Henry Perowne's Saturday: Sympathizing With The Bad Guy

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Sympathizing with the Bad Guy

Ian McEwans Saturday is a novel set in London, shortly after the 9/11-attacks happened. The outline of the novel seems to be fairly standard: there is a protagonist, Henry Perowne, an “intelligent though at times obtuse character” (Thrailkill 176), and an antagonist, Baxter. (Brillenburg Wurth and Rigney 172). The novel completely revolves around one particular day, namely February 15, a Saturday; Henry Perownes only day off. While preparing for what is expected to be an ordinary Saturday, Perowne has an encounter with Baxter, creating many unexpected twists. Baxter, an unemployed, lower-class sick man, compared to the wealthy neurosurgeon Perowne, would be expected to be the character hardest to sympathize with. However, the way in which both are characterized seems to create the opposite effect: the character of Baxter succeeds in winning the readers sympathy, while Perowne is put in a less favourable position. A close reading of the passage in which the two men meet illustrates this comprehensively. When Baxter makes his first appearance in Perowne’s Saturday, he is introduced as follows: “The only person in the world he [Perowne] hates is sitting in the car behind him” (82). From the beginning on, it is made very clear that the relationship between Perowne and Baxter is not going to be a friendly one. It has even been said that Baxter is Perowne’s nemesis (Wallace 475). Of course, this immediate dislike is not without reason.
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