Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid Summary

  • Last updated on July 14, 2023
Title: Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid

Author: Malcolm Lowry

Publication Date: 1968

Genre: Fiction

Page Length: Not specified


Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid by Malcolm Lowry is a compelling work of fiction that navigates the complexities of human nature and its unyielding connection to despair and self-destruction. Set in the aftermath of World War II, the story follows the life of Hugh Gordon Gaul, an introspective and troubled ex-RAF pilot, as he ventures into his personal abyss. Lowry's novel artfully delves into themes of alienation, moral decay, and the haunting presence of the past, offering readers a profound exploration of the human condition.

Part I: "All aboard!"

The novel opens with Gaul embarking on a nightmarish journey aboard a crowded train headed for Mexico City. Engulfed in a haze of alcohol and the remnants of memories, Gaul engages in fragmented conversations with fellow passengers, revealing his inner turmoil. Through vivid flashbacks, Gaul's wartime experiences and failed relationships are gradually unveiled, creating a tapestry of anguish and alienation.

Part II: "Remains of a Friend"

Gaul arrives in Mexico City, where he embraces his newfound seclusion in a decrepit and isolated shack. Here, he becomes consumed by nightmares and hallucinations, symbolizing his descent into madness and his obsession with redemption for past mistakes. As Gaul's mind intertwines with the torments of guilt and facing his inner demons, he begins to question his own sanity.

Part III: "The Garden of Eden"

In this section, Gaul's frequent visits to the local brothel reveal further glimpses into his psyche. Each encounter acts as a reflection of his self-destructive tendencies, as he seeks solace in fleeting connections that only exacerbate his emotional wounds. The sinful and derelict surroundings mirror Gaul's moral decay and his inability to escape his haunting past.

Part IV: "Dark as the Grave"

As Gaul's mental deterioration intensifies, he finds himself confronted with the ghostly apparitions of those he has wronged, symbolizing his past failures and the impossibility of redemption. Trapped in both a physical and psychological maze, Gaul spirals deeper into despair, culminating in a climactic and cathartic revelation of the truth about himself.


1. Alienation: Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid delves into the profound sense of isolation experienced by Gaul. Lowry portrays the protagonist's detachment from society, showcasing the consequences of failed relationships and the inability to connect with others.

2. Moral Decay: The novel explores the decay of Gaul's moral compass and his subsequent descent into self-destructive behavior. The brothel serves as a metaphorical representation of Gaul's own degradation, highlighting the consequences of his choices and the dark allure of temptation.

3. Redemption: Gaul's obsession with redemption serves as a central theme within the novel. As he grapples with his past actions and the consequent guilt, Gaul seeks to find absolution and confront his inner demons. However, the novel also questions the plausibility of true redemption and suggests the lasting nature of one's mistakes.

4. The Unforgettable Past: Lowry emphasizes the indelible mark the past leaves on individuals. Gaul's memories and flashbacks constantly resurface, haunting him and preventing him from finding solace in the present. The novel explores the weight of remembrance and the inescapable nature of personal history.


Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid by Malcolm Lowry is a deeply evocative novel that masterfully captures the human struggle with guilt, alienation, and the elusive pursuit of redemption. Through Gaul's introspective journey, readers are provided with insight into the complex nature of human frailty and the enduring power of the past. Lowry's work exemplifies the value of exploring the depths of human experience and serves as a poignant reminder of the lasting consequences of our choices.

Categories: Books