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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

7 - The Public and the Private


The interplay of the personal and the social is discussed with regard to McEwan’s output as a whole, but with particular reference to some of its more marginal texts, such as Amsterdam. Much of McEwan’s writing has rightly been seen as focused on public issues. For example, Amsterdam is a social satire; the oratorio text Or Shall We Die? aims to influence public debate about nuclear weapons. However, McEwan is also a chronicler of the personal and physical. For example, The Ploughman’s Lunch is about personal corruption as well as national mendacity. Indeed, throughout McEwan’s work, the personal and the public interweave. Interpersonal relations are also central to McEwan’s work. A typology of such relations is suggested based on closeness and disjunction, concealment and intrusion. Examples are drawn from a wide range of McEwan’s work. The motif of transvestism is given prominence.

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