Jg Ballard Concrete Island

The folllowing sample essay on Concrete Island discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.

J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island tells the story of a wealthy architect, Robert Maitland, who is forced to survive on a manmade island in the middle of a motorway intersection following a car crash. As Groes points out in his paper, Ballard’s Concrete Island examines the social and cultural trends in postwar London through an extreme situation experienced by the main character Robert Maitland (2011).

It is argued that Ballard’s writing depicts how changes in urban spaces are reshaping social relationships (Groes, 2011). Notably, debris forms as a result of the people and places that have been leftover from rapid societal transformations.

Ballard’s Concrete Island examines the importance of literal debris (the wasteland) and figurative debris (outsiders of society) in Maitland’s experiences on the island. Despite being an architect who contributes to architectural changes, Maitland struggles to survive on the island until his encounter with Jane and Proctor.

These two characters are the figurative debris in this novel. To demonstrate, Proctor is described as an “aged defective” (Ballard, Concrete, 86), while Jane is said to resemble the “prototypal drop-out” (Ballard, Concrete, 82).

In particular, the presence of Jane and Proctor prevents Maitland from dying and his interactions with them allow him to gain a better understanding of himself. Maitland thereupon becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his past life and uses the isolation of the island (the literal debris) to rebuild himself psychologically.

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Therefore, Concrete Island shows that figurative and literal debris are indispensible for Maitland to rebuild his life. The days on the island weakens Maitland physically. However, he survives because he is able to manipulate Jane and Proctor to complete tasks that would benefit him.

The existence of these two characters allows Maitland to exercise dominance over them and in effect the whole island. At the beginning of the novel, Maitland uses self-pity to motivate survival. However, after encountering Proctor and Jane, his source of motivation shifts to the cruel exploitation of these two characters (Ballard, Concrete, 139). For example, Maitland’s mistreatment of Proctor is shown in the sentence, “Proctor gestured thickly, his face a planet of creases, like a hungry child unable to accept the reality of a bare cupboard” (Ballard, Concrete, 148).

Here, simile is used to compare Proctor to a hungry child that is willing to accomplish almost any task in exchange for gifts. In particular, it provides evidence that Maitland’s manipulation of Jane and Proctor relies on his ability to identify and target the characters’ desires. Moreover, regarding Proctor, Maitland uses knowledge of his past experiences to conduct cruel physical treatments such as urinating on Proctor’s face (Ballard, Concrete, 135). In the case of Jane, Maitland plays with her feelings of guilt in order to weaken her emotionally (Ballard, Concrete, 138).

The narrator’s diction choice indicates Jane and Proctor’s acceptance of Maitland’s control. For example, Maitland “steers” Proctor in order to move around on the island (Ballard, Concrete, 143). Furthermore, Proctor easily accepts this manipulation when he steers “himself with his scared hand” (Ballard, Concrete, 144). Lastly, Maitland’s frequent reinforcements that he would not survive without help of Jane and Proctor shows the importance of his dominance over them.

To illustrate, Proctor is able to lead Maitland to the food source on the island (Ballard, Concrete, 126), while Jane is able to nurse him back to health (Ballard, Concrete, 96). In fact, Maitland specifically tells Jane “unless [she]’d come [he] would have died there…” (Ballard, Concrete, 83). However, survival is only the initial step that contributes to the change observed in Maitland. The figurative debris also helps Maitland to realize his own flaws. As has been noted, Maitland exploits Jane and Proctor’s weaknesses in order to control them.

However, through interacting with these two, he also gains better sense of his own weaknesses. An important characteristic of Maitland is his detachment from others. To emphasize this, he uses the phrase “emotionally loaded transactions” when describing his relationships with Helen, Catherin, and his mother (Ballard, Concrete, 83). The comparison between relationships and transactions is magnified through interacting with Jane and Proctor. For example, when Maitland first meets Jane, he hopes that money will help him escape from the island (Ballard, Concrete, 83).

To elicit Proctor’s help, Maitland tells him that his arrival has “changed the whole economy of [Proctor’s] life (Ballard, Concrete, 149). In addition, Maitland wants Proctor to believe richness can buy Proctor the island (Ballard, Concrete, 158). However, the ineffectiveness of controlling Proctor and Jane through monetary means allows Maitland to understand his flaw in believing wealth is associated with unlimited power. Correspondingly, Jane brings attention to Maitland’s egocentrism by telling him “no one owes you anything, so stop all this want, want, want! ” (Ballard, Concrete, 101).

Moreover, Maitland’s direct confrontation with Jane reinforces what he thinks he knows about himself. For example, Jane also believes in the similarities that exist between Maitland and the island, telling him he was “on an island long before [he] crashed here” (Ballard, Concrete, 141). By the same token, Jane reinforces Maitland’s idea that he does not want to leave the island by reminding him “[he] could have got away” if he really tried at the beginning (Ballard, Concrete, 116). Not only do the figurative debris ensure Maitland’s survival, Jane and Proctor also give Maitland a better understanding of himself.

It is only when Maitland gains a deeper view of himself through interactions with others, that he is able to use the isolation of the island to rebuild himself. The second form of debris is the literal kind, which is the island. This junk-space is indispensible for Maitland to rebuild his life as it serves two important functions: it allows an escape from obligations and acts as a blank space that he can use to finally start over. As suggested by Ballard in the introduction, many people in the modern world hope “to be marooned, to escape [their] families, lovers and responsibilities” (2).

This idea can be applied to Maitland as well. At work, Maitland faces the natural responsibilities that come with his occupation in addition to countless meetings and conferences. Outside of work, Maitland faces the challenges of being in a relationship with two different women – Helen and Catherine. Ironically, junk-space would normally be overlooked or despised by an architect like Maitland. Yet, in this extreme situation, the island allows Maitland to escape from his countless obligations and come to terms with himself.

In like manner, the analeptic view of his childhood provides insight into his desire for disconnecting from the world. For example, the narrator explains that Maitland’s happiest times were spent alone, and the picture of his younger self on his desk shows his desire to return to his carefree childhood (Ballard, Concrete, 27). Over the years, Maitland constantly remythologizes his childhood by picturing a young boy playing by himself in a “long suburban garden surrounded by a high fence” (Ballard, Concrete, 27).

This acts as a prolepsis for Maitland’s reluctance to leave due to its similarities with the descriptions of the island. For example, later in the novel, Maitland mentions the existence of wires on the island much like the fence in his daydreams (Ballard, Concrete, 39). This island provides Maitland with the perfect opportunity to escape from the various constraints that prevent him from fulfilling his wish of seclusion. After gaining a better sense of self through interactions with the figurative debris in the novel, Maitland escapes his obligation using the isolation of the island.

Finally, Maitland is ready to rebuild his life. The island can be seen as a blank space where Maitland can project himself onto and start over. In Colombino’s paper it is argued that the island is a blank space where imprints are possible (2006). Furthermore, the importance of this is explained by the architectural theory of urban interstices, which argues deserted places can become an experience (Colombino, 2006). Therefore, the isolation Maitland experiences on the island is crucial for his discovery of self.

This idea is reinforced by Ballard in the introduction where he argues being marooned on a traffic island allows people to “test [their] strengths and weaknesses” and “come to terms with aspect of [their] characters to which [they] have always closed [their] eyes” (2). Of equal importance is the view of London as an entrapment (Colombino, 2006). As a result of the entrapment, Maitland is only sachieve the same level of isolation as earlier literary characters such as Robinson Crusoe when he becomes isolated in a junk-space (Colombino, 2006).

Specifically, similes create images of the isolated island. For instance, to describe the view from the island, the narrator compares the sky to a large wall in the sentence “the white flank crosse[s] the sky like the wall of some immense aerial palace” (Ballard, Concrete, 149). In like manner, simile is also used to describe the emotional isolation Maitland experiences on the island. The narrator states, “[w]ith deliberate effort, he thought of his wife, his son and Helen Fairfax … But they had become more and more remote, receding like the distant clouds…”(Ballard, Concrete, 145).

By comparing the thoughts of those close to him with receding clouds, the narrator shows Maitland’s desire to let go his past life. More generally, he wants to let go of all unpleasant memories; this is supported when the narrator indicates “part of [Maitland’s] mind seem[s] to be detaching themselves from center of his consciousness” (Ballard, Concrete, 63). The physical and emotional isolation on the island provides him with the perfect opportunity to dissociate from the past. In addition, Maitland’s attachment to the island provides him with the comfort to reveal his true self and start the rebuilding process.

Particularly, words associated with a sense of comfort such as “warm air” and “soothing” are used to describe his increased appreciation for the island (Ballard, Concrete, 156). Again, simile is used to reinforce his acceptance of the island by comparing simple structures to more pleasant forms of architecture. There is evidence that Maitland may actually enjoy the structures on the island when it is stated that “[t]he concrete junction of the two motorway routes [shine] in the sunlight like an elegant sculpture” (Ballard, Concrete, 143).

Before Maitland can rebuild himself psychologically, there must be a gesture that confirms Maitland is ready. This is achieved when the various objects representative of his old life are spread around in Proctor’s chamber as if to celebrate the death of the man Maitland once was (Ballard, Concrete, 160). Moreover, it is evident that the description of Maitland rebuilding his life lacks verisimilitude because the re-assembling body parts represent the psychological rebuilding. For example, it is stated “bones were re-assembling themselves into a small, sharp face” (Ballard, Concrete, 145).

Interestingly, these images of body parts and reassembling of bones are related to Maitland’s career as an architect. In particular, bones, much like ruined buildings, need to disassemble before they can be reconstructed. Finally, the rebuilding process is complete when Maitland’s “injured thigh and hip, his mouth and right temple, had all now healed as if this magical therapy had somehow worked and he had successfully left these wounded members at their designated points” (Ballard, Concrete, 156). In the final analysis, J. G.

Ballard’s Concrete Island challenges the traditional ways of thinking and pushes the limits of readers’ imagination by telling the story of Maitland’s extreme situation. In a society that lusts for change, debris is constantly created. Through the novel’s examination of literal and figurative debris, awareness is raised for the people and places that have been leftover from the changes in society. In a time when countless factors can disrupt the path to a fulfilling life, Maitland’s experiences show that an appreciation for the unordinary is people’s only hope in discovering themselves.

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Jg Ballard Concrete Island. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-examination-figurative-literal-debris-concrete-island/

Jg Ballard Concrete Island
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