Riddley Walker - Narrative Style and Themes

Narrative Style and Themes

Though its premise is similar to other post-apocalyptic novels such as A Canticle for Leibowitz, Riddley Walker is unusual in its style and focus. The first person narrator, Riddley, writes in a distinct form of English whose spelling often resembles a phonetic transliteration of a Kentish accent.

Many modern words (especially technological and religious terms) have changed in meaning; many of the place names are folk etymologies, such as "Dog Et" for Dargate, and "Do It Over" for Dover. While the unfamiliar language is a projection of how historical linguistics might apply in the future, it also provides clues to the nature of life in Riddley's world (e.g., being "et" by wild dogs is a common fate), and creates suspense as the reader gradually becomes accustomed to the idiosyncratic narration, and comes to understand some of the references of which Riddley is unaware. Religious philosophy and the supernatural are also central to the novel, elements which are also present in Leibowitz but which Hoban treats in a more allusive, mystical sense, drawing on elements of many religious traditions. Hoban also draws on the history of his adopted country, including Celtic mythology and Punch and Judy.

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