Friday, April 10, 2009

Boy and Girl

The boy and the girl walk together, down the side of the rural, one-lane road; hand in hand. In their free hands they hold items. The boy hold a bow in his left hand; the girl grasps a quiver of arrows in her right. On their faces is no expression save contentment.

I would stop, to take a photo; but there is a car ever behind me, and no turnout nearby. I drive onwards.

B. Kenneth, Dreams of a Philadelphia Schoolboy
The surface layer of symbolism here is the most obvious, so we will only go over it briefly. The boy and the girl are obvious representatives of love, in its purest, most ideal form. (Which, as Plato noted, can never be truly manifested in the real world. The rurality, as well as the archaism of the 'bow and arrow', brings to mind feelings of nostalgia, recollections of the past. The note on the facial expressions again reinforces the idea of the ideal - though the negative form is peculiar, and perhaps significant - and the 'car behind him' (the press of the material world) further separates this incident from reality. The accounting ends with the departure of the author - showing that, no matter how long we might wish to linger in the idealized past, we cannot do so forever.

But to leave our analysis at this puerile level would be a disservice to you and me both - so we continue. The next point is the bow and arrows - and on this much can be said. The boy and girl, rather than sharing the load together, each carry different components - separating them. Furthermore, owing to the way in which they carry them, they will be pulled apart by the weight of the weapons - however slightly! - showing that, even in the ideal, every relationship contains the seed of its own dissolute - whether through intrapersonal strife or the endless, necrotic touch of entropy that eats away at every thing. The very choice of the bow and arrows is peculiar - it evokes either warfare, a remarkably inappropriate sentiment - again we come back to death and strife - or Cupid, the Roman god of love. (Also known as Eros.) But we must remember Cupid's function - to fire arrows that inspired love, regardless of the previous feelings of his targets. Is this true love? Or was it forced - feigned - compelled? Is this any sort of ideal at all - or is it the true form of love, the only form of love, which is forced upon one party or another? These are difficult questions. The piece makes no attempt to answer them - save in the last line of the first paragraph. "On their faces is no expression save contentment." It's expressed in the negative - why? Is there any expression on their faces at all? Or are they hiding their feelings - or mere shells, Elliot's 'hollow men'? (Perhaps a connection to Conrad - the attack on the river?) Whichever, it is clear that the nature of the relationship depicted is by no means so idyllic as it initially - superficially - appeared.



Calvacadeofcats said...

so do they have sex at the end or what

Cavalcadeofcats said...

Sure, that's in the line I didn't excerpt. Sorry! Next time.