They still feel the pangs of territorial appropriation, the constraints of being a victim of the colonial project: "You are no a de writer," the Chief responds, "you are de espider, and we shoota de espiders in Mejico" (Lowry 371). Thus, the police in the cafe are not merely symbolic of fascism - they are fascists themselves. The logic of state-based nationalism, as depicted by Lowry in this scene and throughout Under the Volcano, thus serves as a metaphor for the postcolonial desire for states to assert their sovereignty while still under colonial pressure.
From a contemporary perspective, one cannot help but consider Under the Volcano from a post-9/11 standpoint. In an era when the borderlands between the United States and Mexico are once again the scene of tremendous controversy, and the American national identity is being asserted in the wake of such threats as terrorism, the threats proffered by Lowry's text seem to be a chilling reminder of the constant possibility of violence. Of course, the conditions that the United States - and Mexico - not to mention Canada, where Lowry lived for a long time (to the extent that he is often considered a Canadian writer, despite the fact that he was British) - currently finds itself in are linked to colonial and postcolonial circumstances. Canada was formerly known as British North America, while Mexico became the victim of appropriation of large stretches of land by the United States not long after becoming liberated from Spain.
Acutely aware of these circumstances, Lowry put himself in the "dangerous" position of observing America from (geographically) marginal viewpoints - isolated parts of Mexico and the southern coast of British Columbia. This engagement with marginal areas entails an ultimate rejection of all forms of national identity, as we can make...
The ultimate message of Under the Volcano, then, is an endorsement of what Spivak terms "planetarity," rather than "globalization." The latter term implies means of control over human beings that is ultimately rooted in a hegemonic promotion of values. "Planetarity," on the other hand, attempts the address the ways in which human beings exist as "planetary subjects rather than global agents" (Spivak 73).
Ultimately, in an effort to protect himself from the fascist forces represented by the Mexican police, the Consul attempts to pass himself off as an American (Lowry 369). Of course, nothing the Consul says is easy to interpret, as he happens to be drunk throughout the entire novel. It could be that the Consul's claim to be an American is merely the result of his drunken delusion. It is obvious that, as the former British Consul, his job is to serve as an emblem of the British nation and to promote its causes in Mexico. Thus, it is ludicrous for the Consul to assert that he is a citizen of the United States. This, however, is not what the Consul is stating; he states that he is American - the citizen of a continent, rather than a nation. This effectively aligns the Consul with the postnational project that Lowry seems to be promoting throughout the course of Under the Volcano - a project that is, in many ways, aligned with the modernist project in general.
It can thus be asserted that Under the Volcano's most valuable contribution to the modernist canon is a refutation of the transnational values espoused by writers such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot, in favor of a postnational identity that is line with the postcolonial discourse that would evolve throughout the second half of the 20th century. In prescient defiance of the emerging new world order that would come to be known as globalization, Lowry's Consul attempts to endorse planetarity in opposition to this inevitable flow of events - and becomes a victim because of his stringent anti-ideology. This is the ultimate tragedy of Under the Volcano - the failure of planetarity in the face of hegemony.
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt, 1966.
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
Lowry, Malcolm. Under the Volcano. New York: Penguin, 1947.
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Under the Volcano." Twentieth Century Literature, Spring 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2008 from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0403/is_1_50/ai_n6364034/pg_1.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Death of a Discipline. New…
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