On Red Ropes (Literal & Otherwise)

There was quite a bit to take in in these last few chapters (so much so that I had great difficulty in sorting them out in order to determine how I feel about them), but one of the aspects that really stuck out to me were Alcofibras’ stories and their relationship to the events of the narrative. The first two, the one about the man and the piece of black bark, and the one about the woman with the wet dough, are both stories whose relevance to Ginny’s situation can be gleaned without much thought, but I found myself pausing to reflect on the mention of red rope. Ginny mentions it in passing as “[not having much] to it…The whole of the story was that sometimes the piece of red rope lying there without anybody to touch it would move (76)”. She is right; that isn’t much of a story. But, as a reader, I feel as though an otherwise miniscule detail would not have been brought up at all if it wasn’t meant to serve a purpose. While the other stories are certainly unnerving, I was especially perturbed by the simple red rope after a bit of thought.

Through Ginny’s narration, we get many glimpses into her dreams, in many of which she finds herself unable to move, or restricted in some way. This is obviously reflective of her relationship with Linus Lancaster, from whom she cannot run, and, in a way, it also explains why she begins to act more cruelly toward the girls – to do so is the only means by which she can exert power over anything or anyone. Her outbursts of abuse are sudden and uncalled for, not even explained by Ginny herself, (though the blooming of her sadistic nature makes itself known when she mentions killing pigs with Linus Lancaster in a tone of cold detachment [54]). She makes no move to defend the girls when they are locked in the shed with the rats, and even takes to doing so on her own accord eventually.

Much like the red rope, whose position changes without an external force, Ginny also shifts into a new position, from one of quiet submission, to one of just as quiet malice, with no set triggering event. She is a symbol of restraint while also restraining, insignificant but also rising above. She is indirectly aware aware of her actions toward Cleome and Zinnia without realizing their ramifications.

“A pig is a sensible beast. It knows what you are doing to it and it knows the why…It has seen what you have done to its fellows…[that] you have come to it on hell’s orders and that hell is where you will return… (54)”

Ginny is as much a butcher as she is a pig, bearing as much blood on her hands as she does on the rest of her body, something which she knows but does not realize until it is too late. There are some stains she cannot wash off, and perhaps she does not wish to.

“[Lucius Wilson] knew about the scar on my ankle, and he knew that whenever it started to settle I would give it a few fresh licks. He had walked in on me going after it…had stood watching me let it bleed into my sock…Drip through the tunnels. Head to the underparts of Kentucky. Talk to the worms.
‘What are you doing, Sue?’ he had asked.
‘Traveling, Mr. Lucius Wilson,’ I had said.
‘All right,’ he had said.

Indeed, it would seem that the only way that Ginny could hope to make any kind of movement in her life is by inflicting pain, the only memento of which is a scar on her ankle, red ropes trickling down into her sock.

“Scary wasn’t wrong (32).”


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