ual pabulum.” She tells him bluntlynthat “You’ve got to find out whethernyou feel any affection for me or whethernyou’re the sort of man who can only feelnaffection for women he wants to go tonbed with …” Eve, a one-time convenientnbed-partner, agrees with Brenda;nJake is a man who sees nothing more innwomen than creatures to go to bednwith. The two women, he admits, aren”absolutely right.” It becomes clearnthat Jake’s “thing” is not merely hisnpenis; his “thing” is a fundamental dislikenof women as whole beings —nmisogyny.nIn the central confessional scene ofnthe novel Jake discusses this problemnwith a fellow don. (The play on DonnJuan runs throughout the book.) Hendiscovers that he has been looking atnwomen through spectacles of some kind,ngetting a distorted image. He hadnthought that women were tolerated becausenmen didn’t see them as they reallynwere and “only-wanted-one-thing” fromnthem. Not wanting that any longer, Jakenconcludes that he doesn’t much likenthem in any way and despises them intellectually.n”Imagine me thinkingnI liked them all those years when I didn’tnreally care for them one bit.” Althoughnhe no longer has on the distorting spectacles,nhis sight is not corrected. Havingnseen women in only one way, as sexualnobjects, he cannot now see them in anynother. Ironically enough, it is his homosexualncolleague who tries to put himnright. Men, too, he explains, have theirnown ways of being evasive, dull, overbearing,nand unsatisfactory. AlthoughnJake can say to his colleague that womenn”are nice, aren’t they,” it remains anquestion, and, even if answered affirmatively,nhas no effect on his permanentlynwarped psyche. “Do you know what Inthink I am, Damon.” A male chauvinistnpig.” Going back to his Oxford rooms,nhe takes a plastic phallus sent him bynwomen petitioning for admission to hisncollege and destroys it with a paperknife,na razor blade, and his bare hands.nAttacking his own masculinity in an actnof sexual self-destruction he concludesnthat “life is a sight easier this way ifnyou run things right.” It is one of thenmost brilliantly managed episodes in thennovel.nSociety’s deification of sex has beennthe effective cause of his distortednvision; he pays a higher price for thisndeplorable state of affairs than any ofnthe women he has used as objects, havingnbecome an object himself. Jake’snplight does not lessen the accuracy ornessential rightness of his angry perspectivenin commenting on the religionn(it is) of sex, finding it offensive andnnonsensical. His virtues are good oldfashionedncommon sense, not sufferingnfools gladly, and positive anger at humannstupidity. These are, of course, allnwell and good; yet they never stand upnunder the assault of experience unlessnthey reflect a transcendental system ofnvalues. Jake has no such system. He isnalready a lost soul when we first meetnhim, the dramatic action of the novelnportraying only the end result of hisnpathetically unmanaged and thoughtlessnlife.nIn the thirties Rosalind Murray wrotena profound book. The Good Pagan’snFailure; I still recommend it to anyonenwho will listen. Her thesis applies tonJake, an indifferent, if not good, pagan.nMurray tactfully questioned the moralnauthority of those who strove to livendecent lives in a decent society withoutnhaving any spiritual basis upon whichntheir decent instincts rested. Forty yearsnlater Jake is a vivid sample of the consequencesnof the good pagan’s failure. Thensociety that evolved from their noblenefforts is what we see and experiencendaily: sexual madness, moral indifference,nmeaningless anguish, obscenenlanguage, malicious vandalism, the corruptionnof political philosophy, and thendecline of religion. The absence of anmoral or religious sensibility in Jakenis the key to his character and the explanationnfor his cold, selfish indifference.n”Jake’s religious history was simplennnand compact. His parents had beennAnglicans and right up to the presentnday the church he didn’t go to had remainednAnglican. As far as he couldnremember he had never had any belief,nas opposed to inert acquiescence, innthe notion of immortality, and thenwhole game of soldiers had been settlednfor him forty-five years previously,nwhen he had come across and instantlynand fully taken in the Socratic pronouncementnthat if death was unconsciousnessnit was not to be feared.nNext question. It, the next question,ndid bother him: how to see to it thatnthe period between now and thennshould be as comfortable and enjoyablenas could realistically be expected.”nEven after he makes the discovery thatnhe has missed the whole point of thendangerous, essential, and joyous differencenbetween men and women, he isnunable to do anything about it because,npermanently crippled, he has nothingnupon which to reconstruct his life. Hisnmisogyny is evidence for how much henhas been cheated, and has cheated himself,nby accepting sex as the compellingnimage of reality. No one wins. Loserntakes all. “Oh, bugger and bugger” isnthe peevish lament of a diminished man.nThe careful reader will notice a suggestionnAmis offers as integral to anynexplanationforjake’s—and our—plight.nWhat society is and what it offers isnpackaged in an appalling language thatncorrupts the mind, cripples the emotions,nand deforms the imagination. Inbelieve that it was St. Augustine whonheld that the corruption of society followsnupon the corruption of language.nJake is surprised that the otherwise obtusenDr. Rosenberg agrees with him thatnwhat people read and see affects theirnactions. “If it didn’t, my work wouldnhave to take a very different form.”nLanguage is never neutral, but alwaysntendentious. For good or ill, languagenworks. Virtue is the only defense againstnbad rhetoric. But where is this understandingnof the sovereignty of the goodn(Iris Murdoch’s phrase) to come fromnfor someone like Jake.”nil5n]Vovcmber/December 1979n