Thursday, January 24, 2008

Simple Meals

Henry arrives home after Theo’s performance ready to cook his immaculate stew. He is alone, and it seems that the world’s interruptions to his routine life will cease for these few hours as he cooks. However, he finds himself drawn again to the news, and he flips on the television instead of putting on some music. McEwan then follows with a hauntingly realistic depiction of Perowne’s cooking escapade.

For Henry, “With the idea of the news, inseparable from it, at least at weekends, is the lustrous prospect of a glass of red wine” (180). He associates aspects of everyday life with events that potentially affect the globe. As the news continues, scenes of the massive war protest are followed by his selection of vegetable ingredients for the stew. Sound bites of the Prime Minister speaking of Saddam give way to scrubbing mussels in the sink. Troops on the Iraqi border are shown by their tanks awaiting the invasion order, and Perowne begins to make a salad. It is as if the news is as much a part of his diet as the food he is preparing.

The world that has troubled his mind throughout the day, caused his initial run in with Baxter, and will eventually lead to a fight with his daughter, is willfully brought into his life again with the push of a button. The scene reveals just how deep global events penetrate into the daily activities of the individual. Watching troops prepare for war has become as commonplace as chopping onions for dinner. For better or worse, the world has been brought to the living room, and McEwan closely intertwines Perowne’s life with events happening around the globe.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

I like your observations of this dinner/news conflation in the novel. Even as we recognize how ridiculous it is to prepare our dinner as we watch unfolding death and destruction, we know that this is part of life in the modern world. Our lifes are so permeated with this kind of constant information that we desensitize ourselves in order to compartmentalize and carry on with our daily tasks. Henry is particularly adept at this--another example of his "selective mercies" and the success this view of the world as brought him.