Behind the Scenes: A Study of Denial and Hypocrisy in Ian McEwan’s AMSTERDAM

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Darintip Chansit

Abstract

This article examines the novel Amsterdam (1998) by British novelist Ian McEwan which depicts the denial of the main characters, Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday. The denial stems from the disparity between the glorious past and their present failures, which the characters are unable to accept. Nevertheless, they try to show everyone that they still maintain the qualities that distinguished them in their youth and salvage their careers which seem to be on the declining end. Moreover, the novel is analyzed in terms of its portrayal of the hypocrisy of the upper circle in British society, with specific references to the period of British politics when Prime Minister John Major led. The theoretical framework of the analysis relies on the theories of denial asserted by Stanley Cohen in the book States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering. The article aims to point out the traits and mechanisms of denial presented both by the characters and the story’s atmosphere, as well as the hypocritical nature and the resulting denial of society portrayed in the novel. The analysis will show that the main characters in Amsterdam are unable to cope with the present decline of their status and thus resort to remaining in denial and using unscrupulous means in order to regain their previous glory. At the same time, along with Cohen’s theory that denial is prevalent in both personal and sociological spheres, the article will reflect on similar traits of denial found in the social context of the novel as well.

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Author Biography

Darintip Chansit

Darintip Chansit is a lecturer at the Deparment of English, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University where she graduated with an MA in English. Her academic interests include twentieth-century British and American novels and poetry. Her Master’s thesis is a psychohistorical analysis of Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden, Atonement and Amsterdam.

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