Jack’s Notes

"The Wanting Seed"

Anthony Burgess wrote "The wanting seed" in the early 1960’s

There are two major characters:

Beatrice-Joanna Foxe and her husband Tristram Foxe

Other characters that run throughout the story are Tristram’s brother Derek and Beatrice-Joanna’s Sister Mavis and her husband Shonny.

The story is divided into Five parts and an Epilogue


The opening line is, "This was the day before the night when the knives of official disappointment struck."

Burgess plays with the passing of time throughout the novel. From this day to the Epilogue about a year and a half passes. Time seemed important to Him. He used the count of the elevator floors to indicate a specific passing as we are reading. It is much like he is controlling our mind in a subconscious way in making us feel the passing of time as we read.

Beatrice-Joanna is taking her dead child to the Phosphorus Reclamation Department to be reconstituted as fertilizer. P2 O5

The story takes place in a futuristic London where the food supply is controlled and population is kept to a minimum. Homosexuality is promoted with posters of two men embracing and words like "Love your Fellow-Men" and "It’s Sapiens to be Homo".  In the opening scene there are two female homosexuals kissing and giggling and a male involved with his vanity.

While Beatrice-Joanna is returning from the Phosphorus Reclamation Department her husband Tristram is going to work taking the elevator up.

Burgess introduces race in the first part.  Miss Herschhorn is a "Teutonico-Chinese" and "two black men" carry the casket.   However, race does not seem to play a part except in that it is integrated.   When the wars start the racial separation then had some significance as there needed a way to identify an enemy.

Beatrice-Joanna is 29 and her feminine attributes are looked down on in a society that is trying to prevent childbirth.

Burgess uses much symbolism such as up and down and ascending and descending.   Beatrice-Joanna is "going down" and Tristram is "ascending"

Tristram taught "Modern History".  He was 35 and had been teaching history for fourteen years.  He taught that history was in a circle and was divided in phases.  "Pelagianism" was one of the phases and here the symbol of the sea is introduced. Pelagius means 'man of the sea'.  Pelagius was a monk.

The Augustinian was a pessimest and the founder of "Augustinianism".  He expected the worst from a person and took "a sort of gloomy pleasure inobserving the depths to which human behavior can sink."

In the forth chapter Burgess explains the three phases of civilization.  They are the Pelphase, Interphase, and Gusphase.  They are caught in an endless cycle.   The Pelphase is the current one in which the novel is set.  It is based on a belief that man is good and leaders do not need to control him.  The Gusphase (Augustinianism)  is God based in that men are evil and need controlled.  The Interphase is between the two.  Burgess says that the Pelphase will end when the leaders become "dissappointed" with the people.  Notice that "dissappointed" was also in the first line of the novel.

Burgess introduces us to "Mr. Livedog" which is a fictional character that is backwards for "God" and the "Devil".  Mr Livedog is both good and evil at the same time.  Mr Livedog created a lot of unwanted life throughout the earth in his fictional roll and Mr. Homo, his human leader, kept Mr Livedog in control.

A large bas-relief of a naked sexless figure breaking eggs was on the Ministry of Infertility building.  Infanticide was encouraged by the state.  Three females refer to how they killed their children.  One was "sufficated in the bedclothes" another "scalded" and another "fell out a window".

Beatrice-Joanne's lover was her brother in law Derek.  Derek pretended to be Homosexual for the purpose of getting promoted in his high government position.   Beatrice-Joanne and Derek have sex and Beatrice-Joanne remembers that she had not taken her contraceptive pills but does not tell Derek.

Tristram upon leaving school goes to a bar and drinks alc-and-orange.  A   ex-minister is there.  The gay police beat him up because he is preaching.

Captain Loosely is introduced here as watching Derek for some (at this point unknown reason)


For Character Descriptions Go HERE

.....to be continued

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