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Allison Miller’s Formal Blog Post on Caryl Churchill’s A Mouth Full of Birds

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Spirit: He’s

disgusting. He fills the

whole /room up.

 His hair smells. His

eyes have got yellow in

the corners. His ears

have got hairs on. His

nose has got big pores

and the nostrils are too

big and full of hair and

snot and he snores/

and snorts. His teeth are

yellow. His tongue’s


He swallows the air.

That’s why you don’t exist. (Churchill, 13-14)

A lot of people may think that the Spirit represents Lena’s mental disability which she struggles with in the play. I agree,  however, I think Lena’s struggle with the Spirit goes farther than mental disability. I argue that the Spirit creates physical imperfection in Roy. In other words, not only is Lena a victim of mental instability, but Roy is the the victim of physical disability made up by Lena’s subconscious mind. Churhill does this to show that mental disability has the power to control and manipulate physical disability.

What’s interesting is how the Spirit describes Roy’s face, by using a lot of graphic imagery. Notice how the Spirit uses the word yellow when describing different features, especially his eyes, tongue and teeth. To me, the yellow I imagine is a pale, dirty yellow, which gives him unclean look. His ears give me the image of a weeds overgrown and killing  flowers. When the Spirit points out the little details of Roy, they automatically become bigger in a sense that his look becomes unacceptable for Lena’s “clean” mind. In a way, the Spirit creates an ill, corpse like figure.

What’s really scary is when the Spirit says that Roy swallows the air, as well as filling up the whole room. One gets the image of pure air being sucked away because of Roy’s existence. Because Roy exists, he represents something bad spreading around that makes Lena unable to think straight. Because the Spirit creates Roy as physically disabled, he  persuades Lena that Roy is a disease that must be eliminated. When remnants of that disease are around, she cannot be “pure” in a sense, nor get rid of her mental illness (the Spirit). The only way she can get rid of Roy’s disease from spreading to her is to kill the baby, because the baby has Roy’s “tainted” blood. When Lena kills the baby, then she will exist and be happy again. It’s like Victor in Shelley’s Frankenstein, who thinks the Creature is abominable and fears a “tainted” world if he made a female for the Creature (because they might have children). What’s interesting is that there is no mention of an external factor that shuns Roy (society). Instead, the Spirit is controlling Roy’s exclusion, which means that Lena’s mind is classifying him as ugly and unacceptable to her.

Even though Lena did kill the baby, she forgets one thing; Roy. If the Spirit was right, then she would have to kill Roy as well in order to be free of his existence (or disease). Not only does Roy get upset about the murder, but the Spirit comes back and will continue to come back because of Roy’s existence. Lena’s subconscious leaves Roy losing his baby, therefore losing a part of himself through his daughter. However, that was the Spirit’s plan overall. He deceives Lena of being free from Roy’s imperfection as well as existing within a “clean” state of mind to show that the mind wants an ideal perception, but can’t have it.

Written by library1288

October 6th, 2010 at 10:07 am