The Banality of Violence in A. L. Kennedy’s Early Short Stories
The present paper adapts Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil to illustrate the banality of a specific manifestation of evil, which is violence, as it is presented in the early short stories of A. L. Kennedy. Selected stories from Kennedy’s first two collections, Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains (1990) and Now that You’re Back (1994), are analysed to show that, like Arendt, Kennedy does not dismiss the perpetrators of violent acts as sadistic monsters but rather perceives them in their complexity as human beings who may commit inhuman crimes, yet cannot be explained away easily as less than human. Kennedy’s point about the banality of violence – banality in the sense of commonness or ordinariness, not in the sense of triviality – is reinforced by her preoccupation with ordinary characters leading mundane lives, whose humdrum existence is disrupted by unexpected, though typically unexceptional, circumstances. Lacking the capacity or skill to cope by non-violent means, Kennedy’s characters resort to violence in a perverted attempt to come to terms with the uncertainty of life and to express in a physical manner what they cannot express in language.
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