It isn't exactly that a man has died
Posted by Constanza on February 16, 1998 at 11:10:36:
What do you think is the key incident at the Piazza?
As George said, "it isn't exactly that a man has died". Neither George nor Lucy knows what it is, but they face their ignorance in different ways. George determines to find out its meaning. Lucy, afraid that some propriety rule has been infringed, is intent in forgetting the whole experience.
But what is it?
All her life, Lucy's sensibility has been restrained by her family, her education, society, propriety rules and, finally, herself. She has denied herself to feel deeply; emotions are OK so long as they are kept on a surface basis.
But that afternoon Lucy has been playing Beethoven, and she has therefore become "restive". As we are aware, this is a means of letting her feelings go. It is a first step, and she realises that "she would really like to do something of which her well-wishers disapproved".
She then goes a second step and buys the postcards; she does not choose them because she should but because they make her feel; propriety (represented by Charlotte's opinion on "pity") and personal taste have collided and she sides with taste. However this is not enough for "the gates of liberty seemed still unopened".
And then the murder takes place and she faints.
The external fact has triggered some inner change: "Again the thought occurred to her, "Oh, what have I done?" -the thought that she, as well as the dying man, had crossed some spiritual boundary". "The gates of liberty" are now opened and for a while she is truly herself; she has done away with restrictions and has let "feelings" completely rule for the first time.
But she is not there alone: George is a witness both to the murder and Lucy's fainting. He has been "under" all his life, trying to make things fit, trying to understand other people, the universe. And then he sees a man murdered and a person set free by that murder. He begins to grasp the meaning of life.
So, George and Lucy have share in the tragedy and have helped one another understand it. It is the first time either of them has been really close to another person; it is the first time they have "connected". The experience has not only changed them but bound them as well.
I have read ARWAW several times and I've always sensed that there is some hidden "significance" that eludes me; every time I read the novel I have the feeling that such significance is closer. I also perceive that the key for discovering it is in understanding the Piazza incident. I think that I have now figured it out the whole thing. I would like to know what you think.
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