Under The Sun
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Illusion can be a powerful force, in literature and in life. In the book Under the Sun by Hanne Marie Svendsen, the juxtaposition of reality with dreams and fairy tale themes combine to bring the reader on a journey that seems as real as it does imagined. Much of the imagery contained in the illusory passages of the book can be found to parallel events that take place in the here and now of reality, and this duality offers the reader an opportunity for deep insight into both the origin and development of the characters as the story progresses.
The story follows the main character, Margrethe Thiede Holm, from her youth in a small, unnamed coastal fishing town in Denmark, through her life as a scholar, housewife, teacher, and peace activist. The story reflects the changes Margrethe goes through, as well as changes to the town and to those around her. Some of the key hometown characters with whom Margrethe interacts in various ways throughout her life include her childhood friend, Lily Lund; her schoolyard antagonist, Egon; shy outcast Carl Holm, who Margrethe marries after her return to the town; and her family, mainly her parents, brother Harald, great aunt and Grandmother.
Margrethe is an intelligent girl who likes to see herself as cultured, and to further this end she has the opportunity to travel around the country at a few points in her life. When she goes away to study at the university in the capital city, she connects with her language professor, who is another lasting influence in her life. Unfortunately, she has to interrupt her studies after Harald commits suicide, and ends up spending the rest of her life living in her hometown. She marries Carl and basically settles down; although later in her life she does get the opportunity to resume her studies to some degree.
As time passes the town goes through changes as well. It is no longer simply a fishing town; the town now hosts a naval base. This causes strain among the locals in several ways, from incidents involving fishing boats to distrust of the foreigners who work at the base. Egon has become owner of the pub and hotel, and has reshaped it as a discothÐ”Ðque. He later has grand visions of a large resort water park called “Egons Sea World.” This runs him afoul of activists like Margrethe, and sets up the storys dramatic conclusion: Margrethes confrontation with Egon and his subsequent drowning in the harbor.
The book begins and ends with a dream sequence; it seems as though this is a continual dream, almost cyclical. It is a dream of Margrethes death, a dream of her life and a continuation that represents the circular nature of life. In this dream sequence, she begins by seeing her name spelled out in letters. These letters represent her study of language and her firm belief that words and names are given to objects in order to provide a construct for them, to make them real. As the letters fade away, this brings her death. This is why the HOLM letters fade first; Carl has already died after a long battle with a mental disorder.
This dream continues to hint at the deaths of those in Margrethes life. A shipwreck forming the letters WRECK is in the dream, and though we dont know it at the time, this refers to the death of their adopted son, Lars, in a shipwreck caused by a submarine from the naval base. In the story this tragic climax is representative of the conflict between the locals traditional lives as fisherman and the modernity associated with the naval base. A second death foretold in this dream is that of Margrethes brother Harald, who falls from the lighthouse in an act of suicide. The dream also makes reference to the deaths of Carl and Lily, and finally Margrethes murder of Egon. In the context of the book, these are instances of foreshadowing; however, we can tell from