Shadow and the mind

Two things that interest me in the beginning of Kind One are Ginny’s search for the right word to describe the situation that she experienced with her husband, Linus Lancaster, and the continual emphasis on the “mind” (21, 24, 27, 28).  She uses it in reference to intelligence (which Linus Lancaster prefers in women: he “appreciated the delicacies of the mind” p. 21 & 28); she uses synecdoche and tells us what “the mind” wants, rather than what the person wants (24); and she tells us that her teacher appreciated that she was a student who “had a head and not a stuffed feed sack to do her thinking with” (27, emphasis added).

When Ginny chooses “shadow” as “the word to say what it was that befell us in that house in Kentucky” (23), I wondered whether she was basing her decision on knowledge of the actual definition of shadow (and it really fit the situation) or whether she found the word “shadow” and just thought it fit the situation. This is only a subtle distinction, but I was curious since she couldn’t come up with the word on her own: she had to find it on her own. When I read this passage, I thought that if I were ever going to write something about her situation in Kentucky as a “shadow,” I’d have to know whether it was an appropriate way to name the situation according to the dictionary. I’d have to figure out why Hunt chose the word shadow.

As I continued reading, it seemed to me that the word shadow is appropriate to describe the way that Linus Lancaster restricts his wife (such as by limiting her to reading just the Bible, which he didn’t even give her access to) and his “girls.” Still, I eventually looked up “shadow” in the OED to make sure I wasn’t missing anything more profound than that. 


What I found was “partial darkness produced by a body intercepting the direct rays of the sun or other luminary.” All of a sudden, the narrators emphasis on the mind (maybe preoccupation with the mind, since Ginny sometimes uses the word “mind” or “head” in places that it is not completely necessary) makes a little more sense: Ginny’s “mind” – her knowledge, her desire for more knowledge, and her process of acquiring that knowledge – is the “luminary” that Linus Lancaster’s presence is intercepting. While in Kentucky, Ginny is blocked from knowledge, but this luminary is able to shine through again once she leaves Kentucky. In Indiana, she reads all the books she can from Lucious Wilson’s house, and she comes “out of that shadow and into this sunshine” (23).

So, at the very least, I’m now satisfied by the narrator’s (and Hunt’s) choice of the word “shadow” to describe the narrator’s situation in Kentucky. It seems intricately appropriate.


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