Esther’s Space- journey through my life

October 8, 2008

Perfectly

Filed under: Australia, Rant — Tags: , — estherspace @ 4:48 am

So, I’ve reached that point in my writing where mini-meltdown usually occurs.  In trying to articulate the argument clearly, I’ve come to the realization that my original thesis is either perfectly correct or perfectly asinine, but I can’t tell which is the case.

I’m trying to argue that the characters in O&L are consistently trying to find the agency to break free from/rebel against the system as it stands (be it gender, class, race…), but also while this is taking place, the selection system of the Booker is simply co-opting the novel in order to use it in the propegation of the system (whatever system it may be).

The parts that are complicating my reading:

  1. Lucinda’s lack of passionate dedication to anything.
  2. Oscar’s completely non-masculine  character never proving to be anything but trouble for him.
  3. Lucinda at the end of the novel- pickle factory/factory reformer

To deal with #1, Lucinda is obviously different from everyone surrounding her.  But there is nothing (outside of her mother?) to help her make sense of how/why/to what purpose she is different.  This understanding of the aims of her uniqueness would be key in allowing her to become an opinionated participant in her own life.  (and I don’t have the book, so I can’t reference it, but she makes several comments about how she didn’t really care about glass, and had no interest in owning a factory for any social/political reasons, but instead that she wanted to have people that could pass as friends, and gambling and an interest in glass was one way to do it)  But, everything remains confused and Lucinda is repeatedly (and to her, unexplicably) penalized for not fitting into her proper role, and this penalization continues until she does become ‘who she is supposed to be.’

#2- I haven’t spent as much time dwelling on this, but Oscar really doesn’t seem to win in this novel. His life is all a series of misunderstandings that repeatedly lead to bad situations for him.  And, he never seems to be intent upon breaking free from society’s bonds, because he doesn’t really feel held by them.  So where does this put him?  Is he the image of the body that cannot be made docile?  If so, I wouldn’t want any part of it.

And #3, I have such a problem trying to place anything because of the narrator!  He shows up every once in a while, and when he’s not there, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out who is telling the story, because it’s stuff Mr. Narrator could not know.  But, to relate it  to Lucinda, at the end of the novel proper, Lucinda has been reduced to working in a pickle factory.  But, earlier in the book, the narrator tells the reader that Lucinda will someday be famous as a factory reformer, much more famous than her relationship with Oscar would ever make her.

So, does it succeed?  Is Carey’s O&L a novel where agency is achieved (or at least consistently sought)?

It could be argued that Lucinda, while listless and unable to communicate for much of the novel, makes a breakthrough when she realizes how she and Oscar somehow missed realizing how much they loved each other and took this information to turn her life around.  The problem with this statement is that it relies upon a vast amount of speculation regarding events that take place outside of the novel and one statement from this (not wholly reliable) narrator.  What does the novel give me that I can use?

And, in Carey’s defense, he never seems to celebrate the fact that the ISAs and RSAs are successfully beating the characters into their proper roles in society (or, in Oscar’s case, killing off the untrainable).

ACK!  I still don’t know what I have.  We’ll see again in the morning.

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