By Andrew Hock-soon Ng (auth.)
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Extra resources for Dimensions of Monstrosity in Contemporary Narratives: Theory, Psychoanalysis, Postmodernism
In the end, the killer Hawksmoor seeks is actually himself three centuries ago. Hawksmoor’s feeling of the killer being ‘closer to him than ever’ (198) is frighteningly prophetic. In a sense, it can be said that both men are trying to ‘control’ death by discerning its pattern and halting it. The two men are working on a ‘plan’ for the city, trying to see a relationship between death and space in the hope of being able to overcome both. Hawksmoor does not believe in unsolvable murders, and actually sees his job ‘as that of rubbing away the grease and detritus which obscured the real picture of the world, in the way that a blackened church must be cleaned before the true texture of the stone can be seen’ (126).
In the passage above, the meeting of Hawksmoor and Dyer performs this serpentine quality of time, in which both men are trapped within a constant cycle. Dyer may have escaped death, but he must relive his afﬁnity with death again and again. Killing does prevent Dyer from dying, but it also binds him intimately to his victim and causes him to identify with death itself. This reading is further emphasised by an incident in the novel immediately after Dyer murders Hayes. After dispatching this last victim, Dyer visits a prostitute and performs masochistic sex (151).
Ackroyd’s reversal of the double narrative is of course also a stylistic strategy to suggest the cyclical sequence of time, and the repetitiveness of history. In a city as old as London, the present is continuously haunted by the past and consciousness is persistently motivated by repressed histories. Songs, superstitious beliefs, ludic incantations and old wives’ tales expressed hundreds of years ago are still articulated in the present, becoming permanent ﬁxtures in a city which is otherwise changing in its landscape.