The Cloister and the Gypsies

When Adam Novy visited us, he said that he’d always wanted to write a “sequel” to the Bible, and this was his attempt at doing so. While references to God have been made by the narrators, it’s hard to tell if they are talking about the God of the Bible or something else. In addition to this, two religions have been described throughout the text. First is the religion of the Gypsies-namely, worshiping Morgan. The second is the religion of the Cloister. Mrs. Giggs is taken to a monastery in the country to avoid the turmoil of the city. These two religions seem to contrast each other. While the Cloister seems like a peaceful and safe retreat, the Gypsies’ religion seems agitated and chaotic. “We weren’t allowed to speak during our visits, though at first we didn’t mind, stunned as we were by the beauty of The Cloister, and the oddness of our loved ones. Footpaths lined by fences of stone traced the fogged rims of peaks, curtains of lush and brilliant colors swayed in the wind, which seemed the very breath of God…”.(195-196). Later, we read of the Gypsies tribute to Morgan. “Since he’d been returned to his bird-route in the ghetto, his debirding had become a Carnivale of Gypsies who tagged along around his horse-drawn flatbed, crying out their prayers to the birds…It seemed as though they’d thronged our city just to join the Swede boy in the streets, hooting and dancing…We even heard they beat themselves in frenzied exaltation, thrashing their bodies with sacks of stones and onions, writhing in the muddy city streets among the vermin and cats who feasted on the birds, and were feasted on by birds. Morgan and his flatbed headed the parade. Behind him were the altars, the effigies, the birdfloats made of feathers and the children dressed as birds, nostalgic for death-we didn’t blame them-and then there were the penitent, those who thrashed their bodies that the birds within their flesh would not degrade…” (218-219).

These two images are very different from each other. One seems to be an escape from the world, the other is grounded in it. It seems to underline the difference between Gypsy and non-Gypsy, with the Gypsies portrayed in a rather unflattering light. This seems to contradict the humanity that Novy has been attempting to give to the Gypsies. Perhaps it’s not just the Gypsies he wishes to humanize, but the upper class as well.

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