Wells and Pigs

   Two of the motifs of this novel seem to be wells and pigs. Because, after 48 pages, I absolutely believe that almost everything in this novel is a carefully constructed metaphor, I tried to figure out what these two symbols are representing in the text.

   The well makes its first appearance in the ominous and lucid overture. The narrator is digging into the earth, deep into the cold and wet, and is proud of his efforts, until his child dies in the well. The well becomes a place of loss: a literal return to the earth of what was once alive. Possibly a biblical reference is in effect here (surely Linus would get it, with all the bible-reading he does. Joking) With Ginny as our narrator, we find the well reappearing when she remembers her own loss, as she lets her blood soak through the floorboards and into the earth. In another scene, Cleome hides in a well, to avoid a beating. I think wells are working as a metaphor for loss, and for the process of feeling loss; the cold, damp, lonely interior of the well is how Ginny feels about her loss of innocence, how Cleome feels about her loss of agency or ability to really run away, and how the first character feels when he loses his child.

   The pigs were confusing for me until the narrator brought in Ulysses, the farmhand. I immediately thought of the Odyssey, and after reminding myself of the plot, I made a strange connection: Linus compares his slave girls to pigs (42). To Ginny, and her father, the servants are not pigs at all, but human beings; as for Ulysses the farmhand, I’m sure he’d prefer that he and his fellow farmhands (his fellow traveling men, in the Odyssey) not be thought of as less than or equal to a pig, but that’s the mindset Linus is (disgustingly) living with. There are men turned into pigs by magic in ancient folklore, and men who might as well be pigs to Linus Lancaster in this novel. Race and slavery are obviously at issue here, and I’m sure we’ll see more of Linus’ racism later in the novel.


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