A Brief Histoire of History
When one examines the origins of history he must first note the importance of oral tradition. This is followed by tracing these stories through their documentation and inevitably their teachings in educated circles. The importance of history is sometimes questioned as many believe looking to the past is an apprehensive way of pointing to the future, however it is this same past that allows us to review earlier decisions and prevent similar mistakes in the future. In Graham Swift's Waterland, the main character Tom Crick embraces the science of history to explain the development of civilization and more importantly to explain and analyze his own life. Tom's life starts in a time of oral tradition at the Fens and he moves into teaching at one of England's public schools. His time draws to a close as a teacher, and this marks the end of history with his department being discontinued.
The use of history within the novel defines both the reflective style of Graham Swift's writing and the characters that he creates.
Oral tradition is the foundation of history whether modern or personal. Graham Swift exemplifies this by discussing the importance of story telling to the history of the Fens. He begins by illustrating the character of Tom's father as a man who enjoys telling stories whether they are true or not. The subject of discussion was unimportant however as he had a story for everything.
"For my father, as well as being a superstitious man, had a knack for telling stories. Made-up stories, true stories; soothing stories, warning stories; stories with a moral or with no point at all; believable stories and unbelievable stories; stories which were neither one thing nor the other. It was a knack which ran in his family"(p.2)...