Riddley Walker: The Myths and Sense of Self-Denial Humankind Perpetuates In The Face Of Discovery And Change

From the use of mythical stories to drive groupthink regarding the leveraging of forbidden knowledge, to the characters’ struggle with suppressing their innate desire for progress of any kind, Riddley Walker minced no words when it came to exposing humankind’s willingness to live in ignorance of their past and inner selves, with the lead character exploring and trying to make sense of a post-apocalyptic England instead of staying put in his settlement and abiding by orthodoxy.

An article on Riddley Walker would break down the through-line that guides the book. That through-line being how humankind can falsely equate knowledge (i.e. the insight one possesses) with wisdom (i.e. how one uses the insight they possess in their interest and that of society), and how the devastating consequences of such an equation can drive folks to fence themselves in instead of trying to discover and use knowledge more carefully. The article could also take a look at one of the novel’s foremost inspirations—St. Eustace and the Legend that epitomizes the Christian martyr—and detail the ways in which said inspiration contextualizes the novel’s backstory.

The main line of inquiry to be pursued could be as follows: How should one keep up with the inner drive to seek and implement knowledge without getting ahead of themselves? Should one fully trust fate to guide them on the path to knowledge, even if taking said path can potentially mean running afoul of one’s community and repeating the mistakes of the past?

  • What an exciting topic! In hindsight - trusting fate fully is both a blessing and a curse! I think eventually, after a certain number of what I call 'initiations', seekers learn to navigate and pace themselves through the labyrinths of experience, more easily done by surrendering control. Yes you will run afoul of one's community as it's an essential stage of the journey ;)... Ah but...the more I know the less I know. It's quite the paradox. Do we use knowledge or does knowledge use us? I have a theory about that. – RozeeCutrone 2 years ago

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