Scientific Theory in Arcadia,
Curious & The Wasteland and
related Narrative Devices
1 Laws of Thermodynamics and Entropy Theory
1.1 Distinct loss of information as
time passes from the past into
the future: the letters Septimus
1.2 Passing of time in The Wasteland: Distress and anxiety.
1.2.1 Steven Best and Douglas Kellner (1997) write that modern science “allowed human
beings to gain more certainty in their knowledge of the world but at the cost of
feeling comfortable or at home within it”
1.2.2 The poem portrays a world where the only thing that can stave
off the misery of the current world in decay is memories of the
better past, consistent with the concept of entropy in that the
past will always have been better, more ordered
1.2.3 Eliot himself said that “the one thing that time is ever sure to bring
about is loss” (as quoted in Gish, 1981, p. 57).
1.2.4 if every second increases disorder and brings the world closer to a state of
maximum entropy, how are reminders that time is hurtling past to be received
besides as death knells
1.2.5 starting with the word “April” (Line 1) and moving
from spring to winter to summer and back to winter
again in just 18 lines. There are references to times of
day and units of time throughout the poem
1.2.6 references to times of day and units
of time throughout the poem
1.2.7 A Game of Chess.”: “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME”
188.8.131.52 at the end becoming so frequent that Lil and the narrator are eventually unable to
fit even a sentence between the cries. This can be read as a metaphor for how Eliot
sees time’s passage influencing his world—he wants to focus on living his life, but the
awareness that time is constantly ticking forward is not just in the back of his mind
but instead intruding on his thoughts
1.3 Structure of novel as a narrative device, Christopher's life begins
ordered, by his sense of order and set of rules, however it descends
into Chaos with his mother's leaving and supposed death. This descent
into chaos can arguably be said to be reminiscent of entropy theory.
Similarly to Arcadia though, curious rights itself by depicting a
coexistence between order and disorder, much likened to Chaos
Theory. Narrative structure therefore follows very similarly to Arcadia
showing transitions between the three theories, however without
explicit discussion of these ideas, rather as a device to add to the plot.
1.4 In Arcadia, heat goes to cold, according to the laws of thermodynamics, and
thinking "declines" to feeling as demonstrated by Hannah's character, however
typically speaking emotion appears to offer more heat or passion than logic.
Evidence of human unpredictability limiting the laws of thermodynamics and the
unpredictable chaos evidenced in chaos theory.
2 Newton's Laws and a "Determined universe"
2.1 "The future is all programmed like
a computer— that’s a proper
theory, isn’t it?"
2.2 Fits well with how Christopher appears to think: always
trying to attach a familiar order or rule to the things around
him, to make them make sense.
2.2.1 Newton's laws incompatible with the real world, Christopher as he realises
the application of his theories to the real world is limited, almost adopts a
philosophy of life more similar to Chaos Theory which could be argued to allow for
the personal growth and compatibility with the rest of the world which he achieves
by the end of the novel.
2.3 "But the mind is just a complicated machine"
3 Chaos Theory
3.1 "Too much bloody noise" Valentine cannot predict the
grouse because of the unpredictable extraenuous
variables present in all aspects of life which creates
the chaos which limits the extent of determinism. The
coexistance of chaos and determinism which allows
for free will and hope.
3.2 If the world were wholly determined to the extent that both other theories suggest, then
Bernard theoretically could accurately have made the prediction that he did about Byron. As it
is, there is too much background "noise" or unpredictability for this to be the case. His
predictions, are as a result incorrect because he could not account for all factors. Much the
same, we cannot make assumptions about the universe based on determined factors- like a
decline to maximum entropy or that everything may be recovered- as we cannot predict and
comprehend the unpredictable chaos.
3.3 Christopher is determined by the way that his mind
function (aspergers/autism/neuroatypical) however
he succeeds in coping with and overcoming aspects
of such in order to achieve things no one thought
possible e.g. getting the train to London- He is
determined, but as Chaos theory suggests, there is
also an amount of chaos or unpredictability which
allows for this free will, rallying against his being
3.4 Individualism almost requires Chaos Theory- Christopher has certain quirks,
or his own "order and a plan" which seem illogical to a reader or those around
him. These things can be seen from an outside perspective to be chaotic and
nonsensical, e.g. cars predicting day, however to Christopher there is a
determined order to things. This is comparable to a belief in religion or God-
shown clearly in The Wasteland in almost the same way- where as humans we
resort to illogical explanations for things, creating a kind of human
unpredictability and chaos to overcome determinism (Christopher's
neroatypicacy and the inevitability of death) *"I think people believe in
heaven because they don't like the idea of dying, because they want to carry
3.6 Wiles suggests that as Yeats proposed history functioning in a gyre shape,
Stoppard creates and alternative yet similar comparison to a fractal.
Simultaneously he achieves to display the relationship between linear and
cyclical time. In the closing scene, as Vees-Gulani (1999) notes, "the audience is
allowed to see how close the paths of an attractor can get to crossing, but still
always be only nearly the same. (p. 416)"