We’ve talked before in class about progress narratives in which, as time goes on, there is a formation or development towards some kind of ending, such as modernity (in the case of writings like the speech by Prince Albert). Whether or not we are defining modernity by Victorian standards or are own, it seems like She completely refutes this narrative format.
The has been a recurring theme of cyclical patterns of events, such as Leo’s return as Kallikrates and the presence of ancient civilizations in the novel’s present day. I thought this cycle might be broken in the end of the novel, and Ayesha’s death is certainly a big event, but it is emphasized that this isn’t really her end. As she dies, she tells Leo: “Forget me not… I shall come again, and shall once more be beautiful” (257) and though Leo mourns her, he says “wherever I go I will wait for her as faithfully as she waited for me” (261). After she dies, Leo and Holly watch the pillar and Holly reflects: “I remember wondering for how many thousands of years this same phenomenon had been taking place in the bowels of the earth, and for how many more thousands it would continue to take place” (260). Time has been marked throughout their journey by the sun and the moon, and this emphasizes the cyclical nature of the narrative, as Billali says: “A round of the sun and a round of the moon, a day and a night has thou slept” (270). Just as the sun and moon will undoubtedly rise, Holly leaves us with the conviction that the events of his narrative will someday be recapitulated: “A story that began more than two thousand years ago may stretch a long way into the dim and distant future” (275). Holly even makes it a point to write that he finishes his story in the very room in Cambridge where he began it.
There was an arrow going from England/present into Africa/past on our earlier diagram, and now the arrow goes back to England. Their goal was to solve a mystery and to find the truth, and I suppose in this way, they did what they set out to do. At the same time, they still don’t understand the nature of Ayesha’s power and barely escaped with their lives. Furthermore, we are left with Holly’s unsettling conviction that these events will happen again “in obedience to a fate that never swerves and a purpose that cannot be altered” (275). What impact if any, did these events have? If time goes in a circle, and events repeat themselves, is there any kind of progress?