Destruction and Possession — The Father’s Trial

There are interesting themes of possession, creation, destruction, ownership and connection in Matt Bell’s text so far. These themes are perhaps best shown through the actions of the characters up to this point in the book. The mother figure is marked by her ability conjure things into reality, to solidify things. In fact she’s seems indubitably bent towards achieving one thing: creating a baby. I tie the mother figure to the theme of creation, then.

Additionally, when she is finally able to find or create the foundling, the mother seems to be linked to the theme of connection. She eats the same things as the boy; she is able to calm him or make him happy; she’s able to wake him when he’s sleeping;  he prefers her lap to rest in — and in fact, he grows listless and lethargic whenever she’s not in his presence. All of these behaviors contrast with the way that the boy acts around his father. And so Bell seems to show us the mother’s ability to connect with this boy, which diverges from the marked disconnect between the boy and his father.

Furthermore, whereas the mother is tied to themes of creation and fruition, the father’s motivation surrounding his desire to possess and to own leads to acts of destruction. As he grows apart from his wife (and begins to lack to ownership that he wants), he performs a mass extinction in the forest — rather than connection and creation, he embodies destruction, the absence of things, and disconnection. I’m wondering if perhaps this embodiment is tied to the father’s acute desire for ownership and possession, rather than for genuine connection (as the mother figure seems to desire); as he elucidates on page 47, “I had never thought rightly of how to be a parent or a husband, only of possessing a child, of owning a wife.”


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