Ageing and identity in Deirdre Madden’s Authenticity
in Deirdre Madden
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Gerontology has been gaining in importance since the 1970s. However, until we begin to experience it ourselves, the process of ageing is often difficult to grasp, and the study of ageing in fiction has been recognised as a useful counterweight to the abstractions and theorisation of gerontology. This chapter will discuss Deirdre Madden’s fiction from the perspective of recent work on ageing, focusing particularly on her novel Authenticity (2002), in which three characters, Dan, William, and Roderic, illustrate different attitudes to ageing. Old age has often been seen as a time of getting back to essentials, a journey towards a more authentic self. In Authenticity, Dan, with his freedom from social convention, his serenity, and his solid sense of self, is the character who comes closest to this ideal. But, as Erik Erikson points out in The Life Cycle Completed, the ageing process can reveal hidden traumas and, rather than integration, may lead to despair, as in William’s case. For Roderic, who also knows what it is like to be trapped in an inauthentic life, ageing leads to loss of confidence, especially sexual confidence. An examination of ageing in Madden’s fiction reveals the extent to which the experience is shaped by the culture in which her characters live. William, raised to exercise self-control and willpower, qualities that have enabled him to succeed in a consumerist, capitalist society, fares least well when it comes to ageing.

Deirdre Madden

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