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Mairin Martin’s Formal Blog Post on Patrick McGrath’s Spider (part 3)

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“[The creatures] have learned too, the insidious technique of taking the content of my days thoughts and rendering it filthy or absurd or grotesque, and sometimes even as I’m writing I can’t stop myself looking up, I see a skewed imitation of the very matter on the page in front of me- see now! See them do it now! See how huge my hands are, disproportionately huge, and my face long and yellow with the skin flaking off in a shower like the scales of a cod under the fish monger’s knife! Oh see him fumbling there, the poor monster, fumbling with his pencil with those great misshapen paws- the pencil so tiny and delicate now as he tried to grasp and manipulate it- and I tear my eyes away, force myself back to the book…”
– Spider pg. 213

As Dennis goes longer and longer without his medications, his mind sinks further and further in to the realm of the world he creates with his schizophrenia. While in this state of mind, Dennis no longer has control over the splitting of himself into different beings. As he unravels, the narrator reveals to the reader the reasons behind his need to create Spider, to displace the blame for his mother’s murder. With an unlocked mind, Dennis allows himself to remember that he killed his mother. Immediately upon doing so, the narrator reverts to speaking of Spider in the third person. This time, it is not with a loving and sentimental voice that he speaks of Spider, as he did earlier in the novel, reflecting on the only times of contentment in his life which were spent alone with his mother who called him Spider because she knew that was who he really was. Now that the narrator has discovered he is responsible for his mother’s death he speaks of the Spider in himself as an “other”. There is a man separate from himself who is writing in his diary. This man, Spider, is a monster. Dennis wants to be able to blame someone else for his horrific actions and so he creates Spider. Here, Dennis is displaying the desire of the “normal” people to reassure themselves of their normality by dwelling on the monstrosity of the “others”. Dennis’ half of the brain, the “good lunatic” side, describes Spider as a monster in order to make sense of why he would murder his mother.

Another result of the lack of medication is that the creatures are not only more prevalent, but they have become more active beings, beginning just as loud voices scuffling in the attics then speaking directly to Spider (“kill her”) and now openly mocking and ridiculing the narrator. Rather than subject himself to this torture, the narrator pulls himself aside and leaves Spider behind. In this way, he can be Dennis and he can be on the stronger side; he can be one of the crowd and join with the creatures in the attic, mocking the deformed Spider rather than sitting weak and lonely, the object of their ridicule. Through the mechanics of blame and desperation to separate himself from the part responsible for his mother’s death, the narrator begins to show, for the first time, the origins of his schizophrenia that are based in the need to shift blame from himself. In doing so, Dennis displays an acute sense of understanding of social norms. He attempts to convince himself of his normality and sanity by casting out and chastising the “other”, the Spider, within him. He uses the mentally disabled part of himself as a scapegoat for the actions for which he is too weak to take responsibility.

Written by Mairin Martin

November 1st, 2010 at 9:44 am

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