Ascent of F6, The
The Dog Beneath the Skin, On the Frontier
the second and most successful of the dramatic works by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, published in 1936, the others being The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935) and On the Frontier (1938); all combine verse and prose. It was first produced in 1937 by the Group Theatre, with music by Benjamin Britten. The narrative is based on Britain's imperialist interest in the conquest of F6, a mountain on the border between British Sudoland and Ostnian Sudoland; the natives of both parts of Sudoland hold F6 in superstitious awe, and will give their allegiance to the first colonial power to mount a successful expedition to the summit. Michael Ransom, the play's hero and a climber of great repute, is asked to undertake the ascent, but refuses until his mother prevails upon him. In the course of the climb all his party are killed; Ransom completes the climb to be confronted by a veiled figure on the summit, who is revealed to be his mother at the moment of his death. The work's satire on political and economic power centres on a group of stock figures who include Lord Stagmantle, a press peer, and General Dellaby-Couch, former military governor of Sudoland; Mr and Mrs A feature throughout as representatives of the general population in touch with events through the medium of the radio. Ransom's psychology is, however, a source of deeper interest in terms of the play's study of the oedipal dynamics of his heroism; it is the last of Auden's works to be dominated by the figure of the leader and, in Edward Mendelson's interpretation, forms a renunciation of the culturally redemptive terms in which he had formerly conceived of his role as a poet.