Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dominance among Men (Annotation G1-1/Goddard)

James Dickey’s use dominance of personality, sexuality, and murder in Deliverance shape the plot and character development.
The tragic turn of events for James Dickey’s characters would make an ideal situation for a Juvenal coming of age story, save they are all middle aged. In a broader sense of an American wild-wild wilderness sensibility perhaps men confined to suburban communities, safe bedrooms, abundance of food and comforts are not more than boys. “I touched the knife hilt at my side, and remembered that all men were once boys, and that boys are always looking for ways to become men.” (Dickey 62) However, during a weekend of canoeing, four suburbanite men find more than just adventure, they find a need for survival. All obstacles provide challenges: inadequate equipment, dangerous rapids, deadly mountain men, and inter-group politics.
In his everyday suburban life, the narrator Ed’s personality is not the dominate type. A partner in an advertising firm, Ed’s submission has developed out of ennui. His partner Thad, not a major character in the story, is much more gung-ho. “Thad had developed into a reasonably good businessman, and I was better than adequate, when I worked at it, as a graphics consultant and director.” (Dickey 15) Ed even sneaks away early the day before the big canoe trip fearful of what Thad might say. The clearer example of a dominate personality is with Lewis, Ed’s best friend and the river guide in the story. “I liked Lewis; I could feel myself getting caught up again in his capricious and tenacious enthusiasms that had already taken me bow-hunting and varmint-calling with him, and down into a small, miserably cold cave where there was one dead, crystalline frog.” (Dickey 9) In such adventurous situations, Lewis is completely at ease, and Ed takes a role more like a child.
The theme of sexual dominance is much more obvious: the famous scene between the canoeing suburbanites and the mountain men. “The tall man followed Bobby’s head down with the gun as bobby knelt over the long. ¶ “Pull your shirt –tail up, fat-ass.” ¶ Bobby reached back with one hand and pulled his shirt up to his lower back. I could not imagine what he was thinking.” (Dickey 100) The ensuing rape definitely expresses the dominance of one man over the other. Scant description, obviously from Ed’s point of view removes the reader from the brunt of the event, but exemplifies the dominance even more, as Ed sees the situation, and is unable to do anything about it.
Issues of personality dominance are not as powerful as sexual dominance; however, to ultimately exert dominance over another human being is to take their life. The rape scene comes to an abrupt end with Lewis’s arrow. “The older man was standing with the gun barrel in his hand and no change in the stupid, advantage-taking expression of his face, and a foot and a half of bright red arrow was shoved forward from the middle of his chest. It was there so suddenly it seemed to have come from within him.” (Dickey 101)
Adventure and non-stop action of Deliverance works with challenge of dominance and submission of Dickey’s characters.
Dickey, James. Deliverance. New York: Dell Publishing, 1970

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