On Dissimulation

“‘Let me introduce you to a concept. Two concepts, actually. Important tools for surviving the human condition. One is called irony…the next [is dissimulation]. Giving the false appearance that you are not some thing.'” (315)

Though there were a lot of thought-provoking concepts within the final chapters of The Flamethrowers, I was particularly struck by this quote said by Ronnie Fountaine. As I mentioned in a previous post, the majority of the people that surround Reno seem to be largely constructed out of dissimulated idea(l)s of themselves, Giddle and Ronnie in particular. This concept has gotten more and more intriguing as I read on, however, the reasons for which having been fully uncovered in our last class discussion: someone had mentioned that, though we perceive the narrative through her lens, we are given relatively little information about Reno, and even less on how she perceives the events around her emotionally as they happen, save for the disintegration of the relationship between her and Sandro. In fact – and here is the irony – it can be argued that at times that the characters in which she seems to interact are more developed than she is as a result, even if integral parts of their identities are fabricated.

In light of this revelation, I have been grappling with what this says about Reno as a person. Ronnie, in this singular moment of vulnerability, is quite aware of why he does what he does, why stretching the truth is of necessity: “surviv[ing] the human condition”. Unable to cope with his residual guilt surrounding his brother’s incarceration, Ronnie finds a roundabout way of admitting his connections to his crimes, even if those connections are separate entities from himself – the Ron Fontanas and the Robert Fountaines, the almost-realities to which he belongs without truly belonging. Reno, on the other hand, does not have these psuedo-dopplegangers, parallel versions of herself whose means of survival of the human condition cannot be measured against her own. She does not even have a name, not in the sense that everyone else in the novel does; she instead attaches her value and her self to what she experiences and where she’s been.

(Another irony: in looking in police records for criminals who share his name, we can ensure that that is the one piece of his identity that has remained consistent all this time.)

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