On Human Versus Animalistic Instinct

Our class discussion about transformation illuminated a concept in the readings that I had not yet considered before: the idea that humanity may still be preserved in the beings that have since taken up a different form. This came fully to my attention in the scene in which the fingerling takes residence in the sac that holds the narrator-squid’s ink, only to be expelled in a defense against the bear chasing them into the water. The narrator, clearly reflecting in retrospect, says:

“Despite his treacheries he was sometimes somehow still a baby boy, and had I been a man his drowning might have undone the taut strings with which I has shut my heart.
As a squid?
As a squid I saw only a food we would not eat, flesh of my flesh, poison if I made the same mistake again.” (221)

It struck me as odd that the narrator might be aware of these distinctions, yet lack the urge – or the ability – to hold onto the roots of his humanity in that moment, especially where the fingerling has been a part of him for so long. I thought of the bear, and the way she had come so close to mauling him when she was informed of what had become of her cub and felt confused. However, I suppose bear cubs need their mothers in early life to ensure their survival; although I cannot find any information of the parenting of squids, I assume that they have little need for the same kind of parental guidance. Perhaps the reason why the narrator is unable to  feel the same attachment to the fingerling at the moment of his departure is simply because at that moment, he lacks the instinct which tells him he ought to be upset. Instead, he has only the matter-of-fact understanding of the fingerling as “food [I] would not eat” and should not have eaten, something to be expelled and avoided in light of a previous mistake.

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