action.” (McEwan, Solar 15)
Michael comes across the issue at the new Center. “The Center is supposed to resemble the National Renewable Energy Laboratory” (15) Beard is appointed as the first head, but the real work is done through a senior civil servant named Jack Braby. Michael happens to visit a young rustic scientist called Tom Aldous at the Center. Playing the role of an apostle to Professor Beard, Tom becomes a new inspiration for Michael to continue following the new cause. In his first chat he told Michael that “he had applied to work at the Center because he thought the planet was in danger” and “excitedly assumed that the Center would have at its prime concern solar energy, particularly artificial photosynthesis and what he called nano-solar” (McEwan, Solar 24).
This simple inspiration becomes the prime idea around which Michael spends at least the next nine years of his life. After years of being away from scientific explorations and theorizations, Michael begins working hard on the issue. He visits teams of scientists and experts, lectures at academic institutes and universities and travels to the North Pole. The motivation is so high that almost overwhelms his whole life to the extent that he ironically and ideologically believes to be sacrificing himself for the sake of “science, (and) for the well-being of future generations” (262).
The successful physicist by that time, who encounters many problems in the course of nine years and finally believes to be successfully developing new methods of acquiring energy to the world and consequently saving the earth, Michael finally is accused of the theft of knowledge and fraud and is arrested. A new failure happens to Michael but he, having his family around, seems not devastated when he “felt in his heart an unfamiliar, swelling sensation” of love (McEwan, Solar 279). The subject is emerging through the process of failures and that is the source of the swelling sensation.
Žižek considering the Hegelian notion of subjectivity assumes that:
The subject is not its own origin, it is secondary, dependant upon its substantial presuppositions; but these presuppositions do not have a substantial consistency of their own and are always retroactively posited. The only “absolute” is thus the process itself. (Žižek, Living in the End Times 229)
Michael’s presuppositions change radically at least at two fundamental levels. In his personal life, being exposed to his inability to attract Patrice, he changes his presuppositions about his love relationship from being a ‘lying womanizer’ having love affair with a tempting object of desire to owning a simple family with a simple woman and a lovely daughter. He goes through a long path to get to this point of presuppositions and this presupposition gains momentum at the last page of the novel and does not change at least till the end of the book.
The second level is at science and physics. At first, Michael is skeptical about the issue of global warming and has just heard about it in the news outlets, but later on, he changes his presuppositions and stick to the ideology that the earth is in danger of collapse. Believing in the ‘planet earth in peril’, in the whole course of the novel, Michael is looking for the issue and is in fact going through the path that Aldous had drawn. At the end of the novel, being arrested and charged for theft of researches made by Aldous before his death, Michael is probably forced to change his presupposition that the world might be in danger, but he is not the one savior.
Žižek then in his theories on the issue of substance in close relation to the subject states that:
“Substance is not only always already lost, it only comes through its loss, as a secondary return-to-itself—which means that substance is always already subjectivized. In the “reconciliation” between subject and substance, both poles thus lose their firm identity.” (Žižek, Living in the End Times 232)
The same process happens to Michael. For Michael, not only his presuppositions about the married life and physics alter radically at the end of the novel, as a result of which he ‘loses his firm identity,’ but also his substances lose their initial identity and differ radically. The perception of a married couple at the end of the novel alters greatly from the initial perception. The first married life with Patrice is of the official ceremony, while the second perception is of a much more tolerant and realistic desire to put up with the shortcomings of the spouse and trying to hold the family together at any cost by Melissa.
Also in the realm of physics, the perception regarding climate change and global warming and even a scientist’s life in search of the truth in it radically changes from the initial perception concerning the world in danger of collapse. In the initial pages of the novel, there are many more signs of the apocalyptic vision rejected by Žižek as a cheap end of the world thought. This is changed to a much more refined way of consuming energy at the end of the novel. The substance of global warming loses its initial definition at the end of the novel and changes to a different phenomenon.
The same issue happens in Atonement. The substances of love affair and even literature differ radically by the end of the novel. The didacticism of the initial Trials of Arabella is changed to the manipulations made in the novel of Atonement. The so-called vices of the world masterfully lose their identity. The traditionally-considered ill-marriage out of the wedlock loses its definition compared to the slaughters happened in the World War II. The childish substances lose their whole identity by the end of the novel.
The subjects, the spirits or the characters in the two novels are trying to gain subjectivity by losing their initial status as well as their immediacy and come to themselves and flee from their previous selves to make a product of themselves as Hegel says and Žižek reiterates:
it is of the very nature of the spirit to be this absolute liveliness, this process, to proceed forth from naturality, immediacy, to absolute, to quit its naturality, and to come to itself, and to free itself, it being itself only as it comes to itself as such a product of itself; its actuality being merely that it has made itself into what it is. (Hegel 7)
And the characters in McEwan’s novels are probably he best representatives of such Hegelian liveliness, immediacy and naturality.
B. The Unconscious Lack and the Ideological Manipulations
Theorizing the Lack (manque), Jacques Lacan emphasizes on the issue of phallus. Lacan theorizes the lack as the absence of phallus and belonging to both the Imaginary and the Symbolic phases. The absence of the phallus or better say the lack for Lacan is not limited to childhood. He believes the lack resides in all levels of life (Homer 54-6). Following Lacan, Žižek adds an ideological level to the Lacanian lack and maintains that:
“Ideology is the exact opposite of internalization of the external contingency: it resides in externalization of the result of an inner necessity, and the task of the critique of ideology here is precisely to discern the hidden necessity in what appears as mere contingency.” (Žižek, Cultural Theory: An Anthology 230)
Consequently, both Briony and Michael acquire an inner necessity that should be studied neatly. And, the researcher is trying to discern the hidden necessity that might appears as mere contingency (ibid). One of these hidden necessities that might work greatly in the two novels by McEwan is the unconscious lack.
Recalling Žižek’s theorizations mentioned in the second chapter of the dissertation, one might find the traces of some kinds of lack in Briony, leading to grasp the hidden ideologies of her society. The hidden ideologies are the root-cause of her traumatic experiences. Briony is a child. The child goes through a Bildungsroman type of narration. She has her own fantasies and her fantastic world is made up of the ideologies grasped from the society and the family. Through the process of subjectivity, she comes across the ‘kernel of the real’ (Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology 45) and then changes her desires.
On the essence of subjectivity and the lack, Žižek in his Enjoy Your Symptom (1992) writes: “the subject is never simply absent from it-the very absence, the lack that the brute presence of the real recalls is the subject” (193). The same issue is true about Briony. She is the omni-present voice in the novel as she is supposedly writing the novel. The lack drives her to her actions and the more ‘brute presence of the real’ (193) reveals itself to her; the more she proceeds the more her subject is formed. Exactly like the novel, the lack is to write. And, her revelations make her to write more and the writing is all she has. Briony is nothing more than her written story.
As a kid, she is childishly in love with Robbie, but he ignores her love. In her childhood, Briony once throws herself into the river in order to testify whether Robbie will save her or not. One might claim that her father not being at home, she lacks the protection and the paternal power at her side. She might also lack love; something which she has heard of, but is not aware of its essence. Seeing Briony childishly throwing herself in the river, Robbie saves her from drowning and angrily asks her the reason why she has done such a silly action and she replies that she loves him. Robbie laughs at her and it forms a painful complex in her. She also “had written a tale in which a humble woodcutter saved a princess from drowning and ended by marrying her” (McEwan, Atonement 38).
The laughter had been traumatic to Briony and her imagination is prepared to make a childish demon out of Robbie. When she sees the pond