The Past as a Squeezing Hand, A Physical Presence

Kind One shows the indubitable power of the past in shaping our presents, and our futures. We know this already, just based on our own lives, and other texts; the force of what’s occurred in the years behind us is always an underlying one, shaping perspective as well as plot. But the characters in Kind One approach the past with an almost fearful reverence or shaken wonderment; it is continuously treated like a physical force, like something with the power to return and rear up into the present, with the power to pull characters back down or uncover what was buried. I noticed this in grappling with certain moments, when characters are musing, and facing the future but cannot help but ponder the past concurrently. Particularly, Zinnia experiences a moment so charged with this awed dread for the past that it seems to be almost physically present around her. On pages 161-162, when she’s an older woman and has settled far from Kentucky, she seems to be almost seized by the past, or a notion about the past, during a Sunday church service: “It put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. I carried it here …” and later, “It must have been just outside the church” (161). The way that Zinnia is disturbed by the past in this instance is incredibly weighty; it shows the Paradise-past’s inescapability, its ever-underlying presence, and the way that it can make these characters act and make decisions even when they are years separated from this earlier time. There is a deep parallel with Alcofibras’s story of the black bark, and even the wet dough. These stories speak of the heaviness and the almost obligation innate in the past; it is something that must be carried constantly, something that will take from and shape individuals, something that Zinnia (and Ginny) certainly feel they must listen to and obey in some way.

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