On “The Way of the World”

An interesting parallel that I found in these chapters was the concept of the world, in both a literal and figurative manner. Early in the assigned chapters, Ginny describes a dream in which Alcofibras comes to her, battered and scarred, and begins doing a dance; at one point, Ginny says that he would repeatedly clap his hands and then “he would hold them out to me like he was saying Stop (100)”. This dance goes on for a few minutes, but he gradually begins to morph into a creature made up almost entirely of ears; she says “I found myself sobbing because all they had to listen to was my poor breath and my poor heart” When she asks what it is that he has shown her, Alcofibras simply replies “The way of the World, Mother. The way of the World, Miss Ginny (101)”.

Linus Lancaster also comes to her in a dream, in which he describes his former affiliation with Bennett Marsden and how they had planned to build a theater together, the way they could not agree on a name. Linus Lancaster goes behind Bennet Marsden’s back and paints the sign outside the building with the name “The World”, as he had personally wanted it, and, while Bennett Marsden appeared not to care very much, he betrays Linus Lancaster in the end my having him rehearse for the wrong play that would be performed on opening night. Linus says, “‘The room laughed…I saw straightaway the trick he had played me, understood the payment he had given me for my World’ (119-120)”.

While these appear to be two very different references to the idea of world, they caught my interest because the word “world” is capitalized in both instances. Alcofibras seems to be referring to the world on a generalized level, Linus Lancaster a specific segment of it, yet both “worlds” appear to abide by the same “ways”, though what exactly those ways consist of is up for debate. Occurrences of betrayal? The chance of one’s punishment being of greater magnitude than his or her transgression (that can often be merciless, unrelenting no matter how many times one’s hands are put up), perhaps? In any case, the world is very much a set of ears, able to listen to poor breaths and poor hearts but being unable (or unwilling) to make life relent.

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