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“What do you love? What do you live by?”

These questions were thrown at Binx by his aunt Emily. Until this moment, I saw someone like Binx who was going against the norm and a preset life for him. He was ambitious, and he was taking his time. He was a rebel and he knew himself. He knew that this life his aunt was expecting of him was not for him. I admire rebelliousness. But I find myself questioning this thought today – If he truly knew himself – what was stopping him from answering these questions? Nothing. Or maybe the uncertainties were just a part of the process.

“..the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair.” – Soren Kierkegaard

I would say Binx’s complicated character is what makes it interesting. And Kierkegaard gives it a context. Perhaps Binx’s search for an answer was his version of drowning in an ocean of despair. He was in despair because to him, he was just confronting societal norms and was unwilling to accept the limitations of life that were presented to him. It could have been his way of denying that life was just that bland. Perhaps, he was subconsciously aware that what he sought was not something he could achieve. But he was unaware of being in this despair until he was faced with this question of “what do you live by?”

Binx did not know the answer. But perhaps he accepted the unruliness life is, and the cruelty of life’s blandness. Perhaps, he was finally aware of being despair.

A Streetcar Named Desire was an interesting read on mental illness and the scary reality and culture our society has of women depending on men. Watching the movie after reading the play was quite shocking, as seeing the actions of Stanley and the steady decline of Blanche’s mind is alarming. Stanley raping Blanche was the tipping point for an already teetering Blanche, especially after her sister, Stella, refuses to believe her because Stella cannot live without Stanley. I do believe Blanche was traumatized by her husbands death and that was the catalyst for the sickness that began to plague her, however, an interesting line from Stella about Blanche that I believe is important is when she states that Blanche was always special, even as a child. I think Blanche has always had problems, but the tragedy of her husbands death, the shunning she experience as she tries to fill the void in her heart that was left by the death, and the her rape is when it finally all sets in and catches up with her. Even in one of the first scenes with Blanche that I read, I could tell there was something not quite right and this was capitalized on throughout the play.

Mental illness is a complicated and touchy subject for many, and is an issue that I believe no one will ever truly be able to understand because it is an individual experience. An interesting and powerful line in the play is one of the last lines given by Blanche when she is taken away to the psych ward. She says “..I have always depended on the kindness of strangers..”, and I think this is an interesting line when it comes to Blanches story and for the matter of mental illness. In today’s society, we speak of how one small smile or gesture to a stranger can go a long way since we never truly know what another person is going through. For Blanche, I believe this is true because strangers are who she attempted to fill the void in her heart with, and when that did not work out, she then filled her head with these strangers through extravagant stories and by manipulating and lying to those around her. Blanche does not live in reality which we are clearly able to see but those around her are not until it is too late. An n interesting part of the play is when Mitch notes that he has yet to see Blanche in the light and I believe this to be a metaphor. The light is reality which Blanche is unable to face and live in so she avoids it, and the darkness is her mental illness.

The Awakening

The Awakening was a terribly sad story that tackles the issue of mental illness and a woman’s independence. Edna, the main character, ironically enough, kills herself as soon as she is awakened and becoming independent. Throughout the book, Edna is trapped in a cage that is her life due to not really feeling anything and complying to her husband who she does not love. Not until she feels everything, due to being awakened through her affair with Robert, does she realize that she was in a cage like the parrot in the first line of the book. She feels “An indescribable oppression..” (11) and sadly enough, one of the only things that brings her joy besides Robert is the independence of swimming on her own for the first time and defying her husband, is the very thing that kills her.

One of the more humorous things I found while reading The Awakening was the relationship between Edna and her husband Mr. Pontellier. Mr. Pontellier’s mindset for his wife is quite demeaning, despite her being “..the sole object of his existence”. However, he does not act nor speak like it. He speaks of his live for his children, but then thinks it is his wife’s job to look after them when he believes one of their sons is sick. He orders her around and I am able to relate to Edna’s oppression because being ordered around like that would drive me insane too. While I do not necessarily agree and support Edna’s mindset for her children- she in a way views having children a bad thing and one of the things that also takes away her independence- once again, the matter of Edna feeling trapped like one of the several birds throughout the book is shown. Edna fights for her independence until her last breath I believe and in the end I believe was just tired. She was tired of being oppressed by her husband, by her children, and by society. The loss of Robert pushes her to finally giving up the very independence she fought so hard for. In a way, however, I think her killing herself can be argued is a way of her still owning her independence, though many might disagree. One of the most powerful lines for me in the book was on the last page. “Goodbye- because I love you.” This line was extremely sad, but this final wording in a way made me finally understand the entire book. I finally was able to understand the exhaustion Edna felt fighting the oppression she had experienced throughout the entire book, as well as her mental illness.

The Moviegoer

The Moviegoer was a book that I personally was able to relate to in an odd way. In class, it was mentioned how everyone hated this book and that it was terrible, so admitting that, somehow, in a way, I was able to sympathize with the piece is a complicated truth that in class I already know will be hard and possibly embarrassing to admit. Now, please do not misunderstand me, I do not relate to everything Binx feels and experiences, but there are a few minor details that I was able to relate to in two distinct ways.

Binx experiences having an unclear purpose for his life throughout the book, which as a 21-year-old college student in her senior year, I can very much understand. One line that struck me and that made me begin to question myself and my purpose was “..Everything is upside down for me..What are generally considered to be the best of times are for me the worst of times, and that worst of times was one of the best.” (10) This line is one of my favorite lines of the entire book. This one line shows the complexity of who Binx is, as well as highlighting an underlying theme of the complexity of life for each individual person. Binx speaks of a search for the purpose of his life that he can quite literally taste: “I dreamed of the war, no, not quite dreamed, but woke with the taste of it in my mouth..” This particular line is extremely sensual and I could not help but think of the war that we call life that everyone goes through. Binx speaks of the everydayness that people and he himself may have sunk into, and I cannot help but then question myself and my purpose and if I myself have also sunk into this everydayness he speaks of. Binx does not find purpose until he finds Kate, and that is only because she so desperately needs him due to her mental illness, and so Binx settles, rather than finding the purpose for his life in his own self. This is something I think we all do everyday, to a certain point, in our own lives. However, then there is the argument that maybe, sometimes, our purpose is or can be somebody else. This aspect and dilemma of purpose is quite complex especially in relation to the character of Binx who has trouble connecting with anyone throughout the novel. This leads me to the next point in Binx Bolling’s story that I was able to relate to.

Binx feels a desire for connection, but in my opinion he desires it so much so that he is completely disconnected from everything and everyone around him. I have had trouble with this as well my entire life. One line that I found to be very deep and that shows his desire was on page 41. Binx is speaking of his friends and he says “..how they deserved to be happy. If only I could make them happy.” Not only does this show his desire, but I also think highlights how instead of forming these connections, Binx finds escape from this feat through movies, his lust for women, and his other various activities. Which is ironic due to the book being called The Moviegoer. He is never able to form deep relationships, but believes he possibly can do this as well as find the purpose for his life through his “search”. Once again I think this is his way of avoiding the problem of him being unable to connect, and is an example of him disconnecting. He revels in the “wonder” of what his search could bring, rather than actually experiencing his search. This, I believe, is another example of the everydayness he speaks of. We all want what we can’t have, and we all see to think the grass is greener on the other side, and in doing this, we miss out on the present and the beauty of what life is right in front of us.

In summary, after reading the book and relating some to Binx Bolling, everything and nothing is wrong with his life. However, in my opinion, the problem is that there is no depth to his life until he meets and finally marries Kate. She is first person he is able to connect with as well as give his life a purpose, which finally gives his story and the book itself, depth and meaning.

Beauty in The Moviegoer

Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer is one of the most complex novels I’ve read in a while. When the subject of its complexity came up in class today, it was mentioned that there was nothing beautiful in it, so as I finished it, I sought to find things that I thought were beautiful within this dense, circular, funny, and all the while sad story. One of the first things I noticed about the narrator, Binx, was his conversational tone. There were several passages in the novel (particularly the beginning) that felt as if Binx was talking specifically to me, or perhaps writing in a journal. For example:

“Truthfully, it is the fear of exposing my own ignorance which constrains me from mentioning the object of my search. For, to begin with, I cannot even answer this, the simplest and most basic of all questions: Am I, in my search, a hundred miles ahead of my fellow Americans or a hundred miles behind them? That is to say: Have 98% of Americans already found what I seek or are they so sunk in everydayness that not even the possibility of a search has occurred to them? 

On my honor, I do not know the answer, (14).”

The established voice is also very humorous. Later, on page 14, when Binx realizes that he is staring at a woman near him on the bus and sees her face change to one of annoyance, he says: “…she gives her raincoat a sharp tug and gives me a look of annoyance–or do I imagine this? I must make sure, so I lift my hat and smile at her as much as to say that we might still become friends. But it is no use. I have lost her forever.” I also thought this quote, among numerous others, were very revealing of Binx’s character. He is very engaged with the people around him, even if for his own “selfish” purposes, but simultaneously very disconnected with them. On pages 74 and 75 he says,

“I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see. Do not misunderstand me. I am no do-gooding Jose Ferrer going around with a little whistle to make people happy. Such do-gooders do not really want to listen, are not really selfish like me; they are being nice fellows and boring themselves to death, and their listeners are not really cheered up… My mother often told me to be unselfish, but I have become suspicious of the advice.” 

On page 47, when Aunt Emily is playing what used to be hers and his favorite Chopin piece, he says, “In recent years I have become suspicious of music. When she comes to a phrase which once united us in a special bond and to which once I opened myself as meltingly as a young girl, I harden myself.” It is also revealed, later, when Binx and Sharon visit his mother, that she shares this trait, of  “veer[ing] away from intimacy,” (149). 

While he is disconnected from and engaged with the people around him, he also has a desire to please them, or perhaps a feeling that he is unable to please anyone. On page 41, as he discusses his friends from 8 years ago, he says, “What good fellows they were, I thought, and how much they deserved to be happy. If only I could make them happy.” And, again, on page 76, in reference to his aunt, he says, “She takes a great deal of trouble with me. I wish I were able to please her better.” 

These quotes also show the romantic in Binx: nearly all of the details he provides about his interactions with the people in his life, as well as his surroundings and encounters with the world, are comprised of sensory images or sensitive feelings. My favorite quote from the novel, found on page 12, says, “In a better world I should be able to speak to her: come, darling, you can see that I love you.” Though it is not a sensory detail, and though Binx’s feelings of love towards women are complicated, I thought it to be such a beautiful line and a rather strange thing to think of someone he glanced at on a bus. Binx is quirky and isolated from people while at the same time being immensely concerned with how they view and affect him. I think that everything about his character in this novel makes him relatable to the people that read it because at some point in our lives, we all feel that we are stuck in “everydayness,” we are all selfish, all disconnected, to some extent, from those around us. I think a large part of Binx’s charm is that what happens to him in this novel, his emotions and experiences (maybe besides war), are things that happen to everyone.

My favorite thing about novels is that they are written by novelists.

Most artists, though it is not exclusive to this category of people, in my experience find it incredibly difficult to block out the eternal question of why in their everyday lives. I view this quality as an intrinsic part of the artist’s lifestyle, though I am applying this term broadly. Not only am I referring to those who have followed this call to creative fields, but those who have decided to become intellectuals, teachers, businesspeople, bricklayers, what have you, as long as this quality is there. It is best described by the following (https://existentialcomics.com/comic/174)


Binx attempts to solve this by presenting it as a sort of game for himself in the search. By making it a grand adventure, he staves off the anxiety which accompanies it, presenting himself as one of the heroes in his movies, though he still regards himself as quite ordinary. This is similar to the venture we saw from Edna Pontillier when dealing with similar feelings. However, due to Edna’s gender, she does not have Binx’s freedom to conduct a search in the same way; instead of finding the answers to her questions, she must first find who she is as an individual. By giving their protagonists the same core desire and mission, The Moviegoer and The Awakening show how gender can shape a person’s life in unexpected ways.

First off, I want to say that this book was really hard for me to read.  The beginning of this book sent me spiraling down a rabbit hole in which I questioned my entire existence and purpose as a human. I basically had an existential crisis at every page turn. Binx was talking about this search and that “the search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life” (9), which made me think that I, too, was sunk in the everydayness of life and unaware of my purpose. So I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to what was occurring in the book while I questioned the last 20 years of my life.

As I continued reading, my own “search” was still in the back of my mind; maybe that is why it started to get dry for me. The only thing that was truly able to grab my attention was the section with Kate’s “tight rope” metaphor to her mental illness, which I thought was beautifully written. Other than that, up until the end, I found the story dry. I do not doubt that this novel is quite complex, so I will do my best to describe what I noticed while I read. That being said, due to the existential question that occurs within the reader and begs to be answered throughout, I think that the best things to say about this novel would come after reading it another one or two times. That way I could try to take in the other elements of the novel that I missed the first time through. However, if one purpose of literature is to make one think and question, the book was effective. I think that is a reason as to why it was the winner of the National Book Award.

Binx Bolling is your average everyday man of the late 1950s. He lives “uneventfully in Gentilly, a middle-class suburb of New Orleans” (3). He has a mundane job where he manages “a small office branch of his uncle’s brokerage firm” (3). He is, all and all, a stereotypical white middle-class man “sunk in the everydayness of his own life” (9). That is until he wakes up one morning and decides that he needs to go on “a search.” What he is looking for exactly is unclear to himself but, none the less he continues. At the end of the novel, Binx’s Aunt asks him the questions “What do you love? what do you live by? … What do you think is the purpose of life…?”(198). But to these questions, he gives her no answer. However, being asked these questions makes him realize that the answer to them is what he has been searching for all along.

The search for one’s purpose in life is a question many people struggle with. In fact, it may be one of the biggest philosophical questions in human existence. Because this existential crisis is one that many people go through, lots of people can relate to Binx as a character. If one was not already questioning or searching for their purpose, this book will draw their attention to that question. I think that is why this book was so popular, it is not about the characters, it is about a larger overarching universal idea. The Moviegoer presents a universal struggle that many people can identify with. Watching one navigate the ups and downs that take place in the search for one’s meaning in life can give people hope that they might be able to find one’s own meaning, too.

Binx is a man with few friends who has difficulty forming and maintaining long-lasting relationships. He is so poor at keeping friends that he notes, ‘the last time I had friends was eight years ago”(41) In relationships, both romantic or platonic, Binx feels he has to live up to grand expectations and is uncertain how to do so. When he feels like these expectations are not being met his mood dampens and he leaves. With his secretaries, Binx would have a great time in the beginning, and then when the novelty of it wore off and it no longer met expectations he would end it instead of trying to make it work. This is illustrated multiple times throughout in non-romantic relationships. The Moviegoer. One instance of this is with Walter Wade and the houseboat. Binx originally thought it would be a good idea to get the houseboat with the boys, but after a while, he found it boring and became depressed (40). Similar feelings are felt while he is hiking the Appalachian Trail. He is traveling with two friends and he thinks to himself, “they deserve to be happy, If only I could make them happy” (41). Binx leaves this trip and heads back to New Orleans to live a solitary life in Gentilly. The pressure Binx feels in friendly relationships is highlighted while he is with Walter.

“Whenever I am with him, I feel the stretch of the old tightrope, the necessity of living up to the friendship of friendships, of cultivating an intimacy beyond words” (40)

Binx projects these feelings of inadequacy on other people he observes during his journeys around the city. At the beginning of the book, Binx is watching a young couple on their honeymoon. He describes their situation as one where the husband is nervous that the honeymoon is not good enough and the wife is upset because she doesn’t know what is wrong (15). He quickly labels them as unhappy, which in reality is impossible for him to know by briefly looking at them on the street. He creates this story with his ideas and not the facts of their life. He is imposing his anxious feelings and experiences with relationships on them.

His relationship with Kate is different from his previous relationships. Unlike his past relationships, Binx and Kate have a clear understanding of each other and what they require. He can be with Kate because, unlike the other people he has kept the company of, Kate needs him. Her troubles and anxiety make her reliant on Binx to function. With Kate, Binx is constantly needed for reassurance and support which gives him a clear task and purpose in their relationship.

The Moviegoer

There’s a subtle theme throughout the book of trying to find a place where one belongs. Be it in a spiritual/religious manner, or a basic mundane sense of purpose, everyone seems to be scrambling to find something to hold onto before they die. Binx seems to have a solid hold on looking for his in searching for God or an ultimate purpose. Everyone else just falls into their places in his life and enter an exit on cue as he needs them or as he deems fit to let them. Kate and Sharon seem to be the clearest examples of the trend since he only focuses on them when he needs something to make himself feel better. Other than that, he continues switching his affections between them when one isn’t available. He ultimately gives up on his goal of finding God or a purpose and switches to a lifestyle of doing what he wants when he wants.

Which, coincidentally, he was already doing. The subject of everydayness becoming  lethal and making one grow stagnant is a running theme throughout the book, though Binx himself fell into the trap himself despite his attempts not to. He has a set routine of going to work, going to the movies, and going home like clockwork, and the only changing variable in that equation happened to be the movie time he went to that day. His routine going to movies is part of what spurs him into “action” trying to find God. Binx witnesses action heroes getting into situations that are mundane to those watching, but they always come out on top. Binx wants a life like that, but ultimately succumbs to the mundanity like everyone else.

The Moviegoer

The time and setting of The Moviegoer show the meaninglessness of affluence the south post-war through the lives of Binx and Kate. While Binx appears to be a stock-broker who happily lives an ordinary existence in Gentilly, he really is unhappy with his life and contemplates “the possibility of a search…. the search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life” (p.7). Binx Bolling is searching for the meaning of life or at least a purpose for his. While he observes life through the movies he enjoys and watches frequently, he is afraid of change in his own life because of his fear of malaise- “the pain of loss” (p.107). He is also scared of things staying the same “Only once in my life was the grip of everydayness broken: when I lay bleeding in a ditch” (p.127).

He dates his secretaries, but he has no real emotional ties to them, only lust. Kate is the only person that genuinely sees inside of Binx’s false exterior because she and he think the same. Kate sees Binx as the man he really is instead of the person his Aunt and others want him to be.  Kate, like Binx, is only happy when there is a crisis, and there is no “everydayness.” They both complete and complement each other’s lives

He loves and marries Kate because he needs to feel needed, to have a purpose. Kate wants to be told who she is and what to do so she agrees to marry Binx if he agrees to this, she “wants to believe in someone completely” (p.173). When Binx tells Kate, “Everything is going to be all right,” it indicates Binx will face it all, good and bad, together with Kate.

I can certainly understand Binx’s boredom of the everydayness and his search for the meaning or purpose of life. It hit me at thirty and then again at 50. For anyone who has not yet had the experience, I can only describe it as something that eats at you continuously. I felt like something inside me would die if I didn’t change my life, although things were good, and I should have been content. I see it as a good motivator, at least for me it was after the indecisiveness and fear subsided. I quit a job that I had for 22 years and started college. One of my worries, Like Binx, was of disappointing others. Another was what if I don’t succeed? On the other side, what if I fly?









The Moviegoer

Binx Bolling has lived an uneventful life up until the plot of The Moviegoer and experiences joy in the mundane (“I am a model tenant and a model citizen and take pleasure in doing all that is expected of me.”) as well as in television and film (“I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.”). Since returning from the war, Bolling has spent his time “working, making money, going to movies and seeking the company of women.” Bolling’s relationship with death, both before and during the war, has altered his perception of the world (“For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead. It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of a sentence, it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death.”).

Death is a constant theme throughout The Moviegoer; Bolling’s older brother died of pneumonia and his father was killed. Bolling experienced death himself during the war, though his description of the event seems as though he feels indifferent to the subject (“I was shot through the shoulder – a decent wound, as decent as any ever inflicted on Rory Calhoun or Tony Curtis. […] Decent except that the fragment nicked the apex of my pleura and got me a collapsed lung and a big roaring empyema. No permanent damage, however, except a frightening-looking scar in the hollow of my neck and in certain weather a tender joint.”) His cousin, Kate, has also had an experience with death, an experience that has caused depression and suicidal tendencies. Despite Bolling’s presumed indifference to the topic of death, the shared experience of survival unites them.

“She thinks you’re one of her kind.”

“What kind is that?”

“A proper Bolling. Jules thinks you’re a go-getter. But you don’t fool me.”

“You know.”


“What kind?”

“You’re like me, but worse. Much worse.”


“When Bellocq doesn’t like a photograph he scratches across the plate. But I know other ways to obscure a face. . .” pg. 44


This poem continues the trend of hiding what one doesn’t want to show to the world. It also revolves around the concept of hiding who one truly is underneath a glamour of something else. Between make-up and removing an image entirely, if one doesn’t like what they see, it’s all easily fixed. This becomes a running theme in the book from the moment we read the meat of the story.

We first meet Ophelia when she’s trying to find work. From the moment she begins speaking of finding work, she starts by talking of hiding her hands with gloves to hide their darkness and her trying not to notice the other dark skinned women doing housework. Countess P’s advice also delves into hiding one’s true self from the clients they take when she says:

“Become what you must. Let him see what he wants. Train yourself not to look back.” Pg. 11

After that at the auction, Ophelia only moves when Countess tells her to, showing us another way she’s made to hide her true self from the world. Emphasis is put on how well she can obey, essentially stripping away her identity and individualism and pushing her true self to the background. By the time we get to this particular poem, we’ve been given only a shell of what Ophelia’s true self is and hints of what it was before everything in the letters she sent to Constance. The only time she’s allowed to be herself is when she studies photography under Bellocq. When she’s the subject, he too only shows the world how he wants her to be seen in a way. He waits until she does something he likes and captures her like that, as he does with the other girls he photographs. If he doesn’t like it, he wipes it away and tries again. If Ophelia doesn’t like what she sees, she hides it with gloves and make-up and tries again. Hiding things is a nature one must adapt to in order to survive in the Red Light district it seems. Ophelia is only allowed to be her true self when she leaves the district and finds what she loves.

The biggest difference between Binx Bolling and Edna Pontellier is that, in the end, Binx’s sudden sense of fulfillment comes from his acquiring a partner, whereas in Edna’s case, it is the ultimate imprisonment. However, it isn’t necessarily Binx’s love for Kate, and vice versa, that brings them together:

“Feeling tender toward her, I embrace her and tell her that I love her.

‘Oh no,’ says Kate and takes hold of me coarsely. ‘None of that, bucko.’

‘None of what?’

‘No love, please.’ (pg. 198)

In Edna’s case, she had no real experience of the world. She was married very young and from then on was devoted to being a good wife and mother; it was all she did and all she was, never going anywhere or doing anything particularly special. With Binx, it’s the opposite; he’s been to war, lost comrades, and as a result has become profoundly alienated. Thus far, most of his daily activities revolve around trying to escape his past:

“For years now I have had no friends. I spend my entire time working, making money, going to movies and seeking the company of women.” (pg. 41)

With Kate, he’s ready to settle down, to dedicate himself to a quiet, simple, ordinary life with someone who truly understands him and can help him to build a new life for himself without constantly being trapped in the past or losing himself in aimless pursuits; in the end, it doesn’t matter if love has anything to do with it or not. They are content with one another, and that’s all that matters in the end.

It’s possible that if Edna, too, were to have had the experiences and opportunities that Binx had in his life, she would have found marriage to be preferable as well, a reprieve from her fast-paced prior life. If she had met Robert before marrying Leonce, if she had had time to discover herself before becoming married with children, or if she had ended up marrying Robert, one of the few people she has a true connection with, she could have felt just as contented as Binx in the end.

It’s also worth noting that these stories are set decades apart. If Edna’s own story had taken place in Binx’s time, it’s more likely that she would have been able to find the happiness she wanted, since women at the time were becoming more independent and empowered to make decisions for themselves. If Binx’s story had taken place in the late 1890s, it’s likely that it still would have gone very much the same.

Binx is similar to Edna in one way: the one obligation that he seems to have (apart from his job and his family) is monitoring Kate whenever she begins to go off the rails, parallel to Edna’s obligations to her husband and children, making sure that they are always safe and stable. Unlike Edna, though, he doesn’t view it as a burden; if anything, tending to her helps to connect him even more to the present moment. By marrying Kate, by dedicating the rest of his life to her, he is able to find the authenticity, the purpose, that he’s been searching for all this time.

One other thing I hadn’t thought about before our class discussion is that Binx may also be marrying Kate more for her own benefit than his. For most of his life, since he was fifteen, he has been tasked with caring for her, making sure that she remains mostly stable, and much of their time together in this story, as they travel together over the course of several days, reflects that. Now, with this sudden suicide attempt, on some level, he fears he is failing, that he hasn’t been attentive enough, protective enough. Through marriage, he’ll be able to keep an even closer watch on her, and perhaps her becoming a wife and/or mother could help to stabilize her further, giving her a purpose of her own. It lends even more credence to the idea that there isn’t much (romantic) love between them; now more than ever, I view this as a marriage of convenience. Binx is able to ensure that he will always be able to look after Kate now, truly making it his own task, as well as being able to quit his “search” and settle into an ordinary life; Kate is able to assign herself a role that may or may not improve her situation, giving herself a partner who will always be there to encourage her through dark times and help her when she falls. She is thinking not of love, but of security; she mentions that Binx is the only person she doesn’t feel frightened around. Similar to Edna, marriage has its own meaning for her, but unlike Edna, she sees it as the best possible outcome for herself.

blue book


Portrait #1


“Gibson-girl hair”

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Bellocq photo


Sister Gertrude Morgan

A former street preacher who became an artist, poet, and musician, Gertrude Morgan painted biblical themes to illustrate her gospel teachings. Born on April 7, 1900, in Lafayette, Alabama, Morgan moved to New Orleans during the late 1930s following a separation from her “earthly” husband. In New Orleans she became affiliated with the Holiness and Sanctified denomination, a loosely organized religious group that praised God through music and dancing. Morgan adopted the title “Sister” during the early 1940s when she became associated with two other street missionaries, Mother Margaret Parker and Sister Cora Williams. As a result of contributions and offerings from their combined street preaching, the three women purchased land, built a chapel, and opened a child-care center in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. For more than twelve years they furnished food and shelter to orphans, runaways, and children of working mothers. The center was destroyed by a hurricane in 1965. After the center closed, Morgan moved to St. Bernard Parish and became the nurse-companion of an elderly woman who owned the tiny house that later became Morgan’s Everlasting Gospel Mission.

In 1965 Morgan had a vision of the Holy Ghost that revealed she was the chosen bride of God. After that, Morgan wore only white to symbolize her spiritual marriage—a crisp nurse’s uniform, nurse’s oxfords, white stockings, and a small peaked cap perched on her mixed gray hair.   — Smithsonian American Art Museum



Link to King Britt



Ophelia’s cage

From the very beginning of the book, this collection of poetry was tackling complex emotions. A woman, who feels like she is in a cage sometimes. Her clients do not want a personal relationship with her. They want her to not speak but just deliver. But this black woman with light skin also feels validated when those very same clients want to look at her and please themselves. She feels her impacts. She feels a weird sense of comfort in being the beauty they need to be content. Ophelia feels like a sex prop, men need to use. Yet somehow, she does not let go of her ability to evaluate her feelings. She understands that her identity is being challenged. She realizes that who she is now, is not who she actually is. But it begs the question – who is she really? Because this is the life she has forever lived. Who is Ophelia, if not a living statue, an object of art who performs her tableau vivant every night, and fades into someone she is not over and over again?


The book itself is not about Ophelia, for the book is also treating Ophelia as Bellocq’s, and not just Ophelia. Her identity is through, yet again, another man. There is no Ophelia. Especially when she is in Bellocq’s frames. She is another prop. She is Bellocq’s prop. In the frame and outside the frame, the essence of Ophelia is nonexistent. In the frame, she is still an object of art, a living statue. She is still like a contortionist, who aches at night. Maybe being used as Bellocq’s prop is different than someone else’s. But she feels stuck as if she is taking up borrowed space. She is trying to please Bellocq. And as she steps out of the frame, she goes back to clutching on to what she thinks is her identity – the Ophelia who has only seen life through other men; the Ophelia, who aches every night. She is “stepping out of the frame, wide-eyed, into her life”. Her life is this pain, that will just get harder with time.

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