Beauty Marked by Darkness

I’m so glad that we brought up Kind One’s tie to The Tempest. Reading the text over the weekend solidified this connection even more for me, and I’ve been drawing upon what I remember from the Shakespeare play to better understand the sheer strangeness in this book. There are several components of The Tempest that I see repeated and explored in Laird Hunt’s novel: first, the strange and almost unearthly phenomenon and that seems to occur when a place of beauty and natural wonder is marred by the tragic, or by darkness. We see images of beauty and peace repeated throughout Kind One regarding Linus Lancaster’s “bit of heaven.” Initially, the narrator describes her frolics with Zinnia and Cleome in the early days of her time in Kentucky. But she maintains this sense of beauty throughout the first half of the book, even after Linus has been skewered and her role has been reversed — from a power-holder to a subject. She describes the “leaf-lit sky” and “creek-lipped field” of her prison (pg 87). This is a deep parallel with the atmosphere created by The Tempest, I think; Caliban — wild, feral, vulgar Caliban — is the one to remark on the beauty and poetry of the island where Prospero makes his home. Caliban is the only one to truly understand and recognize this beauty — there is a pairing of the dark, the strange, with what is beautiful and natural.

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