How we cite our quotes:
Hannah: But, Bernard – I know it's them.
Hannah: How? It just is. "Analysed it", my big toe!
Hannah: He's wrong.
Bernard: Oh, gut instinct, you mean?
Hannah: He's wrong. (2.5)
And here the tables turn. Hannah's adoption of Bernard's faith-over-facts way of thinking suggests just how seductive the lure of certainty is. The play has the last laugh, however, as a later comment by Septimus (2.7) about the artist confirms that Hannah's "gut instinct" is indeed right, and Bernard's colleague's scientific analysis is wrong. So what does that say about the best way to get to the truth?
Valentine: It may all prove to be true.
Hannah: It can't prove to be true, it can only not prove to be false yet.
Valentine: Just like science.
Hannah: If Bernard can stay ahead of getting the rug pulled till he's dead, he'll be a success.
Valentine: Just like science . . . The ultimate fear is of posterity . . . (2.7)
Hannah sums up the nagging uncertainty that plagues any quest for truth – no matter how much evidence one has in favor of one's pet theory, all it takes is one fact that can't be argued against – one rogue dahlia – to bring the whole house of cards crashing down. Why build the house of cards in the first place, then?
Hannah: It's all trivial – your grouse, my hermit, Bernard's Byron. Comparing what we're looking for misses the point. It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in. That's why you can't believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final. (2.7)
The previous passage provides one strike against an afterlife – if you die before your theories are disproven, you'll never know you were found out – and this passage offers another. While truth is ostensibly the goal of all the knowledge-seekers in the play, Hannah's view is that certain truth would make the quest less, not more rewarding – but why? Why might wondering be better than knowing?