‘Everything Grew Larger Than Life in the Steamy Hothouse of Darwin and the People Were No Exception.’ How Important Is Place in This Novel?

832 Words Jun 12th, 2011 4 Pages
‘Everything grew larger than life in the steamy hothouse of Darwin and the people were no exception.’ How important is place in this novel?

Peter Goldsworthy’s Maestro demonstrates the importance of setting in understanding characters such as the protagonists Paul Crabbe and Eduard Keller. Written in a retrospective narrative from Paul Crabbe’s point of view and how the settings of ‘steamy’ Darwin, ‘suburban’ Adelaide and ‘hypocritical’ Vienna affected him. Upon moving from Adelaide to Darwin, Paul immediately falls in love with the ‘city of booze, blow and blasphemy’. Darwin is the backdrop to the sensual addiction Paul develops and feeds his heightened sense as a ‘steamy and lush hothouse’. Totally different from Adelaide, Paul
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Keller’s past and transition in nature from a ‘romantic virtuosos’ to strict teacher is shown through music and his descriptions of Vienna. After the Nazis rose to power, Keller describes the ballroom of Vienna being turned into ‘the experimental laboratory for the end of the world’ demonstrating that Keller’s own world ended along with his love of Vienna. Keller’s love for his wife Mathilde gave him rubato, and ‘that extra littleness’ that Paul could never achieve. However, it buoyed his arrogance and belief of his own invulnerability which prevented him from realising the danger his Jewish family were in, in Vienna. To Paul, Vienna represents a European city of culture and music but to Keller it is a reminder of his lost family and regretted choices.

Vienna is also the cause of Keller’s mistrust and suspicion of beauty, as he says ‘never trust the beautiful’ is something Paul, as a young and naive man, can’t understand. Keller describes Vienna as a veneer, ‘hiding the hypocrisy within’ in an attempt to teach Paul the lessons he had to learn through awful experiences. Paul and Keller’s natures are contrasted by Goldsworthy in Maestro and their similarity is what causes Keller to endeavour to teach Paul. The confessional that Paul snubbed, a privilege that he failed to realise through selfishness and sensual addiction, was Keller’s explanation and he told Paul this as he called out ‘I tell you this, not for me, but for you.’

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