Galatea 2.2 .2

Let me just say that, as my 37th year?speeds?toward the platform and is?due to arrive in a paltry?seven days, I’m not crazy about this novel’s claim about?the 35th year:

You begin to think, ‘Well, I more or less understand how things work. Do I really want to disassemble tens of thousands of semi accurate beliefs on the off chance that I might be able to bring one small receptor field into better focus?’ (111)

With a projected 50 years left, give or take a decade, that’s a long time to sit on my ass and?give up the quest. Let the disassembly continue… Full Speed Ahead!

That said, let’s move on to pages 48-153 of the novel.

CHILDHOOD REALITY V. ADULT DELUSION

One would generally assume that children would have a stronger imagination than adults, the ability to?create their own reality and imaginary friends, but that isn’t what is being said in this novel. As I mentioned in?a previous post, “something between childhood and becoming an adult shifts the understanding of language, makes it less literal, less real.” I found this idea interesting when Powers described a?book that permanently?influenced him?while he was still young?(19).?This same type of reference appears later, when Lentz and Hartrick?dupe Powers about Imp C’s ability:

A babe in the woods would have seen through this… I myself would never have bitten, had I still been a child. Yet I’d believed. I’d wanted to. (123)

Powers can no longer see the real, but why? Perhaps, as our narrator describes,?it is his adult desire to want to believe.

In childhood, facts are collected?much like?William and Peter Hartrick’s?alphabet and international flags.?Conceptual meaning hasn’t yet been assigned, as Hutcheon would point out.??Unlike the boys,?Powers?associates everything with narrative rather than fact. When speaking about their mother, Diane,?Powers says “I didn’t know the first thing about her” (136) but?”I recognized?this?woman…?from a book I read once as a novice adult” (137).?This referential knowing is not real. It stems from a concept learned elsewhere?during Powers’?early adulthood rather than from what actually stands in front of him?in the moment.

Richard?PowersPowers recognizes the impact of narrative on his thoughts and the ways in which those thoughts then shape his reality. “Here was the home I would never have. Shaped by a book, I’d made sure I wouldn’t. I’d forced my heart’s reading matter to come true” (138). To deny himself access to Diane or?a home based on a particular?book leads me to believe that, had he read another?book (or no book), things might have turned out?differently. Like ideology, the story has the power to order Powers’?thoughts, but also to confine him within that story.

SUBJECT V. OBJECT

Powers' LensConfinement within the story becomes problematic for all the main characters in this novel. Diane, Lentz, C.?and even Powers?become splintered identities in terms of subject/object. As said above, Diane is a stereotype in Powers’ internal narrative. First?she is?scientist, then mother, then “she became a different woman” (136) after she put her children to bed and?sat in her living room. None of these images allow access to the real Diane, for Powers or the reader. Lentz too is seen solely as mad scientist until Powers?recognizes him as husband and father thanks to the calendar on the door. Still, he doesn’t know who Lenz truly is or why he’s such a sad,?angry man. These characters are nothing more than objects seen through the one limited?lens of the narrator.

Powers and C. are special cases in the subject/object dichotomy. Powers, when proofing his latest book, says:

My eleventh-hour triage demoralized me even more than the first writing. I felt a despair I had not felt while still the teller… What lost me, while listening to my own news account, was learning that I didn’t have the first idea who I was. Or of how I had gone so emptied.?(117)

Is Powers really so emptied and lost?within his own identity? The word?”emptied” implies that Powers was?once full.?When?he writes about himself as?the subject, he?is unaware that this identity crises exists because it doesn’t yet. It is when he no longer writes but reads, making the switch from subject to object, that he feels some sort of self identity loss. It is the mechanism?of narrative?that induces the loss, unable to capture the whole of who Powers is, even in his own attempt to portray himself.

Perhaps Powers?has stopped?disassembling his?”tens of thousands of semi accurate beliefs” at 35,?having learned?little since his relationship’s end with C.?Prior to this autobiographical fiction,?Powers becomes the subject of C’s story and she becomes the object, driving?the wedge?of death into their relationship. Powers knows?this to be true?when C. says, “It’s your story… It makes me feel worthless” (108). He begins to question:

What did the finished thing mean? That book was no more than a structured pastiche … One that by accident ate her alive… She would never again listen to a word I wrote without suspicion. (108-109)

Self-reflexive?PowersEven after living the consequence of setting the divisive dichotomy of subject/object in motion with C., Powers inflicts that same divide within himself and feels the power and pain from both sides.

Of course,?objectification is okay when you’re Powers, the author of this novel,?portraying the narrator as the author and narrator of his own novel. Only by making this move does narrative no longer mean objectification alone. Narrative, in this manner,?becomes self-reflexivity, or has… self-reflexive Powers. (Insert “bad joke” groan here.)

PS: If C was with Powers in U., E., and B., who do you think A. is in her 22nd year?? Son of [a] B!! I can?t seem to work it out yet? but I sure do sound like a mathematician when I try.

Comments

  1. Wow, great post. I cannot even begin to respond to all of it (I know, I don’t blame you, there’s just so much to address!), so I’m going to focus on a little part that struck me. You discussed how “These characters are nothing more than objects seen through the one limited lens of the narrator.” I agree that this is a serous problem for us as readers. His relationship with Diana is completely shown from his perspective, as is his relationship with C. Interestingly, he seems to be powerless to avoid categorizing everyone in his life and making them into characters, jut as he does when writing a novel. When he describes Diana, it is as a scientist, a mother, and even as something resembling Chaucer’s Wife of Bath (p 125) The more I think about him, the less I like him, despite the fact that he is only showing us his internal view of himself.

  2. Wow, great post. I cannot even begin to respond to all of it (I know, I don’t blame you, there’s just so much to address!), so I’m going to focus on a little part that struck me. You discussed how “These characters are nothing more than objects seen through the one limited lens of the narrator.” I agree that this is a serous problem for us as readers. His relationship with Diana is completely shown from his perspective, as is his relationship with C. Interestingly, he seems to be powerless to avoid categorizing everyone in his life and making them into characters, jut as he does when writing a novel. When he describes Diana, it is as a scientist, a mother, and even as something resembling Chaucer’s Wife of Bath (p 125) The more I think about him, the less I like him, despite the fact that he is only showing us his internal view of himself.

  3. when you talked about powers saying “here is the home i would never have. shaped by a book, i’d made sure i wouldn’t” i read that completely differently. rather than he had read a book that had shaped him into the type of person who could not have that home, he had written one. all of his books were the downfall of him and C, and as he stole her ideas and her life and left her with nothing, he also reduced her to the role of his child, making it impossible for the two of them to actually have any.

  4. when you talked about powers saying “here is the home i would never have. shaped by a book, i’d made sure i wouldn’t” i read that completely differently. rather than he had read a book that had shaped him into the type of person who could not have that home, he had written one. all of his books were the downfall of him and C, and as he stole her ideas and her life and left her with nothing, he also reduced her to the role of his child, making it impossible for the two of them to actually have any.

  5. Hey Hannah,
    I think you’re right in the overall sense of Galatea 2.2, but the instance I quote here refers specifically to a book that Powers had read as an ealry adult. Depending upon the situation, the influence of narration works in both directions. What Powers reads and writes combines to shape his life from both sides. What is most interesting about this effect is that while narrative provides ideology to mold our being, one could infer that we also have the power to write new narrative and change our course. We’ll have to read on and find out whether Powers succeeds in doing so or if he simply continues to rewrite himself into the original grand narrative of masculinity.

  6. Hey Hannah,
    I think you’re right in the overall sense of Galatea 2.2, but the instance I quote here refers specifically to a book that Powers had read as an ealry adult. Depending upon the situation, the influence of narration works in both directions. What Powers reads and writes combines to shape his life from both sides. What is most interesting about this effect is that while narrative provides ideology to mold our being, one could infer that we also have the power to write new narrative and change our course. We’ll have to read on and find out whether Powers succeeds in doing so or if he simply continues to rewrite himself into the original grand narrative of masculinity.

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