The Drowned World

by

J. G. Ballard

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Drowned World can help.

The Drowned World: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Riggs is ready to speak with Kerans by 8:00 the next morning. Strangeman and his crew sit in the shade, supervised by Macready and his machine gun. Riggs explains to Kerans that he knew about Strangeman through his aerial patrols, and they guessed that he might cause trouble in London. Noticing the helicopter, Kerans comments on how much Daley's flying has improved. Riggs asks if Kerans has seen Hardman, and Kerans replies that Hardman is long gone. Riggs expresses sadness about Bodkin, and Kerans is surprised to realize he had already forgotten about him. Riggs’s query about Hardman, however, reminds him of how important it is to go south.
Again, Riggs and Kerans are operating on completely different systems of time: Riggs is still thinking about the relatively recent past (for instance, Hardman and Bodkin) while Kerans is occupied primarily with the possibility of a future in the south devoid of any human life. That Kerans has so quickly forgotten about Bodkin shows that Kerans has completely detached himself, mentally and emotionally, from the world around him—he’s ready to go south, like Hardman.
Themes
Memory vs. The Future Theme Icon
Birth, Renewal, and Doom Theme Icon
Kerans asks Riggs why he doesn't arrest Strangeman, and Riggs incredulously reminds Kerans that killing in self-defense is perfectly legal, and states that Strangeman will surely be rewarded for draining the lagoon. He continues that if Strangeman had killed Kerans, he wouldn't have been able to do anything. Further, if Strangeman complains, Riggs will be hard pressed to explain why he's holding him with machine guns. Kerans leans tiredly on the window and realizes that there's a huge gulf between himself and Riggs. Kerans finds that he can't even listen to Riggs anymore and reality seems fake.
Riggs basically says that he's saving Kerans for purely emotional reasons, and that there are no law that allows him to hold Strangeman captive in this way. This again makes it clear that Riggs's mind is currently operating very differently from Kerans's. Kerans is entirely preoccupied with his vision of the future, and although he's surely thankful to be alive, the fact that Riggs doesn't understand his feelings about the lagoon makes Riggs as much an enemy as Strangeman.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Science and Psychology Theme Icon
Kerans asks about the looting, and Riggs says that Strangeman is doing humanity a favor by reclaiming abandoned works of art. He tells Kerans that he needs to forget Strangeman, and asks Kerans about his dreams. Kerans shudders and says that Strangeman is "like a white devil out of a voodoo cult," and asks Riggs when he's going to re-flood the lagoon. Riggs is bewildered and says he'll shoot anyone who tries. He reminds Kerans that reclaiming land by draining the cities is a top priority, and if Strangeman will empty the other two lagoons, he'll be pardoned and celebrated.
Riggs's feelings about Strangeman continue to differentiate his mind from that of Kerans: he still values human achievement, human life, and a human-centric future, and sees little allure in Kerans's love of the watery world. When Kerans brushes off the question about his dreams, it shows that he's trying to protect this personal and intimate world from Riggs’s prying eye.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Memory vs. The Future Theme Icon
Science and Psychology Theme Icon
Kerans implores Riggs to re-flood the lagoon. He insists that the streets are obscene and dead, but Riggs cuts him off and says that everyone is leaving tomorrow, and he's not obsessed with the lagoons. Kerans, confused, says that Strangeman will still be here, and Riggs insists that Strangeman can and should stay if he can stand the heat and the rain, and if he's successful in draining the city, they might eventually reoccupy it. He insists that Kerans and Beatrice need to return to Camp Byrd, and tells Kerans to be grateful that he arrived on time. As Kerans leaves, he tells Riggs that in fact he came too late.
Kerans interprets the exposed buildings of London as a blemish, not as a triumph to be celebrated. The buildings themselves are evidence that humanity failed once and will certainly fail again given how the earth is still changing to favor other creatures over humans. Riggs doesn't realize yet that although he technically has power over Kerans, Kerans is playing by a different set of rules and no longer sees Riggs as an ally.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire The Drowned World LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Drowned World PDF