The Foundationalist Vol. V, Issue I

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THE FOUNDATIONALIST a

l i t e r a r y

j o u r n a l

VOLUME V | SPRING 2020



VOLUME V | ISSUE I

THE FOUNDATIONALIST

SPRING 2020


The Foundationalist is a literary journal edited by undergraduate students at Bowdoin College, University of Iowa, and Yale University. This issue is made possible by support from the Bowdoin College English Department and Student Activities Funding Committee, and is published semiannually in the Spring and Fall. Copyright Š 2020 by The Foundationalist All Rights Reserved.

Our print edition is available for $16 and our digital edition is made complimentary on our website, thefoundationalist.com Fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and literary analyses are accepted twice a year in October and March. There are no page limits, word counts, or specific themes. Visit our website for full submission guidelines and deadlines. All contributors must be current undergraduate students.

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Cover Image by Mat Reding from Unsplash

Printed in the USA


ANTHONY CARDELLINI APRIL BANNISTER ARIK WOLK BRIAN ARAQUE PEREZ B R YA N A N G E L DIA BROWN DULCIE EVERITT E L I Z A B E T H B. D. J O H N S O N E M E FA D Z I V E N U EMILY A. BROCKMAN EMILY COHEN JACK OULIGIAN JAMES KING KARA WORRELLS KAREN DELLINGER K O R Y N AT H A N I E L R I C H A R D S O N L I L L I A N V I RG I N I A M OT T E R N MADELINE PETERSON M E E R A N AV L A K H A M I C H E L L E M A N - L O N G PA N G NIC GUO N O A H AV I G A N OLIVIA LIANG R E B E C K A E R I K S D OT T E R P I E D E R S T E P H E N A RT N E R




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TABLE OF CONTENTS

F ICT I O N Clifford

LILLIAN VIRGINIA MOTTERN

P O ETRY 4 | 80 From My Heart, Deep Concern APRIL BANNISTER

Building the Hooper 12 | 82 Uma, Grandmother Hotel EMILY A. BROCKMAN ANTHONY CARDELLINI

The Tip Jar 24 | 100 Memory of My Father (With Parkinson's) REBECKAERIKSDOTTERPIEDER JACK OULIGIAN

The Iceman 27 | 102 From, Me

DIA BROWN

MADELINE PETERSON

Late Spring 43 | 104 snip the stitch KARA WORRELLS

EMEFA DZIVENU

The Very Nice Gospel Of 49 | 105 In-Brace-Able-You BRYAN ANGEL "Leaky "Loutermilch JAMES KING

Shanghai Baseball 58 |109 Letters from a Martian Mutt on a Pale Blue Dot NIC GUO

KORY NATHANIEL RICHARDSON

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Leaves

BRIAN ARAQUE PEREZ


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

N O NF IC T I O N

E S SAY

The Meaning of a Symbol 124 | 174 Lust, Longing, and Love: The Politics of Desire in South Asian Fiction

EMILY COHEN

MEERA NAVLAKHA

Ode to Millburn Deli 143| 185 Exploring the Meaning of Grammar in Magna Carta...

ARIK WOLK

MICHELLE MAN-LONG PANG

Meaning of Sister 150 | 212 Bullfights, Big Game, and

Sea: The Mechanisms of Hemingway's Masculine...

ELIZABETH B.D. JOHNSON

KAREN DELLINGER

Immutable Cycles 160 | 232 “More Impiety / Than

Jephthah”: Hamlet and the Jephthian Vow

OLIVIA LIANG

NOAH AVIGAN

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"Rank is Rank": Social Mobility and the Landed Class in Pride and Prejudice... DULCIE EVERITT

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Erotic Knowledge: the Allure of the Unknown in the Hebrew Bible STEPHEN ARTNER


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STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF KYUBIN KIM, Bowdoin College LILY POPPEN, Bowdoin College RACHEL YANG, Bowdoin College ELIZABETH JOHNSON, University of Iowa HELENA FANTZ, University of Iowa ALICE LIEU, Yale University EDITORIAL BOARD Bryant Blackburn Cathy Duong Liam Healy Ella Jaman Shandiin Largo Victor Lee Joanna Lin Maynor Loaisiga Michelle Luan Leif Maynard Kate Padilla Kien Pham Emma Simpson Clayton Wackerman Angela Wallace

• DESIGN Layout & Logo KATARINA SILVERMAN

Illustrations LILY POPPEN


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EDITOR'S LETTER 30. 05. 2020

At the end of Spring Semester 2019, the leaders (and Bowdoin founders) of The Foundationalist wrote a wish list for us—the incoming leaders. It read: Print edition (?) We decided that by our senior year, this wish would become reality. The reality is now in your hands, achieved two years ahead of our goal. Despite our small victory, the outbreak of COVID-19 created many setbacks, scattering our board members across the world & eliminating our weekly meetings. Back home, we posed the question, “What is the role of an undergraduate literary journal during a global pandemic?” It was not a question that is, or has been, easily answered. Luckily, the continued commitment of our fantastic board members, the breadth of work to review, and many calls dealing with adjudication to the minutiae of print layout enabled us to remain dedicated to showcasing exceptional undergraduate writing.

We were delighted and inspired by the resiliency of our staff, the diversity of writing (over 300 works from 70 universities), and the sense of community found in creating something worth sharing. We hope this issue delights and inspires readers in the wake of COVID-19. After all, literature has been doing this for centuries: bridging the physical gap and offering solace that may not be found in reality. Sincerely, Editors-in-Chief of The Foundationalist



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Clifford Lillian Virginia Mottern UCLA

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lifford Goldern and I played tennis at night. Clifford said it was good for his eyesight, which was poor, to practice hitting things in the dark, so he played without his glasses, hoping his eyes would grow stronger with overuse. He said it felt like his eyes were skinny dipping when he took his glasses off, skinny dipping but for tennis. Which meant nothing and wasn’t based on experience because Clifford couldn’t swim. In the dim light, our small pile of discount tennis balls nearly glowed in the dark. The court we liked was public and rundown and only had one light, in its mustard-yellow stage, which most people agree means old age for light bulbs, and the tennis balls showed up as eerie green orbs; like animated cat’s eyes; like urban fireflies. We lived in Hollywood, then, right off Sunset and Gower, three apartment buildings apart, and Clifford had never seen a firefly and I had only once. So I told Clifford about fireflies because I thought he would want to know; because I thought we should educate ourselves about the world outside LA; because I knew we’d be embarrassed when we finally left and didn’t know anything.

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I was leaving next year; Clifford said he might leave. He was never very definitive. I knew he wouldn’t. Fireflies glow in the dark, I told Clifford, their tails are basically lightbulbs. I scratched the scab on my knee and Clifford served but I missed and my knee dripped blood onto my white socks. Okay, Ella, said Clifford, picking up a fresh tennis ball to send over the net, because he didn’t care about fireflies but he did care about me. That summer, that last great summer, the sun was a perfect lemon orb every single day and Clifford and I were sun-nipped on the bridges of our noses and my fingernails were painted in those pinks and yellows and greens that taste deliriously of fruit-flavored irresponsibility (green for lime, yellow for lemon, pink for cherry) and we played tennis during the day because we couldn’t sit in our boiling hot apartments. And I told him I was going to leave Sunset and Gower; I was going to school in New York; I’d been talking about leaving for forever. And we hit the ball back and forth and drank and drank cans of blood orange juice-flavored San Pellegrino, our lips buzzing from the tingle of canned bubbles, the syrupy sweetness making our words fall out in thick, lazy streams, our movements heavy, slowed by the aching beauty of the sun reflecting off the tennis court concrete and into our sunburned eyes.


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And Clifford told me that college was a stupid plan, which I knew he would. What are you even going to do in New York? Actually. What do you mean, Clifford? Don’t you think they’ll laugh? Why would they laugh? Because you don’t know anything, Ella. He meant that I’d never left Los Angeles. It’s so easy to get stuck walking up and down Sunset, pacing the city, when you don’t know anything else and when Clifford turned my words against me, my qualms about our lack of education, I realized that he was right; we didn’t know anything. Hollywood was as stagnant and provincial as any hometown. That summer felt brittle, even in its saturated sweetness, because this time I was actually leaving, finally doing it, and Clifford couldn’t come because he hadn’t applied for college and he wouldn’t have gone anyway, even if he had applied because he was never going to leave LA. And I wanted him to love the idea of leaving as much as I did; I wanted him to smile and try to figure out a way to come with me. I knew he wasn’t going to but I couldn’t stop teasing him with the idea of snow and lazy subways and real brick buildings; all ideas he promptly declared his hatred for, flipping his tennis racket around his head like a baton, that old trick he’d made up in middle school, when he was

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only gangly bones and curly hair and I’d found him playing tennis with a wall in a pair of electric blue tennis shorts. Sometimes, especially that last summer, I wondered if Clifford was in love with me. Our identities were fluid in this strange way that seems indicative of a certain kind of lower-middle-class kid from East Hollywood; if you do art or play tennis or button your shirts a certain way, you’re allowed to tease people with your identity without directly announcing it. And I liked kissing girls and Clifford probably wasn’t straight but it wasn’t something we really discussed and this left room for the uncomfortable feeling of possibility. I thought about Clifford sometimes; flickers of affection that I couldn’t pin to any definite emotion. He was built like the city, big boned and solid, but pretty, girlish even, with his soft, overgrown hair; he was an elusive thing, Clifford, undefinable and colorful. Once in a while we’d go out, Clifford and I; down to the real-real Eastside where you could still get mugged if you were in the market for that kind of thing, or to one of those eighteen and over clubs in mid-town Hollywood where it was a little gay but could be anything and also, more than that, really wasn’t anything at all. Clifford was almost eighteen but he had a fake ID, and I had a real one, even though they sometimes got confused because it was a vertical card which meant I didn’t have my license yet even though I was almost nineteen. Clifford couldn’t swim and I couldn’t drive and nei-


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ther of us had left Los Angeles. We went out so rarely that by the time we thought to, we’d almost forgotten how to, or what going out even meant. The decision to leave Sunset and Gower was always fueled by a sudden romantic notion one of us would have, usually born out of one of those angry California albums from the ‘90s; The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beck and Silversun Pickups and Elliot Smith all told us who we were and we really liked believing them. Los Angeles is a city that is romanticized so often that you can’t help romanticizing yourself once in a while if you live in it. We’re actually from here, Clifford would say, deeply proud, forgetting for a moment that our city was no less provincial than any other town and that it was a desert and overcrowded and always on fire. I would do my eyeliner really thick when Clifford and I’d go out and sometimes girls would hit on me but more often they thought Clifford was my boyfriend and I never really corrected them. Clifford wasn’t my anything by any definitive standards but just like playing tennis in the dark was Clifford’s self-prescribed blindness-treatment, I hung around with him because I felt, in a guttural, instinctual way, that he could fix me; that he would correct my self-created flaws and manufactured insecurities. East Hollywood on a Friday was vaguely celebratory but eerie and unnerving; haunting in the way the high desert is haunting; ghost-townish but made all the worse because it was bursting with people. Those eighteen and over clubs weren’t glittery and profound like

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you imagined them when you were falling asleep; most people who went weren’t eighteen and over, they were forty and over and had the thin, muscled bodies of the exercise-conscious and the overly-tanned, stretchedout skin that everyone knows is indicative of a chronic fear of aging. It felt stale in those places; it felt tragic and hungry. We had grand illusions about nightlife and Los Angeles, Clifford and I, who we’d be in it, once we were really, really in it but we couldn’t help ourselves; we were just those poorish kids who lived in Hollywood and played tennis in the dark and we’d leave sooner than we’d expected, laughing at ourselves and the strangeness of staying up all night with strangers. I’d take off my shoes because it made me feel grown-up to walk on the sidewalk barefoot and we’d amble down Hollywood, back to the bus which would take us to Sunset and Gower, and Clifford’s glasses would glow in the dark bus window like tennis balls and I’d think about how he was never going to get his sight back and how we were never going to leave LA. The morning I left we didn’t play tennis. It was late August and the sun wasn’t out and the sidewalk was blue grey with dampness. I walked to Clifford’s apartment and he was there with his father who was smoking a pack of Marlboros in the kitchen. Clifford was wearing this giant, old, Lacoste tennis polo that I’d given him a few months back; this huge, awful, gorgeous, strawberry gum pink Lacoste polo; a tennis pro on LSD. It drooled over Clifford’s big shoulders and made him into a little girl and a tourist papa and a beautiful young man all at once, all together. And he didn’t turn around for a moment, hunched over his hands, sullen with his father’s cigarettes, and I


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didn’t announce myself for a moment and I let the explicit pinkness of Clifford’s shirt bring that familiar ache bubbling up underneath my ribs; the ache you get when it’s summertime in Los Angeles and you fall in love with a stranger on the bus for five minutes and she leaves at the next stop and you smell the city burning somewhere and you’re drunk on bubbly water and the pavement blisters your bare feet and you slowly begin to assimilate, gradually to dissolve into the murky sunlight bouncing off everyone and everything and it’s what you want most in the world; an ache that hurts more than anything and resists definition in its sunlit intensity; elusivity at its most grounded; Hollywood in a sensation. We went outside and stood on the cement outside his apartment, Clifford and I, backs to our skinny street that spindled off Sunset like an extra limb, and Clifford’s glasses were smaller than I always envisioned them in my head, more childish, less sure. My dad’s gonna get cancer, said Clifford, dry. His feet were suddenly huge next to my black Chelsea boots. He was wearing flip flops. I looked at our feet and felt my resolve cracking. Yeah, I said vaguely. It wasn’t a good farewell. I remember kissing Clifford a little too close to the mouth but that was alright; he expected it; he ruffled my newly short hair like he was petting a yippy Westside dog. You should get new glasses, I said, you need to get out there, Clifford, you need to show your, like, stuff. Clifford sniffed his big nose like it was about to run.

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I don’t know, Ella, he said, maybe. It was only after I’d ambled back down Sunset, wrinkling my nose against the tears that threatened to spring out of me, that I realized Clifford was still holding out hope for his eyesight. And then I really cried but I didn’t care. Sunset Boulevard at 7:00 am has no pretenses; it’s kind of a free for all, actually; it’s elusive beyond recognition; you can be whatever you want.


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Building the Hooper Hotel Antony Cardellini Duke University

Saturday, four P.M. Seventy percent chance of rain at seven. Fifteen hours to go. A cardinal is singing atop the site fence as we go about building the Hooper Hotel. It cocks its head at me as I watch. But I know if I venture over it will fly away, into the warm summer air. It’s been hot all day, here in Durham, and I’m sure my hair will sweatstick to the inner lining of my hard hat when I pull it off later. Hopefully the forecast will have changed by then. I figure we’re due for a storm—we haven’t been rained out since mid-April. Now it is May and today the sky is cloudless. The tops of the upland hardwoods across the street are swaying in the breeze like the silver rods of a wind chime. Amongst the branches, two yellow warblers sit examining the heavy equipment—the wide trough of the payloader, the sharp claw of the trackhoe, the crow’s nest atop the crane. I hear an eighteen-wheeler swerve onto Towerview to my left and I stand from my white plastic chair and watch it climb the hill to the jobsite. When it’s twenty yards away its whirring motor overcomes the cardinal’s song. I wave it into the gates. Most of us have never built anything like the Hooper Hotel—a new, massive luxury hotel on the campus of the prestigious Duke University. Once I worked roofing on a giant student dorm at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh. But not even that can really compare. This jobsite is gigantic—

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eight or nine acres, easy. There are more than three hundred workers on site. We’re split into twelve different teams, each with its own supervisors and foremen. All of us come to the university seven days a week, returning to school like old students. Except I’m the only guy on the transportation team with more than a year of any sort of college. Probably the only guy on the entire site who keeps a journal for his daughter, too. But I figure this is better than writing letters I know I won’t send. Fifty feet above me one of the glass guys is polishing the panels of the skybridge that connects the two main towers of the Hooper Hotel. They say that something about the way the glass is designed makes the Wi-Fi faster. That’s one thing about working construction—you never miss the chance to brag about something you’re building, how state-of-the-art it is. And everyone gets to brag equally—the trash guys just as much as the finishers. I know I’ll brag about building the Hooper Hotel for years to come, even though all I do is wave vehicles into the gate, and power wash the road when it gets too dirty. The hotel lends itself to bragging better than anything I’ve ever worked on, too. Its rooms unlock when they sense their guests approaching. Its fire alarm system knows exactly where the fire is. From the penthouse, on the fourteenth floor of the south tower, you can see hundreds of acres of Duke Forest to the west, and all the way to the red-brick tops of the old tobacco buildings to the east. They took us up there the day it was topped out and it was the first time I had ever seen so many construction men so quiet. Everyone was overwhelmed—not only because the views were gorgeous, but also because we knew we’d never get the chance to see it all again. That’s another thing about construction. You spend years working on a building and then once it’s done you’re never invited back. Throughout my work day, as I sit at my station by the gate, I look up to the tops of the towers of the Hooper Hotel.


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Sometimes when I’m looking there I see you, Grace. You’re waving down at me with your face pressed against the glass. The greatest thing I have made inside the great thing I am making. Now the sun is picking up speed in its fall towards the horizon, and the work site is slowing down. Huddles of workers stand outside the site fence, smoking and trading stories about their wives and their children. The few still inside are sweeping and tossing large black trash bags over their shoulders. Don on the fiber glass team walks towards me at the exit, wiping the sweat off his forehead with a dirty towel. I know Don from a past job—a library in Greensboro. He gives me a fist-bump as he goes by. The second he exits the gates he pulls his Hi-Viz vest off his lanky body, his hard hat off his bald head. He begins to climb Towerview towards his car. I can picture him driving home to a nice brick house in Trinity Park, and lifting his daughter up in his arms. I’ve heard the fiber optics guys make thirty-five an hour. When the last worker exits I check to make sure all the machinery is turned off and finally swing the gate closed behind me. The cardinal is gone from the site fence. Devoid of Hi- Viz orange, the site looks brown and rocky and barren. The Hooper Hotel looms overhead like a black cloud. Still the day is hot and sticky. I look down Towerview at the cars flashing past on University Road. I look across the street at the warblers amongst the trees. I look at the sky and think of rain. ❦ Saturday, five P.M. Eighty percent chance of rain at seven. Fourteen hours to go. I haven’t thought about God in a long time, Grace. Not since I saw that flier yesterday. But now I’m thinking maybe He knew what He was doing bringing me back to Durham after

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all. By the time I get to the bakery on Main Street most of the good stuff is gone, but the last few loaves are usually discounted. I make sure to wear my vest and hard hat when I enter. The bell on the door sounds a soft ding. I stop before the counter to admire the mural on the white brick of the right wall: a man in a straw hat tills a field of cornstalks at dusk. In the top left corner, there are two life-sized blue jays—a mother and her child. The shape of the blue crests atop their heads is wonderfully done. The black stripes on their folded blue wings are impeccable. I’d give a lot to be able to paint like that. There are two loaves of white bread still left on the shelves. On the counter is a plastic plate with four or five samples left. I stab a tiny toothpick into a small wedge of rye and chew on it heavily. A young dark-haired girl in a maroon apron glances up from wiping the wooden tabletops. Excuse me. Are there any discounts on the last two loaves of bread? I ask. I haven’t seen her before. I might be able to give you fifty percent off, she says. She walks behind the register. I ask about her day. When I am at work building the Hooper Hotel, there are lots of young girls that walk by. I see a fair amount at this bakery as well. And every time I am certain for half a millionth of a millisecond, Grace, that it is you. I pay for the bread in cash. When the girl hands me the loaves I walk to the seating area and sit in a chair made of thin wrought-iron, at a small circular green table against the wall. I watch a sparrow flash by through the window. Finally I take a breath and look at the bulletin board. I’m not sure writing in this journal is so good for me, Grace. I can’t even remember why I started. But it makes me think about things a lot. It makes me do a lot of reliving. At the top of the bulletin board there are ads for babysitters and yoga classes, for recreational sports, for


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half-marathons. Posters display local musicians. A large ad for the Durham Farmer’s Market is in the center. As my eyes move down, I start to think that maybe someone has stripped off the one I am looking for. How could I be so stupid as to not take a picture yesterday, when I rubbed the stuffing out of my eyes after first seeing the poster, when I first comprehended the possibility of seeing you… But it has not been torn down. It is still red with white letters. I am sure you have seen it many times. In large font at the top it says: The Thespian Society of Durham Academy High School presents… “Up With the Birds” A play in three acts Thursday and Friday, 4 P.M., and Sunday, 11 A.M. Reynolds Theater, Durham Academy And below, a picture of five actors. I knew once I saw them, Grace, that it was you in the center, in the red dress, with the rouge blush, and the black sparkles around your eyes: a splendid cardinal, the lead actress. When I saw it yesterday I felt as though my heart had become a dislodged stone and dropped onto my stomach. But you have to listen to me, Grace. You have to listen carefully. When I first began to work on building the Hooper Hotel, the supervisor from Skanska told me it was an enviable position. I was going to be paid well, and the work was not going to take too much out of me physically. The supervisor leaned her arms on her makeshift desk, in the building next to the jobsite. She said she was hiring me because of my dependability. Everyone we have talked to says that you are never late, she said. And that you never miss a day of work. And that is

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why you are getting this job. And when I first moved away from you, Grace, when I took my first construction job in Asheville a decade ago, the construction manager gave me two pieces of advice: Never accept a deal in which you are promised money too far in the future for your work in the present. And never miss a day. I don’t care how sick you are. You miss one day and the foremen lose trust. Do you know how many people are lined up, waiting to take your job from you? I can’t let other men take my job from me, Grace. I can’t let the foremen down. Not on a project like this. But I can hope for rain. I sit in the bakery on Main Street and look at the blue jays on the white wall. The points of their crests are like the peaks of mountains. Their tiered feathers are like ripples on a pond. They’re life-sized and beautiful, but always out of reach. I think about how God wouldn’t have brought me to Durham to build the Hooper Hotel if He didn’t want me to see your poster. And God wouldn’t have placed the poster here—where He knew I would see it—if He wasn’t going to tear open a great stitch in the fabric of the sky and make it pour like never before tomorrow morning. ❦ Saturday, nine P.M. Seventy percent chance of rain at seven. Ten hours to go. Here I am, writing in this journal again. I can’t even remember taking it off the kitchen table. I’ve got the weather channel on in the background as I paint. I’ve never watched it before. They keep saying the same thing over and over again. My head has started to hurt. My temporary home is a one-bedroom on Liberty Street. The walls are white and the paint on the cabinets is gray. The back of my easel faces the only window, a small


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square in the kitchen that looks out onto patchy grass. At lunch last week the trash guys were talking about what they’d do if they won the lotto—sports cars and nice houses and women. I just want a place with French doors and floor-toceiling windows. Maybe a rose garden in the back, where you could sit and play. The birds I’ve finished hang on the walls. Looking at them in the dark helps me sleep. The canvases I use are two and a half feet by four, so I get to put in plenty of detail. I sign my name in the bottom right corner of each one: a jet black toucan with its back turned, head cocked, brilliant beak pointing leftwards. An eagle with bright green eyes. A finch with a yellow breast and blue tail feathers. The apartment is a twenty minute walk from where we used to live. I know because I went one day and stood in our old front yard until an old lady came out and asked me what I wanted. I said peace. She sat in a rocking chair on her porch and glared at me until I went away. When I got home I mixed some greens and blues and started painting a heron. I worked through the night into the misty hours of early morning—I could not stop until it was finished. Now I’m working on a new bird, a feathery cardinal sitting in freshly-fallen snow. Your mother was sweet, Grace. She was so sweet. I met her the weekend I got back here, right after dropping out of school. She was selling jams at the farmer’s market in a beige apron with her hair tied back. She talked me into trying the strawberry sample. We went on our first date later that day, dinner at the diner on Markham Ave. When I said I didn’t want the onions on my hamburger she reached over and pulled them out and ate them both in one big bite. We started going there every week. I used to tell her to meet me at six and then arrive ten minutes late so I could sneak up and hug her from behind, with the insides of my upper arms on her shoulders. I scared her pretty bad a few times. I used to love pressing my

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lips to the tightly woven strands of golden hair atop her head. I can’t get the cardinal right. My red is too light. I’ve fucked up the proportions somehow. I’ve made the head too small. It doesn’t even look like a bird anymore. But I’ve got to save it. I’ve got to do everything I can to save it. I find my thinnest brush. The world was so hard on your mother. That was my greatest fear back then—becoming a part of the world to her. Her dad left her when she was young. She was twelve when she lost her mother to a drunk driver, at three P.M. on a Thursday. Her mother was driving home from the grocery store. I think all this loss was why she loved my dad so much—he was like a new parent to her. When I told her I had dropped out of school to care for him, she thought that was the greatest thing in the world. We were both at the hospital when he died, just two months after we’d started dating. Somehow the weatherman in my apartment is still speaking earnestly into the camera. The precipitation percentages haven’t changed. He shows a green map of North Carolina and points to a swirling animated storm moving southwest from Virginia Beach, complete with little lightning bolts and rain drops. He traces his finger along its predicted path: ten or so miles north of the Triangle. Anything we get will be the edges of the main storm, he says. When Dad first got sick, they started plotting to close his pizzeria on Ninth Street. Him and I, we fought them like hell on that. I remembered working through the night at fourteen, washing dishes for him. I remembered the times he’d let me toss dough. I said I knew Dad would get better, that others could manage the restaurant in the meantime, but I couldn’t really argue when things got really bad. I had too many other problems to worry about. Dad was hospitalized for good. Mom had come into town, had refused to pay for a hotel, had moved into Dad’s old room with her new husband. I spent the last few


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nights of Dad’s life lying awake in my room, listening to the sound of them fucking across the hall. See—there I go reliving again. I’ve got to fix this painting, this bird. I blur the edges of the cardinal’s belly so it looks slightly larger. I flick flecks of black near the eyes. I elongate the tail feathers, slope them downwards. I curve the breast outward slightly, in careful brushstrokes of red. As I paint my arms tingle. My fingers feel like cracked glow sticks, warm and luminous and blurry. I get lost in the smallest details of the work: the bird’s iris, its tufts of furled feather, the line through its tiny beak. For most of this my face is less than two inches from the canvas—I have to be careful not to smudge the paint with the tip of my nose. Oh, Grace, if you could’ve seen your mother and I. We were broken, but we were in love. She’d tell stories of her mother before the accident. I’d reminisce about Dad taking me down to the ballpark for baseball games when I was little. But it was so hard, being here, surrounded by places that reminded me of him. A few years later I still hadn’t gotten over Dad’s death. I couldn’t take being in Durham anymore. I would beg your mother to take trips to Hillsboro, to Charleston, all the way to Savannah. I would ask every weekend. But you were entering kindergarten and your mother wanted stability. I begged her to move, but she couldn’t give Durham up. You had just been accepted by lottery to a great elementary school. She had been working in a service organization downtown. I began looking for places where I could escape my memories—my memory. I saw a job listing for a construction project in Asheville, but of course I couldn’t leave you. The cardinal is taking shape, finally. I paint a few snow-covered bushes in the background to frame the bird. I’ve managed to save its shape, but I’ve lost some of its original grace. It’s not as graceful as it could’ve been. Still, finishing a bird gives me a warm sense of pride, and hope. I lift the canvas

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off the easel and set it down next to the blue jay against my white bedroom wall. The weatherman drones on in the background. Outside, night has fallen. The small square of window in my kitchen has faded to black. One day in late winter, maybe five years after Dad’s death, I dreamt of big black vultures carrying you away. I woke with a jolt and decided to go for a walk. I crawled out of bed and crept past your bedroom, too scared to look inside. I pulled an old tweed coat over my shoulders and walked to Main Street and then through East Campus all the way to Ninth Street. I hadn’t been to Dad’s pizzeria since before the cancer, when he took me out to dinner during Christmas break. Now the building that had housed it was falling into ruin. The only markers of his restaurant left were the red “P I Z Z E R I A” letters hanging against the white brick of the building. For some reason, the first four letters were still lit, glowing in painfully bright neon. I sat on the steps to the restaurant entrance and wept with my head in my hands. Two men were walking by with big black shoes and plastic bags. One of them nudged the other and pointed to the four illuminated letters. Look, he said, pizz. What a great fuckin idea. He walked to the corner of the parking lot and stood for a minute with his legs spread open. I could see a thick stream of dark liquid gurgle against the gravel in the dim lamplight. Listen, Grace. Please listen to me. It was those men that made me leave. It was those men in the big black shoes. I’ll never even know their names. ❦ Sunday, one A.M. Sixty percent chance of rain at seven. Six hours to go. I check the forecast once more before setting my alarm for seven. I’ll wake up and throw the covers off and press my


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face against the square window in the kitchen and then I’ll know. I’m nervous, Grace. I need you to know that. I’m nervous. When you were little I’d take you on adventures in Duke Forest, would raise you to my shoulders and set you there, would tell you about all the different trees and animals. We would birdwatch together and you loved the little sparrows, the baby quail. I’d take you to the Duke Gardens and pick you flowers and we’d sit on the grass by the pond and look at the blue heron. I’d take you to the farmer’s market on Saturdays with your mother, and we’d taste the strawberry jam together. I wonder what you’d think of me now, if you saw me building the Hooper Hotel. I wonder what you’d think of the worksite, and the ragged men in their Hi-Viz suits. I wonder, too, what I would think of your school and your friends. I wonder if you play sports, or if you’ve been to New York City, or if you’ve kissed a boy. I wonder how often you think of me. I wonder if God is out there somewhere, writing His plans for tomorrow’s weather on a scroll. I suppose if it doesn’t rain I’ll have to hold myself together as I wave vehicles through the gates on their way to the jobsite of the Hooper Hotel. But if it does rain—I’m not sure you’d even recognize me. Maybe all I’ll do is give you this journal, as a way of explaining everything. Maybe I’ll give you this painting, my cardinal, and tell you that you did wonderfully onstage. Maybe your mother will allow me to take you both to that old diner on Markham Ave. Wouldn’t that be something, Grace. By tomorrow night we’ll be celebrating together. ❦ Sunday, three A.M. Forty percent chance of rain at seven. Four hours to go.

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I was just awakened, Grace, by the sound of something hitting the window. It jolted me out of my sleep, and I rushed over to the kitchen to see what it was. But all I could see was a bird on the top of the neighbor’s fence, illuminated by a nearby porchlight. And for the first time, I thought—if you could read this journal tonight, maybe you’d wish for sunshine tomorrow.


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The Tip Jar Rebecka Eriksdotter Pieder McGill University

I

n the Montreal neighbourhood of Mile End, students are scattered throughout assorted coffee shops like gnats around a bowl of fruit. During the school year, the Student sits for hours on end staring at his screen and jotting down scribbles in his Moleskine, only occasionally taking breaks to puff Belmonts outside and complain to the nearest young person about the length of his latest assigned reading. Claiming that the student community is an integral part of Mile End would indubitably generate outrage from its residents – notably from the Student himself, since getting out of the college “bubble” was one of the main reasons he chose to live there at all. I suppose this is the part where I should describe the Student in greater detail. Admittedly, I’m not sure how helpful this would be, since although the Student prides himself on his originality, I couldn’t pick him out of the crowd at a poorly attended slam-poetry reading. The Student thrifts all of his clothes, as after joining his University’s “Environmental Awareness Society” he decided to boycott fast-fashion altogether. Every Tuesday afternoon, the Student can be seen strolling down Rue Prince Arthur, returning to his studio apartment after his Postcolonial Literature seminar. This Tuesday, as was common, he studied at a café for a couple hours in the afternoon, and spent the rest of the evening at a bar with classmates. This evening produced a particularly heated dis-

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cussion, one that the Student expected everyone to have strong opinions on, namely the gentrification of Mile End. “It is really such a travesty,” the Student exclaims, “This area has so much culture, so much deep rooted history and character, and soon that will all be gone.” “I couldn’t agree with you more,” his friend responds, “Throughout history, anytime artists or creative minds settle someplace, the rich will follow and make sure to profit off of their success, its vile.” “Exactly,” the Student contends, “and the saddest part is that the artists that transformed the area in the first place, by like, setting up art galleries or starting local micro- breweries, have indirectly catalyzed the whole process.” A third friend sighs and judiciously chimes in, “It’s tragic, but inevitable really. I mean, the way capitalism is set up, ensures the quashing of all creativity. The value added to this community by street vendors and local delis, technically just goes straight into the pockets of rich landowners. They benefit from the workers and then proceed to suck the life out of the community itself by building massive apartment buildings, with rents so high that only the privileged elites can afford it.” At this point, the discussion is interrupted by the bartender, as he quite loudly yells, “Hey! Come back here!” The Student looks up and realizes that an Indigenous homeless woman is sprinting towards the door. Her ragged clothes and knotted hair floats in the wind as she runs. Clenched in her fist is a glass jar filled with cash, and the word “Tips” written on it. She makes it out, and the three boys follow her with their gaze through the window, as she cuts across the across the street and rounds a corner. The boys sit in silence for a moment. Eventually, The Student sits up straight and declares, “Wow, the opioid crisis is really getting out of hand,” prompting astute nods from his peers. They then finish their beers, giving the bartender a sym-


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pathetic 30% tip. Upon returning to his empty studio apartment, the Student sits down on his bed, and bursts into tears. He understood that he knew nothing about the world, that he was small in the face of the big issues, and that he was leading an empty life without any significance. He then went to sleep, and dreamt about nothing.

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The Iceman Madeline Peterson

University of Wisconsin-Madison

When Dan first met Lorraine, he was surprised to find she was not so young up close as she appeared from a distance. Dan didn’t know much about attractive women, but he guessed that Lorraine invested a lot of time and energy into creating this effect. She was sitting on a three-legged barstool outside the carnival tent, and when the fair manager introduced her as his wife, Dan thought he was joking. The manager, Mike, was closer to sixty than any other decade; he was sallow and balding and had the look of a snowbank in March, sooty and fading quickly. Lorraine, at first glance, did not appear to be fading at all. She had red hair without a trace of grey, pulled back in a ponytail with the density of a broom. She wore bright pink lipstick and bright blue eye makeup, and, sitting on the barstool, was so glittering and sharp that it was hard to look at her directly. “You’re his wife?” Dan asked before he could think better of it. Mike and Lorraine just laughed; Lorraine had square, white teeth that reminded Dan of his grandmother’s dentures. “I know,” said Mike. “I’m a lucky man.” Dan leaned in to shake Lorraine’s hand, and it was then he saw that her face was fissured with wrinkles, and her hand was loose-skinned and cold, spotted with age and knotted with the beginnings of arthritis. He told her hello, and then he and Mike went inside to see the iceman.


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Dan first met the iceman when he spent five days guarding him at the county fair. It was the kind of job you could only get if you knew someone. Not because it was desirable or well paid, but because it was so extraordinarily boring that only desperation or a personal favor could cause someone to take it. For Dan, it was both of those reasons. He was twenty-four and had just moved back home after losing his job sorting mail. Sorting mail wasn’t something he’d wanted to do, either; he’d started right after high school, and until his last day he told himself it was only a temporary stopping point on the way to something better. When he lost his job, Dan told his father he couldn’t believe that he’d spent six years there, that he had wasted his time doing something so unremarkable, and let his life become so small. He would not make the same mistake again. His father, the type of man who only let himself laugh on the weekends, smiled when Dan said this. But the fair’s manager was a friend of a friend of his father, and when he needed someone to work security for a week, Dan knew he wasn’t in a place where he could refuse. The term “security” wasn’t a fitting title. It implied that he’d be protecting something of value, which he wasn’t. His job at the fair entailed standing in a carnival tent behind a mangy velvet rope and making sure people didn’t try to touch the iceman—a ten thousand-year-old Paleolithic man, frozen in a block of ice. The banner outside proclaimed that he was the missing link, the only proof of a species that somehow evidenced how humans were able to develop the cognition necessary to build cities and weapons of mass destruction and Velcro shoes. People could see this natural wonder of the world (this was on the sign, too) for the price of two dollars, and it was Lorraine’s job to collect the entrance fee. Inside the tent it was freezing, even though outside it wasn’t yet eleven in the morning and already the air was weary with August heat. “We have two air conditioning units running at all times,” the manager said as Dan made an effort not to shiver.

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“The iceman needs it to stay cold in here.” The only light was a bare bulb illuminating the block of ice containing the iceman himself. Dan wasn’t sure what he’d expected the thing would look like, but it wasn’t this. Most of the ice was frosted and opaque, and Dan had to get closer and squint to see what was within. Even then, the iceman was only fragments surfacing kaleidoscopically out of the darkness—an edge of yellow teeth, battling for position in a lower jaw held slack as if struck dumb by all that it’d seen of modernity. Oil spill eyes like a January midnight, searing and empty, that stared through him and beyond to some distant, frozen past. It was about the same height as Dan, which surprised him. He’d expected a giant, something substantial and shocking, not this thing, which held its head and shoulders low and seemed to be leaning away from or back into something. It had one of its hands outstretched, the middle fingers forming two blue spots against the ice. Dan reached out to touch the ice block. It was plastic. “Nice.” “Sorry?” the manager asked. “I figured it would be a hoax, but even the ice?” Mike looked at him with something like amazement— it’d been less than twenty minutes, and already Dan had disappointed him. “Listen,” he said, “You don’t have to believe in the iceman, but when there are people in here and they’ve paid for their tickets, you better believe in the iceman. That’s the only way this thing works.” Mike told him that he should warn people not to touch the ice, or it’d melt. He said that Dan should be prepared to answer questions—people would want to know more about the iceman. They would need to be convinced. “What do they ask?” “Usually they want statistics. How old he is, where he’s from. Maybe they want to know how we found him. Sometimes you’ll get a question that’s more creative, but not often.” He


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said that people were naturally inclined toward believing in the iceman. They’d invested two dollars in this experience, and more powerful than their doubts was their wish to avoid disappointment. “But I don’t know anything about it,” Dan said. Mike shrugged. “Lorraine handles most of the talking, so just repeat what she says. Or make something up if you want—have a story ready, so long as it’s not too complicated. Although I expect that’s not a problem for you,” he said. “I’ve got to go check on the cheese curd girl, now. You good?” Dan said he was. “And make sure you talk to Lorraine occasionally. I don’t want her to get lonely.” “Hey, where’d you get this thing, anyway?” Dan asked, still studying the iceman. The manager stopped by the entry of the tent and shook his head. “We dug him up from the Greenland ice sheet,” he said. “Where do you think?” Dan stared into the corners of the empty tent for half an hour before light slivered the entryway and Lorraine appeared. She was backlit by the bright day outside, the ends of her hair brilliant like the sediment at the bottom of a fruit punch container. “You’re bored,” she said. “Come sit out here.” Dan left the iceman, squinting against the sunlight, and went to where Lorraine was slouched on her seat. She was wearing a money belt full of change, and it displaced the extraneous flesh around her waist. She was not, he decided, that beautiful, and he wasn’t sure how he’d thought otherwise. She’d managed to round up a spare barstool, and she patted it with her old woman’s hand. Dan sat, wondering if the manager was planning on coming by soon, and what he’d think if he saw him already abandoning his duties. It might not be the worst thing to get fired, but he did need the money.

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“Tell me,” she said without turning to look at him. “Do you think she’s pretty?” She nodded across the gravel walkway to the cheese curd stand, where a woman was leaning behind the register, her chin propped in her hand. Despite the distance, Dan could see that her skin was patchy and red, probably from working over a fryer all day—but he suspected Lorraine was testing him. “Sure.” Lorraine did look at him then. She was wearing dark green color contacts that were too small for her iris, and her natural brown eyes bled out around the edges. “Are you married, Dan? Do you have a girlfriend?” “Um. No.” “Well maybe you should go talk to the cheese curd girl,” Lorraine said. “I bet she’s single, too.” Dan looked around for any excuse to get back to his work, but the only thing coming down the road was a hot wind that stirred up tiny tornadoes of red dust. They were located on the furthest corner of the fairgrounds, and he could hear blurred fragments of human conversation and music carried over from the center. “So, what do you think of the iceman?” Lorraine asked. She didn’t wait for Dan to answer. “It’s great, right? We’ve been hauling it around each summer for ten years now, and people love it. It’ll be famous before long, mark my words.” “There’s nobody here, though,” Dan said. Lorraine made a dismissive gesture; she was wearing silver charm bracelets all the way from her wrist to her elbow, and they rattled against one another like a chain-link fence. “Oh, people will show up,” she said. “They always do.” People did come to see the iceman that first afternoon, but not many. Dan counted fifteen in total—a family of four, one-third of a baseball team, and two old women.


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“This thing needs some antifreeze,” one of the baseball players said, frustrated after trying to peer through the plastic at the iceman. “I can’t get a good look at him.” Dan thought this wasn’t how antifreeze worked, but he just told the boy not to touch the ice. He wasn’t as good with people as Lorraine, who told everyone who dared to come near all about the prehistoric man, from his origin to his species to his frostbitten toes. He was six feet tall, she said, and weighed 180 pounds. He wore clothing made from seals and arctic foxes, and he was probably about 40 when he died, which was a long lifespan, considering. Who would want to get much older than that, especially in those days? She talked about things other than the iceman as well, asking people where they were from and where they were going; she asked them what they’d done so far at the fair and what they’d liked best (nobody, Dan noticed, said the iceman). So, Mike had been right about Lorraine doing most of the talking. Still, Dan couldn’t resist adding the occasional fact. He told people that the iceman hadn’t been so much found as stumbled upon by a team of dogsledders. It’d been the darkest day of the year when the sun was but a candle’s glow on the horizon and nothing more, and the dogsledders were so exhausted from their Arctic trudging that they saw the thing beneath their feet and thought the cold had finished destroying their bodies and moved on to their minds. The iceman was resting in a shallow divot that was once, before global warming, a glacial ravine. In fact, falling to the bottom was probably the cause of his death—it explained that fated look on his face and the way he reached out, as if for someone to save him. But nobody could. No other ice people were found in that area. When he’d died, he’d been alone, and it was unsure whether or not this was because he was the last of his kind or he’d wanted to be this way. Of course, this didn’t mean he was unhappy. There was no scientific proof of loneliness or its opposite, but there was proof that the iceman had a fairly com-

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fortable life. One hundred yards away, the dogsledders found the foundations of a house. Traces of a cooking fire outside, where the iceman would’ve roasted reindeer steaks, the wind blowing sparks that charred the fur on his sealskin coat. This was the story Dan told the few that asked, and when no one was around to hear, Dan recited this story and altered versions of it to the iceman himself. “Does that sound right to you?” he’d ask. If he was really bored, Dan imagined that he could detect gratitude on the iceman’s face. And why shouldn’t he be thankful? Finally, someone had arrived who took the time to know the truth about his past and tell it. Someone who did not gawk at him but looked at him and saw him and knew him to be real. Usually these moments of quiet bonding were interrupted by Lorraine, calling for Dan to sit with her. “Look at this,” she counted out the bills from her money belt. “Thirty dollars.” Dan figured that was what the Ferris wheel made in five minutes but chose not to point this out. Lorraine tucked the money away. The sun was low over the surrounding cornfield, shining slantwise on her tissue-paper face. Dan wondered if he could go home early now that they’d finally made some money, but Lorraine just told him to take a seat. “Mike will be happy,” she said. “Not bad at all.” Across the road, the cheese curd lady reappeared in the window, her face bored under the cloud of her regulation hairnet. She’d taken off her plastic gloves and was picking at a hangnail. “So, where did Mike even find the iceman?” Dan asked before Lorraine could devise more situations where he could go fall in love with the cheese curd woman. Lorraine sat up straighter and folded her hands; it was a question she’d been waiting for. “He didn’t. I’m the one who found him.” She’d been living in Nevada at the time, Lorraine said, working in advertising for an Ice Age-themed resort. The


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resort hadn’t lasted long—nobody wanted to think about ice and mammoths when they were surrounded by the shine of the desert and the heat and the city, distracted by the warped and glittering sky. She’d bought the iceman when the franchise went bankrupt and sold its inventory. She wasn’t going to buy him at first, but she’d spent years walking past the iceman every day and thinking about what he might be and where he might come from. She noticed him when everyone else looked past him, and when he went up for sale, she had to do something. “I paid one hundred dollars for the iceman after my employee discount,” Lorraine said. “Everyone thought I was crazy—nobody said as much, but you could tell. I was going to use him as a Halloween decoration, but then I met Mike and he thought it was wonderful. I suppose he thought I wasn’t that bad, either, because we got married later that year. That was almost twenty years ago now, and he likes to say he loves both the iceman and me as much as the day he met us. That’s pretty good, right?” She waited for Dan to laugh. He did. “Everyone I know is divorced or getting divorced or unhappy, but we aren’t. People get jealous of Mike and me, you know.” Mike was rounding the corner, clipboard in hand. Dan got to his feet and jumped back to the entry of the tent, nearly upending the barstool in the process. Lorraine also stood, but only so she could better wave at Mike. He pointed to the cheese curd truck and then to his clipboard. “He must need to check on the cheese curd lady,” Lorraine said. “I thought he already did this morning.” “Well maybe he has to do it more than once. I bet you didn’t think of that.” Lorraine’s eyes flashed under their contacts. “You should probably go back inside now.” Dan was convinced Lorraine had cooled to him, so he was sur-

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prised when she called him back outside a few minutes later. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t ask you to do this, but would you mind getting me something to drink?” “From the concession stand by the Ferris wheel?” Dan asked, hopeful. “Of course not,” she said. “I’d never make you walk that far. Just go over there and get something from the cheese curd truck. Go now.” It was getting dark by then, and in the truck’s interior fluorescence, Dan could see the woman and Mike. The manager was talking with animation and an inner life the likes of which Dan had never seen in him, and the woman was laughing. She wasn’t wearing her hairnet; it lay abandoned by the register, and her hair was dark and segmented with grease. “Well, hi,” the manager said when Dan approached. He dropped back into professionalism quickly enough, but the woman was still smiling when she looked over her shoulder at Dan, though something ironic had crept into her expression. She rolled her eyes as if Dan and she were sharing a joke. “Lorraine wanted me to get her a water.” The cheese curd woman fished one out of the cooler and slid it to him, ice chips rolling off the sides and puddling on the metal counter. “I’ll take care of it,” Mike said, reaching over to intercept it. He stepped out of the food truck. The woman, Carrie, pulled her hairnet back over her ears. Dan had been right about her bad skin, but up close he couldn’t look away from her. She had the same kind of damning appeal as driving in a snowstorm or saying something harsh about another person when they were just in the other room. “We should both be getting back,” Mike said, appearing at Dan’s side. Dan thought he might be in trouble for deserting the iceman, but as they walked back across the dusky road, field mice darting in front of them like trails of smoke across the gravel, it did not seem like Mike was thinking about Dan at


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all. “I’ve got a lot of responsibilities, running these fairs,” he said to Dan in a quiet voice that was almost a whisper but could not legally be called one. “I have to check in with a lot of people. You understand that right?” Dan said he understood. He went back in the tent, leaving Mike and Lorraine to talk about whatever it was people who were still madly in love after decades of marriage had to say—he couldn’t hear their words over the hum of the air conditioners. Dan and the iceman regarded each other. “What do you think of all this?” Dan asked. The iceman said nothing. A pattern soon established itself. In the moments when the tent was empty (there were many of these moments), Lorraine would call Dan out to sit with her. Dan didn’t mind it—he just sat and nodded while she talked. In his life, Dan would meet a lot of people who could talk, but not a single person who did so like Lorraine, who told him everything about herself without telling him anything at all. She could go on for hours, telling stories about the fairs of the past, the success of the iceman, the success of her marriage, the success of her life, and yet when Dan asked her questions, she’d dodge them with such skill that he didn’t realize she’d gone back to her script until it was too late to interrupt again. But she seemed to like Dan. “You’re a good man,” she’d sometimes say in the spaces between stories, “letting me go on like this.” Nobody had ever told Dan of his goodness. He wondered if she meant it. When Mike would go check Carrie’s daily profits, within a few minutes Lorraine would send Dan over on some errand. Mike always stopped mid-conversation when Dan walked up, and although he didn’t immediately leave as he had on that first night, he would soon find a way to remove both himself and Dan from the company of the cheese curd woman.

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These were the only moments of action in days otherwise spent in an empty tent with a corpse. Dan was not a businessman like Mike or a saleswoman like Lorraine, and so he didn’t know for sure why nobody was interested in the iceman. He suspected it was a combination of things—the tent’s poor location, the cost of getting in. Maybe people didn’t really care about the missing link between their own species and those of the past. Why would you look at a mummified iceman when you could eat funnel cake and shoot water guns at rows of bottles glued to shelves, when you could go on the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl and some structurally unsound-looking thing called the Zipper again and again and again until you had to get lost in the corn maze just to find somewhere to vomit in peace? And above any of these other reasons, how could anyone care about the iceman when it was so obviously fake? But still, Dan noticed that when people first saw the iceman, there would always be a moment in which they wondered. For a second or two, the iceman was real to them, and their faces went soft with awe, and more than awe even was their relief—they’d each of them been stumbling after some nameless longing for so long, and with the existence of this blue-gray, frozen ancestor, they felt that it was okay, and they could finally rest. These were the only times that Dan thought Lorraine might be right about the iceman. So, on the last day when Mike told him that he was putting the thing in a storage locker in Superior for the foreseeable future, he had a falling feeling in his gut, as if he were bearing witness to a tragedy. “You are?” Dan asked. “Yeah.” They were standing outside the cheese curd woman’s truck; Mike had pulled him aside before they went back to Lorraine. “But I thought the thing was a goldmine.” “Lorraine told you that.”


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It wasn’t a question. They were only standing a few paces away from the cheese curd truck, and Dan suspected Carrie was listening. “Please don’t say anything. I have to find out a way to let her down gently. About everything.” Mike glanced at the truck and lowered his voice, “Look, I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but I don’t know how much longer Lorraine and I are going to last.” Dan didn’t know what to say. Finally, he settled on saying that it was too bad, and that Lorraine had seemed happy. “Well, Lorraine seems like a lot of things. But nothing’s been good between us for a while,” Mike said. “Yep, she’ll be upset at first, but it’ll be for the best.” Dan thought the word upset was not the right word for everything Lorraine would be. “I know what you’re thinking. I don’t know how to tell her. It may not seem like it now, but I do care about her—that’s why I’ve let her believe these things for so long.” Dan nodded. It was a windy night; there would probably be a storm soon, and the leaves of corn sliced past one another in the field. “You won’t say anything to her about this, right?” “No,” Dan said. “Good. I had my doubts at first, but you’ve turned out to be someone worth trusting.” That night, Dan put the iceman on a furniture dolly and wheeled him into his trailer for the last time. He threw the tarp over the top of the block, and when he reached up to pull it down, he was face-to-face with the iceman—the poor, tragic iceman, who was about to be banished forever to some storage unit and eventually a landfill, where he would sit until the end of time, staring up through layers of frost and ice and garbage. “I’m sorry,” Dan said. “But it’s not my job to take care of you anymore.” He pulled down the tarp.

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Lorraine was waiting for Dan by the tent with his pay. “Here you are,” she said. And then, like she’d done each night before that, she told him the iceman’s daily profits, which she recorded in a notebook she kept in her money belt. “Thirty dollars more than yesterday,” she said, and pride sat in the center of each of her words, a pride that was so self-certain and blameless that Dan cringed just to hear it. It was the last night of the fair, and people were going home early. The music was quieter than usual, the smells of fryer grease and chicken feed abated; even the Zipper seemed subdued, as the people inside the cars screamed a little less. “Well, Dan, you’ve been a help,” Lorraine said. “You could even come with us to Des Moines next week, if you’d like. It’s hard to find someone who’s willing to sit around with the iceman all day.” If there was ever going to be a time to tell her, it was then. But when he started to say something, Lorraine cut him off. “I owe you an apology. I’m sorry for trying to set you up with the cheese curd girl, I just thought it might be good for you.” She pulled on her jacket, even though the night was still warm. “I just want you to be happy. I want everyone to be happy. Is that too much to ask?” Dan thought it was, but he didn’t tell her so. He didn’t tell her anything. He just took his money and said goodbye. Dan did not leave the fairgrounds immediately. He sat in his car in the parking lot. Three separate times he started his car and three times he stopped it. When Carrie approached, he had the battery on but the engine off, the headlights fanning like moth wings across the trampled grass. She knocked on the doorframe. “Hey,” she said. “Mike told me they’re cutting the iceman. Are you losing your job?” “Yep,” Dan said, too tired to explain his employment situation.


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“Sorry to hear that,” She said. “So, this is going to seem like I’m gloating, but I have to tell someone. I extended my contract today—fairs every weekend through the rest of the fall.” “How did you manage that?” “What do you mean?” “Come on,” Dan said. “I’ve seen Mike when he’s around you. The guy’s obsessed.” Carrie rested her elbows on his window, putting her face close to his. Dan leaned away. “Look. I have two kids, and the worst cheese curds in the state. I have no money.” Dan wondered if he was supposed to feel bad for her. He did, a little. “Nothing has ever happened or will ever happen between me and the manager. If he happens to think it will, then that’s on him. He’s an unhappy old man, and I’m not going to ruin his day by telling him the truth.” “If you say so,” Dan said to Carrie. She dropped her smile. “You should be judging the people who believe lies, Dan. Not the people who tell them.” She held up a paper box. “Want some cheese curds? I have leftovers.” “No,” Dan said. “Thanks.” “I think someone got salmonella from them last year. The FDA almost shut me down for it,” she said. “But at least I’m not as bad off as the iceman.” “It doesn’t do as bad as you’d think.” He could see the quick, white line of Carrie’s smile. “I’m serious. People dig the whole ‘stranded in the Arctic, last of his kind’ thing. If you saw the iceman, I bet you’d believe in him, too.” “What about you?” she asked. “Do you believe it?” Behind her, heat lightning flashed, briefly illuminating the tops of the scraggly pines. “Of course not,” Dan said. Once she left, he started his car for the fourth and final

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time and drove home. Although he’d only guarded the iceman for a week, it marked a line in Dan’s life, a before and after so definitive that even once he began to forget about Lorraine and Mike and the cheese curd woman, he remembered his job at the fair. Within a week, he’d taken a position as a security guard in a bank. It wasn’t bad work—a little dull—and he knew if he wasn’t careful, he’d end up doing it for the rest of his life. Within a year, he met his wife through a friend of a friend of a coworker. Dan liked her honest face—wide and flat and placid. She didn’t put up with nonsense, and whenever she was anxious, happy, sad, angry, surprised, disappointed, and so forth, Dan could always tell by the wildfire blush that would creep up her neck and across her cheeks. But, like his job, she was uninteresting. He thought their daughter would make things better, but as Shannon got older, she was predictable, too, and Dan realized he could see before him the trajectory of the rest of his life: Saturdays to the grocery store, Mondays back to work, holidays driving to his parents’ house and then to his in-laws’, each day a little different but each year essentially the same. And all of this was laid out before him with no attempt at illusion, not even a single false promise, that things might someday be different. So, Dan decided to leave, telling his wife it was what had to be done. For the first few months his daughter would call him and ask when he was coming back. “Pretty soon,” he said. When his ex-wife heard he’d been telling Shannon this, she asked if he’d lost his mind. “I don’t know,” Dan said. “I just thought it’d be easier for her.” “Easier for you, maybe.” Dan knew her face was red as she said this. “Look, I’m just trying to protect her.” “This is incredible,” his wife said after a period of si-


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lence. “I tried to avoid it, but it looks like I’ve wasted ten years on a world-class idiot.” Dan stopped telling Shannon he’d come back. He didn’t specifically say he wasn’t, but as she got older and he got older and the gaps between their phone calls turned into months and then years and then stopped altogether, he knew she had figured it out for herself. Sometimes Dan wondered if it would’ve been better if he’d kept making that empty promise, even if she didn’t quite believe it. On the occasions when he still thought of the iceman, it was usually in the winter. A friend of his had an ice fishing shack, and on weekends they’d drive out and drill holes through the lake ice, which got thinner and more unpredictable each year, and the black water that stared up at them reminded Dan of the iceman’s fathomless eyes. Most weekends his friends were busy with family or other commitments. When this happened, Dan would go by himself, and he grew to prefer this. Other people would tell him to buy a shack, but he didn’t want one. He liked the Northern winds that numbed his face and hands, the glare of the sun off the snow that caused him to see lovely, fleeting spots whenever he blinked. He liked the quiet groans of the ice, uninterrupted by other voices or footsteps or the hissing of a space heater. The best thing about ice fishing was that it was really boring—Dan had time to remember not only the iceman’s eyes but the iceman himself. As Dan slowly froze his hands and feet and waited for a fish to bite, he allowed himself to imagine the creature was with him then, somewhere in the lake below. But this iceman was not frozen or made of plastic. He was six feet tall, 180 pounds, wearing a coat made from seal fur. He had not yet been banished to casinos or county fairs or a storage locker, and though he was alone, he was not unhappy. He was real and alive, and Dan could almost see him, almost hear him, but not quite.

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Late Spring Emefa Dzivenu

University of St. Andrews

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he pavement, speckled with a waxy moonlight, was glassy and damp. Ankara was stumbling over the street’s cobblestones, almost drifting off to the voice of the man in front of her and his clever words, his politics, his sharp yet unwanted opinions. Without notice, the streets became silent again, save for the slow, haunting rock music murmuring quietly from the dimly lit dive bar behind them. It was so faint that she wondered if she was imagining it. Jack gazed down at her expectantly. She racked her brain for an appropriately vague enough response to his musings, before finally settling on, “I-” she shook her head gravely. “It’s just society these days, isn’t it?” She supposed that she had said the right thing, because Jack nodded eagerly, his eyes bright. “I’m glad we could do this, Ankira,” he smiled, lifting his cigarette to his lips and exhaling, forming silvery sinuous shapes of smoke before her face. Jack felt pleased with his choice. A specific kind of loneliness had prompted him to face the glow of his iPhone that night. Before settling on a woman with a broad, broken smile and smooth brown skin, he had swiped through roughly hundreds of glimpses of new lives and new flesh. For him, it was kind of like retail therapy without the added expense. “Ahn-kawra,” she corrected. “And, yes, thanks for the drinks. I definitely needed them tonight.” Watching him, she was fully aware of how easy it is to get lost in one’s otherness, to be beguiled by it against your will. He looked so American, with his confident gaze, his lean,


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white face and perfect teeth. His silky salt and pepper hair made him seem as though he hovered delicately on the precipice of true maturity. “You and me both, what with the state of this country and the stock market,” Jack sighed, descending once again into his affected speech. Ankara stifled a yawn; she had thought she was in the clear. Standing there in the quiet alley, she realised she was more tired than excited by the prospect of beginning again. Above them, the streetlights began to sputter in the same way the fluorescence of her youth had begun to reach a dramatic, bleak flicker. In a few days, she would be forty years old. The silliness of this made her raise her hand to her forehead and laugh. Jack joined her, sure that she was simply reacting to his joke about voting for Jill Stein. She was so aimless, there in the dark empty streets, laughing with a man she hardly knew. She felt so young. She was not surprised when, later that night, she found herself counting the tiles on the ceiling of his bedroom as he clumsily kissed her full lips and fondled the flesh of her lovely and pitiful body, releasing the force of his desire. These types of nights were new to her, and yet, all too familiar. The next morning, wrapped in a blanket, Ankara slipped onto the balcony, and looked out into the city. There she stood, the subject-of-all-she-surveyed, and wondered. She wondered what time it was. She wondered how her parents were doing, making a mental note to call them and send money. She wondered what the weather was like in Accra, and why she had willingly traded its misty sky of lilac and blue, its raucous streets, its golden shores, for this country: a strange and glorious myth. She wondered where the sound of rock music was coming from, and was it the same song from last night? She couldn’t tell because Jack’s voice was cutting through the tender tune telling her to come back to bed. Later, when Jack would remember that chance night with that exotic woman, he would faintly recall how she, early

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that morning carrying in a gush of cold air from the balcony, had turned to him with a startling intensity and said, “I feel like I could disappear,” before crawling back into his arms. After she left his apartment, she walked through the streets of her city, tantalized by its chaos. The air was soft and pastoral as she passed by so many people, all with their own internal worlds and worries, all seeming to look right through her. She could feel herself vanishing, and as she felt the sour wind, she hoped it would howl at her until she disintegrated. At home, Ankara showered. She dried her hair and fingered her thick, supple curls into plaits. On her neck, she wore Abel’s first gift to her: a choker handmade with opal and turquoise colored beads. This was over a decade ago, during their final year at university, a few months before they left Ghana for the land of opportunity. She still had the note he had given her that day, an inside joke written in their native tongue. She laughed and headed downstairs to make herself a light lunch. The house was so quiet without the girls, so she switched on the news to listen to as she cooked. As the yams simmered and the jollof rice cooled, the day began to slip into dusk. She hated how fast the time went. Just a few months ago she had been wearing this same necklace as an anklet, Abel had been in the other room playing with the girls, and she had stood in the same spot preparing okra and fufu. How did it happen that those long ethereal years had receded into the past like her innocence? How did that beautiful white stranger manage to coax her husband into love? She couldn’t imagine how many hours she had spent stewing at the thought of this woman since she had discovered her existence. Ankara had been in plays when she was younger, she had hoped of becoming an actress before her father had told her that her dreams were not viable. Still, she had never felt as theatrical as when she stood above her husband, mystery underwear in hand, hoping against her reason that he would somehow provide an explanation that was not the obvi-


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ous. He did not. He confessed everything. “Kosɛ,” he’d told her. “I’m sorry.” Her name was Kennedy. They had met at work. He would always love Ankara and he had never meant to hurt her.

❦ At Chidi’s house, the kids said their goodbyes in one room as the grownups gossiped in the other. “I just don’t know what goes through the minds of some men,” Chidi said. “He’s so going to regret this.” “I don’t know either. Maybe America just does strange things to people,” Ankara paused and chewed her lip. She still felt a need to defend him despite now, despite everything. “But, you don’t need to say that. Not for me. I’ve moved on.” “Right,” Chidi said in a gentle voice that exposed her doubt. “Good for you.” “Anyway, thanks for having the girls over for the weekend.” “I hear your oldest one is turning eight soon.” “It’s not for a couple months actually, but she’s so excited.” Ankara waited a beat. She already knew the question that was dancing in her friend’s mind. “It was all she would talk about last night. I... I just wonder how that would work, just with Abel and... and her.” Chidi had been married to a Kenyan man for about five years now. In all this time, Ankara had never heard him utter more than a few words. From what she heard, their marriage was far from happy. But it was intact. With a glass of rosé in one hand and her phone in the other, Chidi was almost smiling as she discussed the ordeal that was Ankara’s newly modern family. “Would you all celebrate it together? How uncomfy. Or would she have two birthdays? But, you don’t want to spoil her, you know? Or...” With strange suddenness, a melody blared through the window of Chidi’s living room.

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“Sorry, our neighbor’s in this stupid garage cover band. The music’s quite nice sometimes though, they’re just really loud. Ankara, are you okay?” Swimming into the room, the music was heavy and strong. The tune was simple, and yet a listener would get the sense that its creators were taking part in such glorious and threatening work, cultivating such euphoric noise, that as they packed up their instruments that night and disappeared into the city, they would laugh to themselves as if they were God. The men’s voices grew louder as they sang, I don’t know how someone controlled you They bought and sold you “Chi, I think I’m fading away,” she tried to shout above the music. “I know, I can’t believe she’s almost eight,” Chidi said, “We’re getting old. Here, have another glass of rosé.” Ankara poured herself a glass, as her friend droned on, the sweet and sparkling wine beckoning the bliss of her past. Ekuwa was born in June of 2008. Ankara and Abel drove home from the hospital, and as the wind lightly whipped their faces, they felt untouchable. Money had been tight, but they didn’t care. The world was bright. They were young. They had known each other always. When summer came, happiness descended upon them like the dawn of a new dream. Amidst their mornings they would switch on the television to watch an affable senator from Chicago. So eloquent and hopeful, he looked vaguely like Abel and illustrated visions of change, leading prayers of renewal for a lost republic. During afternoons Abel would work tirelessly, defending clients he didn’t believe, while Ankara would care for their newborn daughter. Later, they would reunite for languorous nights filled with Twi and tea. Together like that, they each felt as if they were back in


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Accra, like they had found some part of it in this peculiar, new country. And yet, in the back of their minds, behind all those yearnings and joys, there was no fear like theirs. And almost as quickly as they had come, the eight years in power had evaporated like the hot vapors of her husband’s love. Those memories now hid amongst a decade once frothing with possibility, filled with yesterdays, sunrises and sunsets bleeding into one existence. However, whenever it appeared to her, Ankara couldn’t shake the wish that sometime soon, it would be late spring again.

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The Very Nice Gospel of “Leaky” Loutermilch James King

Dartmouth College

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he luminary sage “Leaky” Loutermilch was, as he proclaimed, taken up into heaven and delivered the miracle of the Great Truth on a Saturday in late September. This is all just what I have heard; I’m not a professional hagiographer, though I can assure you my sources are, at the very least, mildly reputable. Leaky had just driven home in blattering-down rain— didn’t help that he couldn’t see, not with the windshield wipers that merely smeared the rain across the windscreen— from a shift at the General Mart, where he worked lifting boxes off of one small red cart and placing them again onto another small red cart. He did this for eight hours a day. The reason that he was called Leaky was that he had unfortunately spent most of his adult life in virulently poor health, and almost always had a runny nose. Yet Leaky never got anyone sick. This was because, prior to becoming a prophet and wise to the knowledge of the Great Truth, Leaky had been somewhat of a nonentity to the people in his life, except for maybe his sister, who owned a restaurant and checked up on him from time to time, or to the taxmen, who didn’t believe in the concept of nonentities. Everyone was someone to the taxmen. That night, Leaky flicked on the dingy apartment light, undid the top button of his employee polo shirt and leaned over the particle-board kitchen counter. He always had a bit of a lean; he had a terrible back. Having had the privilege of seeing him in person, I can testify that this is true. At all of his rallies, they built a special orthopedic podium that was just the right height for him to lean on, yet still have the upright pos-


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ture needed to project his lovely, wonderful words. In front of him sat a meal of a microwave pepperoni pizza, half-glued with orange cheese to a grease-coated paper plate. It was the kind of pizza marketed as a “personal” pizza, which is really only for those who have nobody to share a pizza with. In the gloom of the half-lit kitchen in his apartment, the pizza looked back up at him gloppily. Most of his meals were like this; Leaky lived very cheaply, and thus ate poorly, which could have contributed to his poor health. In the days before the revelation of Leaky Loutermilch’s Very Nice Gospel, money was a thing that people worried about a lot, hence why Leaky had not “splashed out” on his little microwave meal. People didn’t like to spend it, and they worked very hard to get it. It’s very rare you see someone thinking like that nowadays. “Hello,” Leaky said to the pizza before taking a slice. It flopped, saggy and limp, down over his chubby fingers. “I’m going to eat you now,” he told the pizza, matter-of-factly, and took a thick, sloppy bite. This was the first genuine conversation he had had all day. At least, that was how he felt. Little did he know that things were afoot, that two very strange and powerful beings floated in the wing, very much eager to talk to a man that nobody else on Earth would listen to. One of these beings, before making introductions, took the liberty of silently disabling the service revolver that Leaky kept locked in the cupboard under the sink, so that he wouldn’t off himself before it was time for the grand reveal. In truth Leaky thought such thoughts before; thoughts about misery and life and ineffable mystery of the universe, and how it wouldn’t matter much if he himself wasn’t there to see it. “I was foolish to think that I could do it,” Leaky said at one of his rallies, many years later. “Truly, I was a fool. Yet at that time, I was ignorant to the Great Truth, which has been so reassuring to so many people, which, for so many, has made living bearable.” The second of the two beings remarked to the first being that the first being didn’t have to disable the gun, really,

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since they could just as easily revive him from the dead, should he decide to do anything lethal. The first being reminded the second being that yes, they could revive Leaky, if push came to shove, but that would be a lot of effort to expend, not to mention all the paperwork, and it seemed more prudent to take out the bullets. The second being grumbled that if the first being was going to be that way, the first being might as well take the corners off of the countertops, or cool down Leaky’s pizza so he didn’t choke on it. The first being remarked that the second being just didn’t get it and that the second being was being purposefully obtuse. The end result of all this talk, spoken in the language of the divine host and thus unable to be heard by human ears, was that the six bullets in the revolver’s chambers quietly vanished out of existence, and a little sigh could just barely be heard over the buzzing of the halogen lights in Leaky’s ceiling. Leaky wasn’t good at many things, but he did have excellent hearing. “Is anyone there?” he asked. Despite the potentially horrific implications of an affirmative answer, he did hope to hear a little voice say “yes.” The first being grumbled something under its breath about the second being giving them away, then thundered, in perfectly audible, perfectly terrifying human English: “YES.” An enormous amount of light and noise filled Leaky’s kitchen. If he had known, he might have said that the sound in his kitchen at that moment was similar to a thousand trumpets blaring a chord in B-flat major, coupled with an atomic explosion. Of course, Leaky didn’t know what an atomic explosion was, and he wasn’t skilled enough at music to identify B-flat major. The light was as bright as an atomic bomb as well; for a moment, the area of Leaky’s kitchen on the other side of the countertop where he sat was as bright and as hot as the surface of the sun. Had Leaky not instinctively closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands in surprise, the glow would have obliterated his retinas. “God’s messengers,” Leaky would later say in one of his


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speeches, “are rarely discrete.” When Leaky opened his eyes, two brand-new entities stood— or more accurately ‘hovered’, since they didn’t have legs— before him. The first— the one that had so kindly disabled Leaky’s suicide gun— was a glowing sphere of yellow-orange flame about the size of a beach ball that cast an eerie amber glow on the pale white feathers of its enormous wings, too many to count. These wings flapped gently in some unseen breeze, circling slowly around the ball of flame like orbiting planets, each as long as a man’s arm, stroking the popcorn ceiling with a wingtip as they brushed past. The other being, the one that did not care so much for Leaky’s life, simply resembled a tangled mess of black-scaled snakes with green eyes that filled an entire half of the room. These snakes started at the ground and slithered up in a kind of tapered shape, like the Eiffel Tower. Occasionally one would fall out of the pile and slither around confusedly before being reabsorbed back into the swarm. Leaky remained still as a statue. His brain did not have experience with celestial visitations and decided the best course of action was to shut down. “Hello,” the first angel said, making a friendly gesture with a wingtip. “My name is Uriel; my companion here in the black is Samael, and we’ll be your guides through the unknowable Mystery of the Universe today. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “I think you may have broken him,” the second angel, Samael, said, waving a snake in front of Leaky’s face. “I’m uh-” Leaky managed to stutter, eventually. “Hi.” “Hi,” the two angels said in unison. “I imagine this must come as a bit of a shock,” Uriel said, trying to sound comforting. It made its core of flames glow a more soothing pink, as opposed to the harsh yellow it had been a moment before. “I’ll be alright,” Leaky said blearily, which was a common lie people told each other before the revelation of the Great Truth. Nowadays, when people say “I’ll be alright,” it is

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unequivocally true. “Mm-hmm,” mused Samael. “That’s what we’re here for, you see,” Uriel said. “You, Brad ‘Leaky’ Loutermilch, have been selected to be the recipient of the Great Truth of the Universe. Congratulations! This is a big honor.” “I guess.” Leaky blinked; Uriel’s light, though now in sweet, rosy pink, still glowed extraordinarily brightly, and was beginning to hurt his eyes. “So, uh, what is it?” “What is what?” “The Great Truth you were talking about.” The two angels looked at each other, then looked back at Leaky. “There appears to be a misunderstanding,” Uriel clarified. “We are here to show you the Great Truth, not tell you. We will have to take a bit of a journey to do that. But fear not! I can see you are concerned that your car is low on gasoline. Rest assured, we will not be travelling by car. There are no roads where we are going.” Leaky had been worried about the nearly empty tank in his car. “Oh, alright. Are you taking me to see Jesus on the cross or something?” In his defense, this was a perfectly Christian assumption: that the heavens were only concerned with the life of one particular human being. So he was deflated somewhat by the angel’s response, which was this: “No,” Uriel said. “Why would we? It’s so unpleasant.” And before Leaky could get in another word, the three of them vanished into the ether, with a somber blue glow. The sound was much like a squadron of violins playing a scale, this time in G-minor. Leaky awoke sitting cross-legged on a disc of light in the middle of blank space. Leaky’s whole universe, in that moment, looked like a blank sheet of paper. Uriel and Samael hovered pensively at either side. In reality, this was not the universe. The universe that Leaky had lived in for thirty-some-


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thing odd relatively miserable years was down below them. It was a small, football-shaped region of immensely dense plasma, throbbing with the heat of a million, trillion suns. To Leaky, sitting pretty on his disc of light, it resembled an angry pimple, a whitehead busting with pus, stark against the white skin of the void surrounding it. The fledgling universe was still an infant when Leaky got to see it, and it was not a happy baby. Leaky’s head spun. His confusion was understandable, he would later tell audience upon audience. The reason for the confusion was also the reason that Uriel and Samael were hovering beside him so pensively, a reason that they would not confess to Leaky until much later. Humans, as we all know, are supremely dependent creatures; we need food, oxygen, shelter. Even our current knowledge of the Great Truth does not change those irreconcilable facts. In the void, however, there is nothing. So it happened that when the two angels teleported with Leaky into the void, they, as creatures without needs or wants other than the prime directive of the will of God, forgot that human exposure to the void would result in Leaky’s immediate expiration. Leaky was dead for his first few seconds at the beginning of the Universe, until his unusual stillness and quietness caught the attention of Samael. “Oh shit,” Samael said, cursing rather uncharacteristically for a divine messenger, and poked Uriel with a serpent. “He’s dead.” “What?” Uriel was panicking. “How?” “No oxygen yet, no food, no light, no chemicals, take your pick,” Samael said flippantly. “Nothing that he needs to survive exists yet.” “I guess we’re going to have to make a requisition request for the necessary materials in this time bubble,” Uriel grunted. “Shoot. And here I was thinking this would be an easy, paper-work free job.” “I guess we will.” “You’re a pain in my plasma, do you know that?” With enormous psychokinetic strain, Uriel and Samael brought into

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being all of the materials necessary so that Leaky Loutermilch could continue to exist outside of time and space. Nevertheless, it was rather disorienting for Leaky to die and be reborn. So that was another, little truth that Leaky received that came along with the Great One: where we go after we die. “Just green light,” he would say. “Just green light and a quiet, flickering stripe of fire.” I’ve not seen it myself, and am not in any hurry to. But it’s a lot better than nothing, wouldn’t you say? “Where are we?” Leaky asked now. “The beginning of everything,” Uriel explained. “The Big Bang?” Leaky asked. It was one of the few things he remembered learning about in high school. It certainly looked as if it would be big: the pimple down below them, containing all the matter and energy and time and potential life in the universe, was ready to burst. “Watch,” Uriel commanded. So Leaky watched. Nothing happened for a minute: the pimple remained pimply, and Leaky was overcome with the urge to get a pair of tweezers. But as it turns out, a pair of tweezers, in the form of a single hydrogen atom, was already there. That hydrogen atom came into being, and suddenly, everything, that precious equilibrium before time, was ruined. WHOOM. The Universe exploded out and engulfed the three watchers in an unintelligible second, and everything went from white to black. The force of it would have been enough to atomize any human not in the company of angels, but luckily Uriel and Samael were on top of things this time, so an ineffable wall of force protected Leaky as the birthing Universe raged around him. A cloud of burning vapor in angry orange and red boiled at the center of the immense darkness, where that little white pimple had been just a second ago. “Wow.” Leaky’s small mind couldn’t offer up anything more useful than that. “Keep watching,” said Samael. “It’s not done.”


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“This is the interesting part,” Uriel admitted. Leaky did not turn his gaze away. And from the fiery maelstrom, a dark, vaguely human shape, which appeared to be the size of a child but was probably light-years across, crawled out like an infant from a birthing canal and opened Its eyes. Leaky looked down on that beautiful, multiplicitous face and saw, in those infinite eyes gleaming like nebulae, that It was afraid. It was, in every sense, a newborn baby, covered in shimmering amniotic fluid that dripped off Its body and became stars. In the first million years of Its life, which to the three observers passed as a somber couple of minutes, It wept, and wept, and wept some more. Its cries shook the fabric of the new Universe like a tornado just outside the window. “Is that-?” Leaky gasped. “God,” Uriel said, affirmatively. “In all of Its infinite names, Its infinite faces, this is where our Master first began Its life. This is what God looked like as a baby.” “But-” Leaky stammered. “I thought God created the Universe. Y’know, He created everything.” “The Universe created God,” Samael replied. “Or perhaps God was born into the Universe, which is more or less the same difference,” Uriel added. “The Universe wasn’t made for people,” Samael said, writhing. “It wasn’t even made for God. It just is.” “And since that’s the case,” Uriel continued, reassuringly, “it’s okay to be afraid. That’s normal. Everyone is.” Below them, the infant God stopped Its tantrum. The last tear dripped out, became the youngest star in the fresh young cosmos. It looked about, saw millions and millions of things It did not know, and didn’t understand. And It was frightened. The Universe would continue to be the most frightening thing in the world. If you were there, Leaky says, you could have heard God’s tremulous heartbeat pounding away into the infinite abyss, louder than any drum. “This,” Uriel said, placing a wing on Leaky’s shoulder,

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“is the Great Truth. I hope you have had a very nice experience today.” And when Leaky next blinked, he was back in his kitchen, and the microwave pizza in front of him had gotten cold. But his mind, which had previously been concerned only with the movement of boxes from one place to another, and which had been concerned that he was forever to be alone, and which had never before been flushed with such electric energy, was now racing, at the speed of light! So henceforth came the Very Nice Gospel of Leaky Loutermilch, the shining light in all of our lives, the beacon on the way to the Great Truth. It is a very short gospel, compared to all the others, which is a mercy. Leaky, more so than any of the other Gospel writers, knew that we had better things to do with our time. The world was so scary and it didn’t make sense to add to that by writing long diatribes about the death and suffering of one human being, who was just as scared and confused as any other human being or intelligent creature in this great big Universe. Leaky wanted his Gospel to be a comfort, and it was. Leaky read from the beginning of his Very Nice Gospel at every sermon, always the same wonderful words. Of course, we all knew them by heart, but it was another thing entirely to stand in the crowd and hear them. I remember the day that I was there, standing before the podium like everyone else. The crowd was electric, rapt. I can’t be sure, but when he said these words, it seemed as if Leaky looked right into my eyes, and he smiled. “Nobody knows anything,” Leaky told me that day. “The Universe is scary, even to God. I love you.”


T H E

F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

Shanghai Baseball Nic Guo

Wesleyan University

“Spotted Qing, won’t you fill this up by the fountain?” Raisin Gu beckoned with an empty water cooler. When the exchange was made, the empty plastic felt ultra-light in my hand. Under white sun its speckled residue twinkled like drizzle in a globe—I tried to use it to shield my eyes and was blinded. Raisin Gu didn’t seem to notice; he was dead set on the ballgame. The Huamin Plaza Swans were playing the Qin Pharmacy Hogs on a scorching Thursday afternoon. This was only my third ballgame with the team but I played several roles, none of which was very important: batboy, pinch-hitter, pinch-runner, waterboy, equipment specialist—once I’d even served as nurse in a pinch, when a drunken Crooked Liu charged the mound and ate an elbow to the nose. I trotted on behind the chainlink where the fountain was. I set the cooler on dead grass and turned the nozzle till a stream came alive. Clang. Johnny cracked a ball backwards and the chainlink trembled, catching my attention. Clang. Again. He started slamming his bat into the dirt with one arm, over and over, generating a dust cloud. The catcher took his distance, not daring to remove his mask. On the other side of the field, in the opposing dugout, there was silence. Guys sat all tame-like on benches shaded by thatched roof, with thinning rags slung over their shoulders and foreheads. Meanwhile on our side our boys were rowdy, shaking the chain-link and sticking their greasy noses through the gaps. You could tell immediately who was used to this kind of shameful display and who was too dignified to acknowledge it.

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“Hey you poor bastard, it’s time you hit the ball!” I heard Raisin Gu yell. “That’s only two strikes! Forget about Dainty Sha’s stinky box when you’re representing the Swans!” That got a howl from our team and the sound of quaking metal got louder. Johnny was my closest pal from work, whose girl had recently left him citing violent tendencies. From afar I examined his rouged cheeks, his close-set beady eyes, and his mug; which was big like a kangaroo’s. His helmet had fallen to the ground and his matted up hair was that of a killer. Johnny fouled off three more pitches before he got a good one to hit. His eyes got all big when he screamed on contact. He clocked it so high, when my eyes tracked its flight I was blinded for the second time in minutes. A chill shot up from my toes. I wiggled them a bit and when I tried to raise my foot my spikes refused to come out from the mud. I was standing in a marshy puddle where the cooler had been overflowing for some time. “Get me a platter of spare ribs and kielbasa, a tuna niçoise, a dish of salted peanuts, a Spanish omelette and—what do you have on tap? —that’ll do, just bring it out quickly.” I had never seen a man as old and pruned and hungry as Raisin Gu. He was the coach of our company softball team but had retired from security work ages ago. Of one thing I was certain—even back when he was working, he must’ve been all wadded-up like a sea prune. Those wrinkles were deeply etched and betrayed an essentiality, like an unearthed layer of sediment. A man doesn’t simply chance into a title like Raisin in his eighties. After I’d gathered all the equipment and loaded up the truck, I clambered into the back where Johnny was still steamed. Everyone was steamed—no one liked to lose, especially not to some coddled, effete suits—but none so much as Johnny. “Hey asshole,” he’d said to Raisin Gu. “Next time, keep Dainty Sha’s name out of your wrinkly mouth.” We all kept our heads down. That’s what happens when the wildest guy in the group issues a direct challenge to the boss. Raisin Gu just


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chuckled, even though it was clearly misdirected anger. That’s what made him such a good boss—that, and the guttural, utterly ogreish sounds he could let loose with a casual breath, silencing any would-be dissenters. His chuckle was a gross noise that had to travel through at the very least a yard of phlegm. Now in The Sunbeam, a Western cafe in town, Johnny and Raisin Gu were acting like the best of pals. Raisin Gu even let Johnny poach a juicy-looking rib off his plate. Johnny’s mouth was all plastered in meat juice and his hair was still matted up in all sorts of directions, like a sea anemone. Nothing gets a guy back into his groove quicker than a rowdy meal with his buddies, I thought happily, even though the waiter had yet to get around to taking my order. That’s how clear who the junior here was. Everyone else was already well into their meal, tucking into their eight-ounce New York strip steaks. Since Raisin Gu was treating, he always ordered for us, making sure no one got to eat better than anyone else. Except for himself, of course. He was the boss. And me, I wasn’t even deserving of a steak. I was still just a boy, I had to fend for myself. Raisin Gu was pretty fond of me, but a man of principle leaves no room for exception. The Sunbeam had a wooden, tavern-style interior with barrels for seating under the cheery glow of beer-bottle chandeliers. Busty pinup German girls in white blouses and lederhosen decorated the walls, holding frothing mugs. Really there were only four tables for seating; the place was rather small. That was how I could hear a man in a party of three clowning on us. He sat to the left of two women, both in garish rouge wreathed by their big perms. “What a beast!” he declared with a broad smile. “Just look at him tearing into his meat like a savage! His face is all sooty like an unkempt fireplace, and his hair makes me think he’s just been electrocuted!” The clown looked so pleased with himself—he was in a two-piece navy blue suit embroidered with purple camellias and his hair was gelled and combed backwards. The women on his side tittered in unison. Crooked Liu and Cagey Xuan were just about raring to

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go. Even Honorable Min, who drove a cream Cadillac and vacationed up in the countryside, had taken his napkin off his lap and folded it by his utensils. Raisin Gu waved them down with his free hand. With the other he held onto a bone which he continued to shuck clean between clenched teeth. He wiped his mouth, then prepared to dig into another rib, this time with both hands. For a spell we had all stopped eating to watch a miracle unfold before us. A grubby, shriveled 83 year-old with a napkin tied round his neck like an unkempt child had appeared in our midst and promptly disappeared three racks of ribs into his gut, minus the one Johnny’d poached. He hardly stopped to breathe—it was unbelievable he didn’t choke on his own phlegm which, judging by the arrhythmic heaving of his chest and his grotesque sounds, had all the consistency of dayold porridge. What remained of the ribs was so neatly cleaned it appeared like fossil remains. The bones caught the light and glistened. On another plate all that was left of the tuna niçoise were three gorgeous egg whites, entirely intact little saucers without a trace of yolk. It really was such a pristine act; we all watched in amazement. Veterans like Liu, Xuan and Johnny knew what was coming and let out a soft, collective laughter like water running over moss. I felt supremely comfortable; the sunlight slapped my neck and gathered at my toes in concentrated balls of energy. A trace of pale ale stained my lungs. Raisin Gu wiped his mouth then untied his napkin bib. He got up and made for the bathroom. I had a dumb smile on my face as we resumed our meal. By then I’d ordered and gotten started on my grilled salmon. I chewed my mint leaf and watched the other guys with similarly contented smiles on their faces, all glazed over. Even though we’d been locked in silent admiration a moment before, the clashing of forks and knives picked up where they had left off. Crooked Liu, who drank the most and often stayed nights at the Plaza where we worked security, announced magnanimously that he was going to set me up with his daughter Rosebud. Johnny roared with laughter; Cagey Xuan slammed his tankard onto the table,


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splashing beer all over my napkin. “There he goes again, trying to pawn off his precious Rosebud onto any suitor who’ll listen,” said Honorable Min. Johnny followed with, “Crooked Liu, you’re really terrible. How can you marry your only daughter off to a guy who can’t even make the softball team at his company?” Now, I had seen Rosebud around in the lobby of the Plaza waiting for her dad to get off work with a thermos and a change of clothes in hand. I didn’t know what to make of Crooked Liu’s matchmaking. On the one hand, Rosebud was no looker—she had Crooked Liu’s bent nose and misaligned smile—it was most likely that image of paternal resemblance that set the other guys into fits of laughter. But it was clear to me that she cared for her dad, and even though I was a mostly absent son myself, I still thought it was important for others to be filial. She had a tenderness to her, and for a moment I indulged myself in a fantasy in which the homely Rosebud waited in the lobby clutching my red thermos and night clothes instead of her drunken father’s. At that moment, I noticed that Cagey Xuan had ceased laughing and now wore a bemused expression. He was looking behind me—tracing his gaze, I landed on Raisin Gu who’d come out of the bathroom wringing his hands. He walked towards the party of three who the rest of us had all but forgotten. The guy in the navy blue suit with purple camellias was really hamming it up; he was getting flushed from alcohol and forced laughter. One of the women accompanying him was quite lovely-looking, even through all that rouge. Even if things should escalate to a brawl, I’d make sure she was exempt from harm, I happily decided. Maybe I was just feeling particularly affectionate and lonely, I don’t know. They gawked at Raisin Gu, who now stood over them. Navy Blue shot up like a firecracker. “You want a piece of me, old man?” Raisin Gu met his gaze. For some reason at this moment I started chuckling giddily. It was not so much that I

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found the situation funny, as it was that simply, nothing could bring me down at that moment. I could feel white foam bubbling on my peach fuzz as I continued to laugh, whelmed with irreverence. Johnny gave me a look and soon he, too, was rollicking. Navy Blue turned to his company and scoffed. He was a good head taller than Raisin Gu. As he screwed up his mouth like the crimped dough of a juicy bun, Raisin Gu’s fist crashed down onto his temple. Navy Blue’s head was thrown to the table and the noise was like an anvil hitting the dusty concrete floor of an empty room. He lay on his side, his hair neat and lustrous as ever. But emerging from beneath was a deep red shadow. I thought, My God, is he dead? The incident turned Navy Blue’s company downright docile. First, the pretty one stood and slapped Raisin Gu on the flabby, wart-covered cheek. It was sharp but sharp sounds were the norm, all tinsel and linoleum and domestic spats. She resumed her seated position immediately. We were all holding our breath for the sound of another anvil, something immitigable like the lowpitched disavowal of a subterranean messiah.

❦ I’m called Spotted Qing because of the spots on my face, which my father didn’t have but his father did. They aren’t like Raisin Gu’s warts, few and uniquely misshapen, each one like a distinct landmark on an ancient map. Mine are all over and appear for the most part uniform, like the cosmos as seen through a telescope. Me and Raisin Gu and Johnny, we’re like a father and his two sons, one grown and crazy, the other still a kid but having the potential to be crowned prince. I was working the parking lot, sitting in that sky-blue toll booth when Johnny came stalking over with a mean look in his eyes and Raisin Gu trailing three meters behind, smoking a Red Mountain cigarette. He had his hands behind his back, and I knew one hand


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kept a grip on the wrist of the other because that was the way Raisin Gu walked, all shackled up. Johnny wasn’t in uniform— he just had on a ribbed white singlet and some 501s. He came up on the booth, put an arm on the sill and looked sideways at a passing mother and son. Like always, Johnny was mouthing off about something or the other, all the while cleaning his teeth with his tongue. You couldn’t accomplish that without a forked tongue, I thought. My service cap crested over my face as I leaned back in my chair, one leg propped over the other. I even heaved my chest a few times for effect, like I was really asleep. The booth was my respite from all that commotion on the outside, all that heat and all that treachery and uncleanliness. “Hey, little brother,” said Johnny, rapping his fist on my counter. “Take off for a bit.” I wasn’t ready to give up my drowsy charade. Then Raisin Gu’s soft, patient footsteps revealed themselves and I sat at attention. “Come, Spotted Qing,” he offered, “we’re off for a walk.” Alongside the Plaza’s east entrance ran the Jiangsu highway exit which craned its long, mint-green neck downwards to meet the sidewalk. Passing along the coffee shop, glass noodle joint, the cobbler’s hovel and her husband’s photocopying business, I puffed on one of Raisin Gu’s Red Mountains. Without noticing I’d slowed my steps to match his. The trails of our respective exhalations came together like a steamy, weightless pitchfork. Johnny walked ahead; hands stowed in his pockets. “Can’t you fools walk any faster?” When neither of us paid him any mind, he stamped out his cigarette and redoubled his speed. I couldn’t help but admire his light-washed 501s, the likes of which you could only get your hands on if you had a friend in the West. Once Johnny’d put some distance between us I turned to Raisin Gu and said, “What’s he got up his panties?” “Dainty Sha came by the office in the morning to col-

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lect her things.” I said: “Seems to me he’s got a good life god damnit, cutting work whenever he pleases, shacking up with any girl that’ll let him.” Raisin Gu laughed. Raisin Gu looks pretty slovenly, I thought. And what the hell does he walk so slowly for—does everything have to be so deliberate, so in character? “God damn it all,” I repeated for emphasis. “I’m serious man, the next time he acts this bratty I’ll do him like you did Navy Blue.” All of a sudden Raisin Gu got very quiet and took me by the crook of the elbow under the awning of the Ningbo restaurant. “Hey, hey!” I protested. Some runoff from yesterday’s rain drooled onto my ear and I jerked back like it was hot wax. Old Man Zhao was lounging on his rocker in orange boxer shorts, a teal bucket filled with crayfish at his feet and, at the sound of commotion, peeked out his good eye. “Mind the crayfish, now,” he muttered. “The hell’s the matter with you!” I barked. Never mind that it was Raisin Gu, I was already having a bad day and I’d just been struck by dirty rainwater like some sewer rat. Raisin Gu’s hand around my elbow scalded. It was firm and ungiving, all tendon with great vivacity of color, flower fresh in bloom. A bald mutt padded on by in search of something to eat, its nipples poking out like dripping paint. It paused to sniff at Old Man Zhao’s teal bucket but then limped away, ushered by the lazing shadow of a handheld fan. Raisin Gu had launched into a lengthy speech about brotherhood and kinship. As far as speeches go it was a good one. At least, that was the impression I got— I wasn’t in the mood to listen, but his hands moved with intention, his chest rose and fell and his eyebrows fluttered like mad. Well, what the hell was I doing anyway? I had never before in my life felt so utterly depressed and corporeal. I looked down at my arm, unmarred and pure like the hump of a fatty whitefish. It felt like there should be red fingerprints, but my eyes did not betray me. I felt my anger descend through my feet and into the cement. Earlier that afternoon I’d spied Rosebud in the plaza


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lobby waiting diligently for Crooked Liu, who was now only working day shifts on account of company cutbacks. I had come in from my humble tollbooth for a drink. Beneath my starchy blue uniform, sweat trickled down the front of my white singlet; I thought I could hear it pitter-patter on the marble floor. She was wearing a red gingham garden dress and some pointed flats. From behind a large pillar, I listened to her sing. “I’ve got twenty-six coins in my pocket, I’ll go to the bank and deposit five…three for my dear old Ma…ten for a warm meal…eight for my friend Jia Er…and none for the beggar at the curbside!” “Side…sighed, when the springtime came and still I hadn’t a hope…..of….of…” Rosebud faltered—her lyrics seemed made-up, improvised and yet she seemed to’ve forgotten them all the same. That crooked nose isn’t so bad on a woman’s face, I thought. “Hey,” I said, coming out from behind the pillar. Rosebud looked up at me and went right on singing. I thought to myself, what’s wrong with this girl? Hasn’t Crooked Liu taught her manners? “Hey,” I repeated, “I’m Spotted Qing. I work with your dad.” “Why don’t you answer, huh? Are you dumb?” When I spoke I lacked delicacy. My father liked to say that a man has two tongues, one for singing and one for talking. And never before had he heard another with a singing tongue like mine, mine was like silver pâté, and it was too wonderful a thing to be allowed to persist for very long.

❦ As a boy I used to sing opera for my family—our city had three annual operas to serve as that year’s allotted entertainment. Because my balls had yet to drop, I was perfect for most female leads. I’d sing my little heart out pining for the

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lowly but handsome porter, aching to be taken seriously by my dismissive husband, or, in the case of the villainous court seamstress, preening my feathers as my political enemies fell by the wayside. Back then I’d spend each summer with my Third Aunt in Wuxi. Third Aunt had two problem children of her own, but ever since her husband passed of gangrene after the winter of 1977, she seemed to have lost her rein on them. She devoted the majority of her attention to the upkeep of her home inn and left her children in the smothering but unaffectionate care of her attendants. Her son Chubby was especially starved for attention. His trick was to shout, For the Gods! but for what reason nobody bothered to ask. At dinner, after rice, he’d raise his bowl in toast, For the Gods! In the bathtub, hands in the air so that the attendant could get to his armpits, sputtering from suds in his eyes: For the Gods! Third Aunt, who’d ordered the servants to report on all of her children’s activity, upon hearing of Chubby’s exploits, would heave herself on the arabesque of foreign rugs, tossing into self-pitying lament, That child… what is a mother to do? Only when I was singing did she find respite from her rowdy life. You see, when Spotted Qing sang, people were healed. Amputees felt unseen forces tugging at the ends of their bones and aimless wanderers were overcome with a sense of belonging. Lonely widows felt the reemergence of someone warm by their side and wild children believed, momentarily, that their voices would soon be heard but also that things would remain unburdened and cheerful forever. When Chubby and his sister Pebble went out to play, Third Aunt would retreat to her sleeping quarters and send for me. On carnation sheets blurred by mosquito netting she would lay still feeling quite sorry for herself. Once I’d made my way upstairs, the servants were promptly dismissed. Spotted Qing, won’t you come keep your Third Aunt company? That room was pretty but not what you would call prim. It was actually


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rather messy, but the composition was good— for one, the room wasn’t wide, but it had depth, so entering it was like entering a chamber or lair. There was ground to cover before you could be granted an audience. The walls were colored beeswax and for her floor the dowager had selected a dark green carpet with lotus and chrysanthemum. In the bare heat of summer, I would stand under the mosquito canopy at Third Aunt’s bedside singing opera tunes at the top of my lungs as the servants went about their ways downstairs, silent except for the dull clopping of straw plimsolls on carpet and the steady putter of the cooling unit somewhere in the distance. When I had finished singing (my specialty was Wang Miaoyin’s theme song from Lady in the Typhoon Coat, an improbable tale about a waitress at a Western cafe whose husband leaves to care for his ailing mother and never returns), I’d wipe the sweat from my brow. I felt quite at home in Third Aunt’s house, where I was beloved by all. I was keenly aware that so long as I kept singing, I had earned my place in this house. Third Aunt sure treats me well, I’d think in between performances, much better than Dad’s other sisters. Taking a few moments to collect myself before the next number, I’d think, First Aunt is a real curmudgeon. She’s always hoarding the candied hawthorn and she divorced both her husbands. Second Aunt was good to me until Ah-zhu was born, then I was easily dismissed. And Fourth Aunt, that was really unfortunate, dying at such a young age… Even now I can hear Chubby’s nonsensical attempts at sabotage: “Hey Spotted Qing, why don’t you sing one for the Gods!” he’d guffaw. Chubby was a few years below me and dreamed of ruining my performances. Pebble, who really should have been called Chubby, would shush him with a lilac finger. She always held in her hand a saucer of something sweet, maybe dough balls and fermented rice, taking half a ball at a time. Third Aunt was always passive, lying back in that big empty bed, her legs shaking in time and in pleasure.

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It was two summers after Lady in the Typhoon Coat that my singing tongue finally gave out. I was just in the middle of a song titled Why do they stay, why do they go? sung by a courtesan grieving the loss of her illicit love, Smooth Ge. That was the way it went—the women were either grieving or cunning— and the men, either aloof and debonair or heroic and ordinary-looking. Smooth Ge was played by a young actor who was exceedingly popular at the time (now I can’t recall his name for the life of me), with slicked-back hair and a voice that reminded me of brown liqueur, cardamom and crystal sugar. Lots of girls in my year had slotted his lace-fringed picture into their bifolds and enamel cigarette boxes for the advent of opera season. I did that number so many times for Third Aunt, I can’t for the life of me remember on which repetition I finally collapsed. Some weeks later, when it became clear the damage to my voice was irreversible, I was sent back home to my parents in Shanghai. Dad was so mad that Ma and I had to physically restrain him, one leg apiece, to stop him from getting on the next train to Wuxi. To my knowledge, he never spoke to Third Aunt again until making arrangements for their parents’ burial— and that was facilitated by First Aunt. We are a vengeful breed.

❦ Raisin Gu didn’t show up to practice. I didn’t know who had called the practice; we were not the sort of team to practice, but there we were all suited up in our stuffy pinstripes and spiked shoes getting battered by the dirt and sun. During stretches on the outfield grass I asked my pal Johnny what was going on and he snapped at me, “Show some respect. Raisin Gu is dead. That man was like a father to me.” He was openly weeping with his legs spread wide and his short arms unable to reach the tip of his cleats, the baby. “How’d it happen? The death, I mean,” I asked, a bit


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meanly. I grabbed my toe with ease. “Heart attack.” Johnny went to take a few swings off of Honorable Min’s pitching. Crack. Crack. Clang. I sat there in a daze for a bit. The sun was not nearly as intense as it’d been that game a few weeks back. It could glare down at me and I could glare right back at it, saying under my breath, damn punk ball of light, come down here why don’t you. Since then I had become somewhat unpopular around my colleagues and seniors at Huamin Plaza. Word got around that I’d bullied Crooked Liu’s daughter around. Suddenly she was not the ineligible bachelorette people could not help but chuckle at or the just barely female version of her father, now she was beautiful Rosebud and brave Rosebud. I knew that this would pass with time. Give it a few weeks and Crooked Liu would be back at it again, trying to cozy up to me with talks of a grand wedding. In a few weeks time Johnny would go get his heart broken by another girl, get into a stupid brawl over it, then come running to me for advice. I knew all this and yet I didn’t much care.

❦ (Ah! That’s right, Smooth Ge’s actor, that was a fellow by the name of Huang Jiamin. I can’t recall much except that after a few more opera seasons had passed, there came an incident in which he spoke out of turn, endorsed the wrong party—something or the other. Whichever it was, he quickly fell out of the public eye. Eventually I heard from my Cousin Pebble who had it from an old classmate that he’d fled the country and was now Vietnam’s most sought-after male escort. Well, that was no big loss, the very next year girls were lining up for Li Wen’s photo— now there was a gentleman, a great singer and a helluva shortstop…but there is a story for another time.)

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I skipped work for some time, from the first of June all the way through the twenty-second of July. I didn’t think my job was in danger because Raisin Gu had been close with the incumbent Security General, a frumpy man called Lei Qiao, and had often boasted of all the influence he continued to hold. But even if I was out of a job, I was not in a state of mind to be at all worried or disappointed. I passed this time quite comfortably—in the beginning I thought it was an opportunity to sleep clear through the afternoon and wake up sunburnt with the city already in full effect—but as it turned out, after a first few languorous days, my body refused such luxuries and arose of its own volition no later than six in the morning, even before the bell came signaling the beggars’ morning rounds. I started fooling around with Ling Meixu, who worked at a little steamed bun joint on Zhenning Road. She would hand me a simmering bun in its seafoam-green plastic baggie and in return I would give her two silver coins, a kiss on the forehead and a promise to come see her after work. Ling Meixu had a number of pleasant qualities: she dressed funnily in patterned sleeveless dresses, she had a charming if slightly childish face with taut skin and she could do a shockingly accurate impression of Sun Wukong from the beloved Journey to the West cartoons. I started to call her Mimi after their store mascot, a jubilant pork bun. Mimi the Pork Bun’s cheeks were naturally pinkish and if you pinched them she was quickly moved to tears because there was no looseness to them. When we met, I was quick to explain my lack of employment because for one, I lacked another confidant, and because I had known it to be true that a girl will not think much of a jobless suitor. Upon hearing this, Mimi insisted we go out for a bite and have a serious conversation about our aspirations and how we each saw this relationship proceeding. She had me get us a table near the back with a view of the kitchen while she ordered at the counter. I had cold noodles with shredded cabbage and peanut sauce; Mimi had a clear fish broth. We shared a wood ear mushroom salad, during which I thought to myself, what


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a competent and lovely girl. I still associate the taste of vinegar, garlic and chili with Mimi’s virtues. Then we resolved to make up for each other’s shortcomings and to offer guidance and support when the other faltered. It was late July when I returned to Huamin Plaza. By then the cicadas had all burrowed underground or else their molten carapaces had been carefully collected by schoolboys. The leaves had started to go bad, the rain came lightly and frequently, and what had been a breeding grounds for young couples became a dearth. When Security General Lei spotted me entering, he waved me over to his office and offered to fill my thermos with his famously stale Pu’er tea. The room smelled like someone had tried to mask the scent of rotten wood but only succeeded in making it worse. The walls were a slate blue and the only glamour to be seen were the many chintzy badges with which the Security General had adorned his lapel. “Son,” he said, with an air of unmatched empathy, “I know the late Mister Gu had a special place in his heart for you (can you believe it, he called him Mister! Not Raisin, but Mister! I had to rack my brain just to think who he was referring to). Truly…it brings this old heart such joy to have borne witness to the fundamental relationship of a mentor and his disciple.” Here the General paused for effect. I cannot lie, my mind was on Mimi and what we had done the night before—just thinking about it aroused me to the extent that I became very embarrassed and very quiet. Perhaps in seeing this, Security General Lei felt encouraged that his words had moved me as only a General’s could. He took a deep breath, then an extended sip of tea. “I must tell you…Spotted Qing, I must tell you, I feel some measure of responsibility has fallen to me to see to it that you grow into a fine man. Like Mister Gu would have wanted.” When he spoke these words he leaned over his desk so I could make out the wisps curling out his nostrils and the fine print etched into a brass badge on his shoulder: Justice always prevails over sedition. Those first few days back were slow. I got to see the

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guys again as well as some new faces. Notably absent were Honorable Min, whose cream Cadillac was still parked in the lot but whose name I was told not to mention around the Security General for reasons beyond my knowledge, and Johnny who, according to Cagey Xuan, had turned in his two weeks’ notice shortly after I’d stopped coming to work. The older guys demanded to meet Mimi, of course, and as soon as I had mentioned our relationship it was like they couldn’t help but remark, at least twice a day, how good it was to have some young energy back in the workplace. Crooked Liu was in such a reconciliatory mood that he saw fit to pull me aside to tell me that one of these days I should pay he and Rosebud a visit. They were still at the same Wulumuqi Road address, he said— and besides, Rosebud had missed me. His breath was that of clear liquor, beef stew and radish. I smiled sheepishly and told him I’d do my best.

September 12th Who should I chance upon but good old Johnny? It was at the market that I greeted him like an old pal, in spite of our differences, as one does when he feels he has gotten a leg up on the competition. But Johnny was glowing in his signature ribbed white singlet and light-washed 501s. His Kennedy hairdo was streaked with grease under the collective glow of streetlights and even that kangaroo mug of his looked less surly and more willful. Within the first few pleasantries I learned that Johnny was now working security at the Zhongshan Road Metro station. I didn’t mention Mimi, or that I’d gone back to work at the plaza. The time didn’t seem right—or else I was playing my cards close to the vest. Me and Johnny got ourselves the fattest, most hollow melon, and headed down West Zhu’anbang Road. I couldn’t last five steps without losing feeling in my arms cradling that giant thing, so Johnny took it from me. He tried balancing it on his head, but we didn’t make


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it another block before Johnny yelped that his neck was going to snap. So it was decided we’d walk it together. “You go in front so we don’t block the good folks behind us,” said Johnny. I nodded good-naturedly. God, the city was colored the most lovely shade of yellow. Alongside us moved the spinning axles of wooden carts, of clunky silver vans shaped like loaves of bread, of bicycles and mopeds. Because I’d taken the lead and was walking backwards, I had to twist my neck to see the road ahead. Each movement of the city was distorted, multiplied, off-tempo; my head was not on right. In this dizzying state, I felt my arms giving out again almost to the point of my falling backwards. “Hey!” I accused. “Lift your hands where I can see them.” Johnny grinned. He was shirking his portion of the weight. “You seem happy, Spotted Qing.” “You’re one to talk,” I said. Then Johnny hoisted the melon up onto his knee so that he could get a better grip. He started to tell me something, and I was listening attentively but still I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or a true story. That got me all disoriented, not knowing if I should be looking out for a punchline or a moral. “So I’m down in the station, it’s all sultry and Chang Shao is brooding ‘cause Line 10 has got the new cooling system while we have to sit and suffer since the building is too old to tear up…anyhow, it gets to be around nine in the evening, we’ve done our double shifts and rush hour is a thing of the past…now, Chang Shao is a bit of a philanderer, you know…” Here Johnny paused to give me a look. “He’s the sort of guy who demands to be paid attention, and so when this homely-looking lady rushes past us, ignoring his direction to put her handbag through the scanner, I guess he freaks out a bit. She has on these Tiffany blue slippers that choke her feet and wobble when she walks quickly, and a grimacing, insect-like face that stares straight down at the ground. Chang Shao goes, loudly, ’Finally empty, finally time to catch my

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breath. No crowds no lines no nothing. And still she acts like we don’t exist? You know, they say public service is a thankless job. If only they knew.’ So I go, ‘Don’t think too much on it. That’s just the way things are. If a man gets riled up over every little thing, he’ll have wrinkles before he’s middle-aged.’ Don’t look at me like that Spotted Qing, I know it’s out of character. I just felt I should say something. Raisin Gu would have said something. Well, that motherfucker Chang Shao hadn’t eaten his fill. He goes, ‘I’m going after that bitch.’ Me, what can I do? Usually I’m the crazy one so I haven’t any experience doing the calming. I just take up Chang Shao’s post behind the scanner and wait out that last fifteen minutes before Lei Min’s shift.” We shuffled past the bike repair station, the pastry shop and a shabby-looking restaurant where a woman roasted fatty pork on a vertical spit. Finally we stood in the park we’d chosen as our destination just moments ago, when it became clear we weren’t getting any further lugging our melon around. I sat at the foot of an aluminum slide while Johnny picked out a bench and began slicing at our melon with his penknife. “So,” I said. “Other than your crazy friend, you like working at the station?” I studied Johnny. He sure was handy with that penknife. “Little brother, it’s all the same. Can’t complain,” Johnny said, handing me a couple wedges of watermelon. The bottom of his singlet was stained pink and his jeans were all wet. He propped the untouched half of the melon on the bench beside him and rested his arm on its flesh. His tanned skin was glossy the way bitumen is under the sun. Sweat merged with the juice overrunning the husk of watermelon. Dirt particles on his arm floated down nearly imperceptibly. “You know, Spotted Qing, I’ve come to understand that passion is overrated.” “What do you mean?” I dared to ask. “I mean that passion is such a fixed thing. And it doesn’t mean much. It’s better to think of our relationships with the things that we do as fluid. Sometimes what we do


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frustrates us to no end, or we don’t have that one single goal we want to achieve.” “Well, isn’t that obvious? It isn’t anyone’s idea of passion to stand idly around a building all day watching others go about their business, or to rifle through the bags of strangers, for that matter. These are just things we do to pass the time.” It gave me pleasure to dismiss another man’s revelations as tired. Johnny looked at me, then back down at his shirt, which was gradually being taken over by a damp pinkness. “I guess,” he spoke, like he’d given up on getting me to understand.

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•

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F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

From My Heart, Deep Concern April Bannister University of Iowa

Text taken from Richard Nixon’s first Watergate speech on April 30, 1973.

i was trying to get a few days rest from this senseless faith, this effort to conceal you and me. preserve the separation of our connection. i want you to blame, to bear the penalty within such abuses of the light and honest — so desperately i want you — but we cannot reform the past, the wrongs, the sobering trap of letting the end end. i urge you toward new days, remaining. stand as best in peace and prayers.

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Uma, Grandmother Emily A. Brockman Duke University

Collection I. Prologue II. Awake III. The Purge IV. Repossession V. Salmon – Jarred, Filleted, Smoked VI. Healing VII. Homecoming VIII. The Mine IX. Taking X. Spawning

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83-84 Prologue

How do you go on? I feel the icy waters of Lake Aleknagik Pressing against the protective layer of neoprene waders, Seeking the slightest defect, a small tear maybe, sustained from Mosquito rich alders, or the soft spot behind the ankle where th Has worn the material thin. Though the only sounds I hear are the soft trickle of the stream And the sharp cries of anger and victory by seagulls, I imagine the rich, whoosh of tails and the soft grinding of distu Made by the infinite swirling of the hundreds of red salmon tha Returned to their spawning grounds. I wonder if they always End. I wonder if they know they have come to die. I wonder if t because even though their bodies are starving, bruised and batt They can’t help but follow the rotations of the sun, the smell of Crying out for nutrient rich bodies, calling them home, The Land, calling them home.

The longer I stare, the more they begin to shift into faces –don’ the faces Lost, so many things, language, culture, bodies – But never the Land. When Aunty was raped by a white police officer, she didn’t get months, Save when the salmon returned. When Uncle was shot in the head, a drinking accident (wasn’it? To see the fall moose season, and another and another and anot The same way, you, Mother, weathered the strikes from Grandfa hands – Still. We can’t help but follow the rotation of the sun, the smell of th Crying out for rich waters to breathe life back into broken bodi The Land, calling us home. These are the shores my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother Not for the gold they always knew was hidden in the hills – you The White man hungers for many things, has eaten many thing with it and He’s come again, like you always knew He would, For the gold in the hills. Grandfather, How did you go on


U M A ,

G R A N D M O T H E R

m the walk down the beach through he motion of walking

m

urbed gravel at have knew that homecoming meant The they did, if it would matter tered, f the stream where they were born,

’t look too long at

out of bed for

?), he survived ther, ather’s trembling

he stream where we born, ies, calling us home,

r fought to protect, u can’t eat gold – but s, has become sick


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Awake

Where does your story begin? It begins with– A biological need. A beautiful woman. The changing of seasons. Your parents weren’t married when you were born and since Missionary hate seeped over, into the water, Poisoning the streams salmon return to, year-after-year After-year because their bodies know nothing else– Well. We are what we eat and You wonder if you were damned long before you would learn to be ashamed. You’ve crafted together your beginnings from the Scraps of stories you’ve collected over the years, Morsels of information falling through the cracks at the dinner table, Feeding your imagination, the expansion of A contested identity, nurtured By spring ferns, summer salmon and hand-picked berries, The ways you learned to hunt fall moose, Containing echoes of An ancient identity, a body of memory– Once strong, but riddled now with violence and alcohol– Because really You don’t have the courage to ask your Mother for a Definite truth. There, there– Is your beautiful, And terrible, Beginning. A desperate woman.


U M A ,

G R A N D M O T H E R

A stupid man. A bastard birth. But you know better than anyone That bodies – starved, bruised, and battered– Still contain the strength to swim upstream Because bodies, however damaged, Must obey the shifting of seasons. This, a beautiful, And terrible, Thing.

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The Purge

Sun sinks into my back. Drinking in the heat, I will the melanin braided into my DNA, validated by my tribal card – Blood Quantum .50 – to turn my skin bronze. Eyes lightened by hearty Midwestern blood I have long since given up copper and have settled for the in-between. I whisper to the sun – Don’t fail me Like my mothers. Like my body. Like my mind. – and – quietly – a stirring memory of the sounds of Mother trying to hide her sickness beneath the roar of running water. What is she doing? Brother places a cuticle bitten finger to his lips – the flesh an angry pink – jesters to move into our living room blocked by a queen-sized blow up mattress – “I don’t know.” I don’t know I don’t know I never questioned – it didn’t occur to ask. It simply was, Like the grease that splattered against the stove top after making moose stew, Like the freckle on my left thigh that I watched trail down my leg as I grew, She would retreat to the bathroom after each meal to run the water. I wonder if self-hate is genetic, braided into my DNA – Blood Quantum .50– If, when Gussuks came, They transferred more than small-pox, quasi religion, and food stamps. Because I–


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inherited it from my Mother, who got it from my Grandfather who got it from the bottle who got the bottle from a thought. A blank, white space. Eskimos are slant-eyed dogs that need a strong master and– to be trained to fetch.

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Repossession

gussuk (gus-aq). A Yup’ik word meaning white person, originally from the Russian word “cossack”. Usually spit, like a bad taste exiting the mouth Who knew “gussuk” could pierce, staining my skin until it finally resembles the color of yours. Get off my land, no; our land, Uncle. My hair is auburn, yours is black. Fine, but we have the same chin and no matter how hot you make the maqi, you can’t scrub the red from my skin. aqevyik (a-keev-yaik). A major subsistence food of the Yup’ik, it is commonly called salmonberry. Every family has a favorite patch. We walk, you and I, for miles across the horizon. Sunlight pours, pounds, scorches my shoulders and the high ridges of matching cheekbones. My fingertips orange from berry picking, you laugh and kiss them, not caring that your shining copper cannot be dyed a color so light. akutaq (a-goo-tak). Something mixed. Commonly refers to a traditional berry dessert. Use this to sweeten the bitter in your bones. The two reflections of you whispering drunkard, stumbling, stupid, when Mother turns her back. Sugar and Crisco clumped together, then she adds the berries and mixes, fixes, juices and white fuses, pink instead of dark and light. aqumlluk (a-goom-look). Putting a person or thing in its appropriate place. Silence the voice that mocks you, you, too tall, too thick, too white; Stop chewing your tongue, and spin those words into socks for your Grandmother. The winters are long and cold. ulu (oo-loo). 1. The Yup’ik word for the uniquely curved Alaskan knife. Used as a daily tool. 2. Also known as a woman’s knife. Use this to cut away the family patchwork that has been over your Mother’s mouth, been there for years. Cut away the silence, in answer to the generations of picturesque grieving for a different time, a different life.


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G R A N D M O T H E R

Salmon – Jarred, Filleted, Smoked Ingredients • Twine • 10lb bag of salt • Bag of potatoes • Brown sugar • Jalapenos • Cottonwood • Wide mouth Jars • Jar lids

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Healing Tobacco bulges through a hard line of straining lips. Those thin lips, a small piece of my inheritance. My Mother’s words are muffled as she says– “You need to cut off the head first, Start right behind the dorsal fin here.” Her gloved hand holds the handle of the ulu with resolve, The orange plastic reminding me of the clawed grip of a seagull. The curved knife bites easily though the tender meat, Hesitating only for a moment as it slides through the spine, Exiting the armored scales in a slew of silver. “Then you need to slit the stomach, starting from the hole here.” The ulu glides through the soft, white belly, a horizontal line of crimson Marking its trail. “Flip it and place your knife on the spine at the top where the head was.” She pauses to spit, a delicate string of slime– Just a shade darker than her shining copper Polished by the long summer days. Her hands move, shape, and shear the salmon flesh, Separating meat from bone. My mother flips the salmon over, and repeats– The product, two gleaming fillets that she pushes into a waiting blue bin, Already half-way full of others like it. “If it doesn’t click when you cut, you fucked it up.” “Here – practice on the dogs.” There are five different species of salmon. Kings, silvers, reds, pinks, and dogs. You can tell the king from the silvers because they have spots along the tail and the silvers don’t. You want kings and silvers. Dogs are expendable.


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92

“No-ope. You did it wrong, damnit. Press harder, fix the angle!” “Knoug-goo! You’re wasting the meat!” Quit barking at me! Let me figure it out. “Yeah well, when your grandpa taught me, he was worse than me!” After the second butchered fillet, I switch my ulu for a fillet knife. The next fillet is thick and full, the spine singing its praises. After a close inspection, my mother allows me to handle kings and silvers and

I join the conveyor belt of production alongside the rest of my family– Fillet, cut fillets into inch long strips, loop two strips through the prepared string so the weight balances when it hangs, soak strips in salt water for one minute, transfer seasoned strips to the smokehouse, hang on racks, keep a fan going to evenly distribute the smoke, a cottonwood fire must be kept at all times. On day three, remove strips. Begin preparation for jarring.


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Homecoming

Puncture me pretty And carve out the pride you take In my strength of my back Strong, from the burdens bore, Mine and yours, and– I’m sorry I couldn’t pay for college I’m sorry the love I gave Burned, Nearly charred your bones Into ashes and when I said “Fuck you!” I really meant, “I’ve been fractured Into pieces of glass,” And I can’t help but slice your fingertips when you Reach for a hug. But I’m better now I’m better now I’m sober now Can’t you see– I’ve loved you more than Life itself Gave you bits of me, Braided into your flesh Molded you into The shapes you now take– Can’t you see it in the wrinkle In your chin? We have the same mole above our lip And so do your sisters I’m sorry, So sorry–


U M A ,

G R A N D M O T H E R

Hush now. You’ve given me poetry. Force fed words, Stuffed down my throat and When I said mama, I’m not hungry you said, “You will be this winter so eat And don’t fuck up that fillet.” I’m so sorry–

Hush now, The words you’ve given me I can eat. I eat for two – For me and you and the Next generation of Poets Who rot away into the river beds. Your body may be charred But the streams are clear And The trees are fed Until the salmon run again Next year.

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The Mine

G R A N D M O T H E R

Why, they ask, does your skin smell like smoke? Because, love “A barbarous people, depending on subsistence upon the scanty and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live with a civilized community.” And you say, The world is burning. Can’t you see the fire? No, they say. Well– You wouldn’t, I suppose. Missionaries think the World will end in fire and blood but– It already has. And it’s Ending again. They frown But– That’s why my skin smells like smoke. You are the left-over ash, Floating through the air Fragmented pieces that still contain the Distant memory, The fabric of What once was, Fractured, refractured, Decomposing into unrecognizable shapes. And I suppose– Yours will too. Because–


U M A ,

G R A N D M O T H E R

The World is sick, love and– A barbarous people, depending on subsistence upon the scanty and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live as a civilized community– They came for me once, I could do nothing. They are coming again.

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Taking

And you, dear god, Will never understand The dangers that lurk For women like me. Maybe that’s why my Ancestors Willed my hair lighter, Eyes and skin lighter Than my Mother’s because When they begged for self-destruction, It came– Into them For them Tore them Into the shapes They believed them to be, Because you are what you eat And we were force-fed self-hate, shoved down our throats until We vomited the contents For all to see – Out Onto concrete streets. Maybe the Land, once Would have swallowed it whole, But now– All you can do, Is bear the burden, And pray to silent gods That rain will wash it away. But – it wasn’t enough. Afghans woven by arthritic fingers, Protection spells, draped across your shoulders, Shoulders broad enough to bear the burden Of previous generations – Still, You cried when the first machine Bit into Uma–


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G R A N D M O T H E R

Grandmother– Earth– Because you remember The feel of crazed hands, clawing across Your skin, when your skin Was just another territory To be conquered. You cried then too. I feel closest to my mother when my hair Is down And I pray For the Land To swallow me Whole.

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Spawning

G R A N D M O T H E R

This is the part that hurts. Sings really, Beautiful really– But no mind. It won’t hurt forever. Those soft spaces that You deny exist (Save maybe, The moments When your blood is On fire with all the wine And tomorrow morning you won’t remember Who you are, The Land is gone – maybe, But your head will pound, body remembering for you) No matter. The Land is gone. You cried then too, When Grandfather died, But only after your Brother explained The Land is gone. No matter. You won’t always ache, This, a beautiful, And terrible, Thing.


T H E

F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

Memory of My Father (with Parkinson’s) Jack Ouligian

Penn State University

The television sits on a brown plinth. My father stands before his chair. He scrapes salad out of tupperware. In the first act of the movie, Keanu Reeves leans over the street, then retreats to the handcuffs of Agent Smith. My father refuses to sit. In the second act, as Reeves backflips, my father’s socks stutter-step along the carpet— caesar-soaked romaine stains the back door before falling to the floor.

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From, Me Dia Brown

University of Vermont

Black and blues, black and blues Lordy, Lordy, the sad days are gone Still waiting for the love to come around Park benches and city stenches, a sitting down pink day dream Picnicking by the apartment, daddy said stop prugg’in in the basement Bleed’in love by the billboard, but you ain’t got Leona Lewis luck Soul beat sistas out of luck Cause they in the era of mumble rap when the blues Meant Something, they mean something

something

sum things gone

When a dolla cost more than the American Dream But lemonade days are com’in in pink and yellow right ‘round The corner. Plump and round Like Mama Ethel, ‘cept we ain’t got the kinda luck To be prugg’in ‘round Mama Ethel, who dream Like King on a Queen thrown to the concrete, Blues On brown skin, but gone Is the wind that come outta Mama Ethel Ain’t more than a prayer card in a shoe box in the basement


F R O M ,

M E

But the bass meant Something. It was a nod of the head and a handshake passin ‘round The street. It’s puttin some ‘spec on those gone For a morning jog with their dogs, while students wake up mourning their luck And looking towards blues In the sky, you know how they feel when some got the dream That was never theirs. While others would bleed white for the dream But only wake to white sheets of rejection, which had meant So much, but not to the Blues Oh how sweet the sound to see the siren come around And your white sheets of rejections and exceptions read no luck To the blindness of a gun But Mama Ethel say there ‘gon Be better days, when we stop killin each other for His dream His dream laid out on white sheets for the masses at mass whose luck Depended on the oven they cooked in. It’s the woodstove in the basement

Said daddy, it looks less dusty, which mean you betta turn around And get this beatin before you turnin around for the Blues Lordy, lordy, good luck on keepin the dream In the basement, next to the stack of vinyls, r&b and blues To the left of the obituaries for all those long gone, who waited for the love to come around To, Them.

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snip the stitch Kara Worrells

University of California-Irvine

Pull through the suture, scissors snip the stitch and out slides the thread; the knot unravels—the heart is dead; septic sewage of Cupid beguiled Love with the killer bow; Arrow piercing heart: artifice burst, gushing Babygirl red, velvet spool cascading from chest cavity filled with rotten fruit labored—breath and sigh of a molding mind; Pull through the suture, douse the wound in alcohol again, Saturday at 2am pour the wine, Babygirl: antiseptic stomach strategy of a liver-processed tragedy, of a comedy unforeseen, detoxifying romcom dream;


S N I P

T H E

S T I T C H

Blow the kiss, Babygirl, bat a lash—hit a home run, kick up the sand and don’t look back; slide through visionless touch of time, touch of a man who isn’t him, swirling at the bottom of a glass stained with 2am; Cupid unfaithful questioning Love: Is he to blame? Was he the start? Snip the stitch, Love, the suture drips blood of poisoned organ—oxygen exposed to flesh; the flies will come, it will be a feast of the body undone.

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In-Brace-Able-You Bryan Angel

University of California-Irvine

I know this is not how you’re supposed to start A poem but allow me to explain myself: I am taken with an image from my Youth, a man emptying kitchen Cleaners & anti-freeze into his Stomach as if he wanted to be Eaten from the inside out Kidneys crystallizing into The shapes of fists after a Fistfight the horror of his Wife finding her husband doing snow angels In a pool of Drain-O on the kitchen floor. That is only half the image, the other half starts... With a neighbor rushing in, finding him before The acids coursed through His large intestines like a Snake, the neighbor Picked the stomach off the Floor, cradled it in a dish Of water & propped up the half- man to Stop the acids from rising. He lived out the remainder of his life in a flesh colored Brace with a tube attached. His wife fed him liquids & They kept him together. With the brace off you could see Through to the other side. In a brace he was able to dance with His wife sitting down, In brace-able To sketch the missing stomach when held up to the light Resembled a wing. Last night, fifteen years away from this image, I wept


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A deep belly weep to Ella Fitzgerald singing EmbraceAble You; a woman who saw her large Stomach as a curse she rarely looked At herself in photo graphs. People Without stomachs know this about her. Her middle would swell when reaching Murderously for the notes, nearly out of Range up three octaves & back to the center Of the key. In the second verse, when her tongue Nearly comes out her mouth, ‘above all I want my arms about you…’ Is when epiphany pushed the image into continuum:

The neighbor’s hands in the shape of a cup keeping the Man’s stomach in place, the wife’s arms about him Sway dancing the only way they could In a chair with the back removed, The flesh colored brace keeping Them enlaced, Embraceable You was The only music they learned to dance by memory. Now let me explain to you the guillotine of this image: Shortly after the in braced dance The man stopped accepting liquids, Took the brace off & merely Folded in half down a flight of Steps. Ella & her enormous, Bounteous stomach could not Save him, the only arms about Him were his own when his torso Reached the bottom step. He was found the next day & Cremated in the middle of the week.

Someone said his wife returned to the scene of the Incident found the brace at the top of the steps,


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I N - B R A C E = A B L E - Y O U

Clutched it in her hands & swayed to Embraceable You, Playing the gutted music inside her head. I don’t know if that part of the image is true But I can tell you that a Woman dancing, embracing a Surgical brace at the top of a Step in a long hall is certainly one way to end a poem.


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F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

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Letters From a Martian Mutt On a Pale Blue Dot Kory Nathaniel Richardson University of California-Irvine

Collection I. Prometheus (Forethought) II. Non-Cents III. Momma’s Purse IV. Self-Portrait as a Latte (A Letter to My Future Kids— and Inner Child) V. Post-Traumatic VI. Epimetheus (Afterthought)


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L E T T E R S

F R O M

A

M A R T I A N

M U T T

I. Prometheus (Forethought) “In lak’ech ala k’in” From Mayan to Spanish: soy tú otro tú y eres mi otro yo. The things seen in another; mere reflections of what one keeps within. Qualities that make us all human, for you are another they and they— another you. Good, bad, beautiful, and ugly, be they expressed through nurture or kept latent in nature, all share these genes and characteristics through unconscious self-reflection. By the way, has anyone ever told you that the lines are blurry between judgment and perception? A vast majority of either comes from the same blind spot: the rational mind. Thus, to judge another is to project the contents of oneself through identification This is not to discourage the act altogether, however It is instead to encourage awareness. Awareness yields the understanding of motive consequently the freedom to decide whether or not judgment is actually necessary. It is so only in matters of life or death. But what objectively comprises such matters? This is for YOU to decide— There is your blind spot.


L E T T E R S

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II. Non-Cents Lightyears away from home— pueblos made of soft red sand and the view of frozen lakes, I arrive in an unknown land this pale blue dot,

Welcome to a world where the people worship the media. Wikipedia never saw this one coming, but is there even a wiki for the lore of future events? Probably not— that sounds like nonsense. Though I heard some kind of r-n-i was found inside the code: furniture, my guy. And just like that, the secret present flew right over my head. An invisible gift with wings; something I could only receive after laughing at the last few lines. Keep it G, Grandpa always said “all of the best meds only come from within, especially combined with the stillness of mind.” Something about endogenous medicine tells me that the body is a vehicle for energy and miracles, but that ain’t my business...

Not talking ‘bout any references listed on an open source page, though. Much less

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about the way people praise what “Big Brother” entertains, yo and spoon-feeds subliminally through popular, overrated works of art. Forgive me if this sounds reductionist, dismissive at best, but pop-culture is just the contents of the collective unconscious expressed and recognized by us and those we adore through simultaneously opened and closed doors of sensory perception. But hopefully life is still much wow, such more than just a bunch of phenomenological concepts mashed into a fluid-filled glass container labeled, ‘consciousness’. Can I tell you a secret? The mind: far more likely meant to be ajar than in a jar— just like your heart <3

The protagonist said, “This is going to sound like advice unsolicited,

but practice makes perfect

and perfect

takes practice.”

Credits rolled, and the curtain fell to the sound of booming applause:


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people sobbing, shouting, and laughing at once. A standing ovation for what was said only comes from the heart as they poured its contents out into publicated virtual passageways paved for instantly gratified social needs met through a post-modern palm pilot with a touch sensitive screen — still feeling unsatisfied. Yes, my cell phone is on! or is it a cell brain? They call that a nucleus I guess. Can we call it a smart phone, then? Maybe an extended mind? Please? Nevermind, all of this active cognition floods the stream, creating lame rhyme schemes. Talk about stagnation of a nation deprived of implicit sovereignty but “I digress” is an understatement. It trips me out, though. A wise man once told me that one could never overthink. Only think wrong about too many things— if not everything. Pessimism is the problem; ain’t no double negatives giving birth to a positive here. What a twist! Who would have thought or foreseen the absence of value as asexual yet only in algebraic terms. At the same time, though,


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doesn’t everything vary? Contrary to what the concrete and the objective would offer; mere compensatory arguments worth two copper buttons with a Presidential face engraved upon the ‘heads’ side. What does it mean if both sides are the same, though? I guess Oneness is two-faced... Call me crazy, but one can’t have two cents without the absence of value at least acknowledged; a formidable factor in this equation. Or maybe one can even though it probably wouldn’t recognize the two, lest should one ever bother with measuring it. From that point maybe we could call it non-cents...


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III. Momma’s Purse So much curiosity back then— I couldn’t help but empty Momma’s purse, turning it upside-down. watching everything spill out: a brush and a bunch of silver buttons with faces of old men on them; they chime and resound as they roll across the livingroom floor... Assorted paper rectangles and a pager also fly out; at least that’s what I heard her call it even though the word ‘beeper’ was more fitting. Sometimes it would go off and I never saw her move faster in search of a phone. Every so often I think back and laugh Because Momma don’t carry a purse or even a pager now. She and her Galaxy S10 are attached at the hip she recently got replaced, with her handy dandy wallet-phone case. Yo, bougie af. Pretty fly for a “low-class” resident alien working in a homeless shelter, but this isn’t about socioeconomic status— Momma ain’t never been low-class. It’s crazy how so much can change in such little time, though like free-roaming quarters, nickels, and dimes flying out of her purse— Yet despite all the years She still sees the same little boy who would empty it everytime she looks at me; a grown man now emptying his wallet and his pockets

to give her a place to retire.


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IV. Self-Portrait as a Latte (A Letter t You are like a cup of coffee— Black with a splash of milky white cream. A mulatte— so to speak. After five hundred years of fighting to fit in, add a few shakes of spicy red skin; canela; spanish for cinnamon all mixed into a twelve ounce mug; just enough for everyone to handle, but not to wake em up rudely to the sound of a mutt hablando español cómo si fuera posible por los chuchos a caer bien… Pero así siempre será este mundo— las joyas se quedan juzgadas cómo son nada más de piedras sin valor


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to My Future Kids— and Inner Child) Cómo la flor que fue equivocada por la paria, the flower mistaken for an outcast, eres una taza de tierra en la forma de carbón y oxígeno creciendo al cielo. A cup of earth, reaching for the sky. Oye mi amor, mi agridulce con crema— eres incluida ni modo que dicen los otros; támpoco tus sentimientos que no cabes con la multitud You are made of the stars, the clouds, la tierra, y el mar; diversity in flesh and bone. We all are. and you, my dear are just that: a little bit of everyone; and everyone a little bit of you.

M U T T


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V. Post-Traumatic Growing up sucks sometimes. People I thought would always have my back no longer do Turned against me in judgment because I refuse to continue being a doormat unless of course I need my spine-realigned. Guess I really messed up. Wouldn’t be the first time. Hence in French they say “c’est la vie”, for such is life. Hold up, though, isn’t judgment biased in nature? Depending on the motive— another elephant to address some other time. Unspoken resentment, nimbostratus clouds which we hold over ourselves unconsciously sprouting seeds in the mental yard. The kind that feed thoughts of avidya— a whole new level to the phrase Ignorance is bliss, ‘til I had a rude awakening: the sound of callous hands, clapping like thunder in the sky of my ears. “WAKE UP, BOY!! WAKE UP!!!” Trapped in the body of a nameless ancestor, I jump from this bench of a bed and run on what feels like all fours stumbling and rolling away from a fiery village of angry brown and blue-eyed folk waving their torches, muskets, and pitchforks to find just who or what I really am. But why would I go searching something that was never lost When the answer radiated in the color of my skin— Reddish brown like a fourth rock from the Sun. Still, I had no choice other than to flee, Left behind everything I loved including the woman I failed to keep a lifelong commitment with. After parting ways with dearest family, friends, possessions, and technologies I earned through diligence, the place I knew as home became a grave for everything I once was.


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Death even reared her bony face, gazing into the abyss of my eyes... I stared back into hers as She leaned towards me, whispering her name, “Manita” I tried to hide and overnight I went from sleeping comfortably in a warm place, to running for my life and safety out in the cold. I reaped and I sewed changes unforeseen. Grandpa once said “Nobody will stop to notice the good you do, much more drawn to the bad. Nothing personal, just that we’re more relatable when others know the folly we have.” Then why is casting stones an age-old fad? Talk about catch twenty-two. Apparently it’s much easier to give blame than it is to take responsibility, but how many times have I digressed— change hurts when you don’t see it flying faster than it can be accepted, especially when the only time you’ve ever seen it fly is out of Momma’s upside-down purse...

“It is what it is,” Momma’s world famous verbal medicine or poison, depending on how one takes it; proof that life is a perception of your own making.

But three hundred sixty-five days post trauma, still waddling between disorder and growth; — it is what it is: a day by day process


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VI. Epimetheus (Afterthought) There’s a difference between being unable to do something and choosing not to. You can find it in choosing and being; are you seeing what I’m seeing? Masses blind and oblivious to the binding fabric between space, time, and consciousness never written on stone tablets. Everyone fighting over the color of their skin or how they relate to their kin Either culturally, platonically, or sexually. Arguments over what is righteous And what is sin, And honestly, who gets to decide all of this— switch the ‘s’ and the ‘t’ shit? Displacing responsibility in the form of blame unto another revokes the capacity within oneself to recognize his or her own. Bottom line, Everyone is both: a many things and simultaneously one, experiencing a paper thin veil of fragmentation; perceptual separation from that which we already are: Alive. There is your blind spot again— the difference between choosing and being— to be found in the silence between thought, emotion, and feeling: action.


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Leaves Brian Araque Perez Bard College

You cannot forbid the mournfulness of mornings or muscles reduced to wings foreign to thoughtful teenagers and ruptured cars beam at roadside trees and wet paved leaves

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The Meaning of a Symbol Emily Cohen

Bowdoin College

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n January 5, 2020, 25,000 people marched across Lower Manhattan under the banner “No Hate, No Fear,” showing unity in the face of recent violent attacks inspired by antisemitism that occurred in the New York City area: there was the stabbing in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, a Hasidic rabbi, during a Hanukkah celebration that left five wounded, one critically, on December 29, 2019. Then there was a shooting in a Jersey City Jewish market on December 5 that left six dead, including the two shooters, a police officer and three people in the store. Still fresh in mind was also the deadliest mass shooting ever of a Jewish community in the United States that occurred 13 months earlier at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, on October 27, 2018, where 11 people were shot and killed during Shabbat services. These are stories of obvious, murderous hate, tragedies with no apparent cause that became front-page headlines in newspapers across the country. They were impossible to predict, otherwise they would have been stopped. But if these things keep happening, shouldn’t there be some pattern—a warning sign, a symbol of sorts—that could explain them? And if there was one, could they be stopped?

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I go to Bowdoin College, an old New England liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin bills itself as a safe place, in a quiet suburban town with a student body of less than 2,000 (predominantly white). “Bowdoin is a college and also an idea—” reads the college’s “About” webpage, “—that if you give smart people access to the best education on earth, they will use it to create good in the world.” It seems like the last place on earth that hate would appear. And yet, hate has, in the form of the Nazi swastika. Four have been found on campus in the past three years. The first one was carved into the snow outside of a dorm building over winter break in January 2017. A student on campus noticed it outside his window. The second was left on a white board in an academic building next to drawings of male genitalia and “KKK,” and was found on August 31, 2017. Over a year passed before the next one was reported to all Bowdoin staff, faculty, and students—as it always was, via email—on October 16, 2018, more than two weeks since a student studying in the library stacks late at night on September 28 found a swastika etched into a desk next to the phrase “Heil Hitler” and reported it to the Office of Safety and Security. The etching, about an inch across, had clearly been seen by at least one other person already: an arrow was drawn to point at the symbol with the words, “Fuck You.” A fourth swastika was reported retroactively on October 23: a student, exiting a dining hall sometime in the fall of 2017 saw a swastika made out of transparent push pins on a bulletin board. He and his friends immediately took it apart, but no one knows how long the symbol was there before discovery. And, clearly, they did not report it immediately. Four times in the past three years I have received an email from an administrator informing me of another swastika, as if it were a water main break and we should just be aware that this happened on our campus and that


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measures will be taken to address it. We should be on the lookout for another and report it with an online form. That urging, administrators guess, encouraged the retroactive report of the push-pin swastika. “We can and will shine a light on acts of bias and racism when they occur,” read the email informing the campus of the desk swastika. The message was signed by the Bias Incident Group, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, that convenes when a bias incident occurs. “It is incumbent upon us all to call them out and denounce them, and to work to ensure that Bowdoin remains a place of humanity and respect,” the email concluded. The Office of Safety and Security investigates each reported swastika, looking at surveillance camera footage and interviewing any potential witnesses. Often the investigation leads nowhere, because there were no witnesses and camera footage doesn’t have night vision or it is unclear when the swastika was drawn in the first place. Case not closed. Most of the time, that’s where discussion ends, too. In an exceptional case, after the most recent swastika was found at Bowdoin, leaders of the student government planned a town hall-style discussion. Prefaced by an overview of the history of the swastika as a symbol of hate, the conversation lasted an hour or so. After that, the attendees dispersed, maybe talking in small groups as they left and reflecting for a few minutes before they went to do whatever it is they do on Friday evenings on a college campus. The very next morning, 11 people were shot to death in the Tree of Life Synagogue.

• The appearances of swastikas are not specific to my small college. Displays of antisemitic sentiment from white supremacist or white nationalist groups—fliers,

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pamphlets, graffiti—have been rising in frequency and volume on college campuses. The AMCHA Initiative has records of over 500 swastikas and other “anti-Jewish genocidal expressions” that were found on college campuses since 2015.1 The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that 216 college campuses in 44 states experienced such flier or sticker “propaganda” campaigns from far- or alt-right groups over the course of 16 months from 2016 to 2018.2 At Bowdoin, stickers from the alt-right Identity Evropa were plastered on lampposts across campus during the summer of 2017. The Southern Poverty Law Center has monitored the number of hate groups in the U.S. since 1990, and it has found that the number of such groups—defined as organizations that through statements or activities demonstrate “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics”—has increased, from 784 in 2014 to 1,020 in 2018.3 Many of these groups are young—Identity Evropa was founded in March 2016. To obscure their hate in the mainstream, the new far- or alt-right often uses new symbols, and not necessarily the infamous swastika of yore. The ADL maintains a database documenting and explaining these symbols.4 There’s “14 Words” which is short for the 14-word slogan of white supremacists: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” There’s Pepe the Frog, who began as a non-hateful cartoon frog from the internet but quickly became a meme, spread via alt-right social media and online platforms. There are 179 symbols in the database at the moment. Considering all the new symbols and new hate groups, a swastika has a sort of elevated status above them all. Unlike Pepe the Frog, a swastika is unmistakable as a symbol of hate. So when a swastika does appear— “the most significant and notorious of hate symbols,” per the


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ADL—it should carry some weight. Shouldn’t it?

The swastika appeared first in Eurasia, as many as 7000 years ago. Its name comes from Sanskrit and translates to “good fortune.” In Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Odinism it is sacred and is associated with peace. Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist found it while on site in ancient Troy in the 1870s, at a time when, back in Europe, people were obsessed with antiquity and ancient civilizations. He drew connections between it and symbols found on ancient German pottery, conjecturing later in writing that the swastika was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.” Others thought the symbol might be one of a shared so-called Aryan culture across Europe and Asia. The Nazis adopted the swastika in 1920. The existence of an enduring Aryan culture indicated that the German Volk belonged to a long line of greats: from the brilliant Athenians and heroic Spartans in Golden-Age Classical Greece, to the mighty Nordic Vikings, to the innovative and ingenious Germans, whose contributions to society included music, science, and military prowess. The original ancient swastika was like an incomplete square, straight. The Nazis turned the symbol 45 degrees and mirror-imaged it, calling it a hooked cross, or Hakenkreuz (HAH-kin-KROYTZ) in German. They placed it on their flag in the same colors of the German imperial flag: red, black and white. “The National Socialist Party did this a lot,” says Natasha Goldman, an art historian who has studied art in the Third Reich and art and memory in post-war Europe. The Iron Cross, too, was once a symbol used to express honorable service in the German military, but under the Nazis, it would come to represent the party’s genocidal

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imperialistic goals. Hitler was named chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg in January 1933. Two months later, Hitler and Hindenburg issued a decree to remove the flag of the Weimar Republic and replace it with two flags, one new and one old. The flag of the previous German Reich must be flown together with the swastika flag at all times. The goal of the decree: to “connect the glorious past of the German Empire to the powerful rebirth of the German nation.” Taking familiar symbols, like the Iron Cross, or taking unfamiliar symbols and placing them with familiar symbols, like placing the swastika with the flag of the Second Reich, was the Nazi’s method of indoctrination, explains Goldman. “[It was] almost a subconscious way of saying, this symbol is a good symbol and a positive symbol. And that’s part of the method that they used to convince people that they were doing the right thing, and that they were the party to follow,” she says. Hindenburg remained as president until his death in August 1934, but just a month into Hitler’s chancellorship, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave the new government the right to rule by decree without Reichstag approval. Though Hindenburg had the authority to overrule Hitler, he never did. He wasn’t friends with Hitler, but he supported the Nazi’s goals of forging a Volksgemeinschaft, a racially pure German community that excluded not only Jews, but also Roma and Sinti people, Slavic people, homosexuals, disabled people, and Communists. Soon, the symbol traveled from flags to homes, sleeves, and chests, exemplifying at least partial success in the Third Reich’s totalitarian state: the ideology of the nation-state had infiltrated the most intimate areas of people’s lives. If bearers and wearers of the swastika did not support and help to carry out the extermination of


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the Jews in the “Final Solution” (which many did), they at least did not dare to speak against the regime committing such crimes. After 1945, Germany was occupied by the victorious Allies, who outlawed Nazi organizations and made the display and dissemination of Nazi symbols illegal, and they are still banned in Germany and elsewhere in Europe today. In the United States, the symbol is not illegal. It is protected as free speech under the First Amendment, which is why a flag with a swastika can fly freely, as it did at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.5 “Obviously when swastikas appear in marches, like in Charlottesville, it’s very clearly white supremacy,” said Goldman, because those proudly bearing the flag stand behind its original meaning, and then some. They stand for hate toward all “quote-unquote others,” as Goldman put it. But what about when a swastika is scrawled onto a desk or a white board in the dead of night? Goldman seems genuinely unsure, or at least reluctant to call the perpetrators out as espousing white supremacist or white nationalist sympathies. “I think there’s a lot of incidents, that kind of graffiti, and it’s not clear if it’s just young people experimenting with power, feeling disenfranchised, and wanting to feel the control of that power. And inscribing it on a library carrel feels exciting and thrilling almost because it is such a powerful symbol,” she says. “I would not say it takes on a different meaning, I would say that why individuals—the reasons that individuals inscribe a swastika in a fairly hidden, quasi-private-public space like a library carrel, is unclear to me. It may very well be a white supremacist who does that. I don’t know.”

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Does the swastika’s history and significance disappear when it appears anonymously? Is that kind of graffiti a threat, or simply a nuisance? On paper, the difference between a ‘hate crime’ and a ‘bias incident’ is clear enough. Committing a hate crime is, well, a crime, such as destruction of property or manslaughter, motivated by bias, meaning the perpetrator targets the person or property because of some aspect of their identity, whether race, religion, nationality, gender, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or other. A hate crime is prosecuted with the backing of the law, usually on the state level. Committing a bias incident, on the other hand, is not a crime, though what it actually is is less clear-cut. According to Bowdoin’s “Bias Incident Protocol” (a document that has not been updated since 2018), “An act of bias includes hate speech and/or threats (including those conveyed through graffiti), and unequal treatment or service. It may also include actions that reinforce stereotypes and stigmas, such as those associated with race, color, ethnicity, social class, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, age, marital status, veteran status, and physical and mental disability, among others. An act of bias can occur whether an act is intentional or unintentional.” Somewhat unhelpfully, the same document from Bowdoin says, “All hate crimes are acts of bias, but not all acts of bias are hate crimes.”6 Bowdoin assesses each swastika appearance to determine whether it may be raised from the status of ‘bias incident’ to that of a ‘hate crime’ The college also sends its report of each incident to the Maine Attorney General’s office, to double-check its work. Detective Margie Berkovich works in the Civil Rights office of the Maine Attorney General, where she reviews the incidents from across the state, collecting the reports for statistical purposes as well. Hate crimes are not protected under


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the First Amendment, but swastikas, Berkovich said, often aren’t determined to be hate crimes for the same reasons they are hard to investigate in the first place: it is usually difficult to determine a perpetrator, and therefore it is nearly impossible to determine a clear motive, let alone a motive as imprecise as “hate.” In Bowdoin’s own assessments of each swastika appearance, Executive Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols has determined that each case represents a bias incident, not a hate crime, because they are drawn backwards or otherwise incorrectly, and almost always in ways that are impermanent (on a dry-erase board or carved into the snow, where they’re easy to remove, relative to graffiti on a wall) and therefore cannot fall under the umbrella of criminal conduct. The recent swastikas at Bowdoin are examples of vandalism and do not target anyone person or group in particular, Nichols says. Further, the apparent temporary, spontaneous or careless nature of Bowdoin’s swastikas leads Nichols to speculate whether or not the perpetrator actually espoused the hateful beliefs the swastika represents. It is unclear to Nichols whether there is “real vitriol” behind the drawings. “But that’s just speculation, only because if real hatred was associated with it, or that level of bias, I guess there would have been more of an edge to it sometimes,” said Nichols. “There are more dramatic ways to put that imagery out there than on a whiteboard.”

• I am Jewish. I waited this long to tell you this because I wanted to think it didn’t matter. I didn’t think I would be in the minority for feeling scared or upset or even surprised to hear that yet another swastika was found on my college campus. With the exception of Gold-

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man, everyone I had talked to for this story seemed to approach the topic of swastikas purely from their professional mindset, that of a college security officer or a law enforcement agent. To be fair, that’s why I asked to talk to them—I noticed that a swastika did not garner as much of a response, and I wanted to know why they thought that was the case given their experience dealing with the symbol. But when that symbol is a swastika—the same one emblazoned on the flag that flew as two-thirds of Europe’s Jewry and millions more “quote-unquote others” were murdered—I guess I hoped for something more than a discussion of laws and technical inconsistencies. But that’s what Nichols and Berkovich explained to me, why a swastika drawn anonymously on a college campus wasn’t that threatening. I was starting to think maybe they were right. Maybe these swastikas were just scribbled by dumb kids trying to cause an uproar, and I was just playing into their hands by getting upset about it. Was I making something out of nothing? That was my mindset when I met with Benje Douglas, a member of Bowdoin’s Bias Incident Group. He invited me to sit down in the arm chairs, away from his desk in his softly-lit office. We sank into them, upholstered in a pale green velvet-y fabric. On the table between us, a bowl of fun-size candy. Douglas’s full-time position is director of gender violence prevention and education and Title IX coordinator, so it’s safe to say that all these things in his office—the chairs, the lighting, the candy—make the space comforting when the conversations had there are anything but. I reached out to Douglas to learn about the process of reporting and investigating bias incidents and determining punishments, in the few cases where a perpetrator is identified. Our conversation quickly shifted, however, to Douglas’s understanding of why these incidents keep happening on college campuses and why he


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is deeply concerned—not only about the swastikas, but about the response to them. “My family grew up in Selma, Alabama,” he says towards the end of our conversation. “I don’t have the sort of like, everything’s-gonna-turn-out-alright mentality. I’m like, if people are drawing swastikas in places, well the next thing comes … putting swastikas on arms. And when that happens…” he trails off. “Somebody was sitting here in 1929, at Bowdoin literally, thinking, that’s happening across the ocean.” Douglas acknowledged the protection of free speech under the First Amendment, but promptly dismissed it in the case of swastikas: “I get it. You don’t want to have a slippery slope for speech, and neither do I. But I ain’t the ACLU. I’m a human being, and I know what that means, and I’m comfortable saying that some symbols— they just don’t pass the marker.” Swastikas don’t pass the marker, Douglas says, for their explicit reference to a distinct totalitarian regime whose driving ideology was racist and genocidal. To Douglas, it is not really important who is drawing the swastika. The deeply troubling part is the fact that the symbol is appearing at all, in any form, and what that means for understanding of the swastika’s history and significance. Growing up, he heard stories from friends’ families about fleeing Europe in the 1930s and 40s, and Nazis were being brought to trial well into the 70s and 80s to much media attention. That’s not the case for members of my generation, and Douglas fears that we’re already losing that memory. After an impassioned and unflinching ten minutes, Douglas sighs. “Sorry, I get really worked up about this, because I think for a place of higher education, we debase ourselves by not really thinking critically about stuff like swastikas.” There is a definite lack of understanding of the symbol’s history in the world, Douglas said, but he

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wondered if there is also a lack of empathy. On the Monday following the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Goldman, the art historian, spoke at a local junior high school. She was supposed to go in anyway because it was the students’ Civil Rights Day, and she was slated to discuss multifaith communities. The students, though young, were aware of the events of the weekend, and she adapted her plan. She explained antisemitism and the history and meaning of the swastika to the young students. She told them that they might see this in the homes of people they love and care about, and they ought to know what it stands for. One student raised his hand and asked, how do you know what it means? “And I said, well, you can’t divorce it from its history, and from what it means in contemporary culture today.” In my conversation with Douglas, he asks me if I had heard of Genghis Grill, a fast-casual chain of Mongolian barbeque restaurants. Yeah, I reply. “Well, we named steakhouses after Genghis Khan, who rolled across the steppes and killed lots and lots of people,” he says. “I think history is undefeated when it comes to rationalizing the ills of individuals.”

• To use the First Amendment to defend the drawing of swastikas is to ignore the 1942 Supreme Court decision of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. The unanimous decision, written by Associate Justice Frank Murphy, decided that there were exceptions to free speech. Such exceptions include “fighting words,” those which, “by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate break of the peace.”7 Then, as now, there is a difference between free speech that allows expression of views that might be wrongly oppressed and free speech


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that threatens. The report of the swastika carved into the library desk includes the following detail: “The sixth floor stacks, while remote, are open to the public when the library is open for business. It is not, therefore, clear whether the person who committed this act of bias is tied to Bowdoin specifically or is a member of the larger community.” Reading this, I had to ask myself how someone outside of Bowdoin would know how to get to the sixthfloor of the stacks. It involves going into the basement of the library, weaving through several rooms, past students studying and working and then ascending six flights of stairs (or taking the elevator, I suppose). Community members do visit the library often, using the computers and maybe taking out books, some of which you have to go into the stacks to find. But there are no book shelves on the sixth floor of the stacks—only desks and couches. Lots of students like to study up there because it is so remote and quiet. To pin these incidents onto people outside of the college community is to assume that the swastikas and their accompanying ideologies do not exist there. Similarly, to brush the perpetrators off as “emboldened” is to also deflect responsibility and thus to believe that there is no way to stop swastikas from appearing and other bias incidents from occurring. At Bowdoin, these explanations serve to distinguish ‘us’ at the liberal arts college from ‘them,’ those who propagate fear and hateful ideas because they have not been enlightened by a liberal education, or whatever. That juvenile quality Nichols spoke about points to this too: if Bowdoin students were drawing swastikas, they would at least be educated enough to do it correctly, wouldn’t they? To fear that people—especially young people, who may have never met a survivor of the Holocaust—may not fully understand a swastika’s significance and histo-

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ry, however, would not be entirely unfounded. A study conducted in 2018 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany reported that 41 percent of interviewed American adults could not identify Auschwitz—the deadliest extermination camp of the Holocaust. Among millennials, 66 percent could not properly identify Auschwitz, and 22 percent said they hadn’t heard of the Holocaust or were not sure whether they had.8 Maybe most concerning was the 58 percent of Americans who responded ‘yes’ to the question of whether they believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.

• Nearly a thousand miles south of Bowdoin in North Carolina, a different elite small liberal arts college has faced incidents of hate in an extreme way. In October of 2018 at Davidson College, “Hitler did nothing wrong” was found written on a white board in an academic building. It looked pretty similar to the situation I’ve seen at my own school: an ominous display of hate at a predominantly white, elite liberal arts college. Then, a week later, two Davidson students were doxed on Twitter by a local worker’s collective, which alleged that the students were neo-Nazis. The Carolina Workers Collective (whose Twitter bio reads “Working class opposition to white supremacy in rural NC”) traced tweets from anonymous accounts back to the two students based on posts and information from other social media, on which the students had used their real names and photos. Less than five hours after the dox first appeared, Davidson’s president Carol Quillen tweeted, “@DavidsonCollege students, we are on it.” The doxed students, now recognizable by the entire campus, were located by campus police and determined to pose no immediate threat.


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But soon thereafter the two students left campus. They were not forced to leave campus, but they were told by administrators that their lives as students would likely be drastically worse if they chose to stay. Two days later, students packed the Davidson student union to show solidarity with those frightened and hurt by the news that two vocal white supremacists had lived among them. It represented the joint efforts of Davidson’s Jewish student group Hillel, the Black Students Coalition, the Muslim Students Association, the Organization of Latin American Students and the Davidson Young Democratic Socialists of America. Collectively they called on the college’s administration to address the ways that Davidson, like many elite colleges and universities, does not do enough to support students of marginalized identities and backgrounds once they reach campus. The story was picked up by local and national news outlets, including The Hill and the Chronicle of Higher Education. The doxing tweets from the workers collective feature screenshots of one of the doxed student’s tweets— the proof. Many of the featured tweets are memes or jokes. One tweet reads, “the 1920s were the best decade [emoji with heart eyes] I was born in the wrong era [crying emoji],” accompanying four photos of Ku Klux Klan rallies and cross burnings. Another: “heil hitler (say it back).” This student was on the sailing team at Davidson and a T.A. for the German department. The president of the sailing club described the student as “perfectly amicable to all the other sailors on the team.” There were no signs that the student was a neo-Nazi, he told the Chronicle of Higher Education.9 Doing my due diligence as a journalist, I scroll through all of the student’s tweets, which I was able to find through the workers collective Twitter account. Then I go back and do it again. I read them thoroughly, mul-

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tiple times. I don’t move. I don’t speak. I am sitting in Bowdoin’s student union looking at these things, but for a moment I forget that’s the case because I am wrapped up in these tweets, these stupid, hateful, evil tweets; they wrap me up, round and round my throat and stomach and tongue so I can’t say anything. In that moment, I am passive and I know there is nothing I can do. But in that moment I forget my journalistic objectivity, and I am terrified. I want to show this to everybody, and I want to show it to nobody. I want no one to ever have to see something like that ever again, but I also want to scream from the rooftops to show them that this is not normal. I want everyone to see it for what it is: hatred, ugly and very real, in this person’s anonymous Twitter account that was very publicly threatening and yet never considered a threat. “What’s unsettling for many at Davidson is the suspicion that unknown white supremacists are among them,” reported the Chronicle of Higher Education. An editor of the Davidson student paper told me that she thinks the reason there was such a swift and strong response from the students and the college—a Jewish studies program will be created next year after a student-led initiative—was due to the highly public nature of the events. The Davidson example, fortunately, is an extreme one, but the only reason the college made great changes was because it was pressured to do so, by its students and the media coverage. Davidson was forced to face suspicions of white supremacy, in a way that many colleges and universities have not been. When I feel my stomach drop at the news of yet another swastika found anywhere, and everyone around me hardly bats an eye, I feel like I’m making something out of nothing. Why do I feel like the only one who cares? Why can’t I just ignore it?


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On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof wrote in his journal that he felt he had to kill nine black parishioners worshipping in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in order to protect his vision of a white ethno-state. At his trial, he wore shoes that he had decorated with neo-Nazi symbols. At the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, white nationalists, neo-fascists and members of the alt-right gathered and chanted “White lives matter,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “One people, one nation, end immigration.” They carried flags with swastikas. Opponents to the rally gathered nearby in counterprotest, until James Alex Fields Jr., a self-identified white supremacist, drove full speed into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. On August 3, 2019, Patrick Crusius drove 10 hours from his hometown to reach El Paso, Texas, a city bordering Mexico that is over 80 percent Hispanic or Latino. Twenty minutes prior to opening fire in a Walmart, where he killed 22 and wounded 26, Crusius posted a racist rant online, writing, “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” On April 11, 1944, Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “We have been pointedly reminded that we are in hiding, that we are Jews in chains. … We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter, we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.” Maybe Nichols is right to judge that swastikas at Bowdoin do not target one group in particular; rather, they threaten many. A swastika today is not divorced from the beliefs perpetuated by the Nazis nearly a century ago: that some people are inherently superior to others, and the “others” bring ruin. That “others” cannot overcome

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their “otherness” to be seen as something more than that—as humans deserving of the same life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The number of antisemitic incidents recorded each year has generally trended upward since 2013, reaching its peak with 1,986 incidents in 2017.10 But the number of hate crimes in general has also increased, to over 7,100 in 2018.11 This is why I can’t ignore it; it is not about me. One Bavarian baron, who once encountered Adolf Hitler in a restaurant in the early 1930s, recounted his meeting with the soon-to-be dictator—who commanded and oversaw the murder of six million Jews, around 200,000 Roma, hundreds or possibly thousands of homosexuals, and over 10 million non-Jewish Polish and Soviet civilians and prisoners of war—in his later-published diary. Though not fond of him or his ideology, the baron didn’t see the signs of what would come. “I mistook him for a cartoon character,” wrote the baron of Hitler, “and I did not shoot.” Dylann Roof, James Alex Fields Jr., and Patrick Crusius were not cartoon characters, either, and a swastika is not a harmless doodle. Period “Swastika Tracker,” AMCHA Initiative, https://amchainitiative.org/swastika-tracker/#swastika-tracker/?view_256_page=1. 2 “ADL Finds Alarming Increase in White Supremacist Propaganda on College Campuses Across U.S.,” ADL, February 1, 2018, https://www.adl. org/news/press-releases/adl-finds-alarming-increase-in-white-supremacist-propaganda-on-college-campuses. 3 “Hate Map,” SPLC, https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map. 4 “Hate on Display™ Hate Symbol Database,” ADL, https://www.adl.org/ hate-symbols. 5 “Swastikas, Shields and Flags: Branding Hate in Charlottesville,” The New York Times, August 15, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/video/ us/100000005360556/white-supremacist-symbols-charlottesville.html. 6 Bowdoin College Bias Incident Protocol,” Office of the Dean of Students, Bowdoin College, undated, https://www.bowdoin.edu/dean-of-students/resources/bias-reporting/bias-incident-protocol-2018.pdf. 1


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“Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942),” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/ cases/1940-1955/315us568; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “Some racist, homophobic chants in Charlottesville may not be protected under 1st amendment,” Vox, August 15, 2017, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/15/16144058/charlottesville-free-speech. 8 “Claims Conference Survey Finds a Significant Lack of Holocaust Knowledge in the United States,” Conference on the Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, February 2018, http://www.claimscon.org/what-we-do/ allocations/red/holocaust-study/. 9 Chris Quintana, “One Student’s Secret Racist Posts Unsettle a Small Liberal-Arts College,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 8, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/One-Student-s-Secret-Racist/245045. 10 “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents: Year in Review 2018,” ADL, https:// www.adl.org/2018-audit-H. 11 “ADL Hate Crime Map,” ADL, https://www.adl.org/adl-hate-crime-map 7

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Ode To Millburn Deli Arik Wolk

Washington University in St. Louis

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ew Jersey is the ultimate little brother. Surrounded by two of the nation’s largest cities and full of suburbs, its denizens often define themselves by how far they are from Philadelphia or New York City–colloquially known as just “the city.” The state and its residents’ identity have been hard to define. From being known as simply the place where George Washington had to travel through to move his army between New York and Pennsylvania, to MTV’s The Jersey Shore,1 to the state government’s viral Twitter account, the question of what it means to be a New Jerseyan has always been hard to answer. My identity as a New Jerseyan was not something I had ever really considered while living in Jersey. Like many kids who grow up in the shadow of New York City, I was ready to get the hell out of New Jersey as quickly as possible. But since I left for college, I’ve found myself frequently needing to defend and define New Jersey, making me think about how I define New Jersey to myself. “You’re from the literal armpit of America!” “Do you know Snooki?” “Do you know anyone in the mafia?”2 “Your state smells like trash!” The list goes on. In response, I’ve developed an arsenal of defense for my home state. I have a running list of all famous people from New Jersey,3 I can talk all about New Jersey’s fabulous 127 miles of beaches, I know our


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Italian food is better than the rest of the country, and that we have the best public education system of any state. What I usually resort to telling people who try to tarnish the good name of the Garden State is that “you can only talk shit about New Jersey if you’ve endured the hell that is New Jersey.” In all of this thought and energy I put into New Jersey, I kept coming back to my hometown of Millburn, specifically to one place–a place that any kid from Millburn will tell you defined their adolescence: The Millburn Deli. Millburn, New Jersey is the epitome of white, upper middle class suburbia. A solid thirty minutes outside of New York City, most of its residents commute on the perpetually late New Jersey transit train into Manhattan each day. There are five neighborhoods in Millburn: South Mountain, Wyoming, Glenwood, Deerfield, and Hartshorn, each filtering into an elementary school of the same name. All five elementary schools feed into a common middle school, which then sends students to Millburn High School. The high school is consistently ranked as one of the top public schools in the state and the nation. This is, in part, because they receive a ridiculous amount of funding from the town’s property tax and its wealthy residents. The median income in Millburn was roughly $202,000 in 20174. The student parking lot at the high school is filled with BMWs, Mercedes, and Range Rovers, while the faculty lot has Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans. Millburn’s residents are 69% white and some of its white citizens have expressed coded concerns about the recent increase in Asian-American and immigrant residents. In 2014, Time Magazine named the town the richest town in the United States.5 Despite being an ignorant bubble of wealth, Millburn’s downtown–five blocks along the aptly named Millburn Avenue–looks as unassuming as the downtown

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of a middle class, Midwestern suburb. The downtown has too many pizzerias, too many sushi restaurants, a movie theater, a Starbucks, a hipster coffee shop, expensive women’s clothing stores that go out of business every six months, but at the center of it all is the Millburn Deli, which many younger residents simply refer to as ‘Deli’ or ‘the Deli.’ The Millburn Deli is the cultural hub of the town. Its maroon placard on its white exterior is recognizable to anyone in town. The building, which looks like an unassuming two story house, is deceivingly calm on the exterior. During the warmer months, green and beige granite tables line the pavement around the store, usually full of loud, happy customers chowing down on their sandwiches. But on the inside, just beyond the slightly-too-heavy black door, is chaos. The place is overflowing and having elbow room is a luxury. Roughly six or seven sandwich makers stand behind the counter on the far side. The goal is to grab a number from the ticket dispenser, scuffle to the far side of the deli–in front of the display of Cape Cod brand potato chips–wait for your number to be called, get your order in as quickly as possible, remember with which sandwich maker you placed your order, then grab your food when your sandwich makers calls out your order, and make your way back to the front of the store to pay. There’s a menu behind the sandwich counter, but you need to know your order before you get there. You won’t have time or head space to think of your order on the spot. And newbies always mess up–asking for a paper menu or taking too long to order, the cardinal sin of the Millburn Deli. For those who order a gobbler–rye bread holding roast turkey, bread stuffing, cranberry, lettuce, and mayo– the sandwich makers will honk a bike horn tied to the ceiling twice and will all yell in unison “Gobbler!”


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All together, it sounds like this: “52, 52!, 53!” “53” “53! Waddya want?” “Lemme get two godfaddas, a jay-ray, and a griller numba eight!” “I got two godfaddas, a jay-ray, and a griller numba eight!” “54, 54! 55, 55!” “I’m 54!” “54! Waddya want?” “I got an urban cowboy and a gobbler!” “Gobbler!” *honk honk* “Who had 2 godfaddas and a gossip girl?” “I did!” “Did you order with me?” “I dunno.” “I don’t think you did.” “No, don’t worry sweetie I got yours coming up in a minute.” “56, 56! 57, 57! 58, 58!” “I’m 56!” “Say it when I call it! Waddya want?” “Uhhhhhh, I dunno, what’s good today?” “It’s all good today! Now, waddya want?” “Ummmmmm I’ll take a godfather and uhhh, Johnny, what did you say you wanted?” “Let’s go, I got people to feed.” “Oh, sorry! I’ll have a cubano too!” “One godfadda, one cubano!” And it goes on. The sandwiches at the Millburn Deli are special not because they taste so good (they do), but because you can only get them at the Millburn Deli. A godfadda–a grilled chicken cutlet, bacon, fresh mozzarella, and the Deli’s secret russian dressing, all stuffed between pressed

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sub roll–only exists at 328 Millburn Avenue. A Griller Numba 8–grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, tomato, basil, and pesto on pressed rosemary focaccia–can only be eaten at the Millburn Deli. And sloppy joes, a staple of the Deli, are not what most of the nation thinks they are. Instead of two hamburger buns overflowing with ground beef, it’s three thinly sliced pieces of rye bread stuffed with some form of cold cut, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and too much russian dressing. The orange tint of the russian dressing overflows with each bite–the only similarity to a common sloppy joe. The owner of the Millburn Deli recommends letting the sandwich sit in the fridge overnight before eating, allowing the ingredients to congeal and enhance the taste. The most crowded time at the Millburn Deli is not the midday lunch rush. Instead, it is at 3pm on a Friday afternoon. After school lets out for the weekend, every middle schooler in Millburn makes the three block trek to the Deli as part of “going into town,” a rite of passage for any Millburn student. High schoolers ready to burn off steam and eat something other than crappy cafeteria food that day will make the slightly longer five block walk to the Deli. Friday afternoons at the Deli are the most chaotic and happy scene. The chaos of hundreds of hungry, angsty, spoiled teenagers trying to order food, but the happiness of hungry, angsty, spoiled teenagers getting ready for the weekend. There are smiles, hugs, gossip, “how have you beens?,” questions about tests, weekend plans made, rides from mom organized. The conversation at deli is like a giant group chat of every student in Millburn. The Deli is the first place Millburn residents take their visiting friends and family. It’s how Millburn shows off. Out-of-towners are brought to the Deli–where their Millburn hosts place their orders for them. They are then


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brought into the side seating area, where they are handed their sandwich, and everyone waits. The first bite is the most important. The first time an out-of-towner tastes the tanginess of the russian dressing, the first time they bite into the crispy perfection of the Deli’s chicken cutlets, the first time they have a real sloppy joe. Their eyes go wide, their mouths start chewing faster, excited for more, and their jaw eventually drops in shock at how good it is. Recently, the Millburn Deli has been getting the street cred it deserves. It was always known around New Jersey–so much so that the Deli sold shirts with a common phrase Millburnites would hear when they disclosed their hometown: “Millburn: Damn Good Deli.” However, in the past year, the Millburn Deli has increased its social media presence with active Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. They boast over 7,000 Instagram followers, have been featured on national food blogs, and even had a promotional stunt with model Chrissy Teigen, where they shipped sandwiches across the country to her home in Los Angeles, and she took to Twitter to call them the ideal period cramps cure. Millburnites have relished in this newfound fame, claiming to be original fans of what is now quickly becoming a national Millburn Deli bandwagon. Locals have taken full opportunity to brag about their proximity to the Deli, sometimes exaggerating the amount of times they’ve eaten there or their connection to the Deli. There is a lot wrong with Millburn. Like most people, my high school experience was not the peak of my existence. I didn’t hate it, but I left for college with strongly mixed feelings about Millburn. The stress of the high school, the arrogance and willful ignorance of some Millburn residents (myself included), and the lack of fun things to do past 9 P.M. all made it an unpleasant place to grow up. However, there were some parts of Millburn I loved, and the Deli always stood out as one, especially the

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memories I made there: learning the correct way to order a sandwich, running there as soon as my last class got out on Friday, sitting at a table for hours with a half-eaten godfadda and empty bottle of coke, talking with friends and taking in the wonders of downtown Millburn. I think that for many people who grew up in Millburn, it kind of sucked at times, but hey, we had the Deli, and that made up for a lot of it.

As a New Jerseyan, I am legally obligated under state law to note that The Jersey Shore only had one actual resident of New Jersey. 1

2

I do.

Meryl Streep, Frank Sinatra, Shaquille O’Neal, Queen Latifah, Bruce Springsteen (obviously), Anne Hathaway, Danny DeVito, Thomas Edison, Whitney Houston! 3

4

https://nces.ed.gov/Programs/Edge/ACSDashboard/3410200

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Meaning of Sister Elizabeth B.D. Johnson University of Iowa

INCOMPATIBLE We would not be friends if we hadn’t come from the same womb.

HAIR I came first with wisps of black hair stuck to my soft head. She came second with strands of my mother’s last hope for a red-headed child. Both our colors fell as the seasons changed, replaced by platinum rivers that rushed to the smalls of our backs. My white-blonde locks had a year’s advantage on hers. I had the curl and golden reflectiveness of a little princess, a Rapunzel in the making. She had the smooth straightness of a baby angel, a rosy-cheeked cherub only missing the feathered wings to match. I darkened with time. She maintained her golden sheen.

NO APOLOGIES “Sorry to burst your bubble, but Mom and Dad don’t owe you a car,” I say. Arianna looks at me with disgust. I’m taking their side, a traitor. I can see the annoyance in the widening of her eyes and the pinch of her forehead. She knows she can’t refute what I said, but that doesn’t change anything. She still wants the car. She still thinks it’s up to them to give it to her. Of course, she would pay for the gas.

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Growing up, our parents always said that they would never buy us cars. Our two oldest brothers went through them too recklessly when they were in high school. They ruined it for the rest of us. At least, that’s who I place the blame on. I was too young to remember. My parents probably wouldn’t have bought us cars regardless. In high school, I paid $560 for the repairs on my grandma’s old minivan that my parents were going to get rid of. There was a big pink paint stain in the back, one of the sliding doors didn’t open from the inside, the gas gauge was broken, and it had no air conditioning. It was my baby. I vacuumed it religiously and often did car washing days with my friends in our swimsuits. I took out the middle seats, leaving a ton of legroom for the back seats and a large space to change for soccer on the go. When I drove, the van made all kinds of noises – creaks, beeps, growls, and more. It was its own language. It scared most of my passengers, but I got used to the noise. Arianna never wanted to drive the van. She thought it would break down at any second. To be fair, I worried about that too, all the way up until the day it happened. She wants something nicer like the cars her friends drive. Taking the bus home and asking for rides is getting old. I live at college now, enjoying a freedom that doesn’t rely on an engine. “You have a job. Buy your own,” I say. No mercy. I know I got lucky with the van, only having to pay for repairs, but that doesn’t mean she should catch an even easier break. “Get out! This is my room,” she yells. I roll my eyes. She locks the door behind me. An hour later, Arianna walks into my room and sits on my bed. She starts telling me why she’s mad at a friend. The fight from before is not forgotten. It hangs in the air, thickening it. We don’t talk about it. Apologies are


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not exchanged. That is just the way of it. I give her some advice on how to talk to her friend, and then I tell her about a boy I met at pick up soccer at college. The thickness dissipates, becoming a thin layer. This thickness makes it easy to fight. Another layer is added with each conflict. Barely there, but each layer sits heavier on top of the last unresolved moment. It is easy to trip over the way she breathes too loudly now when there was that one time that she ate the food I saved for myself in the fridge. The fighting comes easy, but the forgiveness does too. There are too many important things to share for us to keep it all at the surface. So, the fighting and forgiving perpetually layer, thick and silent. At the end of the day, we are talking about our dream cars. I want a Jeep Wrangler. I call it my adventure car. She wants some kind of crossover that is bigger. She wants to be a tank on the road. A SOLEMN OATH I’m always the base. It has to be this way because I’m bigger and she always drops me. When we rollerblade, Mom makes us put on knee and elbow pads. They’re pink, with images of Barbie and Dora all over. We don’t wear them if we’re not told to. It makes us feel powerful, grown-up. Today we are playing indoors, so Mom doesn’t think to check. I sneak my rollerblades into the house from the garage and pull them on in the tiled hallway that snakes around to all the bedrooms. Arianna has hers too. We have to make it interesting since there aren’t any hills. She climbs onto my back and wraps her arms around me. I have to pull them down a little because her arms have a boa constrictor’s squeeze on my neck. I take off down the hallway, trying to pick up

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speed. I only slow for the corners. Arianna whoops in my ear, loud and excited. We laugh until our chests heave with our heavy breaths. I have to hold her legs up with my hands, so I can’t use my arms for balance. Rounding the last curve before the hallway to our bedroom, my wheels catch on the space between two tiles. We fly forward, feet behind us in the air. I hit my cheek on the stone floor, and Arianna lands on my head a second later. All her weight presses down on me in the second before she rolls off. I sit up immediately and put my head between my hands. There’s so much pain I can’t see straight. I’m so disoriented I can’t hear Arianna at first. She’s on the verge of tears asking me if I’m okay. Anger sparks in my eyes from the pain, and I look at her like it’s her fault. But it’s not. I tell her to get Mom but then take it back. We don’t want to get in trouble for rollerblading indoors, especially without helmets or Barbie and Dora. So, we sit there quietly for a minute. She stares at me, waiting for me to cry, to scream, to do something. I look up, and we make eye contact. Smiles twitch at the corners of our mouths. And we’re laughing. We roll on the floor, exploding with giggles. It’s all funny – the fall, the pain, the mischief, the commotion, and the tension most of all. We laugh and we make a pact: to always laugh together when we are in pain. It makes us feel a little better. The thickness is all but gone. Our pinky-fingers wrap around each other, crossies don’t count. FIFTY-FIFTY FEATURES We share Mom’s blue irises and pale skin with Dad’s ability to tan easily. I don’t get as dark as he does. She sometimes turns orange with too much sun. Mom’s widow’s peak gently


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pokes down in the middle of my hairline. She has Dad’s rounded hairline with borders that recede ever so slightly at the temples. Mom’s facial features create the landscape of my face, encircled by my own rounded head shape. Her face stretches into the same long elliptical of Mom’s. My hands mirror Dad’s wide palms and short fingers. She flexes Mom’s knuckles, wider than the rest of the finger so they look like skinny rhombi. My legs curve at the calves, thick with muscle the way my Dad’s do. Hers curve sumptuously at the hip and upper thigh, tapering off all the way down to her ankles. She has those thin calves that look incredible without heels to sculpt them. CONTROL I sit at the little counter in the kitchen where the family desktop is set up. I am maybe writing a paper for school, or playing that tile tapping game, or talking to my long-distance friends on Facebook. Arianna and I are the only two home. She needs to call Mom to talk to her about food and going over to a friend’s house. We’re too young to have cell phones. The landline has several phones that are placed strategically all over the house. No one seems to remember to put the phones back on their charging bases after use—less strategic. The phones are constantly lost. The main base is set up on the same counter as the desktop and can be used to find the phones, making them all beep until discovered, or the main base can make calls itself. Arianna comes over and pushes in next to me to call mom from the main base. My concentration is broken, my space invaded. I want her to find a phone instead, so she doesn’t have to bother me. I push back into the space she stole, blocking her from the base with my body and rolly chair. When she reaches around me, I slap her hands. She pushes me in the back, and I push my chair out backward to keep her away. She screams. I

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scream. This is about control. I am tired of being inconvenienced. I am older, and this time I will be persistent. Insistent. She will listen for once. We struggle more. She bites the back of my head like an apple. I slap her. We both lose. HEIGHT The same as my hair, my height had a year’s advantage over hers. She stood a head shorter than me. Every inch defined more rigidly the separation created by our ages. The superiority of time and height made me wiser, stronger, a leader. She did not care. She simply aimed low since she was already shorter. I stopped growing at 5’9”. She was projected to be 6’1”. She lorded that over my head long before she could reach the same shelves as me. When she came to the same age that I finished growing, she stalled out on the same inch. We are even now.

say.

MAID OF HONOR “I might ask a friend to be my Maid of Honor,” I

We’re sitting on the stairs, her a step below me, talking for the first time in a while. Three weeks of constant bickering and screaming between tense silences. There have been so many times this month when I’ve shocked myself with the thought that I don’t like her. “What?” she says. Her mouth forms a large circle, teeth almost bared, eyebrows pinched, and jaw tense. “Don’t worry, you’d definitely still be in the wedding.” “But I’m your sister. You’re gonna be mine. Are you serious?” she says. Her frame seems to waver between turning away and squaring to me, her blue eyes glassy. She looks like she is going to cry and scream and hit me


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and just walk away all at the same time. My own eyebrows raise a little, genuinely surprised. I didn’t realize this was so important to her. “I just think I might want my Maid of Honor to be whoever I’m closest to at the time.” There is so much hurt there in the slight downward turn of her lip. I didn’t mean to upset her. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. It was just a thought. “But you’re my best friend. We grew up together.” I don’t think she has said those words to me before. Sister, yes, of course. We have the same parents after all. Best friend, no. We never shared that title, always reserving it for our closest friends outside the family as if the blood bond disqualified us for friendship. Sisterhood has always seemed like a separate category. I stare at her blankly for a minute, thinking it through. What it means. Sister. Best friend. Sister. A sister is a built-in Maid of Honor. It is only complicated with multiple sisters or none at all, when someone has to be chosen over everyone else. One sister is simple. Though, I’ve never been one to crave simplicity, that kind of security. She was born to this role, but I wonder what making it a choice would be like. She would stand second to someone who will have known me for a fraction of the time we have shared. “Elizabeth, what the heck!” she yells. “Ok, I take it back. You can be my Maid of Honor. Gosh, calm down.” I relent. No one else could catch up to her. Friends will come and go, some will stay, but sisters can’t leave. That’s just how it is. Even when we don’t like each other, we have to love. I can trust her to be there because, for us, it isn’t a choice.

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TWIN ADJACENT Twins. Sometimes, others cannot tell us apart. Standing side by side, they will ask if she is older. In high school, her classmates told her they saw me in the hallway. She never told them she had a sister. They knew because they thought I was her at first. We even move in similar ways, our mannerisms identical. Side by side in the mirror, we see all the differences. So noticeable, glaring. Yet so minuscule and forgettable. I have a freckle on my nose. She has five in the shape of a backward seven on her cheek. I have untouched, smooth earlobes. Hers are pierced, and one is square-shaped. I am a light brunette. She is a golden blonde. Everything we are, every feature is different by a margin. A margin too small to see without searching. We are more alike than we’d like to admit. Except for year and personality, we are twins. APPROVAL Arianna and I walk into Gabe’s, a bar downtown that has live music. The boy I like is putting on a show with his band here tonight, so I am bringing Arianna as my wing-woman. These events are the only time I get to see this boy outside of soccer at the university gym, where we first met. They are the only times he’s seen me dressed nicely and not sweating through my clothes, my Irish showing unattractively in my flushed cheeks. Besides, he gave me a free ticket. When we get there, the stairs to the stage area upstairs is blocked by a table. We find out the concert has been pushed back an hour, so we wait in the downstairs bar and just talk. Now that I am in college and she’s still in high school, living apart has been difficult. I’m horrible at calling, and both of us are almost always busy. Yet stories glide between us now easily, filling spaces we hadn’t realized were there. Before we head upstairs, Arianna scores a free tick-


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et from a stranger who happens to be a member of one of the acts for the night. She thanks him, and he says, “No, thank you. Thank your mama because you’re cuter than a baby’s picture.” Neither of us know what to say. The man walks away casually. We look at each other and crack up. I smile, thinking her compliment feels like my own. She’s good-looking, and we look alike. I’m counting on that tonight. Upstairs, the spiderweb of tiny lights overhead barely light the room, like the sky on a clear night. I introduce Arianna to the guy I like before the concert starts. She backs me up when he teases me about being a bad driver. He’s never even seen me drive, but I’ve told him stories. We tell him about how Arianna got her ticket and talk for a little while, but he can’t stay for long. His band is setting up on stage. After he walks away, she turns to me in admiration. “If you don’t date him, I will.” Her words are more satisfying than I thought they’d be. I didn’t realize how much I needed her approval. “Hey, I saw him first. I have dibs.” We find a table at the edge of the room to sit at and talk before the concert starts. Arianna wants to hear more about him. I don’t know why it feels so good, but I let the relief fall over me. It pushes away my nerves. As much as I want him to like me, I wanted her to like him. If she hadn’t approved, I don’t know. Maybe she could see it more clearly. Maybe it wouldn’t work. EYES Our lenses are of the same make, a Johnson blue in both our irises. Mine a circle of steely blue with a green star reaching out from the center. Hers an ever-lightening shade, the way the sky

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falls through blues into whites on its way to the earth, until it drops away with the pupil. Her scope was always a little more grounded, taking in the details. Mine spread big and wide to encompass the sun, as if it could fill me with everything it has seen. I get a little lost in it sometimes. Yet, her eyes are hooded from that bright seduction. She sees enough to pull me back to something tangible. Developed together, we have a fuller picture. INSEPARABLE Womb-linked and blood bound, love is thicker than like. Forgiveness is heavier than the fighting. No matter the distance between us, the years and margins and tempers and tensions, we are inseparable.


T H E

F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

Immutable Cycles Olivia Liang

Washington University in St. Louis

I

remember Thursday. She always arrives on Thursday, and I have prepared accordingly: stocked the fridge, changed the sheets, cleared my calendar, prepared for the worst. Advil is scavenged for the anticipated headaches and strategically placed along my daily route: ibuprofen relief in my purse, by the sink, next to my birth control, at my bedside. I have been nervously waiting a month for this visit, specifically because there was an incident between then and now, an accident I want to address. You never know specifically what to expect when she arrives, what she might cause before disappearing in her methodical way. But I have no choice. I must see her, or I risk insanity. So I wait. She fails to show. I remember Friday. For someone like her, a being of habit, I always expect her on time, adhering to the calendar, to the rules we’ve established, the pattern we’ve accepted. Yet she is late. I’m not worried at this point. I’m sure there’s an explanation. So I wait. I remember Sunday. There hasn’t been any inkling, any sign, any feeling or hint of her incoming arrival. Something is wrong. Something has happened to her. I know something is erroneous because my heart grows louder when I ponder why, quieting all but my conspiracy theories justifying her absence. If I sit for too long and go over the reasons, I feel nauseous. I rub my stomach and rock back and forth, breathing deeply as I undergo a

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tortuous mental process of who, what, where, when, why. That’s when I realize how much I loathe her. After years of emotional and physical battering, I recognize how much pain she has caused, and this is a final beating. I’m glad to be rid of her, yet dread what her absence means. She really is a bitch my period. There is an unparalleled stress that threatens more than is fair. A particular paranoia that grows exponentially as each day passes—slowly, deliberately, painfully. A pain worse than what was expected. There is an anxiety that reigns from the brain to the tongue, from the heart through the stomach, until it reaches the uterus, concluding at none other than the vagina. This full-body distress gashes and scratches, stabs and grabs me, producing an ironic, unwanted and invisible blood in place of the anticipated. And I know now that I am pregnant. It all starts when I sit in an ill-lit comedy club the day I had first anticipated her arrival. At this point, I’m only a few hours behind my cyclical schedule and experiencing a fetal form of anxiety. She always comes on a Thursday, and it is now Thursday night. The air circulates booze-infested exhalations and ice clinks between thick layers of laughter as we wait for the show to start. A lone spotlight reflects onto teeth and lips, crinkled eyes and interlaced fingers. I feel the orb of space between our interlocked palms growing humid and my back hurts from chairs that sit too straight, turned at an unnatural angle toward the small stage elevated six inches so a Clearance Comedian can look down on us for her fifteen minutes of glory. She walks on stage, a 20-something-year-old girl, with sturdy legs supported by scuffed Converse, poorly dyed blonde hair under a black beanie and a round stomach made rounder by a tightly


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zipped green jacket. She makes too many sex jokes that highlight her loneliness, and I grow tired of looking. She isn’t worth the neck pain. “Any new mothers out there?” she asks, searching for hands from those who remain loyal. “No? Good because I hate them. Are you tired, Karen, really? You don’t think I know tired? Try getting off a cocaine bender while looking for a husband in AA meetings, then you’ll know tired!” I hate her. But she continues. “But you never know… You could be pregnant tomorrow.” She winks. It’s Valentine’s Day and she winks. She, tonight’s supposed entertainment, winks because it’s a joke. I know it’s a joke and she knows it’s a joke but I whisper “shit” nonetheless and dig my right palm deep into the folds of my stomach. I’m hoping my body will retaliate, sending blood as a defense mechanism against the abuse. It was a universal sign, this pronouncement of my maternal future from the paid entertainment. Not the first and not the last. The list, the signs, these so-called “coincidences,” they persist and I notice them all as the weekend begins and progresses. My brother’s best friend announces she’s pregnant and due in August. We send our congratulations and ponder baby shower gifts. Meanwhile, my stubborn, stupid uterus prevails cramp-free. I find a baby picture of myself in a novel I begin rereading before quickly setting it aside. I notice my tongue fails to crave salt or a soothing peanut butter and chocolate remedy. My mother texts me a GIF of a dancing baby for no reason, my aunt sends me a card with a baby eating cake to brighten my day. Meghan Markle’s bulbous bump is continuous on my newsfeed, every conversation with my boyfriend starts with, “Hey baby.” And my breasts refuse to ache and my back agonizingly remains menstrual muscle-ache free. I

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turn on the TV and Grease appears, the bathroom scene when Rizzo feels like a defective typewriter. She skipped a period, too. Grease is interrupted by commercials for ClearBlue Ovulation Kits and a trailer for Juno is Recommended For Me on Youtube. And this body remains unstained. It’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that coincidences don’t exist when a period is missed. When that bitch is biding her damn time, spontaneously deciding to take a month-long vacation because apparently she can. I wear white underwear for days—cotton period panties to tempt her, seduce and lure her. She relishes in coloring, staining, reddening. It’s a sadistic habit, tainting my underwear, sheets, pants and skirts so profoundly so they can never be unstained. The days continue while the memory of her absence claims valuable space in my mind, poking whenever I achieve to forget, like a liberated underwire from a once-reliable bra. As I walk to the bathroom, tampon in hand, an emotional lightness grows as I fill myself with hope, only to resound to fat disappointment with each pee. I decide I haven’t been doing enough, haven’t confessed to culpability enough. I close my door and face the beige wall of my bedroom. A hook holds my necklaces and I fish out my cross, the one I used to wear devoutly. I look, rub my thumb over the wood. It was carved out of a nut native to El Salvador, where my friends from our sister church painted it for me. It was my favorite. It gave me perspective. I stare forward into the backs of my eyelids and shut them harder as light seeps through. I speak. I know it’s been a while. And I know I say that every time. But. You know me better than anyone and you know how I feel right now, you know. I just want a sign. I need a sure sign. If this is what you planned then that’s okay, I can handle it. I’ll handle it. But I just need to know. I can’t take the not-knowing anymore because,


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I cry.

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it’s worse than anything else.

I can handle it. Just tell me, let it be clear, I’m begging you. It doesn’t feel sufficient, so I consider an alternative. Perhaps I haven’t been encouraging enough. So I sit. I sit and speak directly to my body, visualizing in order to influence. I attempt a game of Marco Polo to make out her image in the dark. Marco? My legs are below me—perhaps gravity will play a supporting role—and I close my eyes again. There’s darkness, and then there’s blue. Blue like the base of a flame, radiating in a rounded sphere near my heart. It expands as I breathe in, dispands as I breathe out. I see it. It flows in swirls toward my appendages, out my arms, reaching the crevices and corners of my fingers. It twists in my neck, untangling the knots with its cool touch. Then it moves down, deliberately and patiently. It pays homage to every piece of my body until arriving at my uterus. My uterus is a room with puzzles for walls and pieces begin to shed, falling into a dark chasm below. It’s slow, and I am patient to wait. I see dark red where there was blue and it rushes forth. It’s a force that I do not rush. I imagine how it looks, how it feels, how it moves and flows, how it purifies and renews, assuages and assures. It continues, this river continues to flow with no directionality, no situational marker, but I am content just with the flowing. I feel something, something between my legs. It’s not a hallucination. I feel it and continue until the process has played out and my anxiety has subsided. I know this has worked because I hear nothing—no debating voice, no unwelcome conviction of the opposite side. I walk nonchalantly to the bathroom, acting as if I don’t care she’s finally arrived. I also presume that any hurrying, jostling or disagreeable movement would scare her away. Maybe she’ll stay. I close the door. I sit on the toilet.

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I sit. I wait. I breathe. I look down. White underwear. Unstained. I have never felt such biological disappointment, such dissatisfaction with my body. Stretch marks on my breasts, cellulite branding my butt, pimples plaguing my face and back, jeans worn out only in the crotch from my frictional thighs—none compare to this vexation, none compare to her. Her presence. Her absence. I begin to protest. I rationalize. I can’t be pregnant. I know I’m not pregnant because I do not feel pregnant. There is no nausea or vomiting or faintness or fatigue or soreness or aversions. It can’t be. Girls like me do not get pregnant. Trashy girls do, reckless girls do, stupid girls do. I am on the pill—it doesn’t matter that I’m not great at taking it on time. And it was only once, an accident, a mess up, a blunder. I have friends who never use condoms and they’re fine. Every body is different, but if they’re fine, I’m fine. I think of all the couples who try for months before getting pregnant. This was once. On the pill. I swaddle myself in a blanket and continue with my bloodless internal war that rages between mind and body. I know I’m not pregnant because pre-cum rarely has the capability. I know I am pregnant because it all comes down to my bad luck. I see two versions of my future, rooting from this starting point. But right now, I am curled in bed, alone yet distressed because there are too many people in this room.


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I know I’m not pregnant because he says so. I know I am pregnant because I always take my pill at 9:30 pm, despite time differences because I think my body will adjust. I should take it every 24 hours. I become well acquainted with the Planned Parenthood website. I know I’m not pregnant because I traveled every weekend this month, and my body is simply suffering distress and compensating through missing a period. I know I am pregnant because I have never missed a period. I miss her. It’s like playing chess against myself. There’s a continuous cycle of self-assurance, but you always know the other side, the other strategy to win. No matter the effort to stick to one emotion, one belief, one conviction, one view, it is all in vain. She’s playing with me, and it’s cruel. I remember Monday. Monday I decide to walk. I’ve done this walk before, but those were for prescriptions and toiletries, snacks and cards, makeup and condoms. This is for a verdict, a conclusion or an initiation, and all I can think about is the judgment to come. I am sure I am pregnant and I can picture them all: the clerk at checkout as he scans my pregnancy tests and large Gatorade, my boyfriend as I present him the stick, the Uber driver who drops us off, the receptionist, the nurses and doctors, the Uber driver who picks us up. What will they think of me? How will their cheeks lower as they encounter this horror, how will their hands look lost as they overthink what to do next? How will their tongues and lips and teeth falter? Then everyone after… Will they see a change? Or will life continue horribly as if

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it never happened? I don’t know which is worse. I keep walking and pass a dead raccoon, body halfway sprawled between street and sidewalk. I avoid eye contact but despite my better efforts, I notice a distended belly, only to imagine a car cutting it too close and the hidden blood exploding on my exposed frame. I hurry along, holding my breath as I approach, pass and continue on. I walk in and down the aisle, then stall as a couple picks out condoms. I take a detour to grab a drink then return to Aisle 6. I peruse my options, debating whether I should pick the brand on sale or the one with an extra 1% accuracy. I picked the one on sale. Three tests for $24.00. I walk to the register. The cashier sings: “Got some gatoraaaade,” then stops. He sees it. And I pretend to fumble for a card. The rest of the interaction is silent and I never make eye contact. I don’t want to see. I hyperventilate on the walk back, rotating between huffs for breath and gargantuan gulps of gatorade. I am not going to return with a pee deficit. At the same time, it’s as if scenarios and subjects of panic are on a carousel, spinning so quickly that they produce a blur of anxiety. Only topic words are distinguishable. There’s a continuous mumble of noise and only the scariest words persist. Positive. Negative. Baby. Planned. Parenthood. Fuck. Pee. Raccoon. False. Positive. False. Negative. Gatorade. Abortion. Money. Panic. Insurance. Sterile. Hormones. Adoption. Marriage. Negative. Positive. Hyperventilation. Shock. Sleep. Cry. Isolation. Mother. Children. Baby. Baby. Baby. Baby. I pass through a parking lot, unaware of anything but the nauseating numbness of this whirring between my ears. Then a man shouts, “You piece of shit!” I turn and see him kicking his truck. He looks at me. I hide the plastic Walgreens bag behind my back. “Not you,” he says. “The truck. Sorry.”


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shit.

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I smile. At least now I know that I’m not a piece of

It’s time and I laugh. After all this, all this waiting, I must take one more minute to read and regurgitate the instructions. It’s a process don’t forget, peeing on a stick. There’s a technique to it that is complemented by the pressure of the situation. I cap it and set a timer. Three minutes. It’s still Monday. I remember Monday. The small screen has three empty rectangles that fill with black, one-by-one, as the results process. I count in my head but apparently with fault, because every time I look it has yet to determine my status. One rectangle turns black. I close my eyes, then peek. The second rectangle turns black. I stand in my lavender-scented bathroom, now with a slight hint of urine and rock back and forth with my hands folded at my chest. It feels cheesy, cinematic, but I can’t help it. Maybe wishing hard enough will persuade fate. Perhaps breathing slowly, swaying methodically, waiting patiently, will make the difference. Eyes closed, I listen to my breath as it narrates the tensions I feel. In and out, back and forth, in and out, back and forth. I can’t swallow because my throat malfunctions, my stomach rumbles—I forgot to eat. I can’t feel my legs but feel dizzy. I rub my hands together rhythmically. I open my eyes and look down. I never got to see the third rectangle. “Negative.” I remember the sensation of immediate calm and deflation of pressure, the sound of capping the test and keeping it gripped in my hands. I remember needing to sit because all my blood had drained from my head into

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unknown body crevices, and I didn’t care which ones. I had to reteach myself how to breathe normally, crying because every emotion had been tampered with, played with. It was elation, assurance, fact, a conclusion. There was evidence in my hands, tangible evidence to assure my mind. It was over. I can’t remember how long I sat. Long enough for it to settle in, surely. But still, my inner body had not de-clenched. Mind and body require distinct forms of convincing. There was a remnant of uncertainty that somehow persisted in growing, expanding in body and regaining control. How could it be negative? I haven’t gotten my period. I don’t believe it. And the cycle begins again. This cycle of self-doubt and internal debate, of hatred and anxiety and paranoia, irrationality and rationality all centralizing in your gut. She threatens pain and pleasure, but until she comes again, and again and again, the possibility always lurks. I don’t believe it, I never believe it, and deep down I accept that all I can do is wait until next month, when I expect and await her arrival once more. • I remember my first period. It was a Saturday, Christmas Eve, 2011. It was the first time I wore pantyhose and the first time I saw my clothing stained. The red matched my shoes Back then, it was a different kind of waiting. It was an anxious anticipation for womanhood, for maturity, for answers to a plethora of questions instead of just one. There was a readiness, a riveting hope for her introduction because back then I awaited a friend, a pen pal I had yet to meet in person. And once we did, our cycle official-


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ly began. Are you coming back? I asked her. Will you keep in touch?

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E S S A Y



T H E

F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

Lust, Longing, and Love: The Politics of Desire in South Asian Fiction Meera Navlakha Durham University

In the opening scenes of Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy, the novel’s protagonist is seven years old and chooses to spend his playtime reveling in a game of make-believe. He rejects cricket: the activity other boys his age opt for. Instead, Arjie transforms into a bride, complete with a worn, sequin-adorned sari. He basks in the sacred opportunity to adopt the appearance and personality of ‘the bestest bride of all’ – a status he holds, according to a fellow playmate – and to explore an enticing ‘fantasy’. But this performance and childhood fancy, initially unbridled by societal norms, is almost instantly stolen from his grasp. Arjie’s extended family members are either aghast or amused to see him playing the bride; an uncle decides that his nephew is a ‘funny one’. Thus, begins the influx of heteronormative stereotypes being pressed onto the character: the limiting of desires occurring at the hands of not only his family but also the Sri Lankan society he inhabits. The enforcement of who is to be desired and who is not to be is similarly embedded in Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things. As vast amounts of scholarship point out, Roy employs erotic desire as a political tool, laboriously painting the greater implications of lust and sexual acts between her characters. ‘Roy’s politics, it may be said, exists in an erogenous zone,’ writes Brinda Bose. The romantic and sexual relationships between

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Ammu and Velutha, and Rahel and Estha ‘violate the most basic “love laws” that govern social existence’, Bose delineates. The following paper will examine four notions and acts of desire in both Funny Boy and The God of Small Things. Each is a transgression of its own, resisting what is approved of by society at large and therefore, political in some substance. Not only is resistance exercised by those acting on these erotic desires, but it can be argued that even the recognition that such feelings exist in oneself is a political act in itself. Crossing that initial boundary – the aforementioned recognition and acknowledgment, even in the privacy of one’s mind – is a protest, of sorts, and a right that Selvadurai and Roy bestow upon their characters. The emotion of desire is further complicated by South Asian history, tradition, and what is considered to be the norm. In keeping with this notion, any obstacles to the natural progression of marriage and family life have the potential to be treated with disdain: namely divorce, homosexuality, or relationships that cross any sort of prescribed boundaries. It is these biases that construct the backdrop of middle-class Sri Lanka and the Indian state of Kerala. These worlds ultimately pave the way for desire to act as resistance. The authors unravel, through their settings, why some people have no choice but to resist. When it comes to Funny Boy, Arjie’s sexuality will be inconceivable to his family who live in Sri Lanka’s deeply patriarchal society. Selvadurai delves into the biases of history – whether in the drawer of race or sexuality or class – that readers must take into account with every step of reading his novel. For Arjie, reconciling his sexuality with his surroundings is a task he must grapple with. Sandeep Bakshi writes, ‘the [novel disrupts] the traditional assumption of a naturalised link between heterosexuality and patriarchy through an implicit construction of


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queerness in opposition to the expectation of the father.’ Examining the father-son relationship does provide insight into Arjie’s guilt at his own resistance; as the queer subject, he deflects all that his father expects of him, launching a quiet revolution of his own against the figure who attempted to repress this part of his identity since adolescence. At first, however, Selvadurai cloaks Arjie’s sexual encounter with Shehan with a range of emotions: fear, lust, appreciation, anger. Their lovemaking occurs during a game of hide-and-seek, in the darkness of Arjie’s family garage. The power of space is hereby considered; Selvadurai’s character pushes the envelope of what is considerably allowed, having it burst in what Jazeel describes as ‘a space for the exploration of repressed desire and liberation’. Arjie’s reaction afterward is one of outrage at Shehan, of guilt and fear for the ‘terrible crime’ they committed. This climaxes in him hitting Shehan in anger. With this Shehan becomes a symbol of both desire and everything associated with said desire: in Arjie’s eyes, the reprehensible and the unlawful. His interpretation of this desire, initially, is very much a reflection of what his family’s would be. The weight of heteronormativity comes into play, at once blocking Arjie from attaching himself to his true sexual identity. At several points in The God of Small Things, Roy describes the term she coined, the ‘love laws’. She offers that these laws ‘lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.’ Somewhat poetically, the laws she speaks of pervade several texts which exist underneath the umbrella of South Asian fiction. Roy’s neologism is unquestionably applicable to Arjie in the context of Funny Boy. Selvadurai weaves stories of two important women in Arjie’s life grappling with longings of their own so that, from an early age, his protagonist is exposed to the idea of who is to be loved and who should not be.

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The writer carves out the stories of Radha Aunty and his mother, Amma, before relaying Arjie’s own transgressive desires. ‘Radha Aunty’s appearance marks another rift between the innocence of childhood and the realities of life,’ writes Amy Small. However, Arjie’s narrative, desires are compounded with the connotations of the most taboo. According to Tariq Jazeel, ‘the novel highlights how Arjie is made to feel ‘funny’, odd and increasingly marginal as the narrative proceeds, because of his emergent same sex desire.’ He is made to feel this way before he himself is fully aware of his sexuality, indicative of the efforts made to repress his identity preemptively. Selvadurai begins to tell the tale of Arjie’s desires in ways that are, at first, non-sexual. However, his desires are all lined with implications of gender and role reversal, from his choice of reading Little Women (deemed a book for girls only) to when he watches his mother getting dressed, observing her femininity, and admiring it all from afar. Jazeel believes that is the aforementioned moments which indicate a hidden longing lying deep within Arjie, for things that are made to feel out of his reach. This occurs during a period of innocence, as Small notes. Jazeel believes that this makes Funny Boy ‘both personal and political’. Arjie playing with notions of gender is his playing with ‘sexual politics’, practicing his political autonomy in a way that is unbeknownst to him. The actions which follow an acknowledgement of desire are significant in their ‘subversive powers’, Bose attests. Readers see this in Arjie’s sexual awakening, as well as his descent into accepting his sexuality. His actions irrevocably fracture gender norms and expectations as he once knew them to be. The sense of taboo is cemented even more so because homosexuality is so deeply frowned upon, in his world. The idea of the illicit plays a role in the desires experienced by Roy’s characters too, but it is


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arguably a far more universal taboo when it comes to the narrative of Rahel and Estha. In the twins’ ‘incestuous lovemaking’, there is the notion of an altogether rejection of biological and social norms. Alex Tickell notes that their desire for one another is a consequence of ‘damaging events’ sprung onto them by the outside world. Further, he assesses that the relationship between Rahel and Estha is ‘an unsettling but also potential counterpart to the sexual taboo-breaking of inter-caste love at the heart of the narrative.’ Ammu and Velutha, a relationship which will be further discussed, subvert the social hierarchies of Kerala with their inter-caste relations. While both relationships share a transgressive nature, the underlying political argument of the respective encounters is vastly different. Bose writes that Rahel and Estha’s encounter is not a mere bodily need. For the twins, sexual intercourse is ‘an unnameable balm’, a soothing consolation for the tragedies they faced and which no others could possibly comprehend. The urgency between them is almost greater than that shared between Ammu and her lover. For the twins, one may argue that erotic desire is less pertinent than the weight of trauma which culminates in their sexual encounter. Certainly, their lovemaking is a result of the pains brought forth their intertwined childhoods and their separate, but respectively unsuccessful, adult lives. As Tickell concedes, their decision to make love is not grotesque as much as it is a portrayal of the last resort. Roy quietly describes this, writing that what ‘they shared that night was not happiness, but hideous grief.’ Their erotic desire functions as a mode of resistance to the public sphere, dealt with by the twins’ in the private sphere. Their act of resistance is perhaps the only one they can take to redeem what was stolen from them in adolescence. Roy once pointed out, in an interview with Asia

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News Network, that ‘it’s an iron grid of hierarchy and community in India’. As writers of Asian diasporic literature, both Selvadurai and Roy examine their characters in relation to individual status in society. The brass-bound constraints of culture and class are obstacles lie beneath most of what the writers recount, with characters either combating or complying. ‘Society and government make rules and define boundaries,’ writes Bose. It is these boundaries of South Asian culture that often leave very little room for the freedom to desire; this is the thrust of what both Roy and Selvadurai protest against in their tales of sexuality. Take Radha Aunty in Funny Boy. ‘...returning [to Sri Lanka] from America, [she] finds she must not love a Sinhalese because Sinhalese murdered her grandfather in the fifties language riots,’ writes Michael Thorpe. His review astutely takes into account the context in which Arjie’s aunt finds love. It is undoubtedly significant that history will stand in her way. Radha Aunty’s infatuation for and budding relationship with Anil Jayasinghe, a Sinhalese, draws apprehension and indignation from the rest of the family. Thorpe indicates that the present is dictated by the past; what the family cannot ‘forget’ results in what Radha Aunty can never attain, for the stain of an ethnic dispute is too dark to be erased. She does, however, allow herself to dip into the fantasy that stems from a friendship with Anil. Arjie sees this once again with the implicitly adulterous relationship between his mother and Uncle Daryl: a relationship, once again, which could be considered an aberration and sparks profound fear in him, as a bystander. But both Amma and Radha Aunty ultimately face ‘an aborted attempt to love,’ writes Bakshi. These relationships can never morph into something more, a fact that Arjie quickly becomes privy to as he observes his aunt marrying within her bounds, to someone who is not Anil. Bakshi assesses this, writ-


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ing, ‘conventional narratives of romantic love in western discourse often use the choice of partner as a metric for postcolonial modern subjectivity. However, Radha Aunty’s embrace of an arranged marriage complicates such facile readings.’ Thorpe describes her ensuing marriage as a ‘loveless’ one, which awakens Arjie’s understanding of the constraints of desire. He finds that they are never as the love stories he envisioned while playing bride-bride. Thorpe and Bakshi both take into account the implications of Radha Aunty forsaking her desires, and her choice to satisfy those of her family’s instead. Their respective probes into her relationship, not to mention that of Amma’s, are blanketed by theories of the nature of desire. Bakshi reads this as a painting of ‘the constraints of a patriarchal structure whereby romantic affection and love outside marriage for women systematically appear subservient to the demands of family’. However, this reading is perhaps ignoring that desire existed, despite not being carried out to a fulfilling end. Radha Aunty and Amma do adhere to their family’s wishes, but one can consider their desires as acts of defiance, nonetheless. Like Radha Aunty, Ammu of The God of Small Things finds herself in the position of desiring a man who exists in a sphere socially and culturally opposite to her own. The nature of their affair is, at its core, illicit in the eyes of the outside world. But in their world, it is hopelessly poetic, notorious for its deep-seated eroticism that Roy conscientiously describes. For instance, she devotes much space in her novel to describing Velutha’s physical appearance. This is done most likely with the intention of painting him as the object of Ammu’s fervent, focused desires. The relationship has proven difficult for scholars to come to a consensus on. There are those like Aijaz Ahmad, who has attributed the relationship to Roy’s fixation with sexual pleasure. He contests that the sexual relation-

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ship dismisses ‘the actually constituted field of politics as either irrelevant or a zone of bad faith’. But Ahmad’s assessment appears dismissive in itself, chalking up the transgressive relationships in Roy’s world as half-baked forms of resistance. Questioning the intelligence of the equation between Ammu and Velutha makes their relationship appear nothing more than a sexual encounter ‘night after night’; this criticism alludes to Ahmad’s concern that Ammu is exercising political power in an unintelligent fashion, purely through a sexual act. But with this, his appraisal of the erotic in The God of Small Things seems to be gendered, at once degrading and dethroning Ammu’s desire. Other critics, however, believe Ammu’s knowledge of Velutha’s status can be seen as an indication of eroticism masked as something far greater. One could argue that Ammu’s awareness of Velutha’s politics is her way of placing political agency in her hands. Ruminating on Velutha, Ammu acknowledges that she ‘... longed for him. Ached for him with the whole of her biology.’ The urgency with which Roy presents this desire is arguably political in itself. Bose lies in this camp, unlike Ahmad, writing, ‘[Ammu’s] own politics are embedded in her “rage” against the various circumstances of her life, and it is through this sense of a shared raging that she finds it possible to desire the Untouchable Velutha. It is not only sexual gratification she seeks; she seeks also to touch the Untouchable.’ Bose hereby suggests that Ammu’s desire for Velutha is far more political than what Ahmad finds it to be; their sexual relationship is an act of defiance that should be seen as such. She argues that ‘one may need to accept that there are certain kinds of politics that have more to do with interpersonal relations than with grand revolutions, that the most personal dilemmas can also become public causes, that erotics can also be a politics.’


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For Ammu to crave Velutha, as she so intimately does, with every particle of her being, is for her to dismiss the boundaries that exist between them. Her lust and longing take on greater meaning here, for she allows her body’s urges to live both internally and externally, as entities of their own. As Bose points out, the personal can become the political, and this appears to be a space Roy understands deeply in her text. It is not a matter of Ammu simply submitting herself to her desires; rather, she embraces them. Tickell writes that ‘the momentary freedom of the fatal, transgressive sexual act outweighs any possible penalties.’ The finality of his thoughts is echoed in the actions of Roy’s characters, who – ironically – escape the potential punishment of their sexual encounters by acting on their erotic desires. For these sexual acts to have consequences is revealing of the ingrained stigma attached to the relationships Roy and Selvadurai explore. Desire, in these novels, is not a mere physical urge. Instead, it is a device in the quest of telling a higher truth, whether cultural or political. Selvadurai and Roy respectively consider this phenomenon in several layers of their text; perhaps the only thing these relationships truly have in common are their transgressive qualities. But the authors align themselves with an understanding of the transgressive in the context of the communities their characters reside in. For their characters, love and lust are eclipsed by what is decided by society at large. To put it simply, there are rules. Bose writes: There is an exploration of shame and defeat here, certainly, but the politics of the novel is contained in the subversion of this shame and defeat through the valourization of erotic desire. To lunge, knowingly and deliberately, for what one must not have—for what will result in shame and defeat—is to believe that the very process of the pursuit would render the ultimate penalty worthwhile.

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Her theory engages with the notion that Roy’s characters practice self-awareness, all the while making the choice ‘to lunge’ head-first. Bose takes into account that shame can be subverted; both novels explore this. The characters’ desires are put into effect, regardless of the stipulations which accompany them. Critics like Ahmad may argue that the tool of eroticism is less political than it is personal. However, the willful choice to desire, to be desired, and to act on desires, suggests otherwise. The key is this awareness, with the likes of Ammu and Arjie decisively taking power into their hands through the erotic. Selvadurai, considering Arjie’s thoughts on his sexuality and his eventual acceptance of it, writes, ‘right and wrong, fair and unfair, had nothing to do with how things really were. I thought of Shehan and myself. What had happened between us in the garage was not wrong. How could loving Shehan be bad?’ With this, the erotic is understood to be romantic. At last, Selvadurai frees Arjie from his shame, as Roy’s characters, too, experienced momentarily. The choice to explore their love, with the wholehearted intention to do so, is where the erotic offers an individual newfound autonomy.


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Works Cited Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (Penguin Books India, 2002). Ahmad, Aijaz. ‘Reading Arundhati Roy Politically’. Frontline (August 8-21, 1997). Bakshi, Sandeep, ‘The Crisis of Postcolonial Modernity: Queer Adolescence in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and P. Parivaraj’s Shiva and Arun’, Com monwealth Essays and Studies, 42.1, (2019). Bose, Brinda, ‘In Desire and in Death: Eroticism as Politics in Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things’”, ARIEL: Review of International English Literature, 29.2, (1998). Daily Star, Asia News Network (2020). Online. https://asianews. network/2019/03/07/interview-with-arundhati-roy/.

Jazeel, Tariq, ‘Because Pigs Can Fly: Sexuality, race and the geographies of difference in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy’, Gender, Place & Culture, 12.2, (2005). Selvadurai, Shyam, Funny Boy (Vintage, 1994). Small, Amy, ‘Marriage as a Predominant Theme in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy’ (Canadian Literature & Culture in the Postcolonial Literature and Culture Web). Online. http:// www.postcolonialweb.org/canada/literature/selvadurai/small1.html.

Thorpe, Michael, ‘Review: [Untitled]’, World Literature Today, 70.4, (1996). Tickell, Alex, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (Rout ledge, 2007).

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Exploring The Meaning Of Grammar in Magna Carta: A Study of Magna Carta’s Linguistic Properties and the Political Negotiations

Resulting in Magna Carta Michelle Man-Long Pangi University of Hong Kong

“Few of the English barons who gathered at a meadow called Runnymede on June 15, 1215, were thinking whether if their day’s work would survive to be acclaimed, or even remembered, in future centuries. They were practical men, with specific grievances against their King. In May they had renounced all allegiance to the Crown, and now they were gathered to present their demands, in the form of articles, to King John for his seal. Much of what those rude, mostly unlettered, and generally selfish brains won for themselves that June day, they won for generations yet unborn.” (Howard, 1964, p.3) Political agendas are almost inevitably expressed in the construction of law codes. As Mouffe (2005) defines it, the law is an act of cooperative relation to resolving political conflicts that are otherwise unresolvable. In other words, it is a commonplace that politics shape law codes: and law codes must, therefore, reflect politics. Political exigencies and discourses, however, do not only affect the legal content of the law codes they predicate; rather, the very language and form of laws are also the product of the political landscape in which they are born. Such is precisely the case for Magna Carta, the notoriously ill-written legal charter signed by King John in 1215 at Runnymede. Given the scarcity of evidence as to the exact nature of the political negotiations that resulted in Magna Carta, it is difficult


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to specify with certainty the details of the political agendas striving for supremacy through that document. Yet, in the text of Magna Carta itself is revealing—though often overlooked—evidence of the contemporary political discourse. In this essay, I will argue that the complexity of political negotiations that resulted in Magna Carta is written into the very grammar and linguistic choices of its clauses by comparing it to one of the earliest surviving pieces of written English legislation: the Old English codes of the Kentish kings Hloþere & Eadric. 1 PREAMBLE The charter was founded upon the many grievances of the Barons towards King John’s pathetic reign. The trigger line was the barons’ refusal to pay scutage which would then fund wars against the French (which ironically resulted in more land being conceded to the King of France, including Normandy, an important land that John’s ancestors have strived for decades to protect). But what truly paved way to the barons’ revolts were more than just the scutage: it was an accumulated vexation of King John’s inexplicably horrendous decisions, including the arbitrary excommunication of Pope Innocent III; abstruse seizing of church properties; and etcetera—of which these grievances King John sought to appease with the proposal of the Magna Carta (Howard, p.5). In simpler words, the charter was a result of bartering among the discontent Barons, which might or might not have resulted in alterations to the final form of Magna Carta: “The barons agreed among themselves that, unless the King confirmed their liberties by charter, they would withdraw their allegiance, and they began preparations for war. In Easter week of 1215 they presented their demands, which were peremptorily refused by the explosive monarch: “Why do not the

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barons, with these unjust exactions, ask my kingdom? […] The date they fixed was June 15, the place, Runnymede. The barons came prepared with a list of their demands, the Articles of the Barons. The King having agreed to the articles; they were then reduced to the form of a charter.” (p.8) Helmholz describes Magna Carta as a ‘long disorderly jumble’ which serves as a set of “answers given by many persons” with “no logical arrangement” (1999, p.298). His description is quite accurate, given the account of the context of which Magna Carta was written. Certainly, given its structural incoherence, syntactic disunity and the overwhelming quantity of semantic unclarity, the charter is often held to be ineffective as law. Now the question becomes: on what grounds can one claim this document to be linguistically ineffective, and to what degree does it reflect the way these clauses have been written? An accusation of linguistic ineffectiveness (or at least inefficiency) can be justified by comparing and contrasting Magna Carta to other existing legal documents. Despite the changes in the administrative system with the Norman conquest that had taken place centuries before Magna Carta, English royal has retained an arguable continuity in terms of foundations and development, which renders the even the pre-Conquest legal texts relevant as subjects for comparison. The early Norman kings explicitly claimed a legal continuity with their Anglo-Saxon forebears. The laws of Hloþere & Eadric, therefore, fulfils the two conditions of being a suitable candidate: (i) it remained a relevant recorded text in the time when Magna Carta was written, and (ii) the form and construction of the law code itself anticipated the more technical and legalistic laws of the later Norman period. As Oliver puts it, the laws of Hloþere & Eadric are “far more [linguistically]


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modern” and “syntactically involved” than its older ancestors, which were the codes of Æthelbert and Withdred (2002, p.122). It is clear that an ineffective or incomprehensible code could lead to major issues such as misinterpretation, and by extension, the exploitation of these linguistic loopholes. Yet here the “effectiveness” of the laws is not solely to be defined by its implementation rate or execution efficacy, but instead the cognitive effectiveness of simple comprehension. This is for obvious reasons: (i) there is not a way to gauge the full impact of legal implementation because not only was this ill-documented, it is, inherently, immeasurable (although sources do claim that Magna Carta has never been properly implemented in the remaining year of King John’s ruling prior to his death)i; and (ii) effectiveness in political and cultural terms can be gauged to some extent by the likelihood of a law’s being understood and accepted by those immediately subject to its decrees: its thirteenth century English audience. How, and in particular in comparison to the earlier law codes of England, would Magna Carta have sounded to the English subjects of King John? The languageii of Magna Carta will accordingly be compared to Hloþere & Eadric from the following perspectives: (1) Thematic Structure; (2) Syntax; and (3) Semantics. 2 2.1

LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS Thematic Structure

The lack of “logical arrangement” (synonymous to “thematic structure” hereinafter) in Magna Carta, as Helmholz phrases it, is one of the major factors contributing to its notoriety as an ineffective text. Its structural incoherence becomes all the more visible when compared to Hloþere & Eadric.iii Yet, as will be explained in later para-

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graphs, Magna Carta’s text structure is not entirely arbitrary and displays internal logic to a certain degree. In particular, clauses that are more relevant to politically important persons show stronger logical arrangement, suggesting an elitist focus in the political negotiations. Hloþere & Eadric contains 11 main clauses and would have a total of 22 clauses upon the inclusion of sub-clauses.iv The clauses display strong sequential logic, both within-section and within clauses. Oliver divides the text into 6 categories by their thematic focus, which are respectively:

Prologue

Rubrics and prologue

§7 - §9.1

Fines

§10

Legal responsibilities in hospitality

§6 - §6.3

Process of bringing a charge

§5 - §5.1, §11 - §11.3

Commerce regulations

§1 - §3.1

Oath supporters

*§4

*Estates and succession

(*) Note: this section was not devised by Oliver, but it could reasonably stand alone as a section as it is the only clause that deals with estate matters.

Table 1. Section Division by Thematic Focus - Hloþere & Eadric

The boundaries between sections are drawn with great clarity. Clauses of the same section are interlinked with tight thematic relevance and do not bleed into the theme of another section. An exemplar of such clarity is demonstrated in clauses (6) and (7) – (9), which deal with the themes of charge bringing and fines respectively. (6) If a person brings a charge against another in a matter, and he should meet the person in the assembly or in the meeting, the person [charged] is always to give surety to the other and carry out that right [= judgment] which the judges of the Kentish people


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may appoint for them. (6.1) If he then refuses surety, let him pay 12 shillings to the king, and the matter shall be as open as it was before. (6.2) If a person brings a charge against another, after he has given him surety […] let him satisfy [him] with property or with oath, whichever is more preferable to him. (6.3) If he will not do that, let him pay 100 without oath, after one night following their coming to arbitration. (7) If a person in another’s house calls a person a perjurer or accosts him shamefully with mocking words, let him pay a shilling to […] (8) If a person takes a cup from another where men are drinking without fault […] let him give a shilling to […] (9) If a person should draw a weapon where men are drinking and no harm is done there, a shilling to […] (9.1) If that house becomes bloodied, let him pay the man […] The clauses above demonstrate a systematic logical flow from one to another. For instance, clause (6) and its subordinate clauses form a hypothetical yet cohesive narrative on charge bringing – the main clause acts as a premise for a scenario, and the sub-clauses explores and explains the dealings of possible consequences. The clauses form a closely packed, self-sufficient section that encompasses the legal basis of said legal theme with each successive clause, providing a solution to the enquiry raised in its precedent. Clauses (7) – (9) on fines are also exemplary of such logical systematicity, albeit proposing three different scenarios of varying degrees of severity instead of the step-by-step narrative of clause (6). This structural clarity bespeaks the many considerations that have gone into its composition and communicates to its readers effectively of what it wants the reader to understand.

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Magna Carta, on the other hand, comprises of 61 clauses that were initially an unseparated passage of runon lines. The clauses can be roughly allocated to the following categoriesv: Thematic Focus

Clauses

The Church

(1), (22), (62 – 63)

Estate Law

(2 – 6), (26 – 27), (43)

Private Properties Laws

(7 – 11), (28-29), (37), (46)

King’s Property and Administrative Laws

(12 – 15), (17 – 19), (24 – 25), (30 – 31), (33 – 36), (47 -49), (55), (61)

On Foreigners, Travelling and Border Control

(41 – 42), (56 – 59)

Basic Human Rights

(16), (23), (39), (54)

Criminal Law, Judicial Justice & (20 – 21), (32), (38), (40), (44 – Court Proceedings 45), (50 – 53), (60) Table 2. Section Division by Thematic Focus – Magna Carta

The results of categorization reflected that the clauses were incoherently arranged. There is an overwhelming number of jumps from one thematic category to another, and were sporadic in nature. Howard also notes this thematic sporadicity and makes the following remarks: “the Charter was not carefully organized; often, related problems are dealt with in scattered parts of the document” (p.9). Nonetheless, the categorization did yield significant results as clusters of thematically related clauses emerged. The clustering of thematically relevant clauses shows the presence of internal logic to a certain degree, albeit disorganized and difficult to follow. What might perhaps be the most intriguing realization was that these clusters significantly differed in their degree of organization, and the dis-


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parity is characterized by differential treatment of socially important figures versus the mass public. The disparity could best be illustrated by the following comparisons of clauses (2) – (6) against (30) – (36). The bolded segments are not only the central issue of the clause, but are also enquiries that are cohesively answered by the following clauses in close succession: (2) If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a ‘relief ’ […] (3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without ‘relief ’ or fine. (4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services. […] If we have given or sold to anyone the guardianship of such land, and he causes destruction or damage, he shall lose the guardianship of it […] (5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain […] When the heir comes of age, he shall restore the whole land to him, stocked with plough teams and such implements of husbandry as the season demands and the revenues from the land can reasonably bear. (6) Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir’s next-of-kin. Clauses (2) – (6) belong to the category of estate laws, particularly of that of barons and earls. The clauses read logically and progressively – it starts from discussing the immediate estate settlement of a deceased baron/earl (and any politically significant figures that were also mentioned), elucidating progressively how the estate is passed on to the heir depending on his age. The focus then transitions to that of widows and dowries in clause (7), which border the

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boundaries of estate law and private property rights. (7) At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. […] (8) No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown […] (9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt […] As mentioned previously in Table 2, clauses (7) – (11) constitutes as a separate bloc on private property laws and are essentially departing from the estate laws of clauses (2) – (6). Despite a change of focus, these clauses exhibit a strong narrative transitional linkage from the mention of marriage in clause (6), to widow inheritance of property and land in clauses (7) and (8), to the complete transition to land and debt laws in clause (9). This structure, although not necessarily the most logical when reviewed in the lens of modern legislation studies, is at least somewhat coherent and intuitively understandable as a narrative, which suggests an interrupted and focused stream of thought is being verbalized and written into these clauses. Clauses (30) – (36), on the contrary, is incoherent with little internal logic. These clauses cluster loosely as a mix of administrative law, human liberty rights and private property rights that are somewhat concerned with the mass public. They appear to fall under the same umbrella theme of administrative law, but otherwise, show no correlation or sequential logic.


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(30) No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent. (31) Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner. (32) We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the ‘fees’ concerned. (33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast. (34) The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court. (35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly. (36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused. One could argue that these laws are to a certain degree interrelated, such as clauses (33) and (35) both having to do with livestock of the laymen and that clause (34) and (36) are both on writ issuing. However, these clauses lack an overarching theme that could supplement them with cohesion, rendering them scattered items that are only at best somewhat related. It is also worth noting that the he alternating sequential relevance of clauses (33) + (35) and (34) + (36) resembles an interjecting, contrapuntal stream of input from two separate sources. Nonetheless, it is indisputable that clauses (32) – (36), which primarily deal with state administration at the lay level, are distinctively less logically arranged than that of clauses (2) – (6). The very fact that Magna Carta displays greater logicality in clause arrangement when the clauses are more relevant to politically significant figures seems to insinuate the prioritization of politically eminent figures in due po-

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litical discourse. This trace of elitism, however, might not be as surprising of what appears to be a lack of effort in presenting the charter in a manner that puts up the pretence of being better thought out for the mass public. This absurdity has elicited many questions requiring justifications: assuming the elitist impression Magna Carta emanates was unintended, was this disparity due to the sheer fact that none of the interlocutors of the negotiations was particularly acquainted with the actual livelihood of the mass? While it seems likely to be a fact, it does not sound like the right answer. Another plausible postulation is that the legal issues of the mass public might not have been as severe as a concern as the legal issues involving those who hold much greater political power. This leads us to question what the purpose of the political discourse, and thereby the charter, was. Were the political figures creating legal issues that would pose an immediate threat to the political stability of England? Was Magna Carta’s main focus to rectify these problems, and was hence delivered with such urgency? Was Magna Carta originally meant to be a set of agreement that should have been further brought to refinement, but for whatever reasons the refinement was never quite up to par? Is there a reason to why it was not refined? Was it due to negligence or urgency? These questions are not ones we can know with great certainty, for little about the exact negotiations that went down between King John and the fuming barons was documented. Yet one thing we must acknowledge is that this charter is a product of King John’s efforts to quell the many demands of his fellow subjects, implying that the king held little to no political authority in the entire negotiation. As opposed to a traditional king-to-scribe topdown dictation of law codes, Breay and Harrison suggest that these laws are at best a compilation of the barons’ requests outlined in a document known as the ‘Articles of


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the Barons’, to which attached was the King’s great seal (2014). While this document is later written into a formal royal grant by the royal chancery which we now know as the actual Magna Carta, the King’s actual role in writing these laws (apart from presumably just nodding his head reluctantly) remains a mystery. All these contribute to the enigmatic political and linguistic complexities of which this charter is shrouded in and are important points to consider as we delve deeper into the grammar of this charter. 2.2

Syntax

As demonstrated above, the clauses of the Magna Carta are structurally incoherent, which renders its thematic progression difficult to follow. While it is still possible to look past its structural incoherence and formulate an eloquent picture of the charter by gathering scattered details, this task would prove to be as equally gruelling for the internal syntax of the clauses follow no discernible pattern.vi This syntactic disunity of Magna Carta becomes even more prominent when juxtaposed against the syntactic solidarity of Hloþere & Eadric, suggesting that it was not written and processed linearly. All this is to say that the language of the clauses seems to have been generated by numerous different negotiating parties during the writing of the charter, instead of being a collaborative effort between King John and his scribe. In the following section, the term “passage” will be used in place of “clauses” to avoid confusion with the grammatical use of the term “clause”. The syntactic integrity of Hloþere & Eadric is made distinctive by its repeated use of “gif”, which translates to “if” in modern English, as the beginning for all 22 of its passages. Not only do the passages begin homogeneous-

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ly with “gif”, but they also share an almost homogenous syntactic structure.vii (1) If a person’s servant kills a man of noble birth, who should be compensated for with three hundred shillings, the owner should give up that killer and add three man-worths. (1.1) If the killer should escape, he should add a fourth man-worth and clear himself with good oath-helpers that he was not able to size the killer. (2) If a person’s servant kills a free man, who should be compensated for with one hundred shillings, the owner should give up that killer and another man-worth in addition. (2.1) If the killer should escape, he should add two manworths and clear himself with good oath-helpers that he was not able to size the killer. Passages (1) – (2) are concerned with oath supporters and what legal actions should be taken by a servant-owner if their servants have killed another person.viii These two clauses display structural homogeneity as the only differences between these two passages are the status of the victim and their corresponding worth (underlined in text), which syntactically only require the replacing of the nouns concerned without altering word order. More importantly, however, is that the syntactic unity of these clauses extend beyond just these two parallel clauses, and can be best represented by the following diagramix:


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CP C' C If

TP DPi

T' T

VP

[FUTURE] or ( should) DP ti

V' (PP)

V' V

DP D'

(AdjunctP)

Diagram 1. Syntactic Structure of “gif” clauses in Hloþere & Eadric

The formation of the matrix clause follows this generic pattern: It begins with the conditional marker “if”, followed by a plain determiner phrase [DP] without any adjuncts, then an optional auxiliary modal [T]. Occasionally, a prepositional phrase [PP] such as “then” or “afterwards” is present to indicate deixis, and it precedes the main verb. All three predicate forms of a verb are present (i.e. intransitive [e.g. die], transitive [e.g. kill], ditransitive [e.g. steal]), though transitives occur more frequently than its counterparts. Aside from the syntactic homogeneity of the matrix clause, its embedded clauses are marked standardly with the words “[DP] should” or “let him”. The matrix clauses of passages (1) – (2) can thus be annotated in such manner: (1) [CP If [TP [DP a person’s servant] [VP kills [DP [NP a man of noble birth] [ADDITIONAL MODIFYING PHRASE who should be compensated for with three hundred shillings]]]] // the owner should [...] (1.1) [CP If [TP [DP the killer] should [VP escape]]] // he should […]

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In essence, the repetitive structure of Hloþere & Eadric displays syntactic linearity that assures readers of a centralized point of authority, which not only makes the code undemanding to comprehend but also stifles any doubts of its legality. In contrast, Magna Carta does not seem to have an overt syntactic pattern. The passages in the charter begin with a variety of markers, such as to-infinitives, if-conditionals, prepositional phrases, negation markers, determiner phrases and so on so forth. There is, again, the presence of a weak distributional pattern: estate laws generally begin with if-conditionalsx, and administrative laws are generally declaratives that begin with a quantifier such as “all” or a negation marker. But even so, the syntactic structure of passages with the same beginning was hugely inconsistent. The relative syntactic disunity of Magna Carta even within passages with the same clause beginners is quite perplexing, given the general tendency towards syntactic consistency in speech, especially where there is repetition of ideas of similar nature. Again, we could make sense of this apparent inconsistency by inferring that these passages were the result of dictation of speeches formulated by many persons, instead of the traditional linear king-dictates-to-scribe model of constitutional writing. This agrees with the aforementioned analysis of Breay and Harrison, who points to the Barons’ several and at times conflicting, desires for the document. Vincent, likewise confirming the existence and historical significance of the ‘Articles of the Barons’, notes the document’s lack of refinement by calling it a ‘mere draft’ (2015). While Vincent also agrees that the articles have gone through a process of ‘rewriting’ before appearing as the charter we see nowadays, there again is a lack of information on how the draft has been rewritten into the charter or whether if it is edited at all. This prompts a few questions integral to how we see the charter


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concerning King John himself which have similarly been asked in the previous section: what is the role of King John and his scribe in the writing of Magna Carta? Does either of them hold any narrative authority in the writing of this charter? On the evidence of the grammatical cacophony of voices at least, it is suggested that not only is a single-author model of the great charter unlikely, chances for a centralized editorial process (which would be initiated by the king or the royal chancery) to have existed are also very slim. 2.3

Semantics

While the aforementioned concerns for Magna Carta’s structural incoherence and syntactic disunity are indeed major complications in understanding the text, the semantic unclarity and incohesiveness may conceivably be the most detrimental to the overall comprehension effectivenessxi—and such is, unfortunately, the case for Magna Carta. These semantic issues also evoke questions revolving the issue of the purpose and political negotiations of this charter. As there are numerous ways a text could be ambiguous, such as having to postulate meanings of lost words or constituency ambiguity, semantic unclarity will be defined as follows: it is the state when a text has much room for interpretation and could be further disambiguated, but was ultimately not clarified. Instances where incomprehension arises due to jargon usexii or lack of concrete figuresxiii will not be considered as semantically unclear in this definition. The laws of Hloþere & Eadric are mostly explicit and leaves readers with little room to interpret. There are quite a few locations that had required the clarifications of Oliver’s editor’s notes, yet most of these notes were syntactic in nature, such as missing objects, verbs, disambiguating long-distanced anaphoras and etcetera. This implies that

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these ambiguities were not semantically impairing, as they are inferable from other parts of the text. On the contrary, Magna Carta is plagued with an overwhelming quantity of semantic unclarity that was not disambiguated, nor could be inferred from other parts of the charter. For instance, clause (20) indicates that: “For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood.”xiv This clause deals with the fining of a criminal offence. While this clause is considerably sensible, it does not answer the questions of what exactly should the judging party do – for example, what is the degree of measurement for a “serious” or “trivial” offence? Are they defined by a preordained list of possible offences, or judged by trial and mercy? What does “not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood” entail? What is the mechanism for assessing what suffices for the offender to maintain his livelihood? Neither the definition nor the procedures of execution of these laws were clearly expressed. These ambiguities would have benefited from further refinement, but a better question would be to look at to what degree should this charter be interpreted, and if so, who has the right to interpret the law. Another major semantic issue Magna Carta has is its extremely weak linguistic cohesion.xv Weak linguistic cohesion inhibits not only the readers’ ability to follow its central idea—a weak linguistic cohesion (or erroneous use of linguistic cohesion markers) could potentially misguide readers to overlook, or even misidentify logical nuances that could ultimately result in misinterpretation.xvi The relation between linguistic cohesion markers and thematic change can be defined as follows:


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Types of Linguistic Cohesion Markers in Thematic Changes Adapted from (Spander, 2000). Type (1) - (3) devised by Spander, (4) - (5) added by me.

1) Claim-argument

Connectives (e.g. for, because, since...)

2) Problem-solution

Explicit signaling (e.g. If...)

3) Lists

In addition, also, in the future...

4) Quantifiers

All, no, neither, these...

5) Prepositionals

In the future, then after...

(1) & (2): Context shift, provision of new information (3): Relevant, but not necessarily signaling same context (4) & (5): Anaphoric to previous statements

Table 3. Types of Linguistic Cohesion Markers in Thematic Changes

As mentioned in previous sections, Hloþere & Eadric begins all its clauses with “if”. Not only is its repetition effective in terms of reducing comprehension effort, but the use of “if” (type 2 marker) also alerts the readers that there will be an influx of new information and prompts them to process the information meticulously. Likewise, just as the lexical homogeneity of Hloþere & Eadric has been to the advantage of both its syntactic and semantic comprehension, the scatteredness of Magna Carta would impede comprehension and especially semantic interpretation. The charter’s use of cohesion markers is just as unsystematic as its text structure and syntactic integrity. It should be emphasized that the original charter was a mass of enjambment with no clause numbering. Without the aid of clausal separation, what readers are relying upon for logical discernment are lexical hints—i.e., cohesion markers. If one encounters an unknown jargon or semantic ambiguity, the confounding use of cohesion markers in the charter could cause a rippling effect of misunderstanding. Indeed, there are many occasions in which this problem would flare up, but clauses (34) – (36) would explain this exceptionally well, especially if collapsed into its original prose form:

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The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to

anyone in respect of any holding of land if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court. (35) There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom […] (36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused. Clauses (34) and (36) discuss the use and definition of writs. Specifically, clause (34) appears to be introducing an unfamiliar jargon, which we could assume to be the “precipe”. What readers would generally expect is for the text to elaborate upon the jargon when it is introduced in such a way that presupposes the readers to be unfamiliar with. However, clause (34) is succeeded by (35), which begins with “there”, a type 5 prepositional. As type 5 prepositionals are usually only used when pointing anaphorically back to something previously mentioned in the discourse, the audience would be inclined to think that the standard measurements of ale and corn in clause (35) is relevant to the precipes expounded in clause (34). This mishap is worsened by the sudden revert from standard measurements back to writs in clause (36). It is rather self-evident that this neglectful misuse of cohesion markers could cause immense problems in comprehending the legal document. However, there are a few clauses that have displayed surprisingly well-correlated clauses with the correct use of cohesive markers, such as clause (52) and (53): To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgment of his equals, we will at once restore these […] On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full. (53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests […] (52)


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Clause (52) is an administrative law concerned with returning justice to those who were unjustly deprived of their liberties. “Shall” at the beginning of (53) is an auxiliary modal that functions as a type 5 prepositional, which renders its contents anaphoric. The content that follows is indeed anaphoric, as observable with the phrase “similar respite in rendering justice”. The intermittent display of adequately used cohesion markers is somewhat peculiar. Clauses (52) - (53) look like they have been formulated by the same person, while (34) – (36) (and frankly speaking, the majority of the charter) appears to be a product of a discourse of interjections. The incohesive sections almost appear as if many participants were speaking simultaneously at their own pace, assuming the audience to be able to follow their trail of thoughts, without realizing that their speech was interjected another person. What this implies is that the speakers were participating merely at their discretion and concerns, instead of being truly engaged within a cohesive discourse that would otherwise produce a linear narrative.xvii Such cynical perception of the barons’ conceited attitudes as interlocutors of the writing of this charter is supported by Radin, who writes that “It may well be conceded that those who met John at Runnymede and who demanded the Charters of 1225 had principally in mind their own vast privileges” (1947, p.1090). Nonetheless, this postulation only reinforces the argument that the political negotiations of the writing of this charter seem to be reflected through the very grammar of its clauses—this charter is likely to written in polyphony, of which John King and his fellow scribes’ attempts to lead the political discourse are either underwhelmingly subdued or in fact, non-existent. From its thematic incoherence, syntactic disunity to its semantic ambiguity, this charter is a product of many varying grievances, of a dysfunctional leadership, and of a desire to turn what is now known to man an immense political chaos into a ‘firm peace’ (Howard, p.8).

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CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

By comparing Magna Carta to the laws of Hloþere & Eadric, we can conclude that Magna Carta’s problems as a legal document can be found in elements antecedent even to the sense of its legal decrees. The text of this law code—however symbolic the whole was to become in the post-Medieval period—is ineffective as comprehensible law due to its thematic incoherence, syntactic disunity, and semantic ambiguity; of which these linguistic failures are very likely to be results of a constitutional discourse led by the many barons who each have only their own agenda and no King in mind. The analysis conducted is significant not only because it allows us to systematically understand how, and on what grounds, this charter is ineffective as a rhetorical project—but it also allows a basis for an exploration of the complexities of the political negotiations that had resulted in this document, and in general, the multitude of nuances language can infer upon closer inspections. On a final note, it is hoped that this essay has achieved its objective of prompting questions on the enigmatic elements not just of Magna Carta, but also of the compositional foundation of some earliest legal documents. Such a linguistic approach to legal writing can potentially provide insights to texts beyond Magna Carta and answer queries such as: for whom are certain law codes written for; for what purpose were these law codes written; why were their documents written in this manner. Viewed as part of a long tradition of law-writing in English (rather than an a single and unique manifestation of law) Magna Carta reveals itself to be a problematic product of its political environment—but one that demands careful attention to questions about the language, the law, and ultimately to the ways in which legislators seek to understand and regulate the society of which they themselves are a part of.


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References Bransford, J. D., Barclay, J. R., & Franks, J. J. (1972). Sentence memory: A con structive versus interpretive approach. Cognitive psychology, 3(2), 193209. Breay, C., & Harrison, J. (2014). Magna Carta: an introduction. British Library Newsletter. https://www.bl.uk/magnacarta/articles/magna-carta-an-introduction. Accessed 24 May, 2020. — (2014). Magna Carta in context. British Library Newsletter.

https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-in-context. Accessed 24 May, 2020. Daneman, M., & Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behaviour, 19(4), 450-466. Davis, G. R. C. (1963). Magna Carta. The University of Michigan: British Library. Helmholz, R. H. (1999). Magna Carta and the ius commune. The University of Chicago Law Review, 297-371. Howard, A. D. (1964). Magna Carta: text and commentary (Vol. 1). University of Virginia Press. Oliver, L. (2002). The beginnings of English law. University of Toronto Press. Post, R. (2010). Theorizing disagreement: Reconceiving the relationship between law and politics. California Law Review,98(4), 1319-1350. Radin, M. (1947). The Myth of Magna Carta. Harvard Law Review, 60(7), 10601091 Sanders, T. J., & Noordman, L. G. (2000). The role of coherence relations and their linguistic markers in text processing. Discourse processes, 29(1), 37-60. Spooren, W., & Sanders, T. (2008). The acquisition order of coherence relations: On cognitive complexity in discourse. Journal of pragmatics, 40(12), 2003-2026. Upala, M. A., Gonce, L. O., Tweney, R. D., & Slone, D. J. (2007). Contextualiz ing counterintuitiveness: How context affects comprehension and memorability of counterintuitive concepts. Cognitive Science, 31(3), 415439. Vincent, N. (2015). The origins of Magna Carta. British Library Newsletter.

https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/the-origins-ofmagna-carta. Accessed 24 May, 2020.

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Appendix 1 Analytical Method: Propositional Embedment This propositional embedment analysis is employed to compare the if-conditional clauses from both the laws of Hloþere & Eadric and Magna Carta. Methodology The clauses will be broken down into a formula derived from standard symbolic logic to isolate the codes from their stylistic elements and semanticity.

Hloþere & Eadric: Clause (4) “If a freeman should die with a living wife and child, it is right that if, that child, should be under the protection of the mother, and one should give for him one among his father’s kin who willingly gives surety to maintain his property, until he should be 10 years old.”


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Derived formula: If (α happens to A) ≡ (B&C) ⊃ [(B&C) → β] & [(C&D) → γ] Magna Carta: Clause (7) “At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.” Derived formula: If (α happens to A) ≡ (B&C) ⊃ [B → (β&γ)] & [B → (-(δ OR ε OR ζ))/η ] & [B → (θ&ϑ)] Hloþere & Eadric displays a much simpler clausal syntax, as observed from the formula. There are only 2 propositions as a “then” consequence to the if-conditional, and the structure within the propositions are rather simple. The respective [DP] s only include one [T’] phrase, and there are no conjunctional phrases within the same proposition. Magna Carta, on the other hand, uses a more complex formula. In the formula, it can be seen that there are 3 propositions as a “then” consequence to the if-conditional, and the propositional structures are rather complicated. Within a proposition, a [DP] may induce more than one [T’], and there is a presence of given-that presupposed type of conditional proposition. The issues with the propositional embedment complexity in Magna Carta could have been resolved if the clauses have been divided into other clauses. By all means, if we break up the clauses into smaller ones, for instance, breaking up clause (7) into the form of 1 premise and 3 consequent subclauses, then it is quite certain that the entire clause would be easier to read. Yet a possible reason that the clauses were not further broken apart is that the elements may be too small to be broken down into

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one that could stand alone with sufficient significance. Anyhow, what we may be able to infer is that they could be possibly underdeveloped because they were meant to undergo further refinement. However, the previous deductions are based on the assumptions that the charter was “correctly” broken up when it was slotted into clauses. Yet, we should remember that the charter was initially not numbered, and was instead a run-on text— the possibility of these clauses not being “correctly” separated would severely undermine the validity of this analysis. Nonetheless, it is looking further into other possible ways of sectioning the charter in a way that could better justify its linguistic choices. Unfortunately, this lies beyond the scope and adequacy of what this essay could take into consideration.

- End of Appendix


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ENDNOTES I would like to thank Dr. Anya Adair, Assistant Professor in Law and Humanities of the University of Hong Kong for her constant guidance and encouragement. Without her invaluable support, this admittedly very ambitious essay would never have come to fruition. i

Breay & Harrison (2014) notes that Magna Carta has never been properly implemented before the coronation of Henry III in the following remarks: “Aggrieved by the manner in which Magna Carta was to be enforced, John sent messengers to the Pope (the overlord of the kingdoms of England and Ireland) in the summer of 1215, requesting that the charter be annulled […] Pope Innocent III was alarmed by the charter’s terms, and on 24 August 1215 he issued a document known as a papal bull, describing Magna Carta as ‘illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people’, and declaring the charter ‘null and void of all validity for ever’. Magna Carta was effectively dead, but it gained new life in the early years of the reign of the next king, Henry III.” i

The versions of Magna Carta and Laws of Hloþere & Eadric are both English translations, provided by G.R.C. Davis (1963) and Lisi Oliver (2002) respectively. While it is true that neither of these renditions was in the original language they were written in (Latin and Old English) they were chosen for their literality and clarity. Nonetheless, the translations do not take away the basis needed for assessing comprehension effectiveness as the laws were interpreted in vernacular English for common understanding. As Radin has noted in his work The Myth of Magna Carta (1947), “it is important to note […] that these books, especially the English versions, were not read exclusively by lawyers,” implying that Magna Carta may have been read in translation even by contemporary audiences. ii

The rubrics for well-established text structure are defined strictly by its logical progression, and not by the comprehensiveness of the scope. By all means, one could argue that Magna Carta is more encompassing of different aspects of politics, such as state administration, yet it is inherently incomparable as different law codes are laid down for different purposes. Hloþere & Eadric, for instance, has already premised its function as a supplementary document to its precedents as the preamble reads: “Hloþere & Eadric […] added to the laws that their ancestors made before with these decrees”. Whatever the kings wanted to expand upon is entirely dependent on their discretion and would thereby define the scope of the code. The “arbitrariness” or lack of interrelatedness between sections is merely an issue of lacking context, which is irrelevant to the logicality of the text itself. iii

Clauses (1) – (3), (5), (9) have one sub-clause, which accounts to 5 more clauses while (6) and (11) both have 3 sub-clauses, which accounts to 6 additional clauses. The matrix clauses and sub-clauses together account to 22 clauses in total. iv

These categories are just a coarse division and the majority of these clauses could belong to one or more categories. v

Repetitive syntax reduces cognitive load required to process the text. Cognitive load can be reallocated from withholding a plethora of new short-term memory stimuli to focusing on semantic comprehension (Daneman and Carpenter, 1980). If a syntactic pattern is observed, it can be said that the passage decreases cognitive effort as one reads on and therefore increase comprehension effectiveness. vi

The methodology used for analysis will only take the matrix clause of the first sentence into consideration for practicality issues. It would suffice to illustrate the syntactic homogeneity of Hloþere & Eadric. vii

These two passages are extracted for analysis based on sheer convenience – the syntactic homogeneity of this code practically allows for any passage to stand as solid materials for analysis. viii

ix

In generative syntax, a determiner phrase [DP] is similar to a noun phrase and

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semantically represents an entity. A tense phrase (or inflectional phrase) [TP/IP] is similar to a verb phrase and semantically represents an event or action. An analysis on the if-conditionals of HloĂžere & Eadric and Magna Carta was conducted by comparing propositional embedment. It is omitted in the passage due to its complexity and inconclusivity. See Appendix 1. x

Semantic clarity and cohesion are arguably the most important part when it comes to comprehending a text, as language itself was just a tool to convey thoughts inherently - which is the ultimate core of language, and the ultimate goal of what humans want to disseminate and receive. Therefore, semantic issues are thereby arguably the greatest deterrent to the comprehension effectiveness of text when compared to other linguistic issues. xi

These are not determining factors of semantic clarity, given the jargons which we may now find foreign were likely to be much better understood and less likely to be idiosyncratic. As a result, is also acceptable if there are minor spots that are not understood as humans are able to infer. Yet it could potentially be an issue when it reaches a point of reference without sense (acknowledging that the term exists without understanding its meaning or implications) or sense without reference (the code could be understood theoretically, but is impossible to apply in the real world because of failure of locating its real-world referent.) xii

Numerical figures are not qualitative. Of course, we would prefer codes which clearly express say for instance, that you should pay 100 shillings for a certain event. Yet in cases where it is clearly designated as a response towards a previously premeditated law, then the law would be sufficiently clear without the need to list out any nuxiii

merical figures. For instance, in clause (25): “Every county, hundred, wapentake, and tithing shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors�, its meanings should be clear and understandable, given that its predecessor is well established. xiv Full clause: (20) In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the

implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood. Cohesion and coherence are related, yet vastly distinct terminologies. Cohesion refers to the use of lexical links on a linguistic level (e.g. anaphora), and coherence refers to whether if the vast discourse makes sense. In other words, cohesion is quintessential to ensuring one sentence follows logically through the other, while coherence focuses on a vaguer thematic thread. A discourse can be cohesive lexically, but incoherent thematically. xv

xvi

Linguistic contexts affect how we read into smaller linguistic details as our brains form what is known as a propositional model (e.g. theme, meanings, context) while we read. The more minute details such as syntax and physical representations can easily be overridden by meaning and contexts, as our brains are the best in storing memories in form of a vague propositional mode (Bransford, Barclay and Franks, 1972). What this implies is if readers are misled by the cohesion markers to be unaware of sudden changes in the theme in a discourse, readers can easily misinterpret the content that falls after the thematic change due to a failure in using adequate cohesion markers. xvii

There is a possibility that by incorporating quantitative linguistic analytic methods (such as corpus syntax and lexical comparison) that the different narratives could be identified and restructured in a way which this charter could be made sense of. Yet regrettably, it is beyond the scope of this essay and would be cumbersome to conduct.


T H E

F O U N D A T I O N A L I S T

Bullfights, Big Game and the Sea: The Mechanisms of Hemingway’s Masculine Persona and His Portrayals of Manhood Karen Dellinger 德凱恩 National Taiwan University

No literary name immediately evokes such a palpable aura of masculinity as Ernest Hemingway. From the sparse syntax of his almost telegraphic prose to the countless images of “Papa Hemingway” crouching before a backdrop of rugged terrain, hunting rifle in hand, Hemingway’s legacy is commonly considered one of both literary and personal virility that sometimes borders on sheer machismo. Yet the essence of Hemingway’s legacy lies not in his masculine persona but in the masterful literary craftsmanship it is interwoven with. Rather than leaving behind a body of work whose sole attribute is its fixation on virility, he utilizes his persona to create portrayals of manhood that are as complex and nuanced as they are vividly, unmistakably masculine. This essay aims to explore the social and cultural factors behind Hemingway’s masculine persona and in turn analyze his portrayals of masculinity in The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea. In addition, it will address the correlation between Hemingway’s popular, albeit sometimes controversial, image and his status as a celebrated writer of fiction. A striking aspect of Hemingway’s life and times is the perpetual proximity of war, which is accordingly manifested in much of his work—not merely in portrayals of it per se, but also in the substance of the characters and stories themselves. Both World Wars left behind a masculinity that was, in effect, emasculated: battered, traumatized, and desperately craving reassurance of its own potency. The damage—both physical and psychological—wrought by years of violence and conflict resulted in a frantic urge to reconstruct and reassert masculine identity, which in turn led to further anxiety and self-con-

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sciousness. Such anxiety to reconstruct (or fabricate?) an ideal masculinity was an essential element of the society and culture that Hemingway inhabited, imbibed, and in turn poured libation to, through both his work and the persona he adopted. Trauma and mutilation of the body, in particular, opened gateways to psychological trauma and anxiety that would continue to influence the very manner in which men sought to cope with the wake of war. This was especially the case after World War I, in which the sheer destructive capacity of machine-oriented warfare delivered an unprecedented blow to both soldiers and the general public. Studies of social experiences and medical representations of wounds expose the entwined failure of reconstruction and masculinity… [Suzannah] Biernoff argues that extreme suffering…undercut[s] fantasies about heroic warfare and the capacity of military masculinity to withstand modern technological warfare. (Carden-Coyne 4-5)

Rather than rendering its hapless recipients glorified and “twice-the-manned” (as traditional masculine stereotypes might dictate), severe physical trauma sustained in the war instead stripped a male generation of its former self-regard. This effect of physical injury on the psychological and emotional fabric of masculinity is a crucial, though subtly played out, element in Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Jake Barnes, rendered sexually impotent by his injuries in the Great War, is the epitome of his generation’s anxious, quietly devastated, incessantly self-conscious manhood. This is illustrated in his complex attitude toward love, sexuality, and his relationship with Brett Ashley: though he is the only man in the story who can offer Brett genuine affection, her insatiable sexual appetite overrides her love for him and prevents her from fully committing to their relationship. While she does indeed love Jake, even confessing at one point that she “simply turn[s] all to jelly” at his touch (Hemingway 22), Brett refuses to commit to a romantic relationship that has no hope of being consummated; despite maintaining a strong, true bond of emotional intimacy with


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him, she ultimately abandons any possibility of their relationship’s further development, as can be seen in her decision to “[go] back to Mike” (Hemingway 215) and her regretful but hopelessly final remark “[W]e could have had such a damned good time together” (218). Though it can’t be said that Jake fails to win her, it certainly appears that he fails to possess her. It would seem, then, that The Sun Also Rises is Hemingway’s illustration of failed masculinity. Coupled with his reticent, introverted nature, Jake Barnes’ impotence (the key cause of his failure to ostensibly claim and possess the woman he desires) appears to irrevocably unman him; deprived of “the male equipment that (supposedly) establishes a masculine self” (Strychacz 78) (i.e. the healthy function of his genitals), he is confined to the sphere of a semi-outsider who can only participate in masculine sexual activity by witnessing the romantic trysts and pursuits of his friends. He confesses early in the novel that he has “a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of [his] friends” (Hemingway 11); it is evident that his bitterness at his own impotence has “transformed his friends’ acts into theater” and that the only means of alleviating his frustration is “a habit of voyeurism that appears to be at once a product of and compensation for his inability to participate in his own bedroom scenes” (Strychacz 78). In Chapter 4, he tersely articulates his vexation as he contemplates his reflection in his bedside mirror (“Of all the ways to be wounded”) and, with his customary bitterness, attempts to wave it away with a nonchalant “I suppose it was funny” (Hemingway 26). Rather than redeeming him from his plight, his passionate feelings for Brett serve only to increase his misery; his silent, despairing struggle is evident as he lies in bed contemplating his ardent but hopeless love: My head started to work. The old grievance. Well, it was a rotten way to be wounded…. I never used to realize it, I guess. I try and play it along and just not make trouble for people. Probably I never would have had any trouble if I hadn’t run into Brett when they shipped me to England. I suppose she only wanted what she couldn’t have…. I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it

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went away. I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. (Hemingway 27)

From a superficial perspective, Jake Barnes lacks everything the stereotypically masculine identity requires. Unlike his brash, womanizing male companions, he is vulnerable, painfully insecure, and only clings to his self-esteem through a feeble show of stoicism; he is certainly a far cry from the paragon of aggressive sexual prowess and overbearing physical presence that “Papa Hemingway” is commonly considered to champion. However, a closer analysis reveals that this is not Hemingway’s true intention in his treatment of this character. Hemingway does not present a sketch of failed masculinity only to further promote one of “successful” masculinity; he does not intend Jake Barnes to serve as a negative contrast to true manhood. Rather, he uses Jake to present an alternative ideal of masculinity that, while unconventional at first glance, is not totally contradictory to the stereotypes he subtly undermines. Ironically, Jake’s self-consciousness, insecurity, and his impotence itself do not truly unman him. “On the contrary, Jake, as odd as it sounds, exemplifies the condition of manhood” (Strychacz 80); because he is such an apt representation of his generation’s collective masculine anxiety, he is nothing short of a “real man.” Far from lamenting the misfortunes of a marginalized “other,” Jake’s story is both a product of and an elegy to the troubled masculinity of his age; his decidedly “unmacho” struggles are precisely what define him as a quintessential man of post-World War I Western society. Furthermore, the very absence of physical consummation in his relationship with Brett represents an alternative type of power and dominance. Though she unabashedly reaps sexual satisfaction from any man who is willing to offer it (and thus appears to be the more dominant, appetite-driven “man” in the relationship), Brett continually, repeatedly, almost faithfully returns to Jake for emotional satisfaction and support; in fact, he is the man she entreats to help her after her brief affair with Romero comes to a foreseeably unhappy end (Gorton 2). The fact that their relationship (which curiously oscillates between a


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love affair and a friendship) remains so persistent and present throughout the novel despite the absence of physical consummation is a testament to the hold that Jake has on her. Regardless of the couple’s involuntary abstinence, their relationship persists because of the potency of Brett’s attraction to Jake; though he cannot claim Brett in the traditionally masculine act of sexual conquest, in a sense he is master of her precisely because he does not need to buy her affection with sexual favors. What Jake lacks in physical and sexual possession of Brett he makes up for in emotional possession that is almost spiritual, as she comes to depend on him as on a source of stability and psychological nourishment when she is overwhelmed by the consequences of her own tumultuous love life. Nina Schwartz supports this interpretation by arguing that Hemingway depicts the apparently emasculated Jake “to inscribe the promise of a particular kind of redemption” and quoting Leon F. Seltzer’s statement that Jake’s impotence “describes, paradoxically, not man’s deficiency but his amazing potentiality” (49). Thus, Hemingway neither truly bolsters stereotypical masculine ideals of the dominant, possessive male lover nor fully rejects them. Instead, he uses an unlikely figure—Jake Barnes, the traumatized, castrated World War I veteran-turned-journalist— to simultaneously dismantle and reconstruct these ideals, presenting a portrayal of manhood that is at once unconventional enough to be intriguing and underlyingly familiar enough to resonate with attentive readers. If World War I birthed a masculinity characterized by insecurity and disillusionment, World War II forcibly thrust this masculinity into its prime, pushing its sense of unsettling self-consciousness to extremes and forcing it to adopt an increasingly exaggerated presence in order to cope. This phenomenon was boosted not only by the horror and magnitude of World War II itself, but also the bubbling developments in contemporary society and culture. Despite the marked presence of war and destruction, the twentieth century was also an era of exhilarating advancements in mass culture and entertainment. The advent of popular literature, Hollywood, and celebrity culture flourished to a peak mid-century and played a crucial part in crafting society’s perception of masculinity (and

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likewise femininity); gender stereotypes simultaneously fed and were fed by the circulation of increasingly vivid, popularized images. Propelled by the devastation of another largescale bloodbath, mass media (particularly visual media and popular literature) helped create a template of masculinity that sought to vehemently (over)compensate for the battering it had received. A quintessential representation of this hounded masculinity’s coping mechanism is the men’s pulp magazine of the 1950s, in which Hemingway himself was frequently featured as a macho icon. Colorful, sensational, and often scandalously risqué, pulps provided men with much more than temporary recreation. With their (luridly illustrated) depictions of muscular beefcakes combatting monstrous beasts, heroically “rescuing” (i.e. claiming) voluptuous, helplessly submissive damsels or escaping the clutches of smoldering femmes fatales, pulp literature “capture[d] in amber the tensions, concerns, traumas, and fashions of a historic moment”; they served as essential “fantasies of masculinity” that “bolster[ed] men’s adequacy in the quickly shifting time after the war” (Earle 5). Through its exaggerated portrayals of a manhood that asserted itself by combatting, conquering, and claiming, this inexpensive, widely accessible reading material both reflected and reinforced the era’s stereotypes of masculinity. With its central theme of man versus nature and its detailed depiction of a lone man’s battle with an unrelenting opponent, Hemingway’s 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea might seem to echo the masculine adventure story of grueling combat against brutal foes. Like the popularized image of a stranded hero fighting for survival on a crocodile-infested island, the titular old man Santiago demonstrates strength, resilience, and endurance—quintessential virtues of the ideal man—in his three-day-long pursuit of the marlin. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Santiago himself heavily associates the success of his endeavor with his manhood as “[the] narrative is caught up in the language of traditional gender orthodoxy” (Bopp). He is driven onward in his quest by the desire to “show [the fish] what sort of man [he is]” (Hemingway 47) and to prove his masculinity:


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“I’ll kill him though,” he said. “In all his greatness and his glory.” Although it is unjust, he thought. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures…. The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it. (Hemingway 49)

For the old man, his exploit on the sea is evidently far more than a challenge to his craft as fisherman; it is a challenge to his identity itself. The marlin is not merely Santiago’s prey but a contestant that poses a direct threat to his masculine identity. Moreover, the extent of Santiago’s self-consciousness and anxiety regarding his manhood is subtly revealed in the gendered characterization of the marlin. Throughout the book, the marlin is uniformly assigned male pronouns.… Seemingly unconsciously, the language of masculinity is projected onto a character whose actual sex is unknown. It must be that the novel designates the fish as masculine based only on the threat its strength presents to the old man’s masculinity. (Bopp)

It might thus appear that Hemingway’s most famed work of fiction is a literary tribute to the more lowbrow portrayals of high-stakes masculine combat that contemporary men would identify with. Santiago’s nautical equivalent of a bullfight seems to illustrate the same type of masculine anxiety and identity crisis that post-war mainstream culture provided catharsis for. Once more, however, Hemingway’s portrayal of manhood harbors multiple dimensions that, while rooted in stereotypical expectations, are reworked and transformed into something unique. Ultimately, Santiago’s narrative of masculine attainment is not one of conquest and victory over nature, but one of transcendence through submission. His pursuit of the marlin is not colored with the predatory attitude of aggression that the G.I. Joe-esque heroes of pulp adventures display; he does not view the marlin as merely a senseless beast that must be destroyed in order for his identity to be asserted. Rather, Santiago’s journey on the sea takes on a spiritual quality that is manifested in his attitude toward both the marlin and himself.

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Though courageous and steadfast in his resolution to kill the fish, Santiago speaks of it with a reverence that borders on devotion. Rather than pitting himself against the fish, which he describes as “more noble and more able” (Hemingway 47), “he aligns himself with the fish…[and] calls it his brother” (Bopp): I wish I could feed the fish, he thought. He is my brother. But I must kill him and keep strong to do it…. He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. …There are three things that are brothers: the fish and my two hands. It [his injured hand] must uncramp. It is unworthy of it to be cramped…. I wish I could show him what sort of man I am. But then he would see the cramped hand. Let him think I am more man than I am and I will be so. I wish I was the fish, he thought, with everything he has against only my will and my intelligence. (Hemingway 44-48)

Paradoxically, this sentiment of reverent affection is precisely what spurs the old man’s resolution to kill the fish. He is driven not by the desire to simply destroy his opponent but to match him, to somehow ascend to an equal level of adequacy and worth. Thus, Santiago aims not to prove his masculinity by eliminating his rival but by assimilating with it (“I wish I was the fish”); he identifies so strongly with the fish because it “becomes a manifestation of the masculinity the old man hopes to obtain” (Bopp). The marlin’s threat to his masculine identity must be resolved by “convincing” the great fish that he is “more man than [he is],” in the hope that in turn “[he] will be so” (Hemingway 48). Though “[t]here is no one worthy of eating [the fish] from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity” (Hemingway 57), killing it is Santiago’s way of “convincing” it of his manly worth, almost as if to gain its approval. This elevation and deification of the fish turns The Old Man and the Sea’s apparent hunter-versus-hunted narrative into something akin to the chronicle of a pilgrimage. The spiritual undertones of the story reach a climax when Santiago at last succeeds in killing the marlin. The fish’s death is depicted as a form of (literal) ascension, and the moment of its death is, ironically, also the moment of its supreme display of beauty and splendor:


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Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff. (Hemingway 72)

Having ascended in both literal height and degree of majesty, the fish performs a final act of “[sending] spray over the old man” upon its descent, which powerfully evokes the image of baptism. This may be interpreted as the fish’s sanction of Santiago’s success—and thus his manhood. Though it is the old man who harpoons the fish and ostensibly conquers it, in truth it is the fish who “hang[s] in the air above the old man” and deigns to grant him the assertion of successful masculinity he seeks. Santiago’s climactic act of conquest is in fact one of submissive reception and gratitude. The nature of Santiago’s apparently successful catch is further challenged and complicated in the latter part of The Old Man and the Sea. Though he succeeds in obtaining the marlin, he is bereft of the chance to enjoy the fruits of his toil. The marlin’s body is preyed upon by bloodthirsty sharks, and Santiago is forced to return home with a piteously maimed “half-fish.” The mutilation is such that the trophy is barely distinguishable as its once-magnificent self, even being mistaken for the remains of a shark by a casually ignorant tourist (Hemingway 99). It would seem that this brutal stripping away (both literal and figurative) of the marlin’s glory utterly negates the honor and worth Santiago has received in his preceding battle with fatigue and pain. Santiago himself, upon seeing the sorry fate of his esteemed prey-turned-rival-turned-brother, is disheartened and feels a pang of regret for the whole endeavor: It was too good to last, he thought. …It might as well have been a dream, he thought. …I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hooked the fish and was alone in bed on the newspapers…. ‘You’re tired, old man,’ he said. ‘You’re tired inside.’… ‘Half-fish,’ he said. ‘Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went too far out. I ruined us both….’ (Hemingway 78-89)

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Hemingway seems to have constructed an archetype of pious ascension to worthy manhood, only to tear it down and drown it in nauseating nihilism. However, this apparent failure is precisely what gives the old man’s quest for masculinity its powerful symbolic significance. The loss of the material trophy contrasts starkly with the spiritual ascension he achieves through his journey and highlights it; his success does not truly diminish but transcends its physical manifestation, echoing his declaration that “[a] man can be destroyed but not defeated” (Hemingway 80). Moreover, the sharks’ consumption of the marlin causes Santiago’s “success” itself to take on a more profound, albeit counterintuitive, definition. Though dismayed at the damage done to his hard-earned prize, Santiago remarks that the sharks are “built to feed on all the fishes in the sea, that were so fast and strong and well-armed that they had no other enemy” (Hemingway 78); just as he recognizes that “[he was] born to be a fisherman” and “the fish was born to be a fish” (81), he acknowledges that all things serve an established purpose in the cycle of nature and life itself. Through pursuing the fish, killing it, and eventually losing it, the old man is fulfilling his destined purpose, just as the fish fulfills its purpose in being caught and the sharks fulfill theirs in preying on bleeding flesh. This hierarchy of unlikely yet inevitable harmony indicates the presence of divinity, or as William Faulkner terms it in his review of The Old Man and the Sea, “something somewhere that made them all”: This time, he discovered God, a Creator. Until now, his men and women had made themselves, shaped themselves out of their own clay; their victories and defeats were at the hands of each other, just to prove to themselves or one another how tough they could be. But this time, he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. (Faulkner 55)

Thus, Hemingway’s masterpiece portrays a manhood that is successful not because it ostensibly comes out on top,


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but because it nobly, exquisitely, heartbreakingly illustrates a fable of an attitude toward the order of Creation, toward the arrangement of providentially assigned roles within that order, and toward the necessity for submission, courtesy, and mutual respect between creatures disposed within that arrangement to its all-sustaining operation—a transcendent sense of “pity” contained in pattern, parts, and their interaction. (Bradford 159)

The flip side of Santiago’s weary-hearted statement that “everything kills everything else in some way” and that fishing “kills [him] exactly as it keeps [him] alive” (Hemingway 82) is that everything gives everything else life, according to a divinely established order. It is only through apparent loss and submission that Santiago transcends the secular dimension of “successful” masculinity. Though the old man himself feels he has been beaten, he has in fact succeeded in embodying the supreme truth of manhood—and of life itself. One would expect such remarkable aesthetic and ideological complexity, conveyed with prose that is at once refreshingly declarative and starkly lyrical, to warrant waves of awestruck fascination. Certainly, readers and critics have not neglected to acknowledge the greatness of Hemingway’s literary craft; a particularly apt description of his deceptively simple style is Ford Madox Ford’s: Hemingway’s words strike you, each one, as if they were pebbles fetched fresh from a brook. They live and shine, each in its place. So one of his pages has the effect of a brook-bottom into which you look down through the flowing water. The words form a tessellation, each in order beside the other. (133)

Yet, as is often the case with celebrated personages, “[h]is renown reaches beyond the works he is known for, as his larger-than-life persona is remembered even by those who have not read the novels that gained him recognition” (Fischel). His aura of “he-man” machismo and magazine-cover charisma seems to dominate our impression of him far more than the sophistication of his fiction; even those who can distinguish his knack for presenting narratives in deceptively simple prose

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often overlook his implicit eloquence and dimensional depth, instead only recognizing his terse efficiency. Both Hemingway’s life and literary work are typically labeled “hard-boiled” (a term that originated in World War I army camps), i.e., “unfeeling, callous, coldhearted, cynical, rough, obdurate, unemotional, without sentiment” (Hallengren), and many still believe this is why Hemingway perfectly embodies the weathered, war-toughened essence of twentieth century manhood. Inseparable from the mystique of his “glamorous and adventurous lifestyle” (Fischel), Hemingway tends to captivate our imaginations with “the pose of [his] tough, charismatically overbearing personality” (Strychacz 2) even more than he does with the deft brilliance of his prose. Though Hemingway himself has wryly remarked that “If you have a success you have it for the wrong reasons,” it would seem he has no one to blame but himself. As Strychacz’s description indicates, Hemingway’s masculine persona is—to a considerable extent—a pose. While his extensive experience in war and reputed fondness for “macho” activities (including, but not limited to, boxing, fishing, big-game hunting and bullfight-spectating) were certainly not false, they were deliberately exaggerated and put on display for the benefit of his audience. As befitted the literary celebrity that he was, Hemingway “[played] an active role in cultivating his celebrity and a particular image of himself”; through both his writing and his life, he purposely “[gave] readers a view of a dramatic life of war and adventured … [that he] made sure was observed by the public” (Fischel). Seizing upon the fact that his life and career coincided with the rise of contemporary celebrity culture, Hemingway made himself a literary star using the mechanisms of modern Hollywood…. [He] worked with PR representatives, with publishers sending pictures to the press showing the author skiing in Europe or with a large catch from a day of fishing. Hemingway complained of invasion of privacy and interference with his work while simultaneously making himself readily available to journalists and photographers, as well as socializing with gossip columnists. (Fischel)

The twentieth century’s upsurge of visual mass media vig-


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orously facilitated the creation and maintenance of a public persona, leading to Hemingway’s dual status as “both serious author and public figure, sensitive artist and masculine ideal” (Earle 4). Even those who didn’t read Hemingway (or perhaps especially those) found themselves instinctively mesmerized by the images of “pinup Papa” (Earle 61) plastered on tabloid covers and smiling gruffly from the pages of newspapers. This complementary relationship between fame, photography, and persona that explains Hemingway’s great popularity also reflects the general dynamic of celebrity culture, that often ghoulish fascination of ours with public personalities…. The many articles on Hemingway…are perfect examples of popular legend making, and, considering Hemingway’s often scandalous reputation, it is important to reembed them in their original visual surroundings. …This image of Hemingway as he-man has proven resilient, continually seductive in the popular media. (Earle 62)

This resilient seduction of our attention and imagination is, without question, as much the work of Ernest Hemingway himself as it is a reflection of contemporary obsession with the visual and sensory (in preference to the literary). In order to maintain popularity and relevance, Hemingway purposely, self-consciously crafted and sold an image of impenetrable machismo that was at once overbearing and appealing. Therein lies the palpable glamor of virility that, though i strumental in spreading Hemingway’s appeal to a wide range of audiences outside the literati, is commonly criticized for overshadowing his contribution to literature. Criticism of Hemingway’s perceived hypermasculinity extends far beyond its effect on his writing career. Based as much on his troubled, infidelity-strewn private life as the seemingly negative portrayals of women in his work and his exaggerated masculine persona, accusations of sexism and misogyny have been irrevocably woven into our perception of both Hemingway the writer and Hemingway the man. While he is frequently championed as his era’s ideal of manhood, his (public) masculine persona can also be interpreted as an embodiment of postwar America’s “troubling masculinity”; “like the pulp magazines in which it is solidified, it is both fascinat-

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ing and problematic” (Earle 4). The popular image he crafted for himself seems to unabashedly cater to the “misogyny [that stemmed] in part from the wholesale trauma of the Second World War,” which promoted “hypermasculine performance” and “fantasies of male dominance” (Earle 9) while encouraging the objectification of women as sexual playthings and pleasure slaves. Moreover, Hemingway’s portrayals of women are commonly criticized for subtextual sexism. Brett Ashley, for example, is depicted as a voracious, destructive “modern woman” that inevitably causes the emotional downfall of all men she crosses paths with. Throughout The Sun Also Rises, it seems that her primary vice is her headstrong independence and refusal to be possessed. While this quality would be deemed admirable and exceptional from a feministic viewpoint, Hemingway seems to portray it as a ravenous cyclone of destruction. For a legion of readers, casual and scholarly alike, Papa Hemingway is not an ideal “real man” at all but a living, breathing illustration of toxic masculinity. Interestingly, however, criticism along these lines tends to coarsely blur the divide between Hemingway’s public image and his fictional characterizations; it is often taken for granted that his female characters are intended as counterparts to his aggressive macho public presence, which is in itself a problematic assumption. A more detailed examination of his depictions of women and gendered relationships would reveal not a few redeeming—if not outright debunking—qualities. However pulpishly sexist Hemingway the pinup poster boy may have been, Hemingway the fiction writer was by no means so carelessly conventional. Furthermore, and perhaps most damningly, there is the criticism of Hemingway’s alleged hypocrisy. Those who acknowledge Hemingway’s extremely deliberate, self-conscious attitude toward his public image (i.e., those who would claim to not be fooled by this image) may point out the disparity between this exaggerated persona and Hemingway’s professed appreciation of truth. For a man who claimed the essence of great writing lies in “[writing] the truest sentence that you know,” the tremendous effort he put into crafting a semi-artificial image would seem blatantly contradictory. But such accusers forget that, without the celebrity and renown Hem-


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ingway established through his public performance of masculinity, the brilliance of his fiction might not have reached the high level of (well-deserved) fame it has; however profoundly, movingly truthful his work was, the majority of society might not be aware of its existence had Hemingway not maintained a socially relevant status through ensuring his own widespread popularity. Though knowledge of Hemingway the macho celebrity outdoorsman in no way guarantees understanding of Hemingway the brilliant writer, it certainly opens gateways. Because of the unquestionable, uncompromising quality of his work, superficial fascination with his persona has a better chance of prompting study and appreciation of his masterfully constructed fiction. The personal “fiction” of masculinity that Hemingway sustained only overshadows the quality of his literary fiction insofar as we let it; should a reader desire to delve beneath this exterior of machismo, the rewarding discovery of Hemingway’s truth awaits none the worse for its layers of celebrity-oriented packaging. Moreover, the existence of Hemingway’s hypermasculine pose itself is actually a far more complex phenomenon than the average publicity stunt could ever aspire to be. Besides serving the pragmatic (some would say sordid) purpose of celebrity-making, Hemingway’s persona reflects a dimension of culture and society that is as fundamentally influential and present as it can be subtle and elusive. Though “Hemingway biographies are packed with…instances of his commitment to evidencing some sign of authentic manhood—and with similarly irritable accusations of adolescent posturing” (Strychacz 5), this act of presenting a certain version of masculinity is in fact a crucial factor in society’s collective understanding of masculinity—and gender identity in general. Contrary to the assumption that true manhood is “self-contained, self-possessed, and antagonistic to self-display” (Strychacz 5), the establishment of a masculine (or feminine) identity is frequently a matter of presentation, ostensible accomplishment, and enactment that relies on the reception and interpretation of others—namely, an “audience” that takes the form of both individual peers and collective society. Our perception of gender is, more often than otherwise, precisely that—a matter of per-

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ception and interpretation that strongly parallels a theatrical performance. While the personas we assume are by no means false per se, they are (to varying extents) acts that appeal to the evaluation and sanction of others. Just as theatrical acts rely on culturally coded signals and formulas to take effect, our expression of gender identity is largely interwoven with cultural and social establishments. Thus, Hemingway’s masculine public persona is “susceptible to a different analysis that reads [it] as staged actions activating codes both theatrical and cultural—that reads [it], in short, as acts of genuine theater” (Strychacz 5). In this sense, one’s temptation to criticize Hemingway for swaggering like an adolescent might yield to a more deliberate assessment of the entire structure of the dramatic scene, which now speaks to a powerful collusion between actor and audience and an intense dependence on preexisting codes about how men should perform for other men. …[I]t reveals a theater of manhood-on-display in which the audience’s interpretive and evaluatory responses crucially affect its dramatic significance. …[M]anhood-fashioning must be read as complex social practices configured within a theatrical structure, and at which claims on manhood must be seen to be overtly rhetorical. (Strychacz 6)

At heart, his deliberate display of exaggerated masculinity is not purely a fabricated gimmick but a hyper-distilled model of human society, which is itself far more prone to theatrical representation than some of us would like to admit. By interpreting Hemingway’s public pose as its own form of living rhetoric, we find that it is not Hemingway who coerces us into his theater of masculine display but we who have fashioned and inhabited this theater all along without being aware of it. While his over-the-top performance of swaggering macho bravado was indeed designed as a borderline-burlesque poster for his work, it has simultaneously served as a canny illuminator of cultural consciousness. As discussed in the textual analyses of The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, the greatest testament to Hemingway’s genius is his ability to transform seemingly intuitive, two-dimensional stereotypes of masculinity into intricate,


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unique portrayals that both challenge our assumptions and resonate with our consciousness. It might even be argued that, ironically, the nuanced complexity of Hemingway’s compelling “manhoods” depends precisely on the exaggerated sketches of manhood we would expect from mainstream society—and that Hemingway seems to embody at first glance, which adds yet another dimension to his ever-enigmatic representation of masculinity. Thus, we may conclude our assessment of Ernest Hemingway the writer with the acknowledgment that he undoubtedly deserves his status as a celebrated champion of modern fiction. When it comes to our assessment of Ernest Hemingway the person, however, we must remember that “one can and must distinguish between Hemingway the man and Hemingway the artist” (Strychacz 4, citing Trilling). Whatever criticism Hemingway has merited, be it for sexism, hypocrisy, or the myriad other flaws that literature’s most sensational minimalist has been charged with, we must remember: Hemingway the “artist” is conscious, Hemingway the “man” is self-conscious; the “artist” has a kind of innocence, the “man” a kind of naivety; the “artist” is disinterested, the “man” has a dull personal axe to grind; the “artist” has a perfect medium and tells the truth even if it be only his truth, but the “man” fumbles at communication and falsifies. (Trilling 52)

It must be understood that what Hemingway achieves within his “perfect medium” of fiction cannot be expected to translate neatly into the other areas of his life; it is only natural that his efforts to maintain a certain image might falter in effectiveness or occasionally even backfire and lead to misinterpretation. Though it is astute to recognize the shortcomings of Hemingway’s masculine persona and question the authenticity of the “real” manhood he seems to promote, it would be presumptuous to assume his public image accurately reflects his genuine ideals and values. Those who instinctively label him hypocritical or misogynistic are wrongly assuming that Hemingway the man equals the persona he presents before audiences; in projecting this harsh judgment onto his character as a whole, they forget the dullness of their own personal axes, which—

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like any other human being—they grind with an inevitable self-consciousness. However many times we think we catch Ernest Hemingway “fumbling at communication and falsifying,” we should find it in our hearts—and brains—to forgive him. After all, toxically masculine or not, he is only exasperatingly, irresistibly, forgivably human.


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Works Cited Bopp, Leonard. “‘Show Him What A Man Can Do:’ Language of Gender and Attempted Re-masculinization in The Old Man and the Sea.” Philosophy for the Many, 14 Oct. 2016, sites.williams.edu/engl-209-fall16/uncategorized/show-himwhat-a-man-can-do-language-of-gender-and-attemptedre-masculinization-in-the-old-man-and-the-sea/. Accessed 3 June 2019. Bradford, M. E. “On The Importance Of Discovering God: Faulkner And Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea.” The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3, Mississippi State University, 1967, pp. 158-162. Carden-Coyne, Ana. “Masculinity and the Wounds of the Firs World War: A Centenary Reflection.” Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique French Journal of British Studies (O line), 15 Jan. 2015, journals.openedition.org/rfcb/305. Accessed 15 May 2019. Faulkner, William. “Review of The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.” Shenandoah, vol. 3, no. 3, 1952, p.55. Ford, Ford Madox. Critical Writings of Ford Madox Ford. Edited by Frank MacShane, University of Nebraska Press, 1964. Fischel, Sarah. “The Celebrated Hemingway: Talent and Fame.” Fameology, 21 Feb. 2014, fameology.net/2012/02/21/the-celebrated-hemingway-talent-and-fame/. Accessed 5 June 2019. Gorton, Cassandra. “Wounded Masculinity in The Sun Also Rises.” Academia, 5 June 2016, https://www.academia. edu/37663928/Wounded_Masculinity_in_The_Sun_Also_Rises. Accessed 16 May 2019. Hallengren, Andres. Nobel Laureates in Search of Identity and Integrity: Voices of Different Cultures. World Scientific, 2005. Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. Vintage, Random House, 2000. ---. The Old Man and the Sea. 1952. Vintage, Random House, 2000.

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Schwartz, Nina. “Lovers’ Discourse in The Sun Also Rises: A Cock and Bull Story.” Criticism, vol. 26, no. 1, Wayne State University Press, 1984, pp. 49-69. Strychacz, Thomas. Hemingway’s Theaters of Masculinity. Louisiana State University Press, 2003. Trilling, Lionel. “Hemingway and His Critics.” Partisan Review, vol. 6, no. 2, 1939, pp. 52-60.


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“More Impiety / Than Jephthah”: Hamlet and the Jephthian Vow Noah Avigan

Columbia University

Published over four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to inspire vehement debate among critics. Much of this controversy surrounds the tragedy’s mysterious protagonist, whose ambiguous motives leave a great deal to scholarly interpretation. The play begins after Hamlet’s father has been murdered and Claudius has ascended to power, anchoring the drama in the actions of young Hamlet. At the end of the first act, Hamlet makes a vow to his father’s ghost to avenge his murder, an action which somehow leads to Hamlet’s madness and the eventual deaths of Gertrude, Ophelia, and others. One of the central questions of the play, then, concerns the degree of Hamlet’s blameworthiness for these deaths and the overall moral quality of his character and actions. A New Historical reading of a particular biblical allusion in the play helps illuminate this question of responsibility. In their meeting in Act II Scene II, Hamlet calls Polonius “Jephthah,” referring to an Israelite military chieftain found in the biblical book of Judges who makes a dramatic vow. The Jephthah character, however, hardly suits Polonius and maps almost perfectly onto Hamlet himself. Indeed, this reference is far from obscure to the contemporary audience. Jephthah was a figure of extreme interest for early modern Christian humanists, who saw Jephthah’s commitment to his vow as reflecting inhumane behavior and Old Testament barbarism. Paralleling his protagonist to Jephthah, Shakespeare suggests that Hamlet’s initial vow to his father’s ghost is improper and impious. In fact, Hamlet mirrors the Jephthian,


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perhaps even Jewish traits to which Christian humanists would vehemently object. This New Historical reading of Jephthah offers a new critique of Hamlet, suggesting that his blind commitment to a sinful oath is directly responsible for the tragedy of the play. In Act II Scene II, Hamlet invokes an unusual biblical character named Jephthah. Speaking to Polonius, Hamlet abruptly declares: “O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst / thou” (Hamlet 2.2. 330-31) and proceeds to directly call Polonius “old Jephthah” (Hamlet 2.2. 337). Hamlet is interrupted, however, before he can remind the audience of Jephthah’s unfortunate fate. In Judges chapter 11, Jephthah emerges as a military leader of the Israelites in their campaign against the neighboring Ammonites. Hoping to be victorious, Jephthah takes a vow that if God grants him success, he will sacrifice the first “thing that commeth out of the doors of [his] house” when he returns from battle as a burnt offering to God (The Geneva Bible Jud. 11:31). Tragically, when Jephthah returns, the first thing he sees emerging from his house is not an animal but his only daughter, who cheerfully exits the house to welcome him home. Jephthah’s daughter willingly accepts her impending death but requests two months to go into the mountains and “bewail [her] virginity” before her father fulfills the irrevocable vow (The Geneva Bible Jud. 11:37). At the end of these two months she returns and is killed by her own father, dying as a virgin. In a seemingly abrupt and irrelevant manner, Hamlet identifies Polonius with the tragic biblical figure and his unfortunate vow. Hamlet’s comparison of Polonius to Jephthah, however, is unnatural and forced. The basis for the two characters’ equivalency has long proved challenging for critics. Michelle Ephraim suggests that “perhaps” Hamlet gives Polonius this name “for impetuously interfering with Ophelia’s romantic future as he acquiesces to corrupt monarchs Gertrude and Claudius” (81). Other critics like Cameron Hunt and Nona Fienberg view Polonius as “politically-mo-


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tivated” and thereby neglectful of his daughter’s safety (15). These explanations, however, seem unconvincing. The defining features of Jephthah’s character are his direct culpability for his daughter’s death and his dramatic vow, both of which are difficult to find in Polonius’s actions. Though Polonius does set up a traumatic encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia, Hamlet himself delivers the harsh and disturbing rebukes that upset her. Hamlet in particular, then, could hardly accuse Polonius of being responsible for Ophelia’s death. Claudius, furthermore, guesses that Ophelia’s madness “springs / All from her father’s death,” thereby completely disconnecting her death from Polonius’s scheme to construct a meeting in Act III Scene I (Hamlet 4.5.74-75). Hamlet’s identification of Polonius as “old Jephthah,” then, unlikely constitutes an accusation of responsibility for his daughter’s death (Hamlet 2.2.337). Thus, the basis for the comparison remains elusive. Struggling to establish a firm connection between Jephthah and Polonius himself, most critics center their analysis around the strong equivalency between Ophelia and Jephthah’s daughter. Like Jephthah’s unnamed and innocent daughter, Ophelia serves as an object for the male actors around her and is ultimately condemned to death due to their irresponsible actions (Hamlet 2.2.334). Virginity, moreover, takes a central role both for Jephthah’s daughter and Ophelia. Hamlet demands that Ophelia should be “as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,” reminiscent of the sacrificed daughter who “had known no man” (Hamlet 3.1.136; The Geneva Bible Jud. 11:39). In her death, too, observers point out several times that Ophelia’s “fair and unpolluted flesh” is buried with “virgin crants” (Hamlet 5.1.218, 210). Thus, Jephthah’s daughter serves as an effective counterpart for Ophelia and her tragic fate. The weak identification of Polonius with Jephthah, then, relies almost entirely on Polonius’s relationship to Ophelia rather than on inherent similarities in their characters or actions. While the Jephthah model does not map well onto Polonius, it almost perfectly describes Hamlet himself. Like Jephthah in Judges 11, Hamlet begins the tragedy by accepting a murderous vow to a supernatural figure. After seeing his father’s ghost, Hamlet swears “by heaven” to avenge him

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and concludes his monologue by declaring: “I have sworn’t” (Hamlet 1.5.104, 112). The scene in the aftermath of this ghost sighting is full of swears and oaths, the watchmen prompted to “swear” countless times both by Hamlet and by the ghost himself (Hamlet 1.5.150-188). In fact, Hamlet continues to use the language of religious oaths throughout the entire play, often declaring “’Swounds,” and “’Sblood” to swear by Christ’s wounds and blood (Hamlet 2.2.497, 295). Hamlet’s dedication to the murderous divine vow, then, mirrors the story of Jephthah, the chief biblical example of overambitious swearing. Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia, furthermore, also accords well with the Jephthah model. Hamlet shows extreme interest in Ophelia’s chastity, famously telling her, “Get thee to a nunnery...be thou as chaste as ice” (Hamlet 3.1.122, 136). While Jephthah does not directly invest in his daughter’s chastity, both he and Hamlet ensure that the daughter-figure ends her life as a virgin. In his admonishment, too, Hamlet assumes a near-paternal tone towards Ophelia, dictating her romantic options much like the way her father does in Act I (Hamlet 1.3.131-33). Like Jephthah, then, Hamlet resembles the dominant male actor who secures the virgin fate of the innocent female love-object. Most importantly, Hamlet’s actions, much like those of Jephthah, in some way precipitate the eventual death of the virgin “fair daughter” (Hamlet 2.2.334). Whether or not Hamlet may be held morally responsible, he remains the cause of Ophelia’s madness and death, either due to his harsh words or his murder of Polonius. Thus, both in his murderous vow and relation to Ophelia, Hamlet neatly matches the biblical Jephthah paradigm, while Polonius does not. Viewed in light of its early modern context, the implied comparison of Hamlet to Jephthah is revealed to be extremely condemnatory. Jephthah, although appearing random and insignificant in Hamlet, suddenly became a widely discussed figure among Christian humanists in early modern England. While the military chieftain is praised in the New Testament as “hero of faith,” he horrified Christian humanists both on religious and ethical grounds (The Geneva Bible Heb. 11:32). For these thinkers, Michelle Ephraim explains, Jephthah demonstrated “limited comprehension of divinity” and an “unyielding


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attachment to Old Testament legalism” and barbarism (79, 72). Existing before Christ freed man from the brutality of the Old Testament, Jephthah represented the impious harshness and ignorance often associated with Judaism in the early modern era. Additionally, Jephthah’s use of “‘barbaric’ practice as a form of justice” deeply offended Renaissance humanists (Ephraim 73). Mary Nyquist explains that Christian humanists were greatly disturbed by the “barbarous nature of Jephthah’s intransigence,” as they believed that the fulfillment of any oath “not in accordance with the rational, humanist principles... must be condemned” (339, 342). Indeed, in the early modern era, Jephthah became the chief example of misguided impiety and pre-Christ cruelty. Despite Jephthah’s alleged devotion to God, then, Christian humanism brought a fresh critique of the biblical figure. Given this fascination and disgust, much unfavorable material was written about Jephthah during Shakespeare’s time. The First Book of Homilies (1547), a collection of sermons articulating the doctrines of the Anglican Church, uses Jephthah as a cautionary example for improper vowing. “Homily 7”, called “Homily Against Swearing”, explains that Jephthah vowed “foolishly to God, against God’s everlasting will, and the law of nature” and “most cruelly” fulfilled it. Thus, the widely read sermon condemns Jephthah both for his religious ignorance and his violation of natural humanist principles, insisting instead that “unlawful oaths and promises are not [to] be kept” (“Homily 7”). The Geneva Bible (1560), too, contains a marginal note stating that Jephthah “was defaced” by his “rash vow and wicked performance of the same” (Jud. 11:30). Furthermore, in another work of theatre performed in 1554, George Buchanan’s Iephthes portrays Jephthah as “bloodthirsty” and “monstrous,” according to Nyquist (340). It is clear from his other works, moreover, that Shakespeare shared the negative sentiments towards Jephthah espoused by his Christian humanist contemporaries. In 3 Henry VI, Clarence decides to break an oath of allegiance, explaining that “To keep that oath were more impiety / Than Jephthah when he sacrific’d his daughter” (5.1.90-91). Similarly, in 2 Henry VI, Salisbury tells King Henry that it is a great “sin to keep a sinful oath,” asking,

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“Who can be bound by any solemn vow / To do a murderous deed” (5.1. 183-85). Referencing Jephthah several times in his plays, Shakespeare evidently adopts the fascination and disgust towards Jephthah popular among early modern Christian humanists. Shakespeare treated Jephthah, then, as a hyperbolically impious figure and considered it improper to fulfill a sinful, Jephthian oath. In light of the pertinent early modern critique of Jephthah, the suggested comparison between Hamlet and Jephthah offers a salient condemnation of Hamlet and his initial vow. Hamlet not only resembles Jephthah but also exhibits the specific Jephthian Old Testament tropes that were universally condemned by Christian humanists. After his father’s ghost disappears, Hamlet resolves to erase “all saws of books” from his memory and announces: “thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain” (Hamlet 1.5.100, 102-3). The “commandment” and its existence in a “book” recalls the language of the Old Testament, which was seen by many Christians as being obsessed with the physicality and rigidity of archaic written commandments. Hamlet’s murderous oath, then, shows a tendency for pre-Christ barbarism and literalism, and his devotion to it matches Jephthah’s cruel adherence to “Old Testament legalism” (Ephraim 72). Indeed, it is precisely the kind of “sinful oath” that Shakespeare’s Salisbury would demand violating (2 Henry VI 5.1.183). Thus, Hamlet not only fits the Jephthah paradigm but also embodies the aspects of Jephthah to which Christian humanists vehemently objected. Shakespeare’s reference to Jephthah, then, positions Hamlet’s initial oath as an improper, impious divine vow which should not be fulfilled. The implications of this angle, perhaps, necessitate a harsher judgment of Hamlet’s character and actions. Understood through the Christian humanist critique, Hamlet’s initial vow to his father can be seen as tragically responsible for all of the later deaths in the play. Whether Hamlet’s madness is a strategic ploy or develops naturally from the torturous knowledge of his charged duty, it comes as a direct consequence of his oath. This madness then causes him to kill Polonius and, as shown above, leads to Ophelia’s death. It


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also puts him out of favor with the king, precipitating a chain of events which leads to the deaths of Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and Hamlet himself. Placing Hamlet in the role of Jephthah, Shakespeare suggests that the hero’s impious oath is to blame for these deaths. Hamlet himself, and not accident or circumstance, is guilty. A temporal comparison to the Jephthah story, furthermore, confirms Hamlet’s culpability for the play’s tragic events. Using mentions of elapsing time in Act I and Act III, critic Cameron Hunt calculates that the timespan between Hamlet’s vow and “Ophelia’s descent into madness and eventual death...is two months” (15). This is the exact amount of time between when Jephthah recognizes his unfortunate vow and when he sacrifices his daughter. This temporal equivalency, then, implicates Hamlet’s vow as directly responsible for the death of Ophelia two months later, just as Jephthah’s vow was responsible for the death of his “fair daughter” two months later (Hamlet 2.2.334). Ironically, by trying to correct a time that “is out of joint” and rectify his father’s murder, Hamlet only causes further death (Hamlet 1.5.190). Recognizing Hamlet’s initial oath as impious and backwards, one sees that his project is tragically doomed from the very beginning. Thus, the characterization of Hamlet’s oath as a Jephthian vow heightens the tragedy of the play and implicates Hamlet as directly responsible for the subsequent deaths. The implicit comparison between Hamlet and the villain of Christian humanism, then, compels a careful reader of Hamlet to place greater blame on the play’s protagonist. In fact, after establishing this comparison, Shakespeare actually portrays Hamlet as worse than Jephthah. While Jephthah comes to regret his vow and explain how his own actions have “brought [him] low,” Hamlet takes no such responsibility (The Geneva Bible Jud. 11:35). Instead of seeing his own resemblance to Jephthah, Hamlet gives the name “old Jephthah” to Polonius (Hamlet 2.2.337). Hamlet casts off the incriminating characterization and thrusts it onto an undeserving party, perhaps even insinuating that Polonius is to blame for Ophelia’s death. Thus, unlike Jephthah, Hamlet does not assume responsibility in the aftermath of his disastrous vow. Hamlet, moreover, glaringly lacks Jephthah’s one redeeming Christian value. Although

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he applies it barbarically, Jephthah still embodies a kind of “religious constancy” and “reverence” that earn him the title “hero of faith” in the New Testament (Ephraim 73; The Geneva Bible Heb. 11:32). Hamlet, however, famously delays carrying out his avowed revenge. He commits to the same impious vow as Jephthah but shows a lack of faith in his accepted mission, appearing as “a coward” who “like a whore [unpacks his] heart with words” instead of taking action (Hamlet 2.2.492, 506). Once recognized, the Jephthah paradigm reveals an implicit critique of Shakespeare’s impious hero and the tragic consequences of his sinful vow.


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Works Cited “A Fruitfull Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture.” Certaine Sermons or Homilies Appointed to the Read In the Time of Queen Elizabeth, (1547-1571), edited by Mary Ellen Rickey and Thomas B. Stroup, Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, Gainesville, FL, 1968. Ephraim, Michelle. “Jephthah’s Kin: The Sacrificing Father in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2005, pp. 71-93. Hunt, Cameron. “Jephthah’s Daughter’s Daughter: Ophelia.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews, vol. 22, no. 4, 2009, pp. 13-16. Nyquist, Mary. “The Plight of Buchanan’s Jephtha: Sacrifice, Sovereignty, and Paternal Power.” Comparative Literature, vol. 60, no. 4, 2008, pp. 331-54. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, edited by Robert S. Miola, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2011. ---. Henry VI Part 3, edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon & Schuster Publishing, 2009. ---. The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth, edited by Tucker Brooke, Yale University P, New Haven, 1923. The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition, edited by Lloyd E. Berry, U of Wisconsin P, Madison, 1969.

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“Rank is Rank”: Social Mobility and the Landed Class in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion Dulcie Everitt

Connecticut College

INTRODUCTION Jane Austen’s six published works are most commonly understood as proto-feminist novels that flout expectations of womanhood within the constricted formula of the marriage plot. They certainly fit this classification, however, Austen’s works extend well beyond criticisms of the patriarchy alone; they are criticisms of entitlement within the greater hierarchical social structure of English (British) society. Throughout the eighteenth century—and indeed long after—the aristocracy and landed class held the most power in British society. This power was consecrated by a series of laws that forbade any citizen born into a lower-class from usurping it. These laws can be traced back centuries to as early as 900 and developed over time to create “legally constituted classes” in which “there were different sorts or estates of men, and the distinction between them was that they held land by a variety of tenures” (Crouch 174). Hence came the phrase “the landed class”— the rung on the social ladder that most of the characters in Austen’s novels sit upon. One of the most notable of these laws was the law of primogeniture established in the thirteenth century. Primogeniture was a feudal system in which land was entailed (passed on) to the eldest son or the closest male relative in the bloodline (Mingay 20). Within this statute were many assumptions: first, that one is entitled to land based on the luck of being born into a landed family, and second, that men are more deserving of this land than women. In


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a historically feudal, patriarchal society, neither assumption is surprising. However, whether it is surprising or not, entail laws put the majority of the population—especially the female population—in grave and genuine danger. Although women could and often did own their own land and estates, primogeniture endangered women who did not have the privilege to own property. Austen features this group of women fervently in her novels. Even in her penultimate novel, Emma, in which the heroine Emma Woodhouse will receive her father’s property when he dies, the focus is not so much on Emma herself, but on the women around her who do not have that luxury. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, in the wake of the industrial revolution, the Enlightenment, and the publication of Adam Smith’s seminal books The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 and Wealth of Nations in 1776, the concreteness of class started to show the first signs of disintegration. The industrial revolution meant that other sources of wealth besides land became available to people, and for the first time there was potential for social mobility (Hughes, “The Middle Classes”). Similarly, the Enlightenment challenged (educated) people to become more tolerant and open to the ideas of others (Broadie 9), and instead of asking, “How can I be good?” people began to ask, “How can I be happy?” (Mokry qtd. in Bohanon and Vachris 33). In other words, the Enlightenment marked the rise of individualism and self-determination. As for Adam Smith, his books also constitute a distinct push for heightened morality, individualism, and suggest that self-interest leads to social order (Bohanon and Vachris 9). Such major shifts in thinking put pressure on legal systems like primogeniture because people began to not only recognize a greater desire to move up the social ladder, but they also started to acknowledge that there might be new ways to do so. Though Austen’s commentaries on class surely reflected a changing tide, as usual, Austen was somewhat ahead of her times. Twenty-three years after Austen’s death in 1840, graphic artist George Cruikshank produced a caricature called ‘The British Beehive,’ (see Appendix fig. 1) which divided the layers of English society along the lines of class and occupation, celebrating class division and suggesting that it is natural

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and unchanging (Hughes, “The Middle Classes”). Cruikshank’s image suggests that despite the changes discussed above, social classes were still distinctly divided and remained sacrosanct to many. However, in 1859, Samuel Smiles published his book titled: Self Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct, which was aimed at “ordinary people” and “combines Victorian morality with sound free-market ideas into moral tales showing the benefits of thrift, hard work, education, perseverance, and a sound moral character” (Online Library of Liberty). Smiles’ book contained more of the “self-help” advice that we would be used to seeing today in our modern capitalist society, demonstrating that the reign of the landed class was truly beginning to dwindle. Still, Austen was more than forty-two years ahead. Jane Austen’s personal life was in many ways defined by her position as a woman of the “pseudo-gentry” —a term applied to those who “do not themselves possess the power and wealth invested in the ownership of land, but depend upon earned incomes” (Copeland 132). Since Austen never married and was one of eight children, six of whom were men, she never had any rights to her father’s estate, and therefore, never had a permanent home. Luckily, Austen had generous brothers who enabled her to live in relative comfort throughout her life. Despite the generosity, Austen was consistently displaced between residencies and never had anywhere to truly settle and call home. This was not uncommon for an unmarried woman of relative means at the time. Her semi-permanent residences were between her father George Austen’s estate in Steventon (1775-1801), his later home in Bath (1801-1806), and her brother Francis (Frank) Austen’s house in Southampton (1806-1809), before she finally settled at a small cottage down the road from her brother Edward Knight’s Chawton estate from 1809 until her death in 1817. It is notable that Austen’s entire literary career took place while she was at Chawton. Despite having drafted her first three novels before this time, it was there that she refined and perfected them. Her last three novels—Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion—were all written in their entireties at Chawton and are the three that pay the most overt attention to class division of all her works. Undoubtedly, Austen’s own experiences informed many of the references to class


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that we see throughout her works, but her critiques of social order extend far beyond them. In this paper I will focus in particular on three of Austen’s works: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. I will proceed through them in chronological order as listed. Pride and Prejudice will offer Austen’s earlier critique/fantasy of class relations and social mobility while Emma and Persuasion will offer insight into her later, and it is often suggested more “mature” works. In these novels, Austen challenges the established laws of social class not only through the marriage plot and the heroine’s journey to marriage, but also through the lives and experiences of minor characters. In this way, Austen draws our attention to the often devastating experiences of those who exist outside of the landed class and thereby encourages us to reject the landed class in favor of a system that allows for greater social mobility—a life dedicated to happiness over wealth. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE The proverbial opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is among the best known in English literature: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1). With this line, Austen introduces her reader into the marriage-centric universe of the novel, depicting marriage as a male-driven, wealth-driven desire. However, the assumption of a man’s motivation to marry in his own right is briskly undercut by the second sentence of the novel, a similarly assured statement that “However little known the feelings or view of such a man may be…this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters” (1). The language of this line redirects the motivating force in marriage from men to families, and more specifically, to their eligible daughters. In eighteenth-century England, women had little to no way of securing a house of their own other than through marriage, so it was indeed of vital importance for a family to ensure that their daughter(s) married a wealthy man with property of his own. As Judith Newton writes, “Men, as the first two sentences suggest, do not need to marry. They may

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‘want’ or desire wives as it turns out, but they do not need to want them as women must want husbands” (30). However, even though marriage was undoubtedly vital for young women, it was not necessarily the husband they needed—he was simply a means to securing property that would allow them shelter and security in later life. Indeed, the use of the word “property” in the context of the second line can refer either to the man himself as an object, or his land, implying that it was more sought after than its inhabitant. Pride and Prejudice is one of three of Austen’s novels that revolves around daughters whose fathers’ estates are entailed to a male relative outside their immediate family. If the daughters do not marry suitably, the face losing their home. The novel revolves around the dilemma incurred by these actions. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have “five grown up daughters” (Austen, P&P, 2), a large number implying that they, without luck, consistently tried to have a son. The danger for the Bennet women is severe: if they do not marry, they will not have a home, and in a family full of daughters, there is no brother for support. In this way, the marriage plot in the novel is set up to focus not on the state itself, but on the security that it brings the Bennet sisters. In a most irresistible manner, the action of the novel begins with the hope ignited by the arrival of a Mr. Bingley, “‘A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year’” (1). Mrs. Bennet exclaims “‘What a fine thing for our girls!’” staking her claim on Mr. Bingley as the property of one of her daughters as the opening lines foretold (1). Mr. Bingley’s desirability lies in his wealth and the property he owns at Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet’s assertion that: “‘If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield…and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for’” (5) mentions nothing about Mr. Bingley or happy unions at all. She only mentions the estate, suggesting that the man who happens to lives there is entirely irrelevant. However, while Mr. Bingley’s attractiveness is a product of his great wealth, he does not own Netherfield nor is he a member of the landed gentry class—the upper echelon of society. As the narrator describes Mr. Bingley’s sisters, it is noted that “They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more


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deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade” (10). The reference to trade marks the Bingley family as members of the wealthy middle class—the new social class that rose along with the industrial revolution. However, their minds “impressed” with their respectability rather than the source of their wealth, the Bingleys do not show any significant difference in rank. The ease with which Mr. Bingley and his sisters blend into the company of the truly landed class is remarkable. Austen makes it look extraordinarily unimportant that Netherfield does not belong to Bingley nor that his money is not “old,” and this is the first sign we find in her writing that the class dynamics in England are beginning to shift from the bottom up and that landed wealth is becoming less important. The Longbourn estate is entailed to Mr. Bennet’s cousin, Mr. Collins, who Austen encourages us to vehemently dislike over the course of the novel. When Mr. Bennet receives a letter from Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet flies into despair: “‘I cannot bear to hear that mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own children; and I am sure if I had been you, I should have tried long ago to do something or other about it’” (46). On one hand, Mrs. Bennet’s despairing tone appears to be a fit of sensibility that clouds her better judgement. Of course, Mr. Bennet has no power to alter the direction of the entail, and Jane and Elizabeth unsuccessfully try to impress this upon their mother, but she is declared “beyond the reach of reason” (46). However, upon reflection, Mrs. Bennet’s hysteria and unreasonableness is an entirely reasonable reaction. Nothing about entail laws makes sense for families who only have daughters, so how could she happily concede that this is the natural order of things? While Austen depicts Mrs. Bennet as hysterical and naïve, she also makes it clear that her character most understands the cruelty of a class-divided society toward women, encouraging the reader to sympathize with her rather than write her off as irrational and irritating. Mrs. Bennet’s reaction seems all the more reasonable as we learn more about Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins’ situation in life is the combined result of pandering

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to others and the sheer luck of being a man. From the outset of his introduction in the novel, he is shown to be extremely preoccupied with rank and social status. Elizabeth notices that Mr. Collins’ letter addressed to Mr. Bennet contains an “extraordinary deference for Lady Catherine,” whose patronage he is under, and she reads “something very pompous in his stile” (48). Lady Catherine lends Mr. Collins an air of authority and self-importance that he does not have on his own, and he emphasizes this relationship as the most powerful and attractive component of his character. Through his excessive reverence to Lady Catherine, Austen reveals that Mr. Collins has little to offer in his own right, which is a central component of her critique of entail law as it relates to class and wealth. The narrator states that Mr. Collins’ “deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms” (52). His intelligence is undermined here, and this description reinforces the absurdity of entailing an estate to such a man based solely on his gender while thinking nothing of his merit. Furthermore, when Elizabeth asks her father if Mr. Collins could be expected to be a “sensible man,” Mr. Bennet replies in his usual sardonic tone: “‘No, my dear; I think not. I have great hopes of finding him quite the reverse’” (48). To find amusement in the fact that the man to whom your estate will be left after you die in favor of your own daughters is the reverse of sensible is offensive, ignorant, and betrays an air of unaffected male privilege. We are encouraged to find Mr. Bennet’s reaction cruel, and to feel that these ideas—of entail and the importance of keeping wealth within a family regardless of who the family member is—are outdated. We also find a similarly ridiculous passing on of property at Lady Catherine’s estate. Lady Catherine’s daughter is “the heiress of Rosings” (50), and her future is secure in the sense that she will always have a home of her own. Mr. Collins tells the Bennets that Anne De Bourgh: “‘is a most charming young lady indeed…there is that in her features which marks the young woman of distinguished birth…She is unfortunately


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of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her from making that progress in many accomplishments, which she could not otherwise have failed of…but she is perfectly amiable’” (5051). Here, Mr. Collins suggests that one can have “features” of good breeding in their appearance, which is ridiculous in itself, but his following statement that she is perpetually unwell and unaccomplished hilariously undermines any notion that Anne De Bourgh has “superior” qualities as opposed to the Bennet sisters. Both Mr. Collins and Miss De Bourgh are to be given the estates of Longbourn and Rosings through no merit of their own. Mr. Bennet has no choice but to leave the property to Mr. Collins in contrast to Lady Catherine who is luckily able to secure her daughter’s happiness by leaving her Rosings. While we may initially feel differently about the two situations—the former being unfair and undeserved and the latter being sensible and natural—Austen shows us that that in both cases property is passed along lines in accordance with wealth (or patriarchy) above merit, and our sympathies lie firmly with the Bennet sisters who, though deserving, have no such opportunities to secure their futures. In this way, we are positioned as readers to feel that individualism—the kind Mr. Bingley’s father pursued through trade—is the most admirable way of acquiring property in this world. Mr. Collins also emphasizes his connection to Lady Catherine in his proposal to Elizabeth. Mr. Collins’ design in coming to Longbourn—he believes nobly—is to find among the Bennet daughters a wife, assuring that the estate remains within the hands of the family. He settles first on Jane, then on Elizabeth as the object of his desire, and lists his reasons for marriage in a sickeningly logical style: “‘first…I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly—which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness’” (81). Mr. Collins’ emphasis on his “easy circumstances” brings us back to the very first line of the novel: “a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (1). However, it is Lady Catherine that he


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makes central to the “power” of his offer because he views his relationship to a woman of her social rank as its most desirable element. However, Elizabeth has no interest in Lady Catherine’s rank nor being associated with it—her happiness relies on far more. In reality, a match between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins would be desirable in terms of providing Elizabeth and her sisters with a permanent home. However, Elizabeth’s choices are markedly individualistic, reflecting both the enlightened individual’s quest for happiness over wealth and also another clue that wealth and rank hold less sway than they used to. Not only does Elizabeth reject Mr. Collins despite his connection to Lady Catherine, in an interaction with Lady Catherine herself, Elizabeth stands her ground and undermines the inherited authority Lady Catherine is afforded by society. Suspecting Mr. Darcy’s attachment to Elizabeth toward the end of the novel, Lady Catherine directly approaches Elizabeth to caution her of the implications of this match. She opens the conversation with the condescending statement: “‘You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come’” (269). The mention of Elizabeth’s “conscience” instantly suggests that she should feel guilt for her relationship with Darcy. Furthermore, she expresses her disbelief that this match could be possible in the first place: “That you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood; though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.” (270)

Lady Catherine’s repetitions of “that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet” and “my nephew, my own nephew” and “though I know…though I would not” emphasize her outrage, her disbelief, and her deeply held conviction that social mobility is inappropriate and “scandalous.” However, the reader is encouraged to feel differently. Elizabeth responds by “colouring with astonishment and disdain” (270)—she is humiliated by Lady


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Catherine in a way that invites our sympathy and our solidarity. Lady Catherine’s reproaches are cruel, rude, and above all else mistaken, as Mr. Darcy does in fact love Elizabeth, initially more than she loves him. This episode induces bathos (effect of an anticlimax) in the reader by entirely undermining both the authority and respectability of the landed upper-class. Elizabeth, who stubbornly refuses to be controlled by the appeal of wealth and rank, is ironically rewarded for her defiance with a loving marriage to Mr. Darcy, the wealthiest of Austen’s bachelors. As Rachel Brownstein puts it, “Conventional himself, he admires her for defying convention” (Brownstein 51) and with each act of rebellion he is more attracted to Elizabeth. Despite accosting Elizabeth’s beauty at the first ball, Mr. Darcy admits to Miss Bingley that he believes Elizabeth to have “fine eyes” (Austen, P&P, 19). When Elizabeth arrives at Netherfield with “weary ancles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise” (24), Miss Bingley expects him to rescind this compliment: “‘I am afraid…that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes,” to which he responds: “Not at all…they were brightened by the exercise’” (26). Not only does Mr. Darcy still admire Elizabeth despite her unladylike walking endeavors, the word “brightened” suggests that it has only raised her in his esteem. Furthermore, after a fast-paced exchange in which both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy convey to the other their primary character flaw—Darcy’s being “a propensity to hate every body” (43) and Elizabeth’s being “willfully to misunderstand them” (43)— Mr. Darcy “began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention” (44). In this passage it is clear that Elizabeth’s “boundless temper of tongue” and her refusal to pander to him affect Mr. Darcy in a profound way. His continuous attraction to Elizabeth’s indifference encourages the reader to feel that reverence to the wealthy—the attention Miss Bingley pays Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins pays Lady Catherine—is no longer a desirable quality to have, especially for women. We can further infer from the allusion to “danger” that Mr. Darcy fears that more interaction with Elizabeth will continue to grow his opinion of her into love. The danger for Mr. Darcy if he falls in love with Elizabeth is that association


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with her family would greatly lower his class status. Indeed, in his first proposal to Elizabeth, Darcy highlights their difference in class and rank. Omitting his exact words, the narration of his proposal continues: “He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand” (145). Mr. Darcy’s “endeavours” against loving Elizabeth do not go unnoticed, and Elizabeth takes immediate offence, demanding to know “why, with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?” (146). Elizabeth unapologetically stands up against the classist sentiment contained within Mr. Darcy’s offer of marriage, holding that her social position is equally as respectable as his. Furthermore, while Mr. Darcy’s wealth induces in him a self-assurance by which “he had no doubt of a favourable answer” (145), Elizabeth’s vehement rejection of him deems such doubt necessary. Elizabeth, ignoring Mr. Darcy’s wealth entirely, speaks only of his character, citing his “arrogance,” “conceit,” and “selfish disdain of the feelings of others” (148) as the grounds for rejection. Elizabeth undermines the value of Mr. Darcy’s wealth as it relates to her happiness, and thus entirely discredits the desirability of a “single man in possession of a good fortune.” However, as Claudia Johnson states, Pride and Prejudice is shamelessly “wish-fulfilling” (Johnson, “Pride and Prejudice,” 73), and throughout the second volume of the novel Elizabeth’s attitude toward Darcy transforms from one of revulsion to one of admiration and love. Elizabeth makes an impromptu trip with the Gardiners to Pemberley, Darcy’s enormous estate in Derbyshire, and their approach describes a gradual ascension that parallels the ascension in rank that Mr. Darcy’s property represents: They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large,


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handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; — and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance (Austen, P&P, 185).

The “considerable eminence” and “natural importance” of Pemberley mirrors Mr. Darcy’s inherited importance as a wealthy man of the landed class, while the ascension up the hill and the “rising ground” foreshadows the social mobility that Elizabeth will achieve when she marries Darcy at the end of the novel. Elizabeth is not repulsed by Pemberley in the way she has been repulsed by a reverence toward rank throughout the novel thus far. In fact, she is “delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste… and at that moment she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” (185). Elizabeth’s reaction seems to reaffirm the “natural” beauty possessed by the landed class, rather than challenge it as we might expect. Furthermore, her revelation that to marry Mr. Darcy and own Pemberley “might be something!” suggests a shift in her attitude toward power, wealth, and rank. Elizabeth’s delight with Pemberley extends into a deeper feeling of admiration and love for its owner. Jane asks Elizabeth about her relationship with Darcy: “‘Will you tell me how long you have loved him?’” and she replies: “‘It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe it must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley’” (286). Here, Elizabeth refers to her love for Darcy in terms of his property, not his person, and though we can certainly find moments where Elizabeth explains how her opinion of his character has become so favorable, this moment, shared with her closest sister in private, frames her love as based on a landed estate, security, and rank. In this way, as Johnson notes, “of all of Austen’s novels [Pride and Prejudice] most affirms established social arrangements without damaging their prestige or fundamentally challenging their wisdom or equity” (Johnson, “Pride and Prejudice,” 74). Indeed, at the close of the novel, Elizabeth’s upward social mobility is described as having a positive effect on her family.

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Kitty, who has spent the majority of the novel chasing military men with Lydia, closes the novel with new hope: “to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great…she became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid” (Austen, P&P, 195). Kitty’s improvement as a result of her interaction with the Bingleys and the Darcys—two men of wealth and rank—gives her a newfound hope for the future that again reinforces the commonly held idea that the company of the upper classes is both favorable and desirable, and that their power and authority are both deserved and sacrosanct. However, even if Pride and Prejudice does reinforce the desire to belong to the landed class that her later novels seek to deconstruct, this novel still challenges a traditional view of class structure and long-standing notions about how one is able to move through it. Elizabeth’s social mobility is achieved not by adhering to decorum, but by rebelling against it. Austen’s preservation of the social order itself makes Elizabeth’s rebellion subtler, but it cannot detract from the disruptions of the “normal” social order that occur throughout Pride and Prejudice. EMMA Emma is the only one of Austen’s novels in which the heroine’s future is entirely secure from the moment the novel begins. A member of the landed class, Emma Woodhouse is the wealthiest of Austen’s heroines and does not have the same concerns as those of the Bennet sisters. Emma is described as “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition” and she “had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her” (Austen, Emma, 5). From this introduction alone, it is clear that Emma is not Austen’s typical heroine, and that her rank affords her great privilege in this world. Indeed, Emma’s wealth means that she does not need to marry to gain security in contrast with other Austen heroines. Emma demonstrates the advantage of her position in her statement: “‘I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be


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a different thing! but I have never been in love…And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want’” (68). Here, Emma acknowledges that the “usual inducements of women to marry” revolve around material wealth and security, and the repetition of “I do not want” reaffirms the fact that she has everything she needs to be safe and prosper in this world. Like Elizabeth Bennet, Emma has an air of independence and individualism that rejects marriage as a necessary and desirable end goal. However, unlike Elizabeth, Emma has the means that allow her to have such views without putting her future security in jeopardy. Throughout Emma, Emma’s class privilege influences her interactions with other minor characters, and it is in these interactions that Austen’s critique of class and social mobility lies. Since the plot is not driven by Emma’s need nor desire to marry, the focus of the novel shifts to minor characters whose situations are more precarious, many of whom are of extremely low social status. The power that results from Emma’s wealth is juxtaposed throughout the novel with the impoverished characters she interacts with. As Jan Fergus notes, “The later novel that most thoroughly considers the plight of marginal women is in fact the most comic one, Emma. There, because her heroine is so secure, nearly as secure as a landed man, Austen is free to explore issues of women’s power and marginality more profoundly than she had in earlier novels” (265). For the first time in Austen’s novels, impoverished, minor characters have names—including laborers such as James the carriage driver. To give characters of the lower-class names is to give them newfound respect and recognition—it invites the reader to imagine them as actual human beings with their own lives, rather than as the property of the upper classes. Women of “low birth” are particularly important in this novel “because Austen asks the reader to judge Emma by her attitude toward poor women” (Tobin 418). In this way, Emma is the first of Austen’s novels to explore class relationships between individuals of significantly different ranks. The first “impoverished gentlewoman” that we encounter in this novel is Harriet Smith. Harriet Smith “was the nat-

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ural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and somebody had lately raised her from the condition of scholar to that of parlour-border” (Austen, E, 19). Harriet’s status as a “natural daughter,” i.e. a daughter begotten out of wedlock, automatically marks her as of “inferior” birth. Furthermore, the repetition of “somebody” serves to reinforce Harriet’s lack of title and consequence, while making it appear as though her lot in life has been determined by acts of generosity made by strangers. Harriet’s powerlessness is a source of attraction for Emma because it highlights her own superiority of rank. The narrator states: She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith’s conversation, but she found her altogether very engaging—not inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk—and yet so far from pushing, shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had been used to, that she must have good sense and deserve encouragement. (19)

Both Emma noticing that Harriet is “not inconveniently shy” and her admiration of Harriet’s “deference” toward her implies that Emma revels in the class-based power dynamic that affords her superiority and gives her a sense of gratification for being in a position to “encourage” Harriet in the proper direction—to follow in Emma’s footsteps. Tobin similarly remarks that “Emma adopts Harriet as if she were a pet, and Harriet’s grateful and unconsciously fawning manner encourages Emma’s sense of her own superiority” (419). However, in Austen’s lifetime, there was a push for women of high status to take on such roles. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Society for Bettering the Conditions of Clapham, Surrey, was created with the aim of ensuring that the poor in urban areas were able to receive the assistance of their wealthy neighbors. They published a book in 1800 enshrining their “Rules and Regulations,” which emphasized that “opulent families” had a duty to establish “the real improvement and permanent happiness of the poor around them,” and “to employ leisure, wealth, talents, knowledge, information, consultation, to the good of


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their poorer neighbours” (Society for Bettering the Conditions of the Poor 8). It also directs itself toward wealthy women in particular, who ought to seek “The moral improvement of the poor, —their more complete relief in distress,—and their permanent benefit by the encouragement of habits of industry” (8). As a wealthy woman, Emma therefore would have been expected at this time to have shown a certain benevolence and philanthropy toward the poor and to help them to improve along moral grounds. However, as Danielle Spratt observes, “Emma exhibits nearly pathological levels of incompetence for philanthropic acts, either by indulging in various leisure activities (often at the physical or emotional expense of those whom they ought to serve), or by botching any halfhearted attempts at charity” (193). Most of Emma’s “philanthropy” toward Harriet revolves around schemes or preventions of marriage. Emma becomes prematurely invested in a developing relationship between Mr. Elton and Harriet; so much so that she must act speedily to prevent a marriage occurring in an opposing direction. In the midst of her enthusiasm for the match, Mr. Elton leaves on a trip to London, which “produced a fresh occasion for Emma’s services toward her friend” (Austen, E, 40), with Harriet having just received an offer of marriage from a Mr. Martin, an industrious farmer with whom Harriet is acquainted and Emma has seen once. The word “services” here undercuts the bond of friendship between Emma and Harriet and reduces it to a relationship of power and one-directional exchange—an exchange Emma believes is of benefit to Harriet. Noticing Harriet’s excitement at the proposal, Emma feels “ashamed,” and she is quick to assert that Mr. Martin has an ulterior motive with her suggestion that “‘He will connect himself well if he can’” (40). Of course, Harriet is of no birth, wealth, or rank, and so has no valuable “connection” to offer Mr. Martin other than companionship—in fact he has more to offer her—but Emma is blind to these facts. Initially claiming: “‘I will have nothing to do with it’” (42), Emma proceeds to congratulate Harriet when she tentatively concludes that she will refuse: “‘Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just what you ought’” (43). The word “ought” is loaded with notions of duty, respon-

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sibility, and decorum, and Emma employs it here to acknowledge Harriet’s compliance with Emma’s wishes, and with her notion of Mr. Martin’s inferiority that is in reality completely baseless. As she continues to plan matches for Harriet that do not come to fruition, throughout the second half of the novel Emma becomes engaged in a process of self-awareness that allows her to realize that her philanthropic endeavors toward Harriet Smith have been poorly handled. Upon hearing of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax’s engagement, Emma is deeply upset: “Mr. Knightley had spoken prophetically, when he once said, ‘Emma, you have been no friend to Harriet Smith.’—She was afraid she had done her nothing but disservice” (316). She laments that her match-making and the use of her influence on Harriet has only caused her pain and heartache. However, these moments of clarity only affect Emma when the situation does not threaten to alter the power dynamic that she so treasures between herself and Harriet. Upon discovering that Harriet’s love is for Mr. Knightley rather than Frank Churchill, Emma’s sympathy is limited at best. Mr. Knightley differs from Frank Churchill in rank and in proximity to Emma, and Harriet’s self-motivated desire to join this rank in turn quickly motivates Emma to become “acquainted with her own heart” (320). She quickly and seamlessly realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley too. She regards Harriet’s interest in him as “a burst of threatening evil” (321), and despite being quite ready for Harriet to marry above her station with Mr. Elton, Emma concludes that if Harriet married Mr. Knightley it would be “the most unequal of all connexions” (324-325). Until this point, Emma felt that her attempts to move Harriet up the social ladder through marriage were noble—she saw Harriet’s worth as an individual as opposed to seeing her as a product of natural, low birth. However, as soon as Harriet comes to believe herself worthy of a man such as Mr. Knightley, Emma panics. She fears that Harriet and Knightley’s marriage would raise Harriet above even herself, and consequently completely usurp the power relationship between the two women. Tobin reads Emma’s failed philanthropy as reflective of societal attitudes to authority: “At the risk of seeming to allegorize Emma, I believe


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that there is a parallel between Emma’s abuse of power…and what the English middle classes in the early nineteenth century felt was an ‘abdication on the part of governors,’ the failure of the aristocracy and gentry to fulfill their role as caretakers of society” (Tobin 424). While Austen is certainly demonstrating the failure of the powerful to protect the vulnerable, the crux of Austen’s commentary on upper-class philanthropy as a failed endeavor is the emphasis on the fact that Emma remains genuine only when she can remain comfortably in her higher station, but when there is the first inkling that the entitlement she feels to things like wealthy men is shared by others “below” her station, the façade of good-will shatters. Another instance in which Emma rejects the potential for social mobility in her society is found in her attitude toward the Coles. The Coles are a neighboring family who have made their money through trade, like Mr. Bingley’s father in Pride and Prejudice. As Handler and Segal note, “success in ‘trade’ has made the Coles increasingly wealthy, and they try to convert their newly won property into peer relations with Highbury’s genteel society” (698). Unlike Mr. Bingley, the source of the Coles’ wealth is harped on in the novel and provides Emma with a justification for her disdain for the family. Our introduction to the Coles is as follows: The Coles had been settled some years in Highbury, and were very good sort of people—friendly, liberal, and unpretending; but, on the other hand, they were of low origin, in trade, and only moderately genteel. On their first coming into the country, they had lived in proportion to their income, quietly, keeping little company, and that little unexpensively; but the last year or two had brought them a considerable increase of means—the house in town had yielded greater profits, and fortune in general had smiled on them. With their wealth, their views increased; their want of a larger house, their inclination for more company…The regular and best families Emma could hardly suppose they would presume to invite…nothing should tempt her to go, if they did… they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them. (Austen, E, 162-163)


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In this introduction, we find a fascinating juxtaposition between the narrative point of view and Emma’s point of view, which encourages us to feel uncomfortable about Emma’s attitude toward the Coles. The narrator describes them as “very good sort of people—friendly, liberal, and unpretending,” and yet Emma still looks down on them as their “superior.” Furthermore, in this passage alone we find a tracking of the passage of time that demonstrates the movement from the past— an ordered social structure that privileges the landed class—to the fluctuations of the present society, in which a family who has made their money through trade are able to associate with the upper class. In contrast to Pride and Prejudice where such integration was seamlessly achieved, in Emma this a more pointed observation, and indeed critique, that is a distinguishing factor between Austen’s first three novels and her last three novels. While the Coles represent the profession of trade and the upwards mobility of the middle class, Miss Taylor and Jane Fairfax represent the hostile profession of being a governess. Since the medieval era, governesses have been used in aristocratic circles, but the use of the governess in wealthy families became more popular in the eighteenth century. Employing a governess showed that you belonged to a higher social class as it meant that the members of the family had fewer responsibilities and so achieved the desirable state of “the idle rich.” However, the governess trade could be remarkably cruel to its subjects. Becoming a governess was a matter of urgent necessity rather than a desire for a profession, as it provided a home and a means of security for women who would otherwise have no such comforts in their futures. The social class of the ideal governess was also dubiously defined, as a governess had to be “well-bred” and well enough educated to be responsible for the education of upper-class children, but she also had to be low enough on the social ladder to need to make her own living. In Emma, we have one governess: Miss Taylor, and one potential governess: Jane Fairfax, who is saved from her fate by her marriage to Frank Churchill. In both cases, readers see the dangers of being a governess and also gain an insight into Austen’s own perspective on the governess trade.


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Miss Taylor—now Mrs. Weston—has been Emma’s governess throughout her upbringing. She was “less as a governess than a friend,” and between herself and Emma was shared “the intimacy of sisters” (5). Despite the fact that Miss Taylor has been a governess throughout the traditional marriage and child-bearing years, she manages to find a husband in Mr. Weston after her duties to the Woodhouses have been performed. Mr. Weston “was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age and pleasant manners” (6), and he is of a higher social class than Miss Taylor before they marry. Despite some satisfaction felt on Emma’s part because she had “always wished and promoted the match,” Miss Taylor’s marriage is described as a “black morning’s work for her” (6). The common understanding of Emma’s (and Mr. Woodhouse’s) grief over the “black morning” when Miss Taylor becomes Mrs. Weston is it due to Miss Taylor’s absence from their home. In this reading, Emma and Mr. Woodhouse treat their governess as a member of their own family in a way that would have been unusual at the time. However, one might also read this event as another example of social mobility that Emma so detests. If she “always wished and promoted the match” in the same way that she always wished and promoted Harriet Smith marrying Mr. Elton and Frank Churchill yet was repulsed by a potential match between Harriet and Mr. Knightley, then we might presume that the consummation of her wishes in this case was not received as fondly as she had expected. Yet, the fact that the narrative allows Mrs. Weston to get married, though her “marriageable” years have passed, and that she ends the novel pregnant even though she is considered past her childbearing years, suggests that the narrative sympathizes with her position, and subverts the notion that a woman can either be professional (of lower-class) or be married (and enter a higher class), but cannot be both. Similarly, the narrative saves Jane Fairfax from the fate of becoming a governess with her marriage to Frank Churchill. Jane’s situation is extremely precarious from the start. She is an orphan and her guardians become her grandmother and aunt, who made a “plan that she should be brought up for educating others” (128). However, throughout the novel, Jane


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is shown to be a talented, distinguished young woman. She is described as having “decided superiority both in beauty and acquirements. That nature had given it in feature could not be unseen by the young woman, nor could her higher powers of mind by unfelt by the parents” (129). Here, the narrative both marks Jane as “superior” despite her precarious family life and allows “nature” to endow her with her talents in the same way that it is often suggested “nature” grants superiority to the upper class. Jane’s position in society along with the emphasis placed on her merit marks her as “the traditional Austen heroine” (Thaden 55). Indeed, Jane’s situation in life makes the reader sympathize with her far more than we do Emma, and this is made even more marked by Emma’s treatment of Jane. Emma “unfeignedly and unequivocally regret[s] the inferiority of her own playing and singing” in comparison to Jane, and “She did most heartily grieve over the idleness of her childhood” (Austen, E, 181). Here, the notion of the “idle rich” is invoked with obvious amusement: while it might allow for a comfortable life, it cannot afford the upper class the superiority they guard with such fervor. Furthermore, Harriet absentmindedly exclaims: “‘Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!’” (181), paying homage both to Jane and her friend’s talent. However, Emma replies defensively, feeling threatened by their newfound equal footing:“‘Don’t class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her’s, than a lamp is like sunshine’” (182). The word “class” here clearly refers to social class, and the absurdity of Emma’s anger at the comparison despite her previous internal recognition of her own “inferiority” in comparison to Jane suggests that she is outwardly clinging on to a notion of superiority that internally, she acknowledges is unjustifiable. Despite her many talents, Jane is still directed toward a life as a governess. She makes direct reference to this potential life in a conversation with Mrs. Elton about the governess trade; a reference which indirectly compares being a governess to being a slave: “When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long unemployed. There are places in town,


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offices, where inquiry would soon produce something--Offices for the sale--not quote of human flesh--but of human intellect.” “Oh! My dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather a friend to the abolition. “I did not mean I was not thinking of the slave-trade,” replied Jane; “governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies.” (235)

In this dialogue, the narrative allows Mrs. Elton’s misunderstanding to point to something about the governess trade that Jane Fairfax didn’t intend, but that nonetheless reveals something extremely disturbing about the treatment of both victims. Jane’s assertion: “as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies” associates being a governess with the practice of free labor and the abuse of human rights that slavery represents. It also describes the treatment of governesses as sub-human and locates them at the bottom of the social hierarchy in a way that the novel both anticipates and rejects most vehemently. Jane’s escape from this seemingly inevitable future is both approved by the narrative and, unsurprisingly, disapproved by Emma. Unthinkingly and unfeelingly, Emma talks freely to Mrs. Weston about how disgraceful it is for Frank Churchill to marry Jane: “‘Impropriety! Oh! Mrs. Weston—it is too calm a censure. Much, much beyond impropriety! — It has sunk him, I cannot say how it has sunk him in my opinion. So unlike what a man should be…Jane actually on the point of becoming a governess! What could he mean by such horrible indelicacy?’” (312-313). The word “sunk” suggests a degradation of social status and rank that is hideous to Emma, while her inability to reconcile the idea that a governess may be an eligible bachelorette for a man of Frank Churchill’s status marks her once again as vehemently against social mobility in all of its forms. The fact that these words are directed toward Mrs. Weston also ironically displays a far more potent indelicacy, as her words cruelly degrade her interlocutor as well.


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Another instance in which Emma’s words become weapons directed toward her lower-class friends is during the episode on Box Hill. Fighting the “downright dullness” (289) of the day, Frank Churchill relays Emma’s wish (though she does not state it in so many words) that “‘she demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated—or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at all’” (291). Responding in a most endearingly self-deprecating manner, Miss Bates replies to this request by joking with them all. The scene that unravels is heart-breaking. Miss Bates begins: “Oh! very well…then I need not be uneasy. ‘Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I?—(looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)—Do you not think I shall?” Emma could not resist. “Ah! Ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me—but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.” Miss Bates, deceived by the mock ceremony of her manner, did not immediately catch her meaning; but, when it burst on her, it could not anger, though a slight blush showed that it could pain her. “Ah!—well—to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing to an old friend.” (291)

The scene evokes a painful sort of pathos in the reader. Austen sharply contrasts Miss Bates’ innocent comment which is directly followed by Emma’s cruel attack. This contrast further reflects poorly on Emma’s character. As Tobin observes, although Emma is constantly “pushing against the boundaries of socially accepted behavior…with her cruel jest she goes too far, trespassing normal social boundaries and threatening social order. By dropping the veil of chivalrous manners she reveals the true nature of social relations which are based on property and privilege, on wealth and rank” (421). Indeed, Emma abuses


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the power dynamic between herself and Miss Bates in terms of their difference in social class here—if this joke had been made among equals it would not have been half so cruel. Mr. Knightley recognizes this when he reprimands Emma for her comment: “were she [Miss Bates] prosperous, I could allow much for the occasional prevalence of the ridiculous over the good. Were she a woman of fortune, I would leave every harmless absurdity to take its chance, I would not quarrel with you for any liberties of manner. Were she your equal in station—but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case. She is poor; she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and, if she live to old age, must probably sink more. Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed!” (Austen, E, 295)

Here, Austen encourages the reader to agree with Mr. Knightley and to further disapprove of Emma’s conduct. His compassion for Miss Bates’ inevitable “sinking lower on the social ladder is genuine and admirable, while Emma’s privilege is shown to have made her horribly ignorant of these power dynamics. Tobin’s argument goes on to suggest that throughout Emma, “Austen clearly supports the old order and enlists her readers’ sympathies in support of the institutions and ideologies of the landed classes” (422-423). However, in this Box Hill scene alone it is most evident that the opposite is the case. Even though Emma is the heroine of the novel, Austen does not defend her behavior. Through Mr. Knightley’s observations and the direction of the narrative, she dismantles it to reveal the ignorance that results from Emma’s wealth and privilege over others in her society. In this way, Austen does not “enlist her readers’ sympathies” toward Emma, but toward characters such as Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax. We feel more than we have before in an Austen novel that the “superiority” of the upper classes is a charade and that we must recognize it as such. Austen does not encourage us to “support” the landed class in Emma—she encourages us to reject it. PERSUASION Persuasion is Austen’s final completed work and was

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not published until after her death in 1817. As Claudia Johnson suggests, “Persuasion is above all else the last novel, the apparent conclusion that determines the shape of everything that has come before” (Johnson, “Persuasion,” 144). While Pride and Prejudice and Emma foreground Austen’s commentary on the changing social structure of late eighteenth, early nineteenth-century England, Persuasion is a culmination of this commentary and brings the landed class to its fatal dead end. The novel opens with an introduction to Sir Walter Elliot, a man who: For his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect…and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed—this was the page at which the favourite volume always opened: ‘ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL.’ (Austen, Persuasion, 9).

The Baronetage is a volume containing the names of titled individuals, making it a “who’s who” of eighteenth-century England. Sir Walter’s vanity is quickly revealed as he indulges in reading his own name over and over again. In addition, the fact that he “never took up any book but the Baronetage,” implies that he is so inwardly-focused that he has no comprehension of the world outside himself and his home. Furthermore, as we find in Emma, the word “idle” is used to describe an individual belonging to the landed class, invoking the notion of the “idle rich” with obvious disdain. Sir Walter has three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, and a still-born son, which in essence brings his family name to an end. The fact that his son was stillborn also metaphorically suggests that the patriarchal chain of passing on title and rank can literally no longer survive in this world. In both Sir Walter’s reading material and the family structure it is a satirical depiction of a dead-end patriarchal landed class, in which the Elliot name, estate, and title are assured only by a worn-out book and a slowly crumbling social structure. The Elliots’ situation is precarious despite their status


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as a landed family. Sir Walter has proven to be extremely irresponsible with his wealth and has driven himself into excessive debt and troubling circumstances: While Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had just kept him within his income; but with her had died all such right-mindedness, and from that period he had been constantly exceeding it. It had not been possible for him to spend less; he had done nothing but what Sir Walter Elliot was imperiously called on to do; but blameless as he was, he was not only growing dreadful in debt, but was hearing of it so often, that it became vain to attempt concealing it any longer. (14)

Ironically, Sir Walter’s wife had been the most responsible with money—a subversive plot point that lends both reason and economic proficiency to a woman. There is even greater irony, though, in the suggestion that Sir Walter is “blameless” for the debts that he has racked up; in both Sir Walter’s situation and his attitude toward it, Austen satirizes the notion that the landed class’ is untouchable and immune from the threat of poverty. In other words, by showing that Sir Walter is undoubtedly responsible for his own misfortune, Austen indicates to the reader that the beginning of a downward mobility in the landed class has been caused by their own hand. As Johnson notes, these “improvident landowners” are “proving themselves unworthy of their station” (Johnson, “Persuasion,” 145). Although he is acutely aware of his financial station, Sir Walter Elliot remains firmly in denial at the severity of his losses, and neither he nor his eldest daughter Elizabeth are “able to devise any means of lessening their expenses without compromising their dignity, or relinquishing their comforts” (Austen, P, 14). Given their unwillingness to “disgrace” the Elliot name the Elliots decide to let Kellynch-hall, allowing them to save money while still keeping the property in-tact—which is of utmost importance as Sir Walter holds that “The Kellynch estate should be transmitted whole and entire, as he had received it” (15). The obsession with continuing to pass property through generations is clearly absurd given the family situation and is an attempt to preserve a feudal system that over the course of the novel is slowly replaced by a new kind of order.


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Kellynch-hall is entailed to the presumptive heir and nephew of Sir Walter, Mr. Elliot. The relationship between Mr. Elliot and Sir Walter has been strained at best. Sir Walter had attempted to attach Elizabeth to Mr. Elliot in a marriage that would consolidate the family, an incestuous relationship that is yet another example of his dead-end ways. However, despite his frequent invitations for him to join them at Kellynch-hall, Sir Walter’s plans failed: “he did not come; and the next tidings were that he was married. Instead of pushing his fortune in the line marked out for the heir of the house of Elliot, he had purchased independence by uniting himself to a rich woman of inferior birth. Sir Walter had resented it” (13). Sir Walter’s resentment is both the result of a feeling of personal offense that Mr. Elliot had chosen someone outside of Sir Walter’s immediate family, and his decision to connect himself with a woman of “inferior birth,” who we can assume has either made or inherited her money by means of a profession, making her a member of the middle class. After this occurrence, “all acquaintance between them had ceased” (13), and yet, as we have seen, Sir Walter still holds steadfast that the estate must be “transmitted whole and entire” (15) to its recipient. Later in the novel, we also see that Mr. Elliot does not even want to be associated with the Elliots, let alone own Kellynch. In a letter to his friend Mr. Smith—husband of Anne’s friend Mrs. Smith—Mr. Elliot writes: Give me joy: I have got rid of Sir Walter and Miss. They are gone back to Kellynch, and almost made me swear to visit them this summer, but my first visit to Kellynch will be with a surveyor, to tell me how to bring it with best advantage to the hammer…I wish I had any name but Elliot. I am sick of it. The name of Walter I can drop, thank God! and I desire you will never insult me with my second W. again. (164)

In this correspondence, we see that Mr. Elliot wants neither Sir Walter’s title nor his estate. He wants the “advantage” of the property in terms of its retail value, but he cares nothing for its value as an inherited property. If the estate is to pass to Mr. Elliot, the feudal passage of property will, once again, come to a dead-end when he sells the estate, which demonstrates more


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visibly that Sir Walter’s values are outdated. Persuasion is often referred to as a “Naval Novel,” as Austen uses the Navy as “the model of a system of promotion by merit, to contrast with the old-world system of heredity that Sir Walter Elliot considers sacred” (McMaster 121). Indeed, as Sir Walter consults with Mr. Shephard on letting his estate, Mr. Shepherd indicates that British wealth is changing hands: “‘This peace will be turning all our rich Navy Officers ashore. They will all be wanting a home. Could not be a better time, Sir Walter, for having a choice of tenants, very responsible tenants. Many a noble fortune has been made during the war’” (Austen, P, 20). Mr. Shepherd’s choice of the words “responsible” and “noble” to describe the Navy marks a shift in social attitudes that Sir Walter has yet to notice for himself. Sir Walter scorns the profession, replying condescendingly: “‘He would be a very lucky man indeed, Shepherd…that’s all I have to remark. A prize indeed would Kellynch Hall be to him’” (20). Of course, those who make their money in the Navy are not “lucky”—Sir Walter has been the lucky one to have been given money regardless of his incompetency, whereas Naval Officers have earned their money through hard work and skill. Sir Walter goes on, allowing that “‘The profession has its utility, but I should be very sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it’” (22), and he states that “‘it is in two points offensive to me… First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man’s youth and vigour most horribly’” (22). Once again, Sir Walter expresses the misguided notion that the Navy allows men to achieve “undue distinction,” when it is, in fact, himself who should be charged with such an “offense.” Kellynch is let to Admiral Croft and his wife, a man “of a gentleman’s family” who “was in the Trafalgar action and has been in the East Indies since” (23, 24). While Sir Walter remains suspicious of the Admiral and his profession, the quiet heroine of the novel, Anne Elliot, is of the opposite opinion: She had in fact so high an opinion of the Crofts, and considered her father so very fortunate in his tenants, felt the


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parish to be so sure of a good example, and the poor of the best attention and relief, that however sorry and ashamed for the necessity of the removal, she could not but in conscience feel that they were gone who deserved not to stay, and that Kellynch-hall had passed into better hands than its owners. (102).

Anne is a forward-thinking young woman who clearly holds no high opinion of the landed class despite belonging to it herself. She suggests that her own family “deserved not to stay,” and grants Admiral Croft’s deservedness of the property with the line “Kellynch-hall had passed into better hands than its owners.” Anne shows a remarkable sense of who is worthy in this world, and who is not. Her comment demonstrates that even a member of the landed class can see that the values that hold it together are beginning to fray at the edges. David B. Monaghan argues that in comments such as these, Austen does not attempt to show that the landed class is falling apart, but that she unsuccessfully attempts to assert “that it could be revitalized by the introduction of fresh blood from the navy” (74). Monaghan’s argument asks us to believe that Austen wanted to preserve the landed class and the social order of eighteenth-century England and just readjust its composition slightly. However, as Austen scholarship has become more acquainted with Austen’s trademark irony and the subversive challenges that it poses, we must reject such a reading in favor of one where Austen is rather attempting to show that it is not being joined, but usurped, deservedly, by this “fresh blood from the navy.” While Elizabeth Bennet does not revere the landed class, she ultimately becomes a part of it and reaffirms the desirability of belonging to such high station. Anne, on the other hand, a member of the landed class itself, has no desire to belong to it at all. She recognizes the obsequiousness of her family’s attitude to rank and is disgusted by it. Upon arriving in Bath, Sir Walter and Elizabeth attempt to rekindle a lost family connection to the Dalrymples, with Sir Walter stating fervently that “‘Family connexions were always worth preserving, good company always worth seeking’” (Austen, P, 121). However, upon meeting the Dalrymples, it is clear that


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despite their blood-relation and their rank, they have nothing to offer: “Miss Carteret…was so plain and awkward, that she would never have been tolerated in Camden-place but for her birth” (122). While her family chooses to remain reverent to their connections, Anne sees past the façade that they project: “Anne was ashamed. Had Lady Dalrymple and her daughter even been very agreeable, she would still have been ashamed of the agitation they created, but they were nothing. There was no superiority of manner, accomplishment, or understanding” (121). As we saw with Lady Catherine, and just as Jane Fairfax is superior in talent to Emma Woodhouse, this is an instance of bathos that undermines the superiority of the landed class. The Dalrymples represent an inferior superior class, who are so comfortable in their entitlement and their expectations of reverence from others that they do nothing to earn it, and as a result of their arrogance, are on the verge of losing it. Expressing her discontent with the company of her relations to Mr. Elliot, Anne says: “My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” “You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education, and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company, on the contrary, it will do very well.” (122)

Whereas Mr. Elliot, like Sir Walter, values the feudal system of birth-rights and decorum, Anne does not think that either are “essential” at all. Anne’s belief that good company should be based on the intelligence and conversation of the individual in question is subversive, but pitted against Mr. Elliot and Sir Walter’s ridiculous prerequisites for good company, they appear extremely rational and far more desirable. One would certainly rather be in the company of Admiral Croft than Lady Dalrymple, even if she were a near relation. Mr. Elliot continues to advise Anne to adjust her perspective:

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“My dear cousin, (sitting down by her) you have a better right to be fastidious than almost any other woman I know; but will it answer? Will it make you happy? Will it not be wiser to accept the society of these good ladies in Laura-place, and enjoy all the advantages of the connexion as far as possible? You may depend upon it, that they will move in the first set in Bath this winter, and as rank is rank, your being known to be related to them will have its use in fixing your family (our family let me say) in that degree of consideration which we must all wish for.” (122)

Here lies the most remarkably concealed, cleverly integrated pun in an Austen novel. Mr. Elliot suggests that “as rank is rank,” Anne’s knowing the Dalrymples will afford her the “consideration”—the status—that “we must all wish for.” However, while Mr. Elliot means to assert that rank is power in the sense that it affords one automatic authority, he simultaneously suggests that rank is rank in the sense that it is rotten. When we incorporate this meaning, it is hilarious and deeply ironic that Mr. Elliot suggests Anne should pay the Dalrymples consideration because their appeal and their power have grown sour. Anne’s observant and compassionate nature enables her to continuously reject appeals such as this one by Mr. Elliot. This steadfast attitude that encourages readers to admire in Anne. Joseph Duffy corroborates such a reading when he suggests that “In particular the novel describes the efforts of a young woman to retain personal control when the established society shows signs of fundamental weakness, when blood and friendship are caught in the general decay, when love is repressed, when life fails and death menaces” (274). Demonstrating that her beliefs are consistent with her actions, Anne frequently chooses to visit her impoverished friend Mrs. Smith instead of visiting her wealthy, landed relatives throughout the novel. Unlike Emma in her relationships with impoverished gentlewomen, Anne is completely genuine in her friendship to Mrs. Smith, who represents the roadkill of the patriarchy. Mrs. Smith’s biographical story is remarkably similar to eighteenth-century poet Charlotte Smith, and of course their last names are the same. Like the poet, following the death of her husband, Mrs. Smith is left in financial ruin,


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with debts incurred by her husband (under Mr. Elliot’s influence), and a property in the West Indies that belonged to her husband but which she cannot access because she can’t afford a lawyer. Her misfortune has driven her into ill-health and poverty—states that appall Sir Walter and Anne’s sisters. Regarding Anne’s ongoing relationship to the unfortunate Mrs. Smith: Elizabeth was disdainful, and Sir Walter severe. “Westgate-buildings!...and who is Miss Anne Elliot visiting in Westgate-buildings?—A Mrs. Smith. A widow Mrs. Smith,— and who was her husband? One of the five thousand Mr. Smiths whose names are to be met with every where. And what is her attraction? That she is old and sickly.—Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Every thing that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations are inviting to you.” (127-128)

The cruelty of Sir Walter’s remarks is reminiscent of Emma’s cruel joke on Box Hill and demonstrates a lack of compassion for those in dire situations for which they are actually blameless. In the same way that the reader is encouraged to judge Emma based on her treatment of those less fortunate, Sir Walter is judged in a harsh light and Anne in a positive one for their respective actions. Anne’s compassionate nature and distaste for the feudal system of inherited wealth is also evident in her relationship to Captain Wentworth. When she was nineteen, Anne was engaged to Captain Wentworth, “a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy” (26). They fell “rapidly and deeply in love,” but “Troubles soon arose” (27): Sir Walter, on being applied to, without actually withholding his consent, or saying it should never be, gave it all the negative of great astonishment, great coldness, great silence, and a professed resolution of doing nothing for his daughter. He thought it a very degrading alliance; and Lady Russell, though with more tempered and pardonable pride, received it as a most unfortunate one. (27)

The degradation of the alliance in Sir Walter’s eyes is of a con-

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nection to one of low birth and of the professional world—the world he so despises for its ability to raise such men. Similarly, and yet more understandably, Lady Russell’s objection lies in the lack of wealth that Captain Wentworth has, that would clearly cause problems for the couple in their future life. However, when Captain Wentworth re-enters the picture in the present context of the novel, he is “no longer a nobody” (199). After his engagement to Anne was broken, he “got employ; and all that he had told her would follow, had taken place. He had distinguished himself and early gained the other step in rank — and must now, by successive captures, have made a handsome fortune” (29). His “step in rank” marks a social mobility far different from Elizabeth Bennet’s upward movement in Pride and Prejudice. Here, Captain Wentworth’s social mobility is earned through his profession, not through marriage. In Persuasion, being able to achieve upwards mobility without contingency on class status is even more possible than it was in Austen’s prior novels. Anne and Captain Wentworth’s love for each other also reflects shifts in a society which previously barred or drove marriages. A series of obstacles prevent their swift re-engagement, but as the novel draws to a close, the hurdles that stood in their way seven years ago begin to collapse. Even the Elliots’ attitude toward Captain Wentworth undergoes a transformation. Swallowing their remaining pride, Sir Walter and Elizabeth decide upon holding a party to which they invite Captain Wentworth. “The truth was, that Elizabeth had been long enough in Bath to understand the importance of a man of such an air and appearance as his. The past was nothing. The present was that Captain Wentworth would move about well in her drawing room” (182). While this is a decidedly positive shift away from feudal values, in this description we still see the hideous servility of Elizabeth here, who only invites Captain Wentworth because she realizes that others recognize his newfound “importance.” This is simply another attempt by Sir Walter and Elizabeth to stay at the top of the social ladder, albeit by discarding some of their former values. It is also notable that this change of heart occurs while they are away from Kellynch and in Bath—they have left the reclusive, exclusive


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confines of their feudal home and entered into society. Consequently, they are forced to reckon with a society that is shifting its own value systems away from the ones they have clung onto so strongly. As these barriers crumble, Captain Wentworth reasserts his love to Anne through a heartfelt letter that puts Mr. Darcy to shame. In the wake of his confession of love, he and Anne revisit their past. Anne asserts: “‘If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated’” (197). In this confession, Anne redefines the scope of duty and what it means to take risk in the context of British society. While the risk in Pride and Prejudice was to deny a marriage that would afford upward mobility and new comforts, risk in Persuasion is attributed to remaining in one’s existing station only to continue a life of indifference. Anne would rather “degrade” herself to become Captain Wentworth’s wife, than remain in the landed class in a loveless marriage. In this way, downward social mobility in Persuasion becomes desirable and marks a dramatic shift from the tone of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Persuasion, Jane Austen’s final completed novel delivers her most profound message through the mouthpiece of Mr. Elliot: “rank is rank” (122) and the middle class is rising up to replace “those who deserved not to stay” (102). CONCLUSION The three novels discussed in this paper all contain distinct class commentaries. Pride and Prejudice allows the reader to be swept away in the romanticized and rebellious social mobility achieved by Elizabeth Bennet, that while undermining the behavior of the landed class, leaves the structure itself intact. Emma gives us for the first time in Austen’s novels a landed, secure heroine, who we judge based on her interactions with others. Her class privilege affords her authority and power that she misuses throughout the novel in ways that encourage the reader to sympathize more deeply with the

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characters affected by Emma than the heroine herself. Finally, in Persuasion, Austen paints a perfect picture of a dead-end feudal system in which “rank is rank.” Austen pulls her heroine out of the landed class rather than allowing her to enter into it, marking a radical turn in her writing that rejects the romantic notion of landed wealth in favor of meritocracy and love. In this way, she liberates her other literary characters—major and minor— including Fanny Price, Jane Fairfax, and Harriet Smith from the socially imagined confines that limit their lives. In popular culture, the idealistic vision of social mobility is defined by novels such as Pride and Prejudice. However, Austen goes further than just providing a singular, romanticized example. Throughout her writing career, Austen continued to find new ways to subvert and challenge the legal constitutions of social class in eighteenth-century England. She recognized that the industrial revolution brought new opportunities that did not fit the mold of the feudal order, and she through her writing, appears to approve of them wholeheartedly. By undermining the appeal of the existing social structure by presenting it as either cruel, absurd, or outdated, Austen subtly drew attention to the slowly changing social attitudes toward wealth and entitlement. While the novels were not revolutionary by any means, Austen’s writing can be read as a defense of those disadvantaged by the system. Ironically, her genius is that she did so right under the noses of the protectors of privilege. The landed class would have made up a large portion of her readership at the time. Today, we must continue to foster a greater appreciation for Austen’s work in deconstructing class norms, remembering that this aspect of her writing has been just as influential as her proto-feminism. Reading her work with a class-oriented focus in the twenty-first century can serve as a reminder that wealth and entitlement are both everything and nothing. Society continues to construct ways of understanding social relationships that serve some while condemning others and these constructs must not be allowed to persevere while so many people suffer by their standards. As we continue to grapple with the relationship between wealth, power, and corruption, attempting to break down the systemic barriers that continue


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to prevent members of our society from achieving social mobility, Austen’s works can serve as a close critique of the consequences of maintaining the status quo.

• Works Cited Austen, Jane. Emma. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ---. Persuasion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. ---. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.. Bohanon, Cecil E. and Michelle Albert Vachris. Pride and Profit: The Intersection of Jane Austen and Adam Smith. London: Lexington Books, 2015. Broadie, Alexander. The Scottish Enlightenment. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001. Brownstein, Rachel M. “Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice.” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997, Cambridge Companions to Literature. Crouch, David. The Birth of Nobility: Constructing Aristocracy in England and France 900-1300. London: Pearson, 2005. Copeland, Edward. “Money.” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Duffy, Joseph M. “Structure and Idea in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction. vol. 8, no. 4, 1954, pp. 272-89. Fergus, Jan. “Tensions Between Security and Marginality.” History, Gender, and Eighteenth-Century Literature, edited by Beth Fowkes Tobin. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994. Tobin, Mary-Elisabeth Fowkes. “Aiding Impoverished Gentlewom en: Power and Class in Emma.” Criticism, vol. 30, no. 4, 1988, pp. 413-30. Handler, Richard and Daniel Segal. “Hierarchies of Choice: The Social Construction of Rank in Jane Austen.” American Ethnologist, vol. 12, no. 1, 1985, pp. 691-706. Hughes, Kathryn. “The Middle Classes: Etiquette and Upward Mobility.” The British Library, 15 May 2014, www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-middle-classes-etiquette-and-up-


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ward-mobility. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. Johnson, Claudia. “Persuasion: The ‘Unfeudal Tone of the Present Day.’” Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. ---. “Pride and Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Jane Aus ten: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Online Library of Liberty. Description of Samuel Smiles’ novel: Self Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct, www.oll.libertyfund.org/titles/smiles-self-help-with-illustrations-of-characterand-conduct. Accessed 01 May 2019. McMaster, Juliet. “Class.” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Mingay, Gordon. “Who were the Gentry?” The Gentry: The Rise and Fall of a Ruling Class. New York: Longman, 1976. Monaghan, David B. “The Decline of the Gentry: A Study of Jane Austen’s Attitude to Formality in Persuasion.” Studies in the Novel, vol. 7, no. 1, 1975, pp. 73-87. Newton, Judith Lowder. “Pride and Prejudice: Power, Fantasy, and Subversion in Jane Austen.” Feminist Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 1978, pp. 27-42. Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor at Clapham, Surrey. Rules and regulations of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, at Clapham, Surrey,instituted February 11, 1799. To which is prefixed, an account of the origin and designs of the society. London, 1800. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Accessed 08 May 2019. Spratt, Danielle. “Denaturalizing Lady Bountiful: Speaking the Silence of Poverty in Mary Brunton’s Discipline and Jane Austen’s Emma.” The Eighteenth Century, vol. 56, no. 2, Special Issue: Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries, 2015, pp. 193208. Thaden, Barbara Z. “Figure and Ground: The Receding Heroine in Jane Austen’s Emma.” South Atlantic Review, vol. 55, no. 1, 1990, pp. 47-62.


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Appendix

Fig. 1: The British Beehive. Cruikshank, George. “The British Beehive.” Cruikshank Art, 1840, cruikshankart.com/articles/british-beehive.html, Accessed 01 May 2019

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Erotic Knowledge: the Allure of the Unknown in the Hebrew Bible Stephen Artner

University of Virginia

I. Walking Forth into the Unknown “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Gen. 12:1-2 The central impetus underlying every gripping narrative in the Hebrew Bible is the call to move into a mysterious land beyond the confines of the known. The crusty old patriarch Abram spends a stagnant existence in the land of Haran, still living with his father Terah at the ripe age of seventy-five when he first hears the voice of YHWH. This voice needles him to pick up his belongings and travel to an unspecified land. He sets forth out of Haran for the first time in his life with no firm destination in mind, taking with him only his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, some servants, and some belongings (Gen. 12:4). Abraham’s wanderings are not linear: they do not aim at a point which provides stability and stasis. There are no destinations in his journey; only waypoints. He is propelled forward not by any secure confidence in his destination but rather a trust in the voice that blesses him, saying, “Rise up, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (Gen. 13:17). Sometimes the stimulus to move forth into the unknown originates out of fear rather than pure Abrahamic


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trust. Jacob flees to Haran to escape the wrath of his slighted elder brother Esau (Gen. 27:42-45). Moses flees to Midian to escape punishment for his murder of an Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 3:11-15). David flees to Ramah, to Gath, to Mizpeh, and to further cities to evade the clutches of king Saul (1 Sam. 19:18, 21:10, 22:3). Elijah flees to the wilderness to escape the lethal machinations of Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2-3). All these heroes are driven forward into unexplored territory more by terror at what prowls behind them rather than by any confidence in what lies before them. In fact, in the case of Joseph, the young son of Israel is carried out of Canaan to Egypt entirely against his will (Gen. 37:28). Yet no matter the reason for the departure, the forward movement itself nonetheless develops the courage, intelligence, and magnanimity of the journeyer. No longer a “quiet man, living in tents” (Gen. 25:27), by the end of his twenty years in Haran Jacob has matured in strength and cunning to such an extent that he is able at Peniel to wrestle God himself and prevail (Gen. 32:24-25). Even as early as the outset, the forward journey necessarily entails a leaving-behind of all dead weight, including beloved family members. The old Terah is left languishing in Haran after his son Abram sets out, never to return. The people of Israel are left behind as Moses alone “drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Ex. 20:21). And the mother and father of Elisha receive just a kiss from their son before he deserts them to follow in Elijah’s footsteps (1 Kings 19:20-21). All these people are hindrances liable to pull the heroes back to a life of stagnation and atrophy in an already-familiar land. Once the journey begins, dangers await those who look back at the land left behind. When Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac in his ancestral land, he adjures the servant that under no circumstances should his son be taken back there (Gen. 24:6). The peril of ruminating on the life left behind is liable to paralyze the traveler into idleness and indolence. Had the backward-looking assemblage of Israelites not had the sure hand of Moses at their helm steering them ever forward and away from Egypt, they would have careened backwards into the devouring grips of their old taskmasters. Left unchecked, their rumination on “the fish… the cucumbers, the

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melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Num. 11:5) left behind in Egypt would turn the Israelites, like Lot’s wife, into nothing more than a lifeless pillar of salt (Gen. 20:26). After severing all ties to the unbearable oppression or stagnation of their boundaried homeland, the heroes in these narratives almost always undergo adversity much greater even than that found in the place they had just evacuated. While the journey into the unknown might reap material profits for the journeyer (see e.g. Joseph’s rise to governorship of Egypt, Gen. 41:39-45; David’s usurpation of Saul as king of Israel, 2 Sam. 5:1-5; Esther’s ascent to queenship of Persia, Esth. 2:17), more often than not the steep road to reward is perforated by hardship and sacrifice. For example, the recently liberated, desert-wandering Israelites hurl their grievances at Moses, saying, “‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?’” (Ex. 14:11). Likewise, Abraham’s first step out of Haran leads him directly into famine (Gen. 12:10), then into the despotic land of Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20), then to battle against the oppressors of Lot (Gen. 13:13-16), then to alien residency in Gerar (Gen. 20:1 ff), then to alien residency in Philistine territory (Gen. 21:34), and finally to his burial on land purchased from the Hittites (Gen. 25:10). Even when Abraham receives the extreme blessing of a son in his old age through his barren wife Sarah (Gen. 21:1-3), God almost immediately commands Abraham to sacrifice even this precious morsel of joy. This command to sacrifice Isaac mirrors the initial command to leave Haran, for God does not precisely specify Abraham’s destination. Instead, he says, “[G]o to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you” (Gen. 22:2, emphasis mine; cf. Gen. 12:1). Only after three days of gut-wrenching plodding is Abraham finally able to look up and clearly see the place in the distance towards which he and his beloved son are headed (Gen. 22:3-4). In the face of this endless wandering and these ceaseless trials, what on earth could motivate any of these Biblical hero figures to set out towards the unknown? Why not just abandon the difficult journey and grow complacent, settling


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down in one place, as Terah did in Haran after leaving Ur but finding the journey to Canaan too difficult (Gen. 11:31)? What is it about the unknown that draws these heroes continually forward? And why have these archetypal stories of exodus captured the imagination of readers down the millennia? On the one hand, these mythical figures – especially the patriarchs in Genesis – often have direct communication with God, who assures them of his steadfastness and companionship through all stages of their expedition. To Abraham he announces, “‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between you, and will make you exceedingly numerous. … I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God” (17:1-2,8). Abraham can retain these divine words in his mind, their echoes resounding off the walls of his memory in times of distress in alien lands. Jacob can always keep in his memory the promise God gives him at Bethel, that “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15). These promises lift up the patriarchs in their troubles and invigorate their every step forward. On the other hand, already by the generation of Joseph direct communication with the divine has given way to indirect interpretation of dreams (see Gen. 37:5 ff, 40:9 ff, 41:17 ff). And by the time of Samuel, the narration admits that “[t] he word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” (1 Sam. 3:1). Yet the shepherd boy David travels forward into the chaos of an Israelite battle to slay the giant Goliath with his stone and sling even without having received a direct command from God (1 Sam. 17:48-49). Likewise, Ruth chooses to travel with her mother-in-law Naomi into a foreign land solely of her own volition (Ruth 1:14-17). It seems that even in the absence of a direct consoling promise spoken by God, the mysterious darkness of the unknown beckons. The allure of the unknown takes on a new sheen with the consideration of the phrase “to go in,” one of the Hebrew Bible’s various euphemisms for sexual union. Abraham, for

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example, “went in to Hagar, and she conceived” (Gen. 16:4). Lot’s firstborn daughter “went in, and lay with her father” in the cave near Zoar (Gen. 19:33). Esther and other cosmetically treated virgins take turns to “go in to King Ahasuerus” (Esth. 2:12). This very phrase is used in other places to signify forward movement in general. Taking heed of the impending flood, “male and female of all flesh … went in” to Noah’s ark (Gen. 7:16), 1 an ark which will carry them into the unknown and yet-unseen ocean. And of course, the passionate desire of the Israelite people from Abraham down to Joshua is to “go into the land of Canaan” (Gen. 11:31, emphasis mine) and fully possess it. Possession of the Promised Land is the object of centuries of passionate striving. For the entire Pentateuch the voluptuous “land flowing with milk and honey” lies ever beyond reach, glimmering in the darkness beyond the bounds of the stagnant and oppressive current locale. The darkness itself is attractive. Abraham eventually does receive his long-promised naturally born son. Jacob eventually does win the hand of the beautiful Rachel. The Israelites eventually do enter the Promised Land. But in the Biblical stories, these rewards only come to those who recognize the glimmering allure of the dark unknown, who confidently walk forth into it, and who come out of the other side of an intense, protracted period spent as a “fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). Moses meets YHWH in the burning bush at Mount Horeb only after he has escaped from Egypt and “led his flock beyond the wilderness” (Ex. 3:1, emphasis mine). Elijah meets YHWH in the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12) at the same Mount Horeb only after he has escaped from Jezebel, contemplated his death under a broom tree, and pressed on through the wilderness for forty days and nights (1 Kings 19:8). Those who valiantly walk forth into the unknown are surprised beyond all of their limited conceptions of possibility. This is how Jacob can exclaim to his God, “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed the Jordan, and now I have become two companies” (Gen. 32:10). It is how Ruth can exclaim to Boaz, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should


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take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10). And it is how David can cry out, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God” (2 Sam. 7:18-19). Those who timidly rest on their laurels (e.g. Terah, Esau, Joseph’s brothers) receive no comparable blessings. Even these surprising joys do not so much mark stopping points as plant stepping stones towards points even further in the distance. Moses’ desire drives him perpetually forward and his glimpses of God become progressively more vivid: first a wonder of nature, an unconsumed burning bush (Ex. 3:1 ff); then the thunderous voice of God in cloud and lightning (Ex. 19:16 ff); then two stone tablets directly written on with God’s finger (Ex. 31:18); then the back of God himself as he passes by (Ex. 33:22-23). The forward movement never terminates; it only ‘goes in’ further and further. Moses’ desire is only ever left unquenched. What seem like moments of consummation are in fact only preludes to deeper longings. At his life’s coda, Moses finally beholds the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the land he strove his whole live to arrive at. Yet YHWH holds him back, saying, “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there” (Deut. 34:4). At the end of it all, Moses departs from the earth still in a racking state of yearning. II. Erotic Knowledge So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Gen 3:6-7) The story of Adam and Eve articulates the deepest of human longings: to reach out toward knowledge, to imitate God. For man is made, according to Gen. 1:26, in the image of God; and as Hannah sings out, “the Lord is a God of knowledge” (1

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Sam. 2:3). Thus, after Eve and Adam consume the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, YHWH remarks, “‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 3:22, emphasis mine). The tree of knowledge of good and evil symbolizes the glimmering unknown, the one element of mystery in the center of Adam and Eve’s known world. That they partake of its fruit is practically inevitable, given that it stands squarely in the middle of the garden (Gen. 3:3) and that human nature – being a likeness of God’s nature – harbors a thirst for knowledge, particularly knowledge of goodness itself and evil itself.2 The Eden cycle is much more than its surface-level aetiology for the fall of man. At its core, this myth presents an ineluctably true portrait of the human condition. For all humans reach out to know.3 In this pursuit they strive ever forward to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve’s bite into the fruit of the tree of knowledge is not so much a regrettable mistake as a commendable rush into the unknown. For the choice to plunge ahead in a life spent questioning and searching for true wisdom rather than stale cliché brings one closer to the divine.4 Eve trades her naivete for differentiated moral consciousness, a choice reenacted by each Biblical exemplar of courage – beginning with Abraham – who leaves his or her home and travels forward into the unknown. By the time of Solomon, the request to “Give your servant … an understanding mind … able to discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9, emphasis mine) is finally affirmed by Adonai as a praiseworthy and noble desire: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this” (1 Kings 3:10). Knowledge is intimately tied up with eros [Gk. ἔρως passionate, often sexual desire] from the beginning. Immediately after Eve and Adam partake of the fruit, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Gen. 3:7). Their nakedness is the first thing that they come to know. Knowledge of their corporeality – and thus their sexuality – is the first thing that the tree of knowledge imparts. The ambiguity generated by third person plural – “they knew that they were naked” – opens two separate meanings: that they beheld each other’s nakedness, and that they recognized their


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own nakedness. This latter self-consciousness is an interior recognition of exterior vulnerability. Overwhelmed by their complete exposedness and perhaps inundated with unfamiliar feelings of carnal desire, their first volitional action resulting from their new knowledge is to hide themselves behind loincloths of fig leaves. They come to know, and then they immediately conceal that knowledge. They see each other’s dazzling figure with fresh eyes, but that glimpse of radiant beauty proves too bright for their infirm delight.5 The rapturous moment of vision recedes behind their self-sewn shrouds of leaf. A tree’s fruit had revealed the ecstasy of knowledge, and a tree’s leaves painfully re-veil it. The elixir for enlightenment is at once the drug for dissembling: the tree is both good and evil. Post-Edenic humanity lives precisely in this frustrated tension of awakening to the sublime delight of knowledge – of fleetingly dis-covering the truth, corporeal and incorporeal (and perhaps the incorporeal within the corporeal) – only to come hurtling back down, like Icarus, to earth. Man lives in the tension of stirred but stymied desire. He experiences the delight of insight only to then forget. He feels on his skin the electrifying touch of someone gloriously “like unto himself” (Gen. 2:18, Douay-Rheims) only to then have that warmth withdrawn. For each embrace must end. If ever one does briefly attains that ecstatic moment of knowledge, if he ever does behold his Eve, he loses it almost as quickly, leaving his desire infinitely more aroused and frustrated. He lives the rest of his life as a “fugitive and wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 5:12) – a fugitive from that paradisal moment, a wanderer into the unknown in desperate hope of reattaining it.

• A claim as enormous as “knowledge is intimately tied up with eros from the beginning” requires much further explication than a mere close reading of two verses in the third chapter of Genesis. For starters, is knowledge the object of erotic desire? On the face of it this assertion does not get off the ground, since no knowledge is an end in itself. Knowledge

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is always knowledge of something. The tree forbidden to Adam and Eve is not named the tree of knowledge, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One do not desire “to know” by itself, but rather “to know how to play the cello” or “to know Professor So-And-So” or “to know why there is suffering in the world.” One seeks not knowledge in itself, but rather the union of one’s mind with the thing one want to know. So then if knowledge is always of something, and if when one attains that something one can rightly claim to know it, is then not knowledge the name for that attainment? Knowledge would thus not be the object of striving but rather the moment of at-one-ment between the mind and its object of desire. In the same way, the lover does not strive to unite himself with the act of lovemaking; instead, the term lovemaking signifies the moment of union between lover and beloved.6 If “knowledge is intimately tied up with eros from the beginning,” what then is the nature of this tying-up? Is eros epistemic or is knowledge erotic? In other words, does all erotic desire strive towards knowing or is knowing an erotic experience? The nature of this relationship between knowledge and eros cannot be discovered by parsing terms analytically. Like every form of love, eros is a concrete, embodied, lived experience. Hence, perhaps a return to the dramatic narrative of the Biblical texts would illuminate some of these questions. Like a Rubin vase, the verb “to know” in the Hebrew Bible constantly oscillates in a dance between figure and ground. As discussed above (p. 8), the very first time the verb appears in Genesis, it signifies both Adam and Eve’s self-consciousness and their knowledge of each other’s nakedness (see Gen. 3:7). The second time it appears, it clearly serves as a euphemism for sex: “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gen. 4:1). This first recorded instance of sexual intercourse in the Bible follows immediately upon YHWH’s expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden (see Gen. 3:23-24). Only outside the walled garden do male and female finally experience physical union. Not until they go forth from their comfortable homeland into the dark unknown do they remove their loincloths and venture into the unknown of each other. The word “know,” however, need here not only


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signify physical sex. The verse could be read thus: “Now the man knew his wife Eve.” Only now, in exile from their paradisal home and from their naïve former happiness, do Adam and Eve come to know the depths of “good and evil” within each other. Transgressing the boundaries of the garden allows them to transverse the boundaries of the other. Generations later, a servant of Abraham travels to Haran to seek a bride for Isaac. At a well in the city of Nahor he chances upon Rebekah, a lovely girl “very fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known” (Gen. 24:16). That she has not been “known” here clearly indicates her physical virginity: no man has yet had relations with her. As a virgin, she is to Abraham’s servant a glimmering mystery, an exotic delicacy in the midst of the familiar land of Haran, just as the mysterious tree of knowledge had glistened out at Eve from within the midst of her familiar garden. The mystery of the unknown, of “virgin territory” or “terra incognita,” spills over into the vast deeps of the mind as well. Philosophy [Gk. φιλοσοφία, the love (philo) of wisdom (sophía), understood classically as a way of life, not simply as an academic discipline] is animated precisely by the philosopher’s acknowledgement of his lack of the very wisdom he seeks.7 Only in realizing that he does not know the things he thinks he already understands does the true philosopher begin to walk forth onto the raging ocean of the unknown, leaving his decrepit ship of stale presuppositions behind, his gaze ever fixed, like Peter, on his beloved sophía beckoning him ever further out into the deep. That prototypical philosopher Socrates proclaims, “Wonder [tháuma] is the feeling of the philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder” (Theaetetus 155d).8 One wonders at things unknown; or, rather, one wonders at things one thought one knew but which one, in a moment of insight, realizes encompass depths of mystery heretofore undiscerned. “These things, these things were here and but the beholder / Wanting,” writes Hopkins in his glorious sonnet “Hurrahing in Harvest” (11-12). Depths of meaning reveal themselves to the lover of sophía, the philosopher, who humbly acknowledges his complete dearth of true knowledge and transfigures that seeming moment of dejection into a lone spark which leaps up

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from the blaze of his incinerated presuppositions and travels upwards into the unexplored darkness of the heavens. When Rebekah first glimpses the shapely figure of Isaac approaching in the distance, she slips off her camel, querying her guide as to who this resplendent man might be (Gen. 25:65). When the servant replies that this man is Isaac, the one who will become the first and only man ever to “know” her, she drapes herself with a veil. In doing this she re-enacts that very first moment of tháuma experienced by Adam and Eve: that moment of unalloyed wonder at the beauty of the other, followed by self-conscious concealment behind fig-leaves. Like all great courtships, Rebekah and Isaac embark on a lifelong dance of revealing and re-veiling, of knowing and not-knowing each other. Neither is ever fully and completely known: bride and bridegroom perpetually remain terra incognita to each other.

• What happens when respect for the veil of knowledge is transgressed? The example of Sodom provides an answer. Hundreds of miles away from Haran, a lecherous mob besieges the home of Lot, Abraham’s hapless brother, sneering, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them” (Gen. 19:5). The mob’s desire to rape Lot’s two angelic visitors violently casts the word “know” into the most horrifying of sexual significations. The mob’s lust for carnal knowledge springs not from desire to enter into mystery; instead, it violently grabs for its object, seeking to tear away its sacred veil. Ironically, knowing these men from God is the farthest thing from the mob’s mind at this moment. Knowing them would entail knowing their divine status, which would entail knowing the divine. The libidinous horde seeks only fleshly gratification in the most appalling of means. Their shrunken, perverted eros is completely divorced from knowing. Like Oedipus and Paul, the Sodomites pay for their atrocities by being struck with blindness (Gen. 19:11), before their entire city withers in a sulfurous conflagration (Gen. 20:24). The Sodomites attempt to take a violent shortcut to


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carnal knowledge and suffer the consequences. What, then, is the correct path? How is knowledge, in both its senses, to be attained? And if knowledge is not the object of striving but rather the very moment of union with that object (see pp. 9-10), then what is the nature of that moment? Can it be extended indefinitely or is it always fleeting? Is it even possible for humans? A return to Eden would shed light on these quandaries. According to Gen. 1:27, Elohim created humankind in his image. If YHWH really is a “God of knowledge,” as Hannah claims (1 Sam. 2:3), then the serpent is not far off in saying that after eating the forbidden fruit Eve “will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). As mentioned above (p. 7), even before taking the bite, Eve’s very reach towards the mysterious tree indicates her hunger for knowledge, marking her likeness to God. But what is the nature of this likeness? How can a human image the divine? Surely this does not mean that human beings are carbon copies of YHWH. Surely a perfect God does not need to hunger for knowledge, for hunger implies lack. Every likeness quietly implies an unlikeness. Every image is an image by virtue of being both similar and dissimilar to its original. If it were perfectly identical to its original it would no longer be rightly called an image.9 For example, a photograph of a mountain vista is both like and unlike that vista. The photograph looks like the vista but comprises a finite number of pixels, has a far less vivid color palette, and is only two-dimensional. Children are also “images” of their parents: a daughter may be like her mother with respect to some personality traits and phenotypes, but she is necessarily also unlike her mother with respect to age, size, interests, interior life, etcetera. Thus, insofar as humans image God, they do so imperfectly and incompletely.10 How does this understanding of likeness apply to the plane of knowledge? If man indeed images an all-knowing God, then insofar as he has a share in the divine capacity to know, his capacity is by nature deficient. Now, in what way is the human capacity to know deficient? An interesting answer comes by way of considering the second named tree in Eden: the “tree of life” (see Gen. 2:9). Strikingly, even though God expressly permits Adam to eat of this tree and all others in the

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garden (Gen. 2:16-17), its fruit remains untouched. After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit of its sister tree, YHWH anxiously exclaims: ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ – therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden … (Gen. 3:22).

The human pair has not yet eaten the fruit of the tree of life. Nor will they, for God moves quickly and decisively to ensure that they depart Eden before they can. Thus Adam and Eve are granted the knowledge of good and evil but not immortality. In this respect already they are deficient images of God: they share in YHWH’s capacity for knowledge but do not share in his eternal life. But the similarity and dissimilarity run deeper. Human knowledge itself is divorced from immortality. Whereas the ‘moment’ of divine knowledge extends into eternity, human knowledge is by nature fleeting and ephemeral. As every passionate embrace must end, so must every wondrous moment of human insight. Humans forget.11 Days spent enraptured by the joy of following out constellations of insights yield to days spent fixing leaky faucets. Moreover, human knowledge never fully “knows” its knowledge-objects. Human knowledge is always provisionary and incomplete: moments of electrifying insight serve as stepping-stones to even deeper realizations. This is demonstrated beautifully in God’s progressive revelation to Moses (see p. 6). Just as the veiled body of the beloved forever contains undiscovered nooks of terra incognita, so too do all objects of knowledge harbor undiscovered alcoves, accessible only through deeper and more prolonged questions stretched through the course of a life.12 Finally, human knowing falls short of divine knowing with regard to the sheer struggle required for humans to attain those moments of true knowledge. Really coming to know something is difficult. Striving for knowledge is a painful pursuit, for as discussed above (p. 11 and n. 8), it requires the upheaval of entire systems of presuppositions in naked and exposed moments of aporía. To truly learn something requires clearing one’s mental threshing floor, gathering up the wheat


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of knowledge while burning up the useless chaff of opinion. Real metanoia [Gk. μετάνοια – lit. “mind-change”] involves a painful reorientation, a turning-around, a leaving-behind of the comfortable walled garden of cliché and walking into darkness.13 Doing so unites oneself with the mythic narratives of Biblical heroes from Abraham to Ruth to David who left their ancestral homes behind and walked forth confidently into the frightening unknown (see pp. 1-6). Coming to a fresh, joyous, new understanding of life requires expunging and exterminating one’s old, stagnant, preconceived notions of life. It hurts to do so. It hurts almost as much as does leaving behind one’s family to cling to one’s betrothed (see Gen. 2:24). It hurts almost as much as the birth pangs which accompany the bringing-forth of new life into the world. For if knowledge really is a moment of union, then to follow out that analogy, the knower bears offspring. One begets one’s own original ideas from prolonged intercourse with things one intimately knows. Thus, Eve’s punishment of pain in childbirth can be read like a Rubin vase, seeing at once both the physical pain and the pain of birthing new thought-offspring: ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ (Gen. 3:16)

She, like all of mankind, brings forth thought-offspring in violent pain, and like the true philosopher, her desire shall be for her “husband”: the wisdom, the sophía which she passionately desires to unite with. We have filled in a sketch of humankind’s capacity for knowledge, which is an image of YHWH’s perfect knowledge. But no true image points only to itself. An image points with all its being towards the greater perfection of its original. A brilliant painting of the Grand Canyon seems to scream, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30), as it spurs its onlookers to pass from viewing the image to beholding the breathtaking ravine itself. When one recognizes an image as

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“only an image,” one simultaneously realizes that it is an image of something else more perfect than it.14 The image’s deficiencies serve as the very impetus to set the image aside and seek out the model itself. Thus, in our case, we must pass from passively considering human knowledge to passionately striving towards knowing YHWH himself. If YHWH is infinite, however, the itinerarium mentis in deum never terminates. One “knows” God by “going in” and traveling deeper into God’s dark and incomprehensible essence, for eternity.

• In closing, we should return to a question left behind pages ago: is eros epistemic or is knowledge erotic? We know enough now to say that the Hebrew Bible completely blurs the line of demarcation between the two. As we have seen, “to know” is a Hebrew euphemism for sex. But do we have the insight to realize that sexual delight is itself a euphemism, a metaphor for knowing? Knowledge spills into eros as the ecstatic moment of insight electrifies the philosopher, kindling in him even more desire for the ravishingly beautiful sophía, his utterly perfect and yet ever-elusive beloved. Eros spills into knowledge as the passionate lover craves to know more and more of the terra incognita in his beloved’s body and in her soul. Just as eros encompasses more than sex, so does knowledge encompass more than intellect. Knowledge cannot be divorced from passionate love. Eros and knowing remain forever entwined.


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Works Cited Allen, R. E., translator. The Republic, by Plato. Yale UP, 2006. “Constitutions of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215).” Edited by Norman P Tanner, EWTN, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/history-and-text-1465. Accessed 22 Apr. 2019. Derrida, Jacques. “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Dissemination, translated by Barbara Johnson, University of Chicago Press, 1983, pp. 61-172. Dickinson, Emily. “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – [1129].” The Essential Emily Dickinson, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, HarperCollins, 1996, p. 65. Grube, G.M.A., translator. Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, by Plato. Revised by John M. Cooper, Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2002. Hart, Kevin J. “A Tree.” Wild Track, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015, p. 151. Hopkins, Gerard M. “Hurrahing in Harvest.” Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins, edited by W. H. Gardner, Penguin Books, 1985, p. 31. Meredith, Anthony. Gregory of Nyssa. Routledge, 1999. O’Connor, Flannery. “Catholic Novelists and their Readers.” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, edited by Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969, pp.169190. Ross, W.D., translator. “Metaphysics,” by Aristotle. The Internet Classics Archive. MIT, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.1.i.html. Accessed 18 Mar. 2019. Rowe, Christopher, translator. Theaetetus and Sophist, by Plato. Cambridge UP, 2015. Sharon, Avi, translator. Symposium, by Plato. Focus Philosophi cal Library, 1998. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Edited by Michael Coogan, Oxford UP, 2018.

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ENDNOTES 1

The words “male and female” and “flesh” in this sentence hearken back to Gen. 2:24, when man is described as clinging to his wife: “and they become one flesh.” Already by the seventh chapter of Genesis, then, the forward movement into the unknown is associated with erotic desire. 2

Cf. Plato, Republic VI 508e ff: the idea of the Good is the supreme object of human striving. It “provides truth to things known and gives to the knower the power of knowing,” and stands even “beyond being.” If Plato is right, then being is because being is good. Everything that exists participates in and is illumined by goodness. 3

Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics I.1: “All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses…above all others the sense of sight.” This focus both on the desire for knowledge and the delight in sight echoes Eve’s attraction to the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6, emphasis mine). 4

Cf. Socrates’ insistence in Apology 38a that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and in Theaetetus 176a that the ethical end for human beings is the attempt at “becoming as like god as one can.” This ‘becoming like god,’ he says, is the philosophical life spent “acquiring justice and piety along with wisdom.” 5

Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant –” l. 3.

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And yet many so-called lovers do strive for nothing but sex itself. Perhaps the absolutization of the sex act as the sole object of desire has led to the sterile, transactional manner in which the erotic is discussed in university culture. See e.g. any copy of the Stall Seat Journal in Bryan Hall. 7

To his Athenian jury Socrates claims, “I am wiser than he [an overconfident ‘wise man’] to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know” (Apology 21d). NB: I use “he” to describe the philosopher mainly because I am thinking of Socrates as the model philosopher. It goes without saying that the pronoun “she” can be substituted in all these places as well. 8

Socrates’ conversations often reduce brash interlocutors into aporía (perplexity and puzzlement), in which they themselves are forced to admit that the things they thought they knew were but mirages. But once in a while a defeated conversation partner endures this painful moment and turns it into a moment of tháuma. Like Odysseus, he hangs on for dear life until his death-bound raft of argument returns from the Scylla and Charybdis of aporía and carries him forth into the life-giving uncharted waters of true philosophy. 9

Derrida puts the point thus, in typical Derridean fashion: “For imitation affirms and sharpens its essence in effacing itself. Its essence is its nonessence. … A perfect imitation is no longer an imitation” (“Plato’s Pharmacy” 139). 10

As promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, “between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them.” This sentence nods towards the apophatic tradition, in which any finite conceptions of God dissolve in light of God’s infinite nature. See Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius I, paragraphs 223-241. 11

Thus Diotima in Plato’s Symposium: “When we study, what we are trying to do is replenish information which has somehow disappeared. For knowledge leaks out in a process called forgetting and must continually be reacquired by means of study, which replaces whatever was lost with a fresh memory of it” (208a, emphasis mine). 12

“It takes a life to understand a tree,” writes Kevin Hart (“A Tree” l. 1). The poet does not say it takes a “lifetime” to understand a tree, for that word would imply that


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one reaches complete knowledge of the tree by life’s end. No, it takes a life to understand a tree, in all senses of “takes a life.” Contemplation of this single tree consumes one’s entire life, and it asks for more than one can give. It in a sense kills one. One departs from the earth without having exhausted the depths of what is to be known in a single tree. 13

According to Flannery O’Connor, this is precisely what faith is: “There are separations which faith tends to heal if we realize that faith is a ‘walking in darkness’ and not a theological solution to mystery” (“Catholic Novelists” 184). 14

This is precisely the insight so brilliantly illustrated in the Divided Line of Plato’s Republic VI (509c-511e). Clearly, shadows and reflections are imperfect images of real objects. But what if physical objects are themselves imperfect images of something even “higher” on the ladder of being? On Plato’s schema, physical objects are images of intelligible objects (like mathematical entities), which are themselves images of forms (éide), which are in turn images of the supreme Idea of the Good.

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AC K N OW L E D G M E N T S We would like to acknowledge our Faculty Advisor Brock Clarke. Our founders Aleksia Silverman and Sydney To. The Bowdoin Department of English, especially Laurie Holland for always passing along our messages. The Bowdoin Student Activities Funding Committee for providing generous funds to print copies for the Bowdoin campus. All universities who participated or encouraged students to submit to our journal. The undergraduate writers who weren’t afraid to be vulnerable, out-spoken, and experimental. And to our readers for sharing our commitment to celebrate the vibrant undergraduate literary communities around the world.


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A NOTE ON THE TYPE This issue was set in Baskerville & Didot. Baskerville was designed by printmaker John Baskerville in the 18th century in England, influencing the development of the Didot family in Paris. Didot is favoured for its condensed armature, vertical stress, unbracketed serifs and is considered a Neoclassical typeface. It was also favoured by Voltaire for his publications, becoming a standard in French printing in the late 1700s.


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The Foundationalist is not operated by Bowdoin College, Yale University, or University of Iowa. The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the institutions or its official representatives.


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"We aim to showcase works that accurately represent the diversity of thought and innovation of undergraduate writers across the world. These works move beyond an understanding of the genre and instead, challenge or build upon it."