Violence for “tone” and “point”

Swallowing the fingerling is, to me, probably the most striking instance of violence in the text thus far, and I think that moment matters (the violence functions effectively here) because of its tone and point, like Kawin says. The tone is a mixture of matter-of-fact, sadness, and desire. I think that the point of the violence here is to draw attention to the “fallibility, vulnerability, and culpability” of the narrator (Kawin 237). After taking the fingerling into himself so that he might help it to grow since his wife could not, the reader increasingly notices the narrator’s preoccupation with ownership – his desire to own. The tones of matter-of-fact and sadness, I think, serve to indicate the inherent and basic nature of his desire for ownership. He does not think twice about taking the violent action of swallowing the fetus that it requires to own his son. To him, it seems to be an obvious choice to alleviate his genuine sadness. As he walks through the deep house and sees the room holding the moment of the fingerling’s conception, he remembers being jealous of his wife for possessing their future child, and he explains his horrific consumption of the fingerling following its stillbirth as the act that eased that jealousy: “[he] claimed the two halves of [husband and wife] for [himself]” (Bell 114). In this way, the amount of disgust that I felt when I read this scene was “irrelevant” (Kawin 241) because its purpose had to do with its “tone and point,” not with its level of violence, according to Kawin. I agree with that for this scene. If the narrator had not committed that disgusting act so early in the book, we would not have received such a clear introduction to his flaws – his desire to own a wife and possess a child but not to be a parent or a husband (Bell 47).

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