In Bodies in Transit, Sparrow explains Lingis’s ideas about travel and encountering “foreign” things, and they seem to speak to Howard’s characterization of Johnnie. For example, Sparrow explains that Lingis believes people’s habits and tendencies can “reconfigure in an instance” as the result of contact with something new and foreign. He explains that this change can be as life-changing as the loss of a loved one (117). Perhaps I’m just harping on Johnnie’s “enthusiasm” again, but I see a connection among (1) Johnnie’s inability to stop herself from acting in the way that comes naturally (her “automatism” (Sparrow 117)), (2) Johnnie’s desire to be a foreign correspondent, and (3) Lingis’s belief that interaction with something foreign allows people to break away from or modify their automatism.
My Howard included the character Alphonso in the text to help us recognize that although Johnnie cannot overcome her automatic behavior, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to. Maybe with some new interactions – away from the domestic reporting that she does – she would be able to grow as a person.