On Torture & Barbarianism

In today’s class, we talked at length about the concept of personality and choices in the novel – whether or not certain characters had choices, and what those choices said about them as people. I remarked on the difficulty of feeling like one has a choice when living in a society so strictly governed, working off of the idea that personality shapes choices; however, reading further into the novel has made me consider the opposite.

Many of the chapters become focalized on Mike’s tutor, whom we know as a sensitive man and a RedBlack reject who pines unsuccessfully for Katherine’s affections. We see a distinct change come over him in upcoming chapters, however, when he learns that Katherine may have become romantically/sexually involved with Morgan, a boy whom is not only a RedBlack target, but someone she hardly knows. He begins to seek Katherine and Morgan out in the Gypsies’ underground tunnels, a feat he realizes he can achieve unrecognized after being beat up beyond recognition, once by strangers, and at least once by Mike and his friends. While this inclination toward physical harm may have began as an expression of self-destructive impulses, while walking through the tunnels, he remarks to himself, “He used to think that torture was barbaric, but now it didn’t seem to bother him. Funny, that.” (237)

The opposite change seems to have come over Mike. While he has previously been known for his violent nature, a confrontation with Morgan after he had chased him through the tunnels (this being after he had seen his sister and Morgan having sex), he suddenly finds himself shrinking back from Morgan’s lack of mercy, his power in being able to murder Tom without any consideration for another human life. (This is later seen in Charlie’s backstory, though his lack of desire to fight seems innate from the beginning.) Instead of getting revenge on Morgan, which may have been expected of him to do, he chooses to flee, lying to the Judge about what actually took place.

In any case, perhaps I was wrong in assuming that the characters of The Avian Gospels are/felt confined in their options for a course of action. Later chapters have demonstrated that these choices were never entirely out of the question, although it took certain circumstances for them to be actualized, the tutor being driven by jealousy, and Mike by fears he had yet to come to know.

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