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Lindsay’s Class Summary on McGrath’s Spider Part 2 on 10/29/10

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On Friday, we as a large class gathered in a circle and analyzed 3 prompts from the class meeting documents on Patrick McGrath’s Spider. These 3 prompts were various quotations throughout the novel that in some way focused on Spider’s reliability as a narrator. As a class, we decided that Spider’s narration is valid to a point, knowing that his perception is altered because of the murder of his mother.

We looked at the first prompt, which occurs when Spider leaves his father washing potatoes in the kitchen and migrates back into his humble abode on pg. 91. Various points were noted that this is where we first see Spider unhinged with the evidence of the voices in the attic and the pain that feels so alive inside of him. We also suggested that this contrasts his feeling of emptiness inside, similar to the two compartments within him that will be further discussed in the second prompt. This contrast provided us to figure out the extent to which Spider is talking about his father when he is essentially talking about himself.  We also compared Spider’s father’s feelings after the murder as well as his and concluded that Spider’s father is plagued by thoughts in his mind as well as Spider: “It warped his perceptions: the shed and the vegetables seemed to turn black in front of his eyes, and before he had taken one step down the path he sensed a sort of thrashing and writhing all about him,” (88). Taking a look at this comparison, we thought back to the first half of the novel and how much anger we had towards Spider’s father and how that steered us to sympathize with Spider. We reflected how in this part Hilda and Horace act like there is nothing wrong and because of their actions here, this brought us to question if Spider’s father is acting or if he is just confused, and if his motive is to act, then his plan to drive his son mad is indeed succeeding. We further developed that if this was the case, Horace’s intent is not only to drive his son to madness, but he also can be playing on the readers’ sympathy for the disabled. Sympathizing with disability, we talked about how Spider is using the dialogue with his father as an excuse to justify what is going on in his own mind so he does not collapse from his altered perception of reality.

We then moved on to the second prompt which is when we see Spider reflecting on his mother’s death and right after Hilda’s nagging on him on pg. 98. We focused on the two head system and its representation to distinguish between a diagnosis today and schizophrenia. It consists of two different beings inside; the front being Dennis with his mother’s nonexistence and the back being Spider (the real him) with the existence of his mother. Taking into account his schizophrenic state, we could not help but question whether Spider is writing to us in the front, trying to protect the back of his head or the back, letting us experience the real him with true thoughts and feelings? We then looked at pg. 91 and concluded that when memory is considered, the front and back of the mind are not pinpointed: “ I’d been sitting at my table describing the events of that terrible night and the day that followed, and in the process the memories had somehow become more vivid than the immediate situation-that familiar running together of past and present had occurred,” (91). It seems like whenever facts are in consideration, Spider is acting as an extra third person by not siding with any of his split selves, but when it comes to his real thoughts and feelings, many questions arise on the validity of these points.

Finally, we briefly talked about the last prompt and here we see Spider writing in his journal. We talked about how Spider is feeling like a light bulb; if he shatters like the light bulb would, he would want control and how he is afraid of being written. We then brought up the point that if Spider is not feeling in control with his journal, what does he have left? We also reiterated that Spider is very emotional as we have seen in the previous two prompts and that he lives in his head, which could be one of the many reasons for his struggle with his journal. Another point was brought to our attention in that while Spider lives in his head, Sula does not and how that would be an interesting idea to discover further for a blog post.

We ended our discussion with comparing Benjy from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury to Spider. The two characters were compared as literary devices in that we as readers want to trust the two of them as valid narrators. However, I feel they cannot be fully legitimate because both of them are very unaware of their surroundings from their skewed perceptions. All in all, I agree with the points that were raised from our class discussion and as I continue on with Spider, I will keep these thoughts in mind.

Written by lglotzer

November 3rd, 2010 at 11:39 am

Posted in class summaries