The Incarnations Themes & Motifs

Susan Barker
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The past cannot be escaped

The past cannot be escaped, argues Susan Barker in her novel The Incarnations. One’s history always catches up to one in the present in the novel. There are two kinds of such history: one’s past lives, and one’s personal past. Both matter tremendously in the novel.

The unknown woman who is writing the letters to Wang tells him that history is coming for him. In other words, history cannot be avoided. By this, the unknown woman means Wang’s past lives –his various incarnations as a concubine, an Englishman in nineteenth century China, a peasant son of a witch, and so on. Wang is highly skeptical of the concept of reincarnation, believing instead that his own past is catching up to him. However, Wang is wrong.

The woman wishes to remind Wang of these various pasts for two primary...

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This section contains 1,691 words
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Buy The Incarnations Study Guide
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