Problems of the Rural Novelist: E. C. Booth
A mordant parable of the divorce between town and country can be found in John Christopher’s novel The Guardians, a book for children published in 1970. Set in the future, it portrays an England divided rigidly into urban and rural ways of life: the Conurbs, conformist, mechanised, gregarious and imaginatively stifling; and the County, gracious, conservative, quiet and apparently free. The County embodies the longing for beauty and order, spontaneity and freedom of spirit, that the country has come to mean in the experience of city dwellers. But this peace is had at a price. The two worlds must never meet; and the County is preserved from contact with the Conurb by the Guardians, a ruling élite who maintain its idyllic tranquillity by operating on the brains of all those restless and imaginative enough to seek to break the barrier between the two worlds: peace and order are secured by a process of spiritual gelding. The fable is apt.1 Arcadia is a dangerous province to evoke, for to do so always involves leaving something out.
KeywordsNative Inhabitant Popular Fiction Rural Theme Country Life Rural Experience
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