The Charioteer Mary Renault Epub 12: A Classic Novel of Love and War
If you are looking for a novel that explores the complexities of love, identity, and morality in the midst of war, you might want to read The Charioteer by Mary Renault. This book, first published in 1953, is considered one of the most important works of LGBT literature in the 20th century. It tells the story of a young British soldier who falls in love with two men during World War II and struggles to choose between them.
In this article, we will give you an overview of what The Charioteer is about, who Mary Renault was, and why this novel is a classic. We will also discuss the historical context of the novel, the main characters, the themes and symbols, and the reception and legacy of The Charioteer. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of this remarkable book and why it is worth reading.
The Charioteer in historical context
The Charioteer is set in England in 1940, during the early stages of World War II. The novel reflects the social and political realities of that time, as well as the personal experiences of Mary Renault.
The setting of the novel
The novel begins in a military hospital, where Laurie Odell, the protagonist, is recovering from a knee injury he sustained during the evacuation of Dunkirk. He meets Andrew Raynes, a young conscientious objector who works as an orderly. He also reconnects with Ralph Lanyon, a former schoolmate who is now an officer in the Navy. Laurie is drawn to both men, but for different reasons.
The novel then shifts to various locations in England, such as London, Oxford, and Devon. These places contrast with each other in terms of atmosphere and culture. London is depicted as a chaotic and dangerous city under constant threat of bombing. Oxford is portrayed as a tranquil and intellectual haven where Laurie and Ralph spend a romantic weekend. Devon is shown as a rural and conservative area where Laurie's family lives.
The impact of World War II
World War II plays a significant role in The Charioteer, not only as a backdrop but also as a catalyst for the characters' actions and choices. The war creates a sense of urgency and uncertainty for Laurie and his lovers, as they do not know if they will survive or see each other again. The war also exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of some people, such as Laurie's commanding officer who abuses his power and blackmails him.
However, the war also offers some opportunities for freedom and change for Laurie and his friends. The war disrupts the normal order of society and allows them to explore their sexuality and identity in ways that would not be possible in peacetime. The war also inspires them to question the values and norms that they have been taught and to seek a higher moral standard.
The challenges of homosexuality
One of the main challenges that Laurie and his lovers face in The Charioteer is the stigma and persecution of homosexuality in their society. Homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967, and those who were caught or suspected of being gay could face imprisonment, blackmail, violence, or social ostracism. Many gay men had to hide their true selves and live in fear and shame.
Laurie and his friends belong to a secret subculture of gay men who try to find love and companionship in spite of the risks. They use coded language and gestures to communicate and identify each other. They also have to deal with the internalized homophobia and guilt that they have inherited from their upbringing. They have to decide whether to conform to the expectations of their family and society, or to follow their hearts and be true to themselves.
The main characters of The Charioteer
The Charioteer features a rich and diverse cast of characters, each with their own personality, background, and motivation. However, the focus of the novel is on the three men who form a love triangle: Laurie Odell, Ralph Lanyon, and Andrew Raynes.
Laurie Odell is the protagonist and narrator of The Charioteer. He is a 23-year-old soldier who is wounded in Dunkirk and falls in love with two men while recovering in a hospital. He is intelligent, sensitive, and artistic, but also insecure, naive, and conflicted. He has a strong sense of duty and honor, but also a rebellious streak. He is torn between his attraction to Ralph, who represents his past and his ideal of love, and his affection for Andrew, who represents his future and his hope for happiness.
Ralph Lanyon is Laurie's first love and former schoolmate. He is a 27-year-old naval officer who is also wounded in Dunkirk and meets Laurie again in the hospital. He is charismatic, confident, and sophisticated, but also cynical, bitter, and lonely. He has a dark past that haunts him and makes him wary of intimacy. He is a leader and a mentor for Laurie and his friends, but also a rebel and an outsider. He is loyal to Laurie, but also afraid of losing him.
Andrew Raynes is Laurie's second love and a hospital orderly. He is an 18-year-old conscientious objector who works as a volunteer during the war. He is innocent, gentle, and devout, but also curious, passionate, and courageous. He has a sheltered upbringing that makes him naive and idealistic, but also compassionate and generous. He is a follower and an admirer of Laurie, but also a challenger and a partner. He loves Laurie unconditionally, but also respects his freedom.
The themes and symbols of The Charioteer
The Charioteer explores various themes and symbols that enrich the meaning and depth of the novel. Some of the most prominent ones are:
The chariot metaphor
The title of the novel refers to the chariot metaphor that Plato uses in his dialogue Phaedrus. Plato compares the human soul to a chariot driven by two horses: one white (representing reason) and one black (representing passion). The charioteer (representing will) must control the horses and guide them towards the truth.
In The Charioteer, Laurie is the charioteer who must balance his reason and passion in his relationships with Ralph and Andrew. Ralph is the black horse who stirs Laurie's passion but also leads him astray. Andrew is the white horse who appeals to Laurie's reason but also lacks vitality. Laurie must decide which horse to follow or how to harmonize them.
The contrast between light and darkness
The novel uses light and darkness as symbols of different aspects of life and love. Light represents truth, clarity, purity, innocence, hope, joy, etc. Darkness represents lies, confusion, corruption, guilt, despair, pain, etc.
often depicted as a source of light, while Ralph is often surrounded by darkness. The hospital is a place of light, where Laurie and Andrew meet and fall in love. The London underground is a place of darkness, where Laurie and Ralph encounter danger and deception.
The role of literature and art
The novel also emphasizes the importance of literature and art in the lives and loves of the characters. Literature and art provide inspiration, education, comfort, escape, communication, expression, etc. for the characters.
In The Charioteer, literature and art are often used as references or symbols for the characters or their relationships. For example, Plato's Phaedrus is a key text that influences Laurie's understanding of love and morality. Shakespeare's Hamlet is a play that reflects Laurie's dilemma and indecision. The painting of Apollo and Hyacinthus is a work of art that represents Ralph's ideal of beauty and sacrifice.
The reception and legacy of The Charioteer
The Charioteer was a controversial and influential novel when it was first published in 1953. It received both praise and criticism from critics and readers alike. It also had a lasting impact on LGBT literature and culture.
The critical acclaim and controversy
The Charioteer was widely praised for its literary quality, its historical accuracy, its psychological insight, and its moral vision. Many critics admired Mary Renault's skillful writing, her realistic portrayal of war and society, her complex characterization, and her ethical exploration of love and duty.
However, The Charioteer was also criticized for its homosexual content, its political stance, its religious tone, and its ambiguous ending. Some critics condemned Mary Renault's depiction of gay men, her sympathy for conscientious objectors, her use of Christian imagery, and her lack of resolution for the love triangle.
The influence on LGBT literature and culture
The Charioteer was one of the first novels to portray gay men in a positive and realistic way. It challenged the stereotypes and prejudices that were common in that time. It also offered a model of gay identity and community that was based on dignity, integrity, and love.
The Charioteer inspired many LGBT writers and activists who read it as a source of validation, empowerment, and hope. It also influenced many LGBT readers who identified with the characters and their struggles. It became a cult classic among LGBT people and a landmark in LGBT history.
The adaptations and translations
The Charioteer has been adapted into other media forms over the years. In 1977, it was made into a radio drama by the BBC, starring Richard Pasco as Ralph and Nigel Havers as Laurie. In 1981, it was adapted into a stage play by Michael Bakewell, which premiered at the Greenwich Theatre in London. In 2014, it was adapted into an audiobook by Audible Studios, narrated by Joe Jameson.
The Charioteer has also been translated into several languages, such as French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, Russian, Japanese, etc. It has reached a global audience and gained recognition as a universal story of love and war.
The Charioteer by Mary Renault is a classic novel of love and war that explores the complexities of homosexuality in 1940s Britain. It tells the story of Laurie Odell, a wounded soldier who falls in love with two men: Ralph Lanyon, his former schoolmate and naval officer; and Andrew Raynes, his young hospital orderly and conscientious objector. The novel examines the historical context of World War II, the main characters' personalities and motivations, the themes and symbols that enrich the meaning of the novel, and the reception and legacy of The Charioteer.
If you are interested in reading The Charioteer, you can find it in various formats online or in your local library or bookstore. You can also check out other works by Mary Renault, such as her historical novels set in ancient Greece, such as The King Must Die, The Persian Boy, and The Last of the Wine. You will not regret reading this remarkable author and her amazing books.
Here are some frequently asked questions about The Charioteer and their answers:
Is The Charioteer based on a true story?
No, The Charioteer is a fictional story, but it is partly inspired by Mary Renault's own life and experiences. She served as a nurse during World War II and met her lifelong partner, Julie Mullard, in a hospital. She also had a close friendship with a gay man named Richard Morrell, who was the model for Ralph Lanyon.
Who does Laurie choose in the end: Ralph or Andrew?
The novel does not give a clear answer to this question, as it ends with Laurie leaving the hospital with Andrew, but promising to write to Ralph. The reader is left to imagine what happens next. Some readers think that Laurie will eventually choose Ralph, as he is his true love and soulmate. Others think that Laurie will choose Andrew, as he is his future and happiness. Some think that Laurie will not choose either of them, as he is too conflicted and indecisive.
What is the significance of the number 12 in the title?
The number 12 in the title refers to the number of the ward where Laurie and Andrew meet and fall in love. It also has some symbolic meanings, such as the 12 hours of the day and night, the 12 months of the year, the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 apostles of Jesus, etc. The number 12 suggests a cycle, a completion, a harmony, or a contrast.
What is an epub format?
An epub format is a type of digital file that can be read on various devices, such as computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc. It stands for electronic publication and it is one of the most popular formats for e-books. It allows the reader to adjust the font size, style, color, layout, etc. of the text according to their preferences.
Where can I find more information about The Charioteer and Mary Renault?
If you want to learn more about The Charioteer and Mary Renault, you can visit some of these websites:
The Mary Renault Society: A website dedicated to celebrating and promoting the life and works of Mary Renault.
The Guardian: The Charioteer: why Mary Renault's forgotten novel deserves a new life: An article that discusses the importance and relevance of The Charioteer on its 60th anniversary.
YouTube: The Charioteer by Mary Renault - Book Review: A video that gives a summary and analysis of The Charioteer.