The Fingerling and the Bear

To be honest, it was difficult for me to put aside the feelings of horror and disgust I had while reading the first few pages of In the House. Despite these feelings, I think the book has interesting things to say and I tried to reign in my reaction so that I could focus on what the events actually meant. Although I’m unsure yet if this was meant by the author, I found myself drawing connections between the Fingerling and the bear. In the first few pages, we learn that the bear destroyed their temporary home in the cave, ripping apart their wedding albums and gifts. This reminded me of the way in which the Fingerling turns the husband against the wife, ripping apart their metaphorical wedding album. “Now the Fingerling came into possession of his full voice, and often he whispered darkly in my ear, revealing the objects my wife sand into being but then hid or else buried….Already I was made to learn to despise him by his words, and also sometimes her, and as each child sputtered inside her, my wife moved away, or else I did…” (19). This brings me to another point–while the husband very clearly hates the Fingerling, he does nothing to try to suppress him. This reminds me of the bear, and how he is determined to kill everything in the forest, but does not attempt to kill the bear, no matter how much he hates it. “The only animal I dared not trap was the giant bear, who I correctly feared would suffer me not to try” (45). There’s also the matter of the physical appearance of both the Fingerling and the bear. The Fingerling was not fully developed when he was born, and was described in rather unforgiving terms by the husband. The bear also seems to by physical deformed. “[W]here brown fur should have covered the expanse of its back, that fur was in places ripped, and the skin below was torn so that an armor of bone poked through the wound, yellowed and slickly wet. Still the bear seemed hardly to know its hurt, its movements easy, unslowed, perhaps untinged with pain” (13). I think it’s possible that the bear is a physical manifestation of the husband’s mental struggle with the Fingerling.

Also, I found myself wondering throughout these first few pages about the motivation for the husband and wife to have a child. I’m not asking why people ever want to have children, but specifically, why do these people want to have a child so badly? 

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