The Drowned World

by

J. G. Ballard

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Dr. Alan Bodkin Character Analysis

Dr. Bodkin is one of the senior biologists in the unit in London. At 65, he's one of the last people on Earth who remembers living in the cities that are now flooded, and he spends much of his free time paddling around alone and looking for remembered landmarks. He develops the theory of neuronics, which seeks to explain the disturbing dreams people experience by suggesting that people instinctively remember the entire evolution of the world. Now that the world is in a similar state that it was in during the Triassic period, humans subconsciously remember what the world was like at that point. He decides to stay behind in London with Kerans and Beatrice. When Strangeman arrives and drains London, Bodkin is at first awed by this feat and takes advantage of being able to revisit his memories on foot. However, he soon becomes disturbed by the possibility that Strangeman is going to try to return to the world to the way it was in the 20th century and tries to destroy one of the dams. Strangeman and his crew kill him before he succeeds.

Dr. Alan Bodkin Quotes in The Drowned World

The The Drowned World quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Alan Bodkin or refer to Dr. Alan Bodkin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Liveright Publishing edition of The Drowned World published in 2013.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The biological mapping had become a pointless game, the new flora following exactly the emergent lines anticipated twenty years earlier, and he was sure that no one at Camp Byrd in Northern Greenland bothered to file his reports, let alone read them.

Related Characters: Dr. Robert Kerans, Dr. Alan Bodkin
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Is it only the external landscape which is altering? How often recently most of us have had the feeling of déjà vu, of having seen all this before, in fact of remembering these swamps and lagoons all too well.

Related Characters: Dr. Alan Bodkin (speaker), Dr. Robert Kerans
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

A more important task than mapping the harbors and lagoons of the external landscape was to chart the ghostly deltas and luminous beaches of the submerged neuronic continents.

Related Characters: Dr. Robert Kerans, Dr. Alan Bodkin
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Nor had he tried to follow up any of Bodkin's or Riggs' oblique remarks about the dreams and their danger, almost as if he had known that he would soon be sharing them, and accepted them as an inevitable element of his life...

Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Distantly in his ears he could hear the sun drumming over the sunken water. As he recovered from his first fears he realized that there was something soothing about its sounds, almost reassuring and encouraging like his own heartbeats.

Related Characters: Dr. Robert Kerans, Dr. Alan Bodkin
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

By and large, each of them would have to pursue his or her own pathway through the time jungles... Although they might see one another occasionally... their only true meeting ground would be in their dreams.

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

"Dr. Bodkin, did you live in London as a child? You must have many sentimental memories to recapture, of the great palaces and museums." He added: "Or are the only memories you have pre-uterine ones?"

Related Characters: Strangeman (speaker), Dr. Robert Kerans, Dr. Alan Bodkin, Beatrice Dahl
Related Symbols: The Planetarium
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

"The trouble with you people is that you've been here for thirty million years and your perspectives are all wrong. You miss so much of the transitory beauty of life. I'm fascinated by the immediate past--the treasures of the Triassic compare pretty unfavorably with those of the closing years of the Second Millennium."

Related Characters: Strangeman (speaker), Dr. Robert Kerans, Dr. Alan Bodkin, Beatrice Dahl
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Kerans managed to take his eyes off Strangeman's face and glanced at the looted relics.
"They're like bones," he said flatly.

Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

For some reason the womb-like image of the chamber was reinforced rather than diminished by the circular rows of seats, and Kerans heard the thudding in his ears uncertain whether he was listening to the dim subliminal requiem of his dreams.

Related Symbols: The Planetarium
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

No longer the velvet mantle he remembered from his descent, it was no a fragmenting cloak of rotting organic forms, like the vestments of the grave. The once translucent threshold of the womb had vanished, its place taken by the gateway to a sewer.

Related Symbols: The Planetarium
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dr. Alan Bodkin Character Timeline in The Drowned World

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Alan Bodkin appears in The Drowned World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. On the Beach at the Ritz
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...at Camp Byrd, a city in northern Greenland, reads their reports. To test this, Dr. Bodkin, Kerans’s assistant, had sent a report with an "eyewitness description" of a giant lizard that... (full context)
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...Kerans says that he's already taken the day off. Riggs technically supervises Kerans and Dr. Bodkin, but after working together for three years, Riggs lets the scientists do their work as... (full context)
2. The Coming of the Iguanas
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Kerans is entirely uninterested in the contents or the history of the cities, while Dr. Bodkin, who is 65, actually remembers living in some of the cities. He spends his spare... (full context)
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Kerans notices Dr. Bodkin throwing berries to small monkeys from the testing station, while iguanas watch impatiently from 50... (full context)
3. Towards a New Psychology
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Macready tells Kerans that Dr. Bodkin needs his help with Lieutenant Hardman. Kerans thinks he needs to escape Macready, so he... (full context)
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...station, and he steadies himself. He heads for the sick bay, where he finds Dr. Bodkin and Lieutenant Hardman in a private room. Hardman is the senior helicopter pilot and serves... (full context)
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Kerans enters the private room. Not only is the air conditioning off, but Bodkin has a heater running. Hardman has on headphones, and the light from the heater makes... (full context)
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Kerans realizes that Hardman still looks emotionally well despite his illness. Bodkin says that Hardman might be right, and that there are various views on what consciousness... (full context)
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Kerans and Dr. Bodkin take Kerans’s catamaran to the testing station. The men enter their laboratory, the walls of... (full context)
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...that they're leaving, but suggests that the knowledge might jolt him out of his lethargy. Bodkin says that the prospect of leaving seems to have done nothing for Kerans, which Kerans... (full context)
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Bodkin asks Kerans to summarize their findings of the last three years. Kerans says that with... (full context)
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Bodkin continues and says that many on the unit have felt the sense that they actually... (full context)
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...the increased heat and radiation are triggering these fear responses in the human mind, but Bodkin says that these memories aren't of the mind. He posits that every person contains the... (full context)
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...watches Macready and Riggs talk on the gangway of the base while he considers Dr. Bodkin's theory. He thinks it's a valid theory, and thinks that that the UN's policy of... (full context)
4. The Causeways of the Sun
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...he has decided to stay behind. He understands that by staying he's giving in to Bodkin's theory of neuronics, and food and clothing will matter little as he goes back in... (full context)
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...Beatrice look over the railing, he sees the helicopter circling and a party, including Dr. Bodkin, preparing to get into three boats. When they notice Kerans, Riggs picks up a megaphone... (full context)
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...that persists even after he's safe at the base. At the base, Kerans finds Dr. Bodkin and briefly mentions the sounds of the iguanas. Bodkin says that Kerans might hear them... (full context)
5. Descent into Deep Time
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Bodkin is sipping coffee in the gallery when Kerans enters. He tells Kerans that he's "one... (full context)
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Kerans asks Bodkin for Hardman's alarm clock and mentions taking medication before bed. Bodkin firmly tells Kerans not... (full context)
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Riggs enters the room and good-naturedly waves his baton at Kerans and Bodkin. He tells Kerans he looks glassy and then begins explaining his plans for their departure... (full context)
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Bodkin continues that he rowed to the University quarter yesterday where his father used to teach.... (full context)
6. The Drowned Ark
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That night, Kerans and Bodkin silently move along the deck of the testing station. Kerans carefully frees the testing station,... (full context)
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The next morning, Kerans and Bodkin watch from Beatrice's apartment as the helicopter tries to land on the roof of the... (full context)
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...find the elevator out of order, which culminated in his attempt to reach Kerans and Bodkin via helicopter. After trying to speak to them, Riggs and the base leave the city. (full context)
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...the confidence in the remaining residents of the city. He and Beatrice go to find Bodkin in the lounge and continue making plans. They discuss how long the air conditioning and... (full context)
7. Carnival of Alligators
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...but he knows that when he reaches the end, the real world will be unbearable. Bodkin and Beatrice seem similarly wrapped up in their own private dream worlds. Bodkin is entirely... (full context)
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...authorities are usually happy to pay for the things looters pillage. Beatrice points to Dr. Bodkin down below on the testing station, who is hailing one of the crewmen. Kerans suggests... (full context)
8. The Man With the White Smile
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Kerans, Dr. Bodkin, and Beatrice sit with the hydroplane pilot, Strangeman, who has changed into a crisp white... (full context)
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...mood seems to shift quickly between curiosity, irritation, and boredom. Suddenly, he turns to Dr. Bodkin and asks if he grew up in London and seeks to recapture memories, or if... (full context)
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...items. Strangeman points to several items and says they came from the Sistine Chapel, but Bodkin mutters to Kerans that the "treasures" are ugly, and don't even have a high gold... (full context)
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...chanting about bones. Kerans turns to leave, and Strangeman pushes him out. Kerans, Beatrice, and Bodkin leave in a small boat five minutes later. The crew is still chanting and dancing,... (full context)
9. The Pool of Thanatos
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Strangeman invites Kerans, Bodkin, and Beatrice to a diving party. He has already begun to court Beatrice, but she... (full context)
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At 7:00am, the Admiral collects Kerans, Dr. Bodkin, and Beatrice and takes them to the depot ship. Kerans is skeptical of Strangeman's assurance... (full context)
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...church." Strangeman declares the diver a fool and sends others down as Kerans, Beatrice, and Bodkin sip cocktails. Beatrice asks Kerans if he's going to dive. He assures her that the... (full context)
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Kerans leans over to Bodkin and whispers that Strangeman is looking for his treasure. Strangeman notices them whispering and stalks... (full context)
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...probably wouldn't go through with it unless he was also planning to kill Beatrice and Bodkin. (full context)
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...an acceptance of the truth of neuronics. Finally, Kerans, as well as Beatrice and Dr. Bodkin, repress their memories of the dive. (full context)
10. Surprise Party
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...whether he has enough energy to attend a party, especially since he hasn't seen Dr. Bodkin or Beatrice since the diving party. Strangeman calls regularly on Beatrice, though from what Kerans... (full context)
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...and agrees with Kerans that Strangeman's moods change quickly and unpredictably. Strangeman meets Kerans, Dr. Bodkin, and Beatrice at the gangway. Beatrice is dressed in a turquoise gown and wears turquoise... (full context)
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...pumps. He looks into the lagoon and sees the water looking lifeless, and yells for Bodkin and Beatrice to come see: the water level is going down. They watch buildings appear... (full context)
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Strangeman and Dr. Bodkin discuss how Strangeman managed to drain the lagoon by damming it, but Strangeman's good mood... (full context)
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...the city is hideous and like Hell. Kerans suggests that they go south and asks Bodkin if he'd join them. Bodkin is still entranced by the city appearing around them and... (full context)
11. "The Ballad of Mistah Bones"
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Beatrice, Kerans, and Dr. Bodkin walk the streets a half hour later. Strangeman and his crew dart off ahead, some... (full context)
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...which creates the dams around the lagoon, piled up on the streets. Kerans, Beatrice, and Bodkin approach the planetarium. Kerans is almost afraid to approach it. When they reach its doors,... (full context)
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Kerans visits Bodkin after a few days, and Bodkin seems similarly distraught and isolated. He can't remember Beatrice's... (full context)
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...for a single mosaic. Strangeman's lack of success makes Kerans nervous. He tries to warn Bodkin, but finds that Bodkin has abandoned his hideout in the testing station. Beatrice spends her... (full context)
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...gesturing wildly. Suddenly, Strangeman interrupts him and points at the wall of the lagoon, where Bodkin can be seen carrying a small box with a fizzling wire—a bomb. Strangeman sends the... (full context)
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...and watches Strangeman kick the bomb into the neighboring lagoon. The crew then chases after Bodkin, and Kerans can hear shots being fired. He wanders back to Beatrice and hears footsteps... (full context)
13. Too Soon, Too Late
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...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... (full context)
14. Grand Slam
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...the lagoon, which is blocked by heavy logs. Kerans pulls out two bombs, pilfered from Bodkin's stolen stash. He lights them, hangs them on the logs, and is interrupted by Sergeant... (full context)