he often neglects his loved ones as he devotes all his time in building an established career. He publishes his debut book, which happens to sell nationwide and remains an influential book of the time. Xan feels proud in walking around Hollywood receiving attention and respect from people. Oftentimes while walking, “He stuck his head round the door of the High Street book and complacently ascertained that his paperback was still on the table marked [as] Our Staff Recommends” (Amis 9). He feels overwhelmed by witnessing his debut book on the recommended shelf. Xan’s present becomes gloriously satisfying as he remains persistent through his journey of accomplishing his goals. Similarly, in the novel London fields, Nicola is a character who exhibits bravery to face difficulties. After the death of her parents, she lives a joyous life and portrays to have a great sixth sense that allows her to predict the future. As a result of this ability, she is not surprised by any event that happens in her life. Therefore, Nicola carries no feelings of sadness when her parents pass away because she had already anticipated that they would leave her alone in this cold world. She knows beforehand that, “They both [will die] together. So why hate them? So why love them?” (Amis 16). Hence, she does not bother to even care about them and holds no emotions on this tragic event. She becomes completely heartless towards people she once called family. She continues to live a content life as long as she can predict the future without caring about the loved ones around.
Furthermore, Xan is determined to find out the person that attacks him at the sports bar in Hollywood, as he holds a vivid memory of the incident. One night, when Xan is brutally attacked by gang members at the bar, he wants to determine who the gang members are and why they committed such a horrific attack when he himself has no enemies. As Xan has always neglected his family he continues to do so as, “He [tells] them he remember[s] nothing in between going to Hollywood and going to the hospital. And it wasn’t true” (Amis 40). Xan does not find it important to tell his family about what happened in Hollywood at the bar as he thinks he deal with the gang members himself. After his attack, he tries to recall the moment before he received the hard hit in the back of his head that knocked him unconscious. Xan believes the attack may have to do with his father’s criminal background, which he most regrets. However, he later finds out that the men who attacked him belonged to the gang of Joseph Andrews because Xan had used the leaders in name in his debut book. Xan happens to reach his goals by genuine determination despite ignoring the things that matter. Likewise, Nicola predicts that she is going to be murdered on her thirty fifth birthday. She is determined to find out who the person is. Nicola has frequent nightmares about her getting murdered by an anonymous man, who frequently visits the Black Cross sports bar. As Nicola has never faced any situation unexpectedly, since she always knows what is going to happen next in her life, she panics and gets worried when she isn’t able to see her murderer’s face in her dreams. She becomes optimistic about finding the murderer and says to herself, “Where would [she] see the murderer, where would [she] find him – in the park, library, in the sad cafe, or walking past her in the street half naked with a plank over his shoulder?” (Amis 18). She suspects that one of two men, that she is dating will murder her. Keith, who is a small time criminal and has a record of raping young women and Guy Clinch, who is a wealthy man, married to an arrogant and bossy American woman, Hope Clinch, but is completely fed up with his life because of his violent son who suffers from a mental disorder and aggressive wife. During the months of secretly dating both married men, she gathers information about their lives. Eventually, she predicts that Keith Talent will murder her on her thirty fifth birthday. Despite knowing that she will be murdered, she continues to find the murderer allowing him to continue with his plannings instead of preventing the murder. Nicola is determined to live a life young and pretty, however, as she ages she wants to die. In both texts, characters follow their own choices with determination to satisfy their desires; in the midst of ignoring loved ones and being unthankful for a blessed life.
In both novels, Xan Meo and Nicola Six come to a mid life crisis where they follow self destructive activities and lack the strength to look at life through a positive perspective. When Xan is slowly getting further away from Pearl and his children, Pearl decides that she has had enough of the ignorant attitude from Xan and files for a divorce against him. After this tragic event, Xan reflects upon his relationship with Pearl, how “He had known [her], since infancy; and the lost world of their marriage was regressive – a land of lizards” (Amis 66). Xan moves to his mother’s old apartment and often sits alone and ponders upon his life. He thinks back to his past life and regrets how he was not grateful for the family he had by his side. After his divorce, depression takes over him which ultimately marks the downfall of his acting and writing career. In contrast, Nicola loses hope in her life as she starts to loose her staggering beauty as a result of the aging process. Throughout her life, Nicola has been able to control men with the help of her immense beauty but as she ages, she starts to lose her beauty, ultimately taking away her ability to control men like Keith Talent and Guy Clinch. She realizes her beauty diminishing when she looks into the mirror saying, “There [is] no life. There [is] only lifelessness” (Amis 27). Nicola thinks as she is aging she is losing her beauty and therefore there is no purpose to her life. Nicola does not want to age as she will lose her ability to manipulate wealthy men like Guy, who are convinced to leave their wives for her. She is starting to consider herself lifeless and dead as she has lost her attractiveness that she once used to have. She is not thankful for a well established life and instead chooses death over aging.
Moreover, Xan marries a bold and independent woman, Russia, who makes him realize the true importance of having family by one’s side. He shares a strong bond with Russia who makes Xan a more loving husband and a caring father. After five years of their marriage, Xan significantly recovers in his career, while at the same time giving time to his family. Now, Xan can proudly say, “[he] [is] the dream husband: a fifty-fifty parent, a tender and punctual lover, an amusing companion, a versatile and squeamish handyman, [an] accurate cook, a gifted masseur, who never fools around” (Amis 5). Russia helps Xan realize the true importance of family as she takes care of him and comforts him when he is in the hospital recovering from his severe head injuries. He realizes the importance of life and relationships by having family in times of hardships. Likewise, In London Fields, Nicola disguises herself as a rich lady so her possible murderer, Keith Talent, would not recognize her. Keith Talent has a criminal record of robbery and rape which makes Nicola certain about him being a possible suspect. Since Keith is going through financial problems, his interest in Nicola has increased as she presents herself as a rich woman. Keith concludes, “There [is] no money in rape. But there [is] money, it seem[s], in Nicola Six” (Amis 169). Keith uses Nicola Six to get money from her instead of raping her so he can pay off his debts from loan sharks and compete in a dart competition that he is passionate about. Although, Keith is tempted to rape Nicola, he has to control himself, as it will not help him in accomplish his purpose. Nicola’s motivation of lending money to Keith is that if Keith pays off his debts from the loan sharks, he will be able to murder Nicola on her thirty fifth birthday according to the her prediction. The characters from the two texts, Xan and Nicola, face a period of exhaustion which results them to become reluctant to live a content life.
The author uses characters to demonstrate how having motivational support from loved ones in times of hardship is an asset as it helps heal wounds and look at life through a positive lens. Both Nicola and Xan go through tough times, however, Xan receives aid from loved ones, whereas Nicola does not have the support she needs. When Xan’s life and his relationship with Russia is at risk, he receives comfort and motivational support from his wife in order to face the threats and blackmails from his father’s rival enemy, Joseph Andrews. Xan is lured into sexually assaulting a woman in Hollywood under the influence of alcohol. Joseph Andrews gets a hold of the video recording and blackmails Xan to perform illegal acts under the threat of revealing the recording to Xan’s wife and the police. Joseph Andrews is taking revenge for the criminal acts Xan’s father, Mick Meo, performed, who died in jail a couple of years back. Xan’s father was “a prosperous East End gangster who served numerous jail terms for armed robbery, theft, fraud, tax-evasion, extortion with menaces, and affray” (Amis 89). Although, Xan does not tell his wife about the situation he is in, she still unconditionally comforts and helps him overcome this obstacle in life. Xan does as told until one day Joseph is killed in a road accident, freeing Xan from the threats. In contrast, Nicola is unable to convince Guy Clinch to leave his family for her, she turns to violating Guy’s son, Marmaduke, who is suffering from a mental disorder. As time approaches towards Nicola’s thirty fifth birthday, it seems to Nicola that her prediction about her murder may be untrue. Due to this fault of hers, she turns to physically abuse Marmaduke, under the assumption that this would make Guy leave his wife and son. When Guy’s wife, Hope, gets worried about this situation she furiously questions Guy, “What about our child? Who’s going to save him?” (Amis 385). Nicola’s purpose is to get as much money as possible from Guy, who is a very wealthy man in Hollywood, but as Nicola has lost control over her beauty, she is unable to convince Guy to do so. Nicola fails to get her plan to work out, along with her prediction about her murderer.
Moreover, as Xan knows the true importance of family, he wholeheartedly apologizes to Russia, before his wife gives up on him. Xan tries to explain his situation to Russia and how he performed such a disgusting act, under the influence of alcohol. He goes on to explain that he was set up by Joseph’s men who lured him into doing so, on his trip to Hollywood. He explains to his wife that “ [he] may have done too much damage. [He] may have frightened and disgusted [her] too deeply and lastingly. And there is one thing [she’s] going to have to forgive [him] for – a strange kind of family entanglement” (Amis 308). He apologizes for the disgusting recording she had to watch of him assaulting a woman. He knows the pain of losing a loved one from his first divorce, and therefore does not want to experience this loss again, as he understands the true importance of family by one’s side. Towards the end, when Nicola has nobody by her side, she is unable to stop the body’s aging process and resorts to suicide after the amount of chaos she creates among Keith Talent and Guy Clinch. All her life Nicola manipulated men into doing as she said with the help of her immense beauty. Now that she believes she is hideous, there is no purpose for her to live. Nicola is at that point of time where she needs someone by her side to tell her that she should not resort to suicide as she has a better potential in life. Moments before she suicides, she says, “Even the dream tenant should always sign off by apologizing for the mess – the confusions, the violations, the unwanted fingerprints” (Amis 468). Nicola does not apologize for the chaos she creates between the two men and their wives, but Guy gets back with his wife and lives happily with his family. Nicola, on the other hand, regrets the actions she conducted against the two men. Despite the fact that her initial motive was to end her life, another factor that contributed towards this ending was the lacked dear ones around that would brace herself in times of difficulty.
In conclusion, Martin Amis represents how characters experience challenges in life and have motivational support through loved ones, which uplifts them in times of hardships and aids to overcome all obstacles. The characters in both texts have the mutual desire to follow their mindset despite the circumstances. They experience struggles in life, however, Xan’s support from family helps him relish and create beautiful memories hence giving him a purpose to live. Nicola, however, lacks the support that she needs in order for her shed light on the positive aspects of life, hence she continues to strive for death. The two characters are optimistic towards their goals in life whether they hold good intentions or not. In the midst of following goals, people should consider the impact of their actions on the people around them and somehow manage to have their loved ones in times of misery.
Authority Versus Weakness in Martin Amis’ London Fields
Martin Amis’ London Fields depicts a non-traditional murder story which Samson Young, the narrator, seeks to transcribe. On a quest to find her murderer as part of a suicidal death wish, Nicola Six forms relationships with Keith Talent and Guy Clinch, two candidates she believes may commit murder if properly provoked. While it appears that Nicola Six is an autonomous figure of authority in that she is the orchestrator of her own demise, Nicola is actually the weakest of the characters in London Fields because of her dependence upon certain individuals for the outcome of her self-foretold future. Nicola’s dependence on Keith Talent lies in her belief that he is her potential murderer, thus leading her to initiate a sexual relationship in which she enacts events designed to provoke Keith to commit murder. The narrator first introduces Keith as “a bad guy. Keith Talent was a very bad guy. You might even say he was the worst guy” (4), further explaining that “every pub has its superstar, its hero, its pub athlete, and Keith was the knight of the Black Cross” (23). We soon come to know Keith as a “cheat” (6), who possesses a love of darts, “sex, violence, and sometimes money” (165), and who always seems to be suffering from a “wall-eyed hangover” (111). Keith is so convincing as “the murderer” (3), that as soon as Nicola entered the Black Cross and “surveyed the main actors of the scene, she immediately knew, with pain, with gravid arrest, with intense recognition, that she had found him, her murderer” (22). Nicola quickly recognizes that love will not be a strong enough motivator for Keith to commit murder: “the capacity for love was extinct in him. It was never there. Keith wouldn’t kill for love. He wouldn’t cross the road, he would never swerve the car for love. Nicola raised her eyes to heaven at the thought of what this would involve her in sexually” (72). In her attempts of discovering “what would move [Keith] to murder” (202), Nicola reveals that “the tricks she was going to play on Keith and Guy were good tricks; but they were low and cruel and almost unrelievedly dirty” (202). James Diedreck, a critic of the novel, provides insight into Nicola’s tactics when he suggests that “to Keith, whose libido is all factoid and tabloid, she is the incarnation of his wildest pornographic fantasies. Nicola knows this, and she knowingly exploits it” (122). Through various scenes of sexual scenarios and pornographic videos, it would appear as though Nicola exerts power over Keith through her puppet master-like manipulations of him, however; Nicola is dependent on Keith because she believes him to be a contender in the role of her murderer. Without Keith, or any of the other key players she believes to be involved in her ultimate demise, her need to scheme and manipulate would be non-existent, thus making evident her weakness as a character due to her lack of independence despite her authoritative nature. Though Keith becomes tangled in Nicola’s twisted web of self-destruction, he benefits from their relationship through sexual and financial rewards, proving his independence as a character through his survival of Nicola. Keith’s marriage with his wife, Kath, is frail at best: “Everything he cherished, everything he looked for in a woman, Kath didn’t have” (108). While much of Keith and Nicola’s relationship is purely sexual, being that “he’s an obsessional tailchaser of the type that was meant to have died out ears ago. He slurps at everything remotely bim-like on the street” (134), with most of his thoughts of her being “frankly pornographic” (55), Nicola ultimately provides Keith with the elements his marriage lacks. Nicola makes Keith feel needed: “He bent forward and whispered, with certainty, ‘She… she has need of me.’” (112), “She understands me. She’s the only one that understands me” (288). This idea is perhaps the most evident when Keith explains that “he wanted to see [Nicola] very badly, not for the act of love and hate…No: he wanted her for her belief in him, because she was the other world, and if she said that Keith was real then the other world would say it too” (446). In regards to Nicola, Keith expresses that “this bird is really seriously good news. She’s a fucking miracle. Where has she been all my life?” (175). Keith also benefits financially from his and Nicola’s relationship, finding that “there was money, it seemed, in Nicola Six” (169). Though the reader learns that Keith “never had what it took to be the murderer” (6), it is through the benefits that Keith reaps from his relationship with Nicola as well as his innocence in her murder that he is able to overcome her character; confirming his strength and independence as a character, and her weakness and lack of independence.Nicola’s long time belief that “love in some form would be present at her death” (72), leads her to initiate a romantic relationship with another potential murderer, Guy Clinch, in which she carefully orchestrates events she believes will encourage him to kill for love. The narrator introduces Guy as “the foil, the foal, Guy Clinch…a genuinely delightful human being” (14) with “a tremendous amount of money, excellent health, handsomeness, height, a capriciously original mind” (27). Due to the pressures of his failing marriage with his wife, Hope, a marriage “waiting to be invaded” (140), when Guy first meets Nicola he is “ready,” “wide open” (36). Diedreck explains that “to Guy, Nicola is a woman of beauty and breeding in need of his protection; she fires his nostalgia for the passion that has leaked from his marriage” (122). After Guy admits that “every few years he secretly ‘fell in love.’ It was like an illness that passed after a couple of weeks; the love virus, efficiently repelled by a determined immune system” (87), it is easy to believe that he would fall so hard and so fast for Nicola. Robin Ramsay, the course author, explains that “in Nicola’s hands, Guy is putty. Because he espouses an archaic code of chivalry, he is blind to Nicola’s manipulation” and “believing himself to be in love with her, he unconsciously conducts the affair like a fourteenth-century courtly lover” (114). Guy’s obliviousness to Nicola’s manipulation frustrates her: “What would she have to do to arise suspicion in this man? If he’d come in and found her lying naked on the sofa with one leg hooked over the back of it, satedly mumbling to herself and relishing a languorous cigarette – he would have assumed she was suffering from the heat” (132). Despite Nicola rendering Guy hopelessly wrapped around her finger after encouraging his love for her, even though it was only “like being in an ad for love” for her (348), she still cannot escape her dependence on his character for the outcome of her eventual fate. Despite falling victim to Nicola’s schemes and manipulations, Guy benefits from his relationship with Nicola in that she provides Guy with elements that are lacking from his disintegrating marriage, and, like Keith, his independence as a character is evident through his innocence and survival of Nicola. Nicola “had the power of inspiring love, almost anywhere” (20), and she “really did a number on [Guy]” (97). Though Guy “didn’t deserve the humiliation and havoc” Nicola put him through, he actually ended up benefiting from their relationship. The narrator notes that after meeting Nicola, “something had now made wonder work for Guy. He woke up and thought, Air! Light! Matter! Serious, poor, beautiful: everything you care to name” (96). Guy explains that “he had never felt more alive. He had never felt happier” (142), and that “if not too good for this world, [Nicola] was, in his view, far too good for this time” (154). The narrator further suggests that Nicola “could make a man feel he was at last really living, she could give his world high colour” (298). Though this love does not last for Guy following Nicola’s fateful death, he experiences feelings that he had not in a long time, therefore allowing him to benefit from their relationship. Similar to Keith, Guy is also able to overcome Nicola through his innocence in her death and prove his independence as a character. On the surface, Nicola believes her relationship with Samson Young to be one of strictly business, he functioning as the scribe of her grand scheme; yet their relationship proves to be complex in that she unknowingly depends on him to be her murderer. Nicola reveals her motive for allowing Sam to transcribe her story when she explains “what women want”: “They all want to be in it. Whatever it is. Among themselves they want to be bigger breasted, browner, better in bed – all that. But they want a piece of everything. They want in. They all want to be in it. They all want to be the bitch in the book” (162). As their relationship develops, Sam notes that “with [him], she can let her hair down” (119), explaining that their interdependence upon one another has led to a relationship in which they “can’t talk to anybody else like [they] can to each other” (161), while carefully making the distinction that they were not in love: “I’m not in love with Nicola. Something intertwines us, but it isn’t love” (233). Diedrick lends insight into the complex relationship between Nicola and Sam when he explains that “London Fields focuses on a woman who is fatefully, synergistically involved with her narrator” (131). Despite their close relationship, the thought of Sam being a potential candidate as her murderer never appears to come to fruition and she is focuses her energy on Keith and Guy. However, Peter Stokes, a critic of the novel, explains that Nicola is just as dependent on Sam as she is the other two characters: “Nicola needs Sam for a murderer” (309). Therefore, Nicola’s relationship with yet another man highlights her weakness and lack of independence as a character due to her dependence on Sam to murder her.Nicola single-handedly creates the story for Sam, thus benefiting his career; however, despite his dependence on Nicola, Sam ultimately overcomes Nicola through his story. After “two decades of fastidious torment, two decades of non-starting” (3), Sam “can’t believe [his] luck” (1) when he meets Nicola Six. Patrick Gill, another critic of the novel, explains that “Nicola’s murder story, her plot against herself, already offers unity, drama and appeal, and in admitting to this, Sam seems to propose her as the ‘true’ author… he is her writing instrument” (41). Diedreck suggests that Sam “feels sickly and enraptured at having met Nicola, who relieves him of the burden of creation by creating the story of London Fields, which he can simply transcribe” (119). Although Sam benefits from his relationship with Nicola career-wise, he is also entirely dependent upon her for her story: “none of this would have ever gotten started without the girl. It didn’t have a hope in hell without the girl. Nicola Six was the miracle, the absolute donnee” (14). However, despite the control Nicola is able to exercise over Sam, Brian Finney, a critic of the novel, explains that Sam is ultimately able to overcome Nicola: “It is his story of her story. He has outlived her. He has contained her within a larger narrative” (13). In this way, Nicola has once again proven to be the weakest of the characters despite the apparent authority she exercises over Keith, Guy, and Sam in the scheme of her own self-destruction. Robin Ramsay explains Nicola’s character best when she explains that “Nicola Six is arguably the least satisfying of the characters in London Fields. Perhaps because she is more overtly an idea, or the mouthpiece of an idea, than Keith and Guy, who despite their representation of class levels, do work as individuals, Nicola seems what she is: the plot catalyst rather than an individualized character” (115). Nicola Six is arguably the weakest of the characters in London Fields. Although her outward behaviour elicits dominance and authority through her manipulations of Keith, Guy, and Sam, it is evident that she is the weakest point of the cross because of her dependence on these characters to help her reach her goal of death. Works CitedAmis, Martin. London Fields. 1989. New York: Vintage International. 1991.Diedreck, James. Excerpt from “Apocalypse Now.” Understanding Martin Amis. 2nd ed. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 2004. 118-132.Finney, Brian. “Narrative and Narrated Homicides in Martin Amis’s Other People and London Fields.” Critique, 37(1). 1995: 3-17. Gill, Patrick. “You Didn’t Set Me Up. Did You? Genre, Authorship and Absence in Martin Amis’s London Fields and Night Train.” Trespassing Journal, 2013: 36-51. Ramsey, Robin. “Unit 5: London Fields.” ENGL 424: Modern British Fiction. Kamloops, BC: TRU Open Learning, 2008. Print.Stokes, Peter. “Martin Amis and the Postmodern Suicide: Tracing the Postnuclear Narrative at the Fin De Millennium.” Critique, 38(4), 1997: 300-311.