Useless Consensus

I want to start this post by saying that I found Adam Novy’s discussion of his novel on Friday extremely interesting, and it has allowed me to consider aspects of the text in ways I don’t think I would have considered otherwise.

With that said, I find that Katherine, Morgan, and the RedBlack soldiers embody Novy’s idea that trying to decide on a consensus about emotions, personal thoughts, and awareness surrounding a certain shared experience (such as 9/11) is useless because every affected individual is going to have different bits/incomplete pieces of information about that experience.

On pages 61-66 of The Avian Gospels, we read about the horrors and ruthlessness of the RedBlack soldiers, who defend and serve the Judge’s family.

“Mike demanded vengeance, and RedBlacks needed no more provocation. They stripped the child of his dignity, right there in the Square; broke the legs off chairs and shoved them up his orifices…they set upon the birds in the fountain…who screamed as they were tortured.” (61-62) We find out of course, that this violence was utterly and completely uncalled for because the apparent stolen wallet (which Mike accused this boy of stealing) was actually misplaced and found by Mike himself at the end of the chapter. Adam Novy goes on in chapter six to describe the specific and brutal details of the bird slaying and the shooting of Morgan and his father.

Almost immediately following this event are Katherine’s thoughts on her father and her extreme lack of knowledge and information surrounding her father’s power and the world she lives in: “She’d heard rumors about his temper and his cruelties, and didn’t like his attitude toward Mike, but he was sweet to her, and she was unaware of whatever vague and distant sins he had committed, of which she had so little actual information…she simply didn’t know the scope of what she didn’t know…people weren’t allowed to tell her otherwise…” (73) Katherine fills the role of an extremely sheltered and misinformed bystander in this bird infested/apocalyptic world, and this makes Novy’s idea of a useless consensus surrounding an experience very clear: different groups of people as well as individuals see (or don’t see) the horrific consequences of life-altering experiences, therefore we can’t even begin to come to a conclusion about the “whys” of events, emotions, and consequent behaviors as well as when a piece of mind will be reached. These are all individualized, and this is clear in Katherine’s, Morgan’s, and even the soldiers’ cases.

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