Metafictional Predestination in Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat




Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat, metafiction, predestination


Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat is a radical metafictional experiment, suggesting the inexorable connections between contingency and a predetermined plot which are so common to many Sparkian novels. Following Marina MacKay’s perception that Spark’s experimental narrative operates “in the conceptual space where the more abstract preoccupations of Roman Catholic theology overlap with the metafictional and fabulist concerns of postmodernism” (2008: 506), this essay will discuss how the notion of predestination reverberates in The Driver’s Seat, not only as a remnant of Spark’s Presbyterian education but also as a postmodern re-visitation of classical tragedy in a metafictional key. Spark’s preference for predetermined plots may echo a long philosophical and theological discussion spanning many centuries about free will and predestination, particularly intense in the times of the Protestant Reformation, but it also reflects the sense of predestination as a necessary ingredient of classical tragedy. In The Driver’s Seat Spark deliberately brought to the fore some conventions of Aristotelian tragedy, although she approached them through an experimental subversion ultimately resorting to comedy and ridicule, on Spark’s own admission her weapons for the only possible art form. Our contention is that the metafictional implications of The Driver’s Seat’s prolepses undermine a Calvinist-like certainty concerning predestined salvation or damnation. By using a partial narrator only capable of producing limited accounts, Spark may be playing with an experimental and essentially postmodern interpretive openness which is in tune with the ultimate uncertainty about each individual’s eternal salvation that is commonly accepted in Catholic thought.


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ARTICLES: Literature, film and cultural studies