Chance and other things
Posted by Hil on February 01, 1998 at 23:20:54:
In response to The doll, written by Myretta on January 28, 1998 at 15:53:32
] I wonder at the inclusion of this scene and what the author meant to imply about its impact on Lucinda's development.
This has always been one of those central images of the book for me too, and a very disturbing one. I've been trying to work out why, and I think its very complicated, but here are some thoughts:
As you say, it reminds us of times when we set out with the best intentions, and instead everything falls apart. It reminds us of feeling powerless, inept, and of just how puzzling and awful it can be to not have a handle on all the things and implications going on around us. When Lucinda holds up the doll to various people, they respond apparently magically by throwing frying pans and so on, and she doesn't understand why. Although we are not immune from this as adults, we tend to forget just how awesome this feels to children.
Its also a comment on how easy it is to have a 'confusion of memory', on which we mistakenly base whole elements of our life or personality. Lucinda associates the doll's messy hair with her father's blood-matted hair when he dies, and so with the start of her mothers mania for neatness, not remembering that even her early upbringing had enforced a strong sense of neatness on her.
The incident with the doll was an attempt to give the doll a neatness that Lucinda wanted also for herself, and felt she could not achieve. She grows up to have 'a sense of containment, of order, a clean starched stillness. But the stillness was coiled and held flat. Like a rod of ebony rubbed with cat's fur, she was charged with static electricuty.' And so we get to understand some of the 'push and pull of unresolved desires' that make up Lucinda's character.
I think the other idea that the doll episode encapsulates is to do with chance, and the book turns on it. There are so many occurences in the book where small, apparently inconsequential incidents turn lives around in unpredictable directions, and assume undreamed-of inflences. Its as if Carey is saying that despite our attempts and desires to make life how we want it, in many cases those plans get turned on their heads in totally unexpected ways, at the mere flick of a palm leaf, mouthful of Christmas pudding, or daub of the glue brush. Those examples are all calamities, but I think he also says it can serendipitous too. It is an idea I like, rather than finding depressing. The theme of gambling of course comes up directly with the cards, the horseracing, and the final bet, but I think in many ways they just underline what Carey says about the gamble of life itself.
This ties in with all kinds of religious doubts and attitudes, but lets leave that for another post!
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