Transformations of Language in Modern Dystopias

By David W. Sisk | Go to book overview

7
"You Never Know Where It Begun Realy"

Critics of Russell Hoban Riddley Walker ( 1980) are united as to the brilliance of the language Hoban employs in it, but no such unanimity prevails regarding its genre. Riddley Walker has been called apocalyptic science fiction, a postnuclear bildungsroman, a futuristic novel, a comic novel, a philosophical novel, a futuristic fable, and a metaphysical novel. 1 I argue that Hoban's novel is a dystopia, one which further expands the dystopian framework while maintaining the dependence on language as the central element. Riddley Walker reverses the terms of the argument, by offering us a novel in which the central importance of its language is obvious, while its genre is not. By examining Hoban's transformations of language, Riddley Walker reveals itself as a dystopian novel.

Hoban immerses the reader in a strange world, which is described in a wonderfully odd patois:

On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. 2

-137-

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