Lancelot Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 28 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Lancelot.
This section contains 928 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Infidelity

Lancelot believes himself to be a happily married man. Lancelot has become comfortable in his life, no longer passionate about anything. Lancelot was once a talented lawyer who fought for civil rights, but now that the sixties are over, Lancelot no longer finds himself needed in this capacity. Lancelot's law career has transformed from liberal lawyer to probate lawyer for the local old ladies. Lancelot's marriage has also cooled; a marriage that once was filled with passion and excitement is now complacent and boring. Lancelot spends his mornings at the office, but his afternoons drinking alone at home. Lancelot has developed a routine that centers on drinking and the news.

One afternoon while reviewing an application for his daughter to go to camp, Lancelot notices that his daughter's blood type is incompatible with his own. Lancelot calls a friend and learns there is no way he could have fathered a child with this blood type. Lancelot looks back in his financial records and realizes that his daughter was most likely conceived while his wife was in Texas attending an acting class. The teacher just happened to be an actor who is at that moment a guest in his home while filming a movie at Belle Isle. Lancelot suspects that this actor, Merlin, is the real father of his daughter.

Lancelot immediately stops drinking and begins observing his wife as she interacts with her actor friends. Lancelot notices small things that might be innocent but which he believes hide the truth. Lancelot believes his wife is sleeping with Merlin still. Lancelot also begins to suspect the director of the current film, Janos Jacoby, is also his wife's lover. Lancelot begins hanging around his wife a little more, breaking with his old, comfortable habits, determined to catch his wife in the act before making an open accusation. To do this, Lancelot enlists the help of a trusted servant. When Lancelot comes across proof of the affair, he acts, destroying everything that once mattered to him in a swift and final act.

Insanity

When the novel begins, Lancelot is locked in a mental hospital. Lancelot questions whether this is a hospital to help him recover or if it is a prison. Lancelot has not told his story to anyone since coming to the hospital and has kept to himself, not even sure if he can remember the reason why he is there. When Lancelot sees his friend, Harry, the priest-psychiatrist in the hallway, he begins to remember. Lancelot tells his story a little at a time, explaining to Harry how he felt about his wife and why learning about her infidelity had such a terrible impact on him.

As Lancelot begins to tell his story, the reader becomes aware of certain things that make his story appear to be revealing the depths of his insanity more than the truth about his acts. Lancelot became obsessed with the idea of his wife's infidelity, yet he never accused her of cheating on him. In fact, he cheats on her openly and without remorse. The reader will also notice that the psychiatrist to whom Lancelot is speaking never says a word to him until the final pages of the novel. These words are not spoken or reflect answers a psychiatrist might actually say to a patient, suggesting that the psychiatrist himself is a figment of Lancelot's imagination.

Throughout the novel, the reader will notice Lancelot's apparent affection for medieval tales and legends. Lancelot's name alone opens the door to this affection, which is continued in the names of the characters that fill his story. There is Troy, Merlin, and Percival, all characters who play an important part in Lancelot's story. There are also stories of gallantry or heroism beyond expectation, even as Lancelot admits to living a life of passivity and boredom. In telling his story, Lancelot also speaks of a new world he plans to create, a world where women have a new and unique role that eradicates the possibility of infidelity. Finally, there is Anna, the horribly abused young woman in the cell next to Lancelot's with whom he becomes unexpectedly obsessed.

Neglect

Lancelot has three children, a beautiful young wife, and a father-in-law who lives in his home. Lancelot is not close to his two older children who are products of his first marriage. In fact, Lancelot's son is not even at Belle Isle during the time in which this story takes place. Lucy, Lancelot's oldest daughter, is at Belle Isle; she becomes dangerously involved with the movie people Margot has brought to the house, but Lancelot is so obsessed with the idea of his wife's infidelity that he does not notice the danger in which his daughter has placed herself. Lancelot's only concern is that his third child, a daughter, might not be his as a result of infidelity.

Lancelot was not close to his own parents and believes that the root of his obsession with Margot's infidelity is his own father's lies and deceptions when he was a child. Lancelot does not notice that his daughter, Siobhan, is uncomfortable in the care of her grandfather, leaving her to the old man's irritating behavior. Lancelot is oblivious to everything around him, but he claims that he loves his wife and that he expects her to be true to him no matter what. The reader recognizes that Lancelot cares little for the people in his life and that his obsession with his wife's infidelity is most likely the product of his own pride rather than a breach of trust.

This section contains 928 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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