Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tom Tobin’s excellent presentation of the mind of Walker Percy from his first novel “The Moviegoer” (p. 196):

   Tom Tobin writes:  Toward the end of the novel [The Moviegoer], “the protagonist Binx Bolling must account for his choices to his Aunt Emily, who is the matriarch of his family and a kind woman who has looked after her nephew after the death of his father.  In this very telling scene, the expectations of the Percy family are communicated in fiction and the voice of Aunt Emily articulates the code of the family. She wants to make sure her nephew ‘turns out right’ and becomes a proper southern man as were he brothers and all of the men of the family. In a moment of frustration with her befuddled nephew, she makes this plea:
                ‘…more than anything I wanted to pass onto you the one heritage of the men of our family, a certain  quality of spirit, a gaiety, a sense of duty, and a nobility worn lightly, a sweetness, a gentleness with women – the only good things the South ever had. And the only things that really matter in this life, … But how did it happen that none of this ever meant anything to you? Clearly it did not. Would you please tell me?’ (196)
                “Binx Bolling responds sincerely to her, saying:

                ‘That would be difficult for me to say. You say none of what you said ever meant anything to me. That is not true. On the contrary, I have never forgotten anything you ever said. In fact I have pondered over it all my life. My objections … cannot be expressed in the usual way. To tell the truth, I cannot express them at all… (196).
                “Binx cannot express them at all because Aunt Emily could not understand that if these are the ‘only things that really matter in life,’ they are not sufficient to respond to one’s humanity. He does not object to these things as wrong; it is simply that they are not capable of really helping one to live a human existence in our time.”

For those of you who smell the answer to Aunt Emily but don’t dare articulate it for fear of a thousand inarticulables, let me:  Since Christ is the prototype of the human person, the only way “to live a human existence in our time” is to make the gift of oneself to death.  Anything less is “insufficient.” 

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