Who With Cloven Tongues Do Hiss Me Into Madness

I’ve been interested while reading Kind One about its connections to The Tempest. I’ve noticed that the text is interested in the contrasting themes of beauty and ugliness. For instance, in the beginning of the book, Ginny seems to be a fairly innocent young girl who misfortune befalls. As the book progresses, however, we learn that she is capable of cruelty and is conniving. We see the same sort of progression with Cleome and Zinnia. Once Linus is killed, they become somewhat monstrous in their treatment of Ginny. I mentioned in a previous post that I thought it was curious that a hideous man like Linus could be capable of a beautiful singing voice. These contrasting behaviors remind me of Caliban in The Tempest, who is half man, half monster. The quotes that are sprinkled throughout the text are said by Caliban.

All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall and make him
By inch-meal a disease! His spirits hear me
And yet I needs must curse. But they’ll nor pinch,
Fright me with urchin–shows, pitch me i’ the mire,
Nor lead me, like a firebrand, in the dark
Out of my way, unless he bid ’em; but
For every trifle are they set upon me;
Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me
And after bite me, then like hedgehogs which
Lie tumbling in my barefoot way and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness.

I think Kind One is interested in the capability of humans to be monsters. It’s also curious that Zinnia named Cleome’s son “Prosper”, which sounds an awful lot like “Prospero.” Although I’m unsure exactly which characters or scenarios are directly analogous to the characters and scenarious in The Tempest (or if any direct comparisons are meant to be drawn) I think it’s fair to say that the half-human, half-monster character of Caliban is represented in Kind One.

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