Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A brief blog post for last week :)

There is no word for it.  Maybe it never happened before and so there is not yet a word for it.  What is the word for a state which is not life and not death, a death in life?"
"I don't know."
"I wonder if it ever happened in history before?"
"I don't know."  Where is the word, the girl in the greenhouse would say, and look around." (126 The Second Coming)

If I could pinpoint one thing this semester has taught me, it is the power of words.  No character culminates this more than Allie, I think, particularly in the way she questions everything.  If there is a thing that has no word to describe it, can it exist?  If there is no found word or naming, is there the essence of that thing at all?  That's why I love this particular passage of questioning, happening right after Will's questioning of the secret is only revealed with death and dying.  If there is no word for something, perhaps it is not a thing at all.  It's leaving me asking the questions I had after the thesis defense board: How tied to true life is language, particularly naming?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


     Allison is the most relatable Percy character that we have read thus far. She is possibly the most relatable character we have read all semester. There are bits of her that are very abnormal, most people probably have not been “buzzed” and even fewer people probably walk around saying, “no buzzin cousin” or any other rhymes, but there are many parts of her that are incredibly relatable. For starters, Allison is definitely the most likable character that Percy has created, and there is something about her likability that makes her more human, more realistic. This is seen through the majority of the first half, but the first lines of part two are what really show us how real Allison is and how much we can identify with her. “She could do anything if nobody watched her. But the moment a pair of eyes focused on her, she was a beetle stuck on a pin, arms and legs beating the air.” Then she continues on the say, “So it had been in school. Alone at her desk, solve any problem, answer any question. But let the teacher look over her shoulder or, horror of horrors, stand her up before the class: she shriveled and curled up like paper under burning glass” (233). Now, there are probably many people who do not relate to these passages, but I definitely do. Because of how relatable she is, and just because of how utterly lost she is the majority of the time, Allison is one of my favorite Percy characters. There is something about her that is incredibly sweet and innocent.    

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Second Chance at Love

        In Walker Percy's The Second Coming, Will Barret has a second chance at love through his relationship with Allison. Will was married to a kind woman called Marion. The marriage was basic but unfulfilling for Will. Percy never mentions a sex life between the two and when Marion became confined to a wheelchair, their relationship became the type where one is taken care of and the other is not. Will gave Marion his attention and care, but she did not give him the type of attention he needed. Everyone knew Marion as a wonderful and kind woman, which she was, but as people offer Will their condolences for her death, he seems absent and out of touch, as if her passing was an event to be expected and that he never really processed it. He is by no means happy about her death, but at the same time he does not experience true sorrow because their relationship was not enriching for him. Yes, he loved her, but the type of love was a passionless but committed love.

            When Will meets Allison for the second time after falling out of the cave shaft, their relationship blossoms immediately. They are two halves of a whole. She picks him up when he falls down from seizures and he interprets her unique way to using language. They can experience true love because they each fulfill something in the other, despite the difference in their age. They are genuinely attracted to each other and when they lay next to each other, Allison naturally clings to him. Allison experiences love for the first time with Will and he has a second chance at love with her, which luckily, he chooses to pursue. For Will, this is the first time that he experiences love that is fulfilling for his soul. Allison can take care of him despite his disease, and he can take care of her despite her memory problems. They complete each other through their wholesome relationship. Will also experiences God through her because she signifies a "gift" from a "giver." So through this second chance at love, Will finally experiences God in his life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The girl who forgets and the girl who can't remember.

     So the title is a self-confession, I have a very bad short term memory and great tuning-things-out skills (one of the reasons this blog is soooooo late). In a way I can relate to Allie, although I've never undergone shock therapy (not intentionally anyways), I can connect to her character.  Allie finds herself in the middle of an adventure and perfectly free. She reminds of a character in a story I wrote when I was in high school, my character found herself on the street with no real memory of who she was or where she was all she had was a note left to her by herself. Allie is pretty much in the same position, through her memory loss she finds freedom and choice.
    The first place one sees her power of choice is while she is shopping at the army surplus store. Then she follows her own vague direction to her aunt's ruined homestead and finds the greenhouse. While reading about Allie's discoveries and progressions you see that she is very aware of a search, she is looking for 'it'. This search may have be what drove her insane in the first place, but now she is free to search for it. There reason she flunked at life was because she realized her material life had to be connected to something more. Humans had to have some deeper purpose than just living and dying. We journey on a quest with Allie which brings us across Will Barrett.
    Will Barrett is also a character on the search for 'it'. His quest is a little different though, will is on the quest because he remembers the event which awakened him to the quest, much like Percy's character Binx. They both encountered near death experiences which lead the on the search. Will is driven by memory and his quest is free like Allie's. He is tangled and weighed down, much like Binx, both men try to break from the everydayness and search for it. Where Allie is hopefully that 'it' exists, Will is more skeptical thinking everything happens for biological reasons.
   Yet the two come together and need each other. Allie needs Will to help her communicate and remember language. Will needs Allie to teach him freedom and meaning through words. Will falls and Allie hoists. They make a perfect match, plus who wouldn't want a slightly loony lover who says things like, "The arrangement is the derangement, when the arrangement is arranged then you what the ensuement is?".

"Bloard" and The Continuous Wit of Percy

Coming back from Passion Play rehearsal and blogging rather late, I apologize in advance for what this blog may be.  However, I am truly enjoying The Second Coming; first, for the wit and humor (finally, a light hearted novel!  I don't even know what to do with myself!) and second, because I am finally able to really see the "Percyisms" within it, as the connections between this novel and both The Moviegoer and Lancelot are much more obvious.  It's full of excited underlining and commentary in the margins "Look!  Here there be Jews!" "Hey, it's a literary reference other than Robinson Crusoe, kinda out of your element, Percy", etc.

One of my favorite sections of this work was the second conversation happening between Allie and Will, around page 108.  Allie's phrasing of things, with every word carefully thought out, especially the combinations of words to form a unique word, such as "bloard" meaning "board and bored, meeting of her father's board which was boring because it bored into you" (111).  These constant moments of hilarious wit make the book such a pleasure to read, while applying the questions of semantics we've been discussing in class.  How much of language do we actually take for granted, along with the actual being of anything?  Allie certainly doesn't take language for granted in any way, shape or form.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Greenhouse Effect... I'm so sorry.

Although I have so much to say about Will and his “search”, my blog is going to focus on Allison. She is so intriguing because she’s like Percy’s little fictional isolation experiment. While I was reading it, I was literally laughing at the irony that the mental illness patient finds better therapy in an abandoned greenhouse than in rehab. I think what Percy is trying to achieve with Allison is to make his readers understand that learning about one’s “self” (or in Allison’s case returning to one’s “self”) cannot be accomplished through science (diagnosis and prescription) alone, but through a return to nature and self-reliance. Emerson, anyone? Sorry for the pun, but that’s literally what she does! She regains her self and relearns communication on her own in that greenhouse so that she can eventually return to society. Is Percy saying that we should start sending clinically depressed people into the woods to live off the land instead of to a mental institution? I don’t know; but of all of Percy’s characters, Allison seems to be the only one who figures out how to successfully cope in the world: by basically starting over.

Also, the parts where she writes letters to herself before she lost her memory reminded me of Lost in the Cosmos when he talks about seeing your wallet as if you were another person looking at your (someone else’s) wallet. Allison has the opportunity to do that AND to communicate with herself, which just makes my head spin!

Either Way, it is Not Good

     This week I am in the same boat as Hunter. Mobile Passion Play has consumed my life. So, like Hunter, this blog will be quite brief. When I was reading The Second Coming, there was one line towards the beginning that I found particularly interesting, “Are we afraid quiet afternoons will be interrupted by gunfire? Or do we hope they will?” This is a very interesting question. If the answer to this question is the latter, then what does that say about humanity, “community”, or any type of human connections that people have? I would argue that a lot of people today hope that their afternoons will be interrupted by gunfire. Some people may not recognize this, but we have become so disconnected that for some even tragedy for can be a type of entertainment. They may not be happy that someone was hurt, but they are happy that they saw something that was “just like the movies” something exciting and out of the realm of everyday life. I am not talking specifically of a gunman running rampant through a city, in fact, to say that anyone enjoys that is pushing the line. However, how often are people entertained by misfortune? There are many people today that we dub “drama queens” because they blossom in unhappy, unfortunate environments, relationships, and situations. Are these not the same things? It is still people who are finding pleasure through others misfortune. It may be a lot milder than murder, but this is almost as bad as hoping that gunfire will disturb your afternoon. An interesting question to be asked is that, if this is the case with most people, then who is really to blame? Is it the society that a person was raised in? or is based solely on the careful thoughts and choices of the individual alone?     

Madness! Madness! Madness!

Because of the Mobile Passion Play that I am indentured - er, happy to participate in, this blog will be kept brief. I would merely like to mention the influence of Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Second Coming. We have discussed in previous classes how Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov leaked into Percy's fiction. Lancelot, in particular, featured strong allusions between the lead character and Ivan Karamazov, and distinct echoes of The Grand Inquisitor scene were made clear through the narrative style. The biggest similarity that I've noticed between The Second Coming and Karamazov is the fallacy of the insanity argument. Dostoevsky was very suspicious of the notion of insanity, suggesting in his writings that most cases of insanity are spiritual in nature, not mental. Ivan, for example is driven mad in the end of the novel not because of some genetic neurosis but because his own spiritual vacuity finally collapses in on itself and he can no longer bear his divided consciousness. Will is a little better off in that he recognizes the vacuity in himself and in everyone else, yet his actions make him look like a madman to everyone else. His questions, his erratic behavior, his ultimate decision to seek God and find the apocalypse - all of these appear to be the actions of a madman, yet his determination to absolve the tension in his soul may be the first rational set of decisions in his life. Through it all, whether he succeeds at his ultimate objective or fails, he may just free himself of the madness of complacency that has seemingly gripped everyone else in his life.

Perhaps it could be said that all madness is relative, but some breeds of madness are worse than others. Which is better: to recognize the vacuity of one's life and take drastic, even violent measures to change it, or to continue in one's own rut and refuse to recognize the sickness for what it is? Think of it this way: If Christ is indeed the wounded surgeon, how can He heal you if you can't begin to tell Him what ails you? Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard understood this, Percy does as well.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Ignorant Armies that Clash by Night

Out of all the Percy novels we have read thus far, I find The Second Coming most interesting. Allison's struggle to articulate, to find meaning in words, brings back the question asked in class last week: what can restore language? Can it get so far gone that it loses its meaning, so that words like Jesus and grace spiral out into nothingness? If so, if it has already, is there anything one can do?
I think Allison is searching for that answer; maybe we will find it with her.
I can't tell exactly the nature of Will's search yet. I like the contrast of the two situations; one who cannot remember a thing about herself or the world, the other who keeps seeing more and more in everything they do. Neither seem like actual mental illnesses (if there is such a thing). They just can't handle the world around them and more importantly their self. The focus seems to be spiraling in on understanding just that. Is their response working in the direction that Dover Beach suggested, where they should be true to one another? As Will's father says, "You'd be better off if you were one of them...The ignorant armies that clash by night." That isn't really true, though. Maybe it means you wouldn't have tried to kill yourself and your son--but it also takes away the possibility of the search. It seems that a crucial part of Percy's search is having the questioner and the responder. It's like the Grand Inquisitor... As long as there is someone to target your questions to, to seek answers with, even the most miserable man is doing better than the everyday ignorant man.