The obvious theme of history as a circle surfaces plainly in this passage:

It [history] goes in two directions at once. It goes backwards as it goes forwards. It loops. It takes detours. Do not fall into the illusion that history is a well-disciplined and unflagging column marching unswervingly into the future. Do you remember, Iasked you - a riddle - how does a man move? One step forward, one step back (and sometimes one step to the side0. Is this absurd? No. Because if he never took that step forward. (p. 139)

A circle has neither a beginning nor an end; it is one continuous line. BJ Fishman incorporates this theory into his essay, "The Nature of History in Waterland." Crick finds himself caught in a neverending web; he does not see progress, just the past endlessly repeated. Crick does not acknowledge progress as helping it just hopefully keeps the world from getting any worse. "Unable to break out of the 'whywhywhy' cycle, his constant questioning takes him in circles (of natural history) until he comes out at the beginning."(Fishman)

Through his stories, Crick conveys the cyclical feeling, "because it is history of the antihistorical which has no order or is cyclical (nonhistorical) without individuating markers."(Fishman) Just as history has no order, the novel has seemingly no order. Each chapter jumps from time to time, place to place. This physical structure echoes the theory that history has no specific order. However, the chapters are usually tied together by a broken sentence; it is broken in the middle and finished in the next chapter. With this observation, one can see the connection between the physical structure and the circle theme. The broken lines connect each chapter to achieve the effect of continuity throughout the book. Continuity and cycles are in essence the structure and the meaning of the novel.


Victorian Overview Neo-Victorian sitemap Graham Swift Waterland

Last modified 29 December 2001