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Susan’s Formal Post on Patrick McGrath’s Spider, part 1

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I am not a fast walker; I shuffle, rather than walk, and often I am forced to stop dead in the middle of the pavement.  I forget how to do it, you see, for nothing is automatic with me anymore, not since I came back from Canada.  The simplest actions—eating, dressing, going to the lavatory—can sometimes pose near-insurmountable problems, not because I am physically handicapped in any way, but rather because I lose the easy, fluid sense of being-in-the-body that I once had; the linkage of brain and limb is a delicate mechanism, and often, now, for me, it becomes uncoupled. (10)

This passage from Patrick McGrath’s Spider comes from the very beginning of the book.  I found it to be important because it is the first instance that allows us to know of Spider’s mental disability, a significant influence throughout the rest of the book.

Spider’s mental disability is established not by an explicit statement, but rather as a foil to physical disability. He reveals that he is challenged by walking, along with “eating, dressing, going to the lavatory,” and that these activities “can sometimes pose insurmountable problems” (10).  These challenges could easily be classified as the result of a physical disability since they are activities difficult for Spider to complete.  However, in this passage Spider makes it clear that physical disability is not the case.  He states he has these problems “not because I am physically handicapped in any way,” but because his “linkage of brain and limb” sometimes becomes “uncoupled” (10).  This is the reasoning presented to us as an explanation behind the disconnect between Spider’s mind and the rest of his body.

Although this is an abstract representation of mental disability (as most representations are), it is firmly established that Spider is suffering from something inside his mind, rather than a physical impairment.  Without this important insight into the character of Spider, a reader would have difficulty understanding the character and motivations of Spider for the remainder of the book.

Written by Susan

October 27th, 2010 at 11:53 am