After a break from writing fiction in the mid-1980s during which McEwan concentrated on writing in other genres (see Chapter 11), he returned to the novel in 1987 with the critically successful The Child in Time. In this text, he draws on a more contemporary political context, the right-wing government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990), to create a textual world characterized by oppression of the poor, rampant commercial greed, political corruption and environmental degradation. As Ben Knights points out, this text, set in a futuristic 1996 when Thatcherite policies such as state-licensed begging are so entrenched as to be taken for granted, is a “millenarian” novel with an “apocalyptic weight” (207-8) on its plot, which includes the looming possibility of nuclear devastation and catastrophic weather patterns. The Child in Time depicts a late twentieth-century London society in which any form of innocence seems to have been irrevocably lost, and morality and genuine communication have been replaced by heartless self-interest.
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