The Drowned World


J. G. Ballard

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Themes and Colors
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Memory vs. The Future Theme Icon
Science and Psychology Theme Icon
Birth, Renewal, and Doom Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Drowned World, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Man vs. Nature

At its heart, The Drowned World is a story about humans fighting to survive in a wild and dangerous landscape. The story takes place on a planet that is rapidly changing and will soon no longer be able to support human life, both because of increasing global temperatures and the rapid evolution of massive lizards that prey on humans when given the chance. Although some of the main conflicts of the novel stem from characters…

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Memory vs. The Future

The novel introduces the reader to a world where civilization as we now know it is merely a memory: global water levels have risen and all cities south of the Arctic Circle are underwater. The year is 2145 and few people remember what the world was like when humans lived in the cities of Europe and America. However, Dr. Bodkin suggests that all humans share a biological or evolutionary memory, which is encased in the…

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Science and Psychology

The characters in The Drowned World have a highly scientific way of thinking about the world around them. The story follows Dr. Bodkin, a biologist, and Dr. Kerans, a biologist and sometimes-medical doctor who are stationed at a military base in London. Their job is to map the changing landmasses and waterways, as well as to observe the new lifeforms of plants and animals that thrive in the newly tropical climate of London…

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Birth, Renewal, and Doom

The characters of The Drowned World find themselves at a crossroads in human history. Some characters, such as Strangeman and Colonel Riggs, believe that human civilization will go on in much the same way that it used to, but in cities north of the Arctic Circle. Other characters, however, believe that human civilization in this new world is doomed. Kerans and Dr. Bodkin have a decidedly fatalist view of the future of the world…

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