Document Sample
					                                              CHAPTER FIVE

                         THE G R O T E S Q U E AMBIENCE OF
                                       THE PERCY WORLD

                If the previous chapter was an in-depth study o the grotesque actions

      of the characters in Percy's fictional world, this chapter is an attempt to delve

      into the imagery that accentuates the grotesqueness of the characters in

      Percy's novels. His fictional landscape sparkles with a concatenation of

      images, which create an indelible impression of the subtly drawn characters.

      Me has dovetailed his characters with the images so adroitly that they

      generate a grotesque pattern. in the original sense of the grotesque, the

      merging of the human and non-human. Most of his images fill the lacunae in

      the depiction of his characters while some others create congenial atmosphere

      for grotesquerie. The "grotesque generally involves a tension between a

      perceived boundaly and its violation, engaging the reader in an ambivalent

      and therefore uncomfortable relationship with the abject or 'forbidden' "

      (Riley 2017).

                 Caroline Spurgeon, in her seminal work Shakespeare's Imagery and

       What It Tells Us. imparts a comprehensive idea about image. According to

      her an image is:

                      the little word-picture used by a poet or prose writer to illustrate,

                      illuminate and en~bellishhis thought. It is a description or an

                      idea, which by comparison or analogy, stated or understood,

                      with something else, transmits to us through the emotions and

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                         associations it arouses, something of the 'wholeness', the depth

                         and richness of the way the writer views, conceives or has felt

                         what he is telling us. (9)

                   Like Shakespeare, Percy draws a large number o his similes and

          metaphors from commonplace things seen and perceived. Out o this,

          Nature-the        life of the American countryside, the seasons, the sky, sunrise

          and dawn, the clouds, rain and wind, trees, leaves, vines and weeds,

          flowers, fruits, roots, animals, birds and insects, fishes, reptiles-occupies a

          predominant place. Movies, scientific instruments and scientific experiments

          form another set of images.

                   Of all the images in Nature, the largest number is drawn from

          animals, especially dogs. The custom o keeping dogs as pets and for

          hunting might have caused Percy to make an elaborate use of this image,

          turning it into a motif. Percy's first novel, The Moviegoer, opens with Aunt

          Emily's announcement o the demise of Binx's older brother, Scott. She

          discloses the news to him by showing her deep affection for him. Yet, he

          welcomes the news with a bodily reaction, a shock, exhibiting his

          unpleasant mood: his heart gives "a big pump" and the back of his neck

          prickles "like a dog's" ( M 4 ) . The image unveils the impact of a dear one's

          death on a person; it affects not only his mind but his body also. Whenever

          Binx gets an instinct for search his neck "prickles like a bull terrier" (M51)

          because of the excitement.

                   Binx is o the conv~ctionthat his life in Gentilly, where many a

          businessman amasses wealth in a greedy way, has been a kind of self-

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          deception. He uses the simile o a dog to throw light on their character by

          describing one of them at Maison Blanche building, as being "as cogent as

          a bird dog quartering a field" ( M 19). During their weekend jaunts to the

          beach, Binx and Sharon enjoy swimming. On Sharon's coming out o the

          water, Binx visualizes her as "a spaniel, giving her head a flirt which slaps

          her hair around in a wet curl and stooping brushes the water from her legs"

          (M 131). The comparison to the spaniel aptly brings out the flirtatious
          behaviour of Sharon.

                    The Last Gentleman presents Sutter, the failed doctor, who jots

          down his speculations in his casebook: he has written that he may "sniff like

          a dog" but then he tries to be "human rather than masquerade as human

          and sniff like a dog" (270-71). Comparing himself to a dog, Sutter unveils

          his own grotesque nature; he is an incessant seeker of sexual pleasures.

          The readers visualize Sutter's vigilant eye through the metaphor, "the

          whorled police-dog eye" (LG 197). The dog image is often a vehicle for

          Percy to convey the idea of sickness. In The Last Gentleman, Percy uses it

          to refer to Jamie who is "sick as a dog" (LG 356), and in The Second

          Coming to Barrett who becomes as "sick as a dog" (SC222) during his

          sojourn in Lost Cove cave.

                    The interweaving of human beings and animals creates the

          grotesque and Percy performs it in an indirect way with the help of similes.

          In Love in the Ruiris. Dr. Tom More interrogates Mr. Ives about his

          whereabouts: then lves "blinks and shakes himself like a spaniel" (229)

          manifesting his dazed condition. Lancelot makes use of the image o the

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          dog to reveal Dana's character: while Dana and Raine, the members of the

          film company, are engaged in a conversation, Lancelot remarks that Dana

          was like "a hound dog wearing a diamond necklace" (L 151). What

          Lancelot means is that Dana is a vainglorious man ready to attack at any


                    Allison in The Second Coming, who is in the grip of hunger and

          exhaustion after her Herculean task of furbishing the greenhouse and

          moving the stove, is portrayed in canine imagery: she "ate heartily and

          slept like a dog" (236-37). Allison's aunts, Sally and Grace, had lived

          together for a long period of thirty years, but their life was not a

          harmonious one. Their discordant life is conveyed through the images of

          the dog and the cat: they "fought like cats and dogs most of the time"

          ( S C 118).Before ingressing the Lost Cove cave, Barrett wrote a letter to

          Lewis Peckham mentioning Beethoven. The mere thought of Beethoven's

          Ninth Symphony made him "grimace and shiver like a bird dog with the

          squats" ( S C 184). The image of shivering like a bird dog expresses his

          disgust at the music which in turn is a sign of his apathy to life itself.

                    Jackass and fox, belonging to the dog family, also become

          metaphors in Percy's grotesque world. While Binx and Sharon play on the

          beach in a romantic way. they punch each other and Binx uses the

          metaphor o the jackass to describe her sexy nature. He tells her, "I got a

           good mind to hit you right i n the mouth, you jackass" ( M 1 3 3 ) .In Lancelot,

           after the elapse o one year, Lancelot recalls the violent deeds at Belle Isle

          and discloses his nature as well as situation by using the metaphor of

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
      the fox. According to him, a fox does not crawl into a hole for a year unless

      he is "wounded". But after sometime he begins to feel good, "pokes his

       nose out," and "takes a look around" ( L 108).Lancelot delineates himself

       as the wounded fox leading a hidden life at the Center for Aberrant

       Behavior. Despite committing many murders, Lancelot considers himself

       the wounded one which is suggestive of his odd nature. The lapse of one

      year has not induced in him any feelings of regret or sorrow. He expresses

       his desire to come out o the mental asylum with the help of the metaphor.

                Feline images are also frequent in Walker Percy; h e exploits them to

       give form to his grotesque world. This image provides a profound insight

       into Will Barrett's character both in The Last Gentleman and in The Second

       Coming. After reading Love, and swallowing Dr. Gamow's spansules,
       Barrett falls into a deep slumber. In the afternoon he is found "driving like a

       cat" (LG 132).Though he is often seized by intermittent relapse o nervous

       condition and spells of amnesia, at times he is in the best possible humour

       and is "alert as a cat" (LG 39). Not withstanding his impediment to cope

       with a group. there were occasions he adjusted himself; he adapted himself

       with the Ohioans during his one-week sojourn with some graduates of Ohio

       University by picking up their manners and style of speech. Hence, on

       reaching Fort Lauderdale h e behaved like an Ohioan and for several

       weeks, h e "walked like a cat with his toes pointed in" (LG20).

                The feline image underscores Barrett's sexy nature. Barrett and Ethel

       Rosenblum were classmates at school and were fond o each other, albeit

       they talked very little. When the memory of Rosenblum comes flooding

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          back into his mind, he regrets having wasted a golden opportunity t o

          develop an ~nfatuationfor her. Aping other young people, h e could have

          made love with her and be "content as cats" (SC9).The metaphor o the

          cat is again employed to describe his longing for sexual encounter with

          Kitty: "The cat sat in its usual place under the Rolls" (SC173).Kitty reveals

          the peculiariiy of his smile by commenting that Barrett smiles like "a chess

          cat" (SC 167).

                   Percy brings in various sorts of animals to weave the fabric o his

          grotesque world. While Binx and Kate are luxuriating in their trip to

          Modesto, they meet Sidney Gross. Binx's friend, and his wife. Sidney

          presents an odd movement: he hunches over toward them, "beaming, a

          stalwart Little pony back with his head well set on his shoulders and his

          small ears lying flat" (M186).

                   Images of the pony and the mule reveal the nature of Percy's

          characters. During Barrett's recuperation at St. Mark's Convalescent Home,

          Kitty reaches there and makes an assault on Barrett for his breach of

          promise to reach the rendezvous and for consorting with her daughter,

          Allison, at the peenhouse. S h e exhibits her fury calling him 'bastard' and

          her eyes show "white all around like a wild pony's" (SC 315). Barrett

          notices that a change has corne upon the behaviour of Mr. Arnold, another

          inmate o St. Mark's; he has become loquacious. Mr. Ryan, a fellow inmate,

          adduces the reason with the help of a n image. In his opinion Arnold can

          talk well if somebody knocks him "upside the head like a mule" (SC319);

          they were sitting before the TL/after a brawl.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                    Percy's       hunting experiences might have persuaded           him to

           appropriate the images o wild animals in the creation o his grotesque

           world. In The Moviegoer, Binx renders a grotesque version to Kate's

           physical appearance. He observes that in the past year, she has flattened

           up a n d her shoulders are "sleek as a leopard" (239). He employs the

           subhuman imagety to describe even his father. At Aunt Emily's house, Binx

           observes the mantelpiece o the Cutrers' in their 'grand slam' year; in one

           picture, his father, Dr. Wills is "the lion-headed one" ( M 2 5 ) ,i.e. his father

           looks very ferocious.

                    Young Barreti's mind is always preoccupied with thoughts of his

           girlfriend Kitty. For instance, during his search for Jamie and Sutter, Barrett

           halts at Roscoe's Serv~cecentre where he comes upon some Negroes.

           When he nods to them, "an aching vista" opens in his head a n d he

           remembers not them but Kitty standing like " a lion in the path" (LG293).

                    Sam Yerger, the efficacious reporter and the novelist, in The

           Moviegoer,has broken his legs: they are "as big and round as an elephant's

           in their heavy cylindrical linens and great flaring brogues" (167), reminding

           us o the captain of Patna in Conrad's novel, Lord Jm,who looks like a

           trained baby elephant walking on its hind legs.

                     The image o monkey helps the readers to get a better view o the

           odd characters of Percy. Dr. Brown diagnoses that Mr. Ives has been

           suffering from 'senile psychopathy and mutism' and he is fit only for

           euthanasia. On Ellen's wheeling him into Dr. Tom More's room, Tom

           portrays Ives using the metaphor of a monkey. Mr. Ives sits "slumped in a

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           folding chair, a little bald-headed monkey of a man" with bright monkey

           eyes snapplng at Tom              (LR159).The           same image recurs in The Second

            Coming where while Allison is sitting on a public bench after escaping from

                         Richard Rountree, a runner on the Long Trial, approaches
           the sanator~um.

           her and gives her a strong grip by holding out his hand. His hand is "as

           fibrous as a monkey's" ( S C 3 6 ) .1.e. it is full of muscles and nerves without

           much flesh. Later, a marathon runner who has "fibrous monkey hand"

           (SC 239) comes to Allison and sits down near her on the bench at The
           Happy H~ker.

                     Lancelot becomes convinced that it was his peculiar routine that

           paved the way for Margot's betrayal o him. He admits that he was a

            "mole, a creaky, seersuckered, liberal mole droning out the days" with a

           search for title, estate succession, and integrating the schools o Feliciana

           Parish    (L167). By using the metaphor of 'mole,' an almost blind animal
           that digs tunnels under the ground to live in, Lancelot highlights his own

           queer nature of leadlng a life, immersed in private matters, neglecting his

           wife. Being engrossed L his own self, he was blind to the dealings of his

           wife, Margot.

                    After the funeral of Marion Peabody, Barrett's wife, Barrett and his

           daughter. Lesl~e.were returning home, and then the back o his head

           appeared "as sleek as a seal" (SC219). The simile reveals the fact that

           Barrett was not much affected by the death o his wife because he had

           put oil and combed his hair making it appear sleek or smooth and shiny.

           It throws light on their married life: it was not based on deep love.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                    Forney Aiken, a failed farmer and pseudo Negro, had a daughter

          named Muzh who had the fitful and antique manner o keeping the

          company of her elders. On Barrett's arrival there, both o them went for

          swimming in the pool and they swam with their heads together, "snuffling

          the water like seals" (L.G 128), animals.

                    In The Last Gentleman. Percy makes Mr. Vaught, Jamie's father, a n

          odd character by drawing an analogy between him and a rabbit. While

          paying a visit to Jamie in the hospital, Barrett comes face t o face with

          Vaught and waits eagerly to speak to him. But mumbling an excuse, h e

           quits the place "like the white rabbit" (LG86).On another occasion, during

           his encounter with Vaught, Barrett reveals his plan to accompany Jamie.

           In the midst of the conversation, Barrett wonders if the old man is going to

          slip away again like "the white rabbit" (LG148).

                    Percy endeavours to add a mythical colour t o his grotesquerie by

           using the imagery of fabulous creatures like the dragon. Lancelot, the

           adulterer and arch villain who is also the protagonist of the novel o the same

           name, makes a scathing attack on women declaring that to him the sight o a

           lustful woman was as incredible as "a fire-breathing dragon turning u p at the

           Rotary Club" ( L 129-30). It is a paradox that although Lancelot's voice is

           tinged with bitterness against lustful women, he commits adultey with one of

          the members o the film company just before destroying Belle Isle.

                    During his travel in the train. St. Louisan, with Kate, Binx happens to

           meet Dr. and Mrs. Bob Dean, the sexologists, who wrote the book

           Technique in Marriage. After perusing part of a sentence from that book,

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          Binx remarks that it is impossible for him not to imagine them at their

          researches "as solemn as a pair of brontosauruses"' (M190).

                    Janos Jacoby, Lancelot's rival in love and Margot's new lover, is

          invested with grotesqueness by depicting him with the help o beast images.

          On Lancelot's entry to Margot's room at the night of the destruction of Belle

          Isle, he finds Margot and Jacoby together in the bed. Lancelot maintains:

                          There was a shape on the bed. Its skin was darker than the white

                          sheets. Now I could see it, the strangest of all beasts, two-

                          backed and pied, light-skinned dark skinned, striving against

                          itself, holding discourse with itself in prayers and curses. [.   . .]
                          Jacoby's back was a darkness within the dark. Musingly

                          I touched it, the beast. ( L238-39)
           Lancelot's repeated use of the metaphor 'beast' to describe Jacoby is

          expressive of Lancelot's fury at having been cuckolded; it also refers to

          Jacoby's beastly nature.

                    Getting the smell of methane at the bed, Jacoby, the beast, becomes

           suddenly very watchful and listening and raises his head up like a wild

           beast catching a scent. Lancelot squeezes them together and "the beast"

           tries to break apart. The squeezing makes Margot unconscious, but Jacoby

           is "as hard as a turtle" (L 240).

                    Conversations in Percy often abound in references to chipmunk, a

           squirrel like animal. Rita's explanation to Barrett of the reason for Sutter's

           dismissal from the hospital affects Kitty to a certain extent. Kitty becomes

           "as lumpish and cheeky as a chipmunk" (LG 265). Dr. Duk, Allison's

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           doctor in The Second Coming, complains that she takes only a little food;

           she smuggles back the morsels to her room in a napkin "like a chipmunk

            (89).It is symptomatic of Allison's eating disorder. The Moviegoer presents
           the scene o Binx's boat ride through the backwaters of Mississippi Sound,

           in the company o Sharon. In the bristled boat they are hemmed in by at

           least a hundred children and a dozen men and women. The only other

           couple in the boat         IS   a Keesler F~eldairman and his girl. The airman's fine

           silky hair is "cropped short as ermine", but his lip is pulled up "by the

           tendon of his nose showing two chipmunk teeth" which gives him a stupid

            Look (129).

                     In The grotesque in Art and Literature Kayser maintains that certain

            animals are "especially suitable to the grotesque-snakes,                owls, toads,

            spiders-the       nocturnal and creeping animals which inhabit realms apart

            from and inaccessible to man" 1182). Percy makes an extensive use of

           these images to heighten the grotesquerie in his works.

                     Percy's grotesque world is vibrant with crawling and writhing snakes.

                                      love to Sharon, she is at first, a bit dubious
            Though Binx confesses h ~ s

            about its veracity. Hence. she puts fotward her suspicion using the image of

            a snake: "But you're not getting me off down there with those rattlesnakes"

            ( M134).Dur~nghis enthusiastic life with Doris and Samantha, Tom More
                             daughter stories of snakes, the s t o y of RIKK-TIKKI-TAVI,
            used to tell h ~ s

            how the cobra entered the house by crawling through a hole in the bricks.

            The cobra in the story stands for death which separated Samantha from the

            family: it also represents the intrusion of evil into Tom More's family in the

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
        form of the disintegration of their married life, Tom's drunkenness, his

        adulterous life, and his becoming a bad catholic. It is an archetypal image

        o the original serpent, which tempted Adam and Eve; Tom More gets out

         of his Paradise estates after the death o his beloved daughter, Samantha.

                  Tom More hands on his breakthrough, the lapsometer, to Art

         lmmelmann who in turn produces numerous ones and The Pit where the

         doctors gather "writhes like a den of vipers" (LR240). The lapsometers

         produce an erotic effect on the students. While Tom makes love with Moira

         at Howard Johnson's motel, he sees two snakes near the pool, which

         express their copulation. Lancelot, the lawbreaker and murderer, depicts

         the society as a "generation of vipers" and suggests that it can be

         ameliorated only by a "stem code, a gentleness toward women and an

         intolerance of swinishness" and a readiness "to act from perfect sobriety

         and freedom" ( L 157). Lancelot's views evince that he is well informed of

         the code of conduct, but he fails miserably to put them into practice.

                  As in Love in the Ruins, snake becomes a dominant motif in The

         Second Coming. intensifying the effect o the grotesque. After escaping

         from the mental hospital, physically and mentally tortured, Allison sits on a

         public bench. Her plight is pictured using the image of the snake. Then she

         feels like "a snake stretched out on a rock in the sun shedding its skin after

         a long hard winter" ( S C 31).

                  Todd and Tannie were the first resident couple at Jack Curl's.

         Tannie has white skin and a "vein, thick and powerful as a snake, coiled on

         her wrist" ( S C 128). While he is at St. Mark's, Dr. Vance relates Barrett's

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          condition using the simile of a snake: he "smelled healthy" and "the arteries

          in his eyegrounds were as supple as snakes" (SC 306). Kitty displays her

           indignation at Barrett for dissipating his time with Allison, instead o being

          with her at the summerhouse by addressing him "snake in the grass"

           (SC 316), i.e. a person who pretends to be her friend but who cannot be

                    Escaping from the mental hospital Allison reaches the greenhouse. In

           her attempt to renovate the greenhouse, she comes across various kinds of

           plants and asks herself whether those are orchids gone to seed in big wire

           baskets hanging from the roof or some kind of "air-feeding lianas trailing

           down like snakes?" (SC 95). The use o blocks and ropes mitigates the

           difficulty o Allison's laborious task o moving a heavy stove to the
                       f                          f

           greenhouse. While she pulls with one hand, the tail of the rope lies loosely

           in her other hand as "limber, supple, and heavy as a snake" (SC203).The

           cellar of the greenhouse is murky and Allison supposes that there are

           "snakes as well as treasures" (SC 82). In the lobby of the Peachtree Plaza

           Hotel, which is a hundred feet high, vines "as big as snakes" grow up and

           grow down "like lianas" (SC 217).

                    Barrett, the unbeliever, approaches Father Weatherbee soliciting him

           to perform the marriage ceremony of Barrett and Allison. He has been

           leaning half-way across the desk during his conversation with the priest; a

           bit non-plussed, Father Weatherbee rolls his chair back and spins his white

           eye. He looks past his nose bridge at Barrett as if he was " a cobra swaying

           atop his desk" (SC: 358).Father Weatherbee takes Barrett as intimidating

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
         him for blessing their marriage as he fails to realize the meaning o the

         uncatholic Barrett's request, which is an odd one. This scene recalls the

         scene in Stephen Crane's novella                         The Monster (1897) where the
          destruction of the black coachman Henry Johnson's face is described:

                            Johnson had fallen with his head at the base of an old-

                         fashioned desk. There was a row of jars upon the top o this

                         desk. For the most part, they were silent amid this rioting, but

                         there was one which seemed to hold a scintillant and writhing


                            Suddenly the glass splintered, and a ruby-red snakelike thing

                         poured its thick length out upon the top of the old desk. It coiled

                         and hesitated, and then began to swim a languorous way down

                         the mahogany slant. At the angle it waved its sizzling molten

                         head to and fro over the closed eyes of the man beneath it.

                         Then. in a moment, with mystic impulse, it moved again, and

                         the red snake flowed directly down into Johnson's upturned

                         face. (193)

                   In The Moviegoer,while talking to Lonnie, his half-brother, Binx gets

          a view of a green snake swimming under the dock and he tells Lonnie

          about its movement: "It glides through the water without a ripple, stops

          mysteriously and nods against a piling" ( M 164). The movement of the

          snake is suggestwe of Lonnie's life which was lived calmly and which is

          going to be stopped imminently in a mysterious way.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                 The owl, another grotesque creature, also gets a notable place in

       Percy's novels. In L O L Jin the Ruins Tom More selects the abandoned

        Howard Johnson's motel as his habitat which is inhabited by ~'moccasins,

        screech owls, and raccoons" (9) after his marital breakdown. The presence

        of the owls and the other animals throws light on the gloomy life led

        by Tom.

                 While Allison is in the green house, she lights a candle to dispel the

        mounting darkness at dusk and the soft light makes a room in the dark.

        Time passes with the cicada music and Allison begins to be panicky in her

        solitary stay there. Her mental disposition and profound alienation is

        conveyed through the grotesque image of the owl: "not even the screech

        owl was sad" (SC 238).

                 The spider image occurs twice in Percy's novels giving us an insight

        into the character of the characters. While fishing at Gulf Coast, Binx's

        mother speaks about his father who had n o interest in fishing. Binx looks at

        the rising sun and sees a "crab spider" building its web across "a finger of

        the bayou and the strands seem to spin in the sunlight" (M 150).It stands

        for Binx who spins his life according to his own whims and fancies. In The

        Last Gentleman, while talking to Barrett, Kitty asks him whether he

        remembers calling her on the phone. He answers shaking his head to clear

        the 'cobwebs'; the metaphor is a key to perceive his vague condition.

                 Though there are grotesque animals like the snake and the owl,

        Kayser maintains that the bat is the "grotesque animal incarnate [. . .] the

        very name of which points to an unnatural fusion of organic realms

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           concretized in this ghostly creature" (183).
                                                      Percy makes recurrent use o the

           bat image to reinforce the grotesquerie of his characters. Tom, who is in

           love with Lola, a girl of twenty-six, says that he makes love t o Lola

           "blind as a bat" (LR 96). Percy repeats the same image in the description

           of Dr. Billy Mathews: "With his flip-ups down he looks blind as a bat"

           (LR 361).
                    Barrett in The Second Coming is delineated with the help o the bat

           image time and again. In his preposterous scheme to prove the existence of

           God in Lost Cove cave, Barrett crouches in the angle where the slide does

           not meet the roof "cleaving against the roof like a bat" ( S C 2 2 5 ) . The bat

           image acquires the quality of a motif in the vivid description o his thirst for

           water. On Barrett's corning out of the cave due to severe toothache, the

           readers view him smeared with the excrements of the bat. The very name

           'Banett' can be taken as the full form of bat, the grotesque animal, as his

           condition and actions often touch the realm of the grotesque. Allison is also

           likened to a bat when she rs in bed with Barrett. When she comes against

           Barrett from the side. it is with the effect of flying up to him from below

            "like a little cave bat and clinging to him with every part of her" (SC339).

                     'Everydayness' is the worst enemy of Binx and he speculates that

           only 'disaster' can break it. In his hitherto life, his 'everydayness' was

           broken only once, while he lay bleeding in a ditch. Another time as if

           seized by a fit, he fell in a heap on the floor and lay shivering on the

           boards "worse off than the miserablest muskrat in the swamp" (M 145).In

            The Last Gentleman Barrett's hallucination about his grandfather at 203

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
         Lower Pyne during his Princeton days made him lethargic and he "moved

         like a sloth" (15), like a mammal that hangs from the branches back


                   Lizards. also contribute to build up Percy's grotesque world. During

         Jamie's stay at Santa Fe Hospital, affected by serious illness, Barrett

          approaches the ward nurse to relate Jamie's pathetic condition. At first she

         does not take any notice of him; later she turns "a baleful lizard eye upon

         him" (LG 350). The very image is used for the same person at another

         time; her eyelids are "nictitating from below like a lizard's" (LG 379). Here

          the image points to the nurse's physical oddity.

                   Percy presents a grotesque pattern before the readers by conflating

          images of human beings and insects too. Binx while lying wounded in a

          ditch during the Korean War beholds a dung beetle that instils in him the

          idea of a search. He appropriates the same image to make a critique of

          modern man: "everyone becomes an anyone, a warm and creative person,

          and prospers like a dung beetle" ( M228).

                   Allison in The Second Corningis described in terms of an insect. She

          does her work adroitly when alone and timid and clumsily if she has an

          audience. The moment a pair of eyes are focused on her, she is "a beetle

          stuck on a pin, arms and legs beating the air" (SC 233). In Lancelot, before

          decimating Belle Isle. Lancelot pleads Margot to accompany him; on her

          refusal he feels very hurt and asks himself: "How d o you live with this:

          being stuck onto pain like a cockroach impaled on a pin?" (209).

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                  The insect image finds its way in Percy's other novels too. Barrett's

        mother Lucy Hunicutt was a veIy pretty lady with "dark hair and big violet

        eyes" and lovers "swarmed around her like flies" (LG 247). Sutter's olive

        skin had a yellowish cast. "The high color of his cheeks resolved into a

        network o venules" (L.G 206): i.e. a branch of a vein in an insect's wing.

        In Love i the Ruins Art Immelmann in The Pit is "as busy as a bee"
         ( L G 235) distributing duplicate lapsometers. During their stealthy trip, Binx
        and Kate meet Sidney Gross and his wife and the encounter upsets Kate

        because of her peculiar nature of being happier in the midst of strangers

         than with friends. Hence they pick up speed, sway against each other and

         watch the headlights of the cars on the swamp road "winking through the

         moss like big yellow lightning bugs" (M 188).

                  Percy's grotesque world throbs with the movements and flights of

         diverse birds, which are mingled with human beings. As Caroline Spurgeon

         points out, birds are apt for swift means o characterization. They form a

         picture of what may happen in human life and sometimes "the point

         of view of the bird is used as a measure o something desired

         (Spurgeon 295). Aunt Emily, the stoic character, in The Moviegoer was a

         sort o bird before her marriage to Jules Cutrer.

                  Binx recalls an article in which a lonely old man gets into

         conversation with a young girl discussing his hobby and the prosped of a

         career in art. Binx says that if he were a young girl, he would have n o

         recourse to kindly old philosophers: "These birds look fishy" to him ( M 77),

         i.e. he is suspicious of then-I.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                  While Barrett approaches Father Boomer pleading baptism for

        Jamie, the priest is befuddled about "what kind of bird" he is "dealing

        with" ( L G 380). If Father Boomer wondered what kind of bird Barrett was,

        the answer comes at the time of Barrett's first meeting with Sutter. Barrett

        watches the other "like a hawk" ( L G 210). The hawk image is reiterated in

        another scene, when Barrett is in conversation with Sutter and Jamie;

        Barrett watches the other "like a hawk" ( L G 366), that is he watches closely

        and carefully, noticing small details.

                  During their visit to Chicago, Binx and Kate are pictured in terms of

        jaybirds; they "skip on by like jaybirds in July" ( M 207), reminding us of

         Welty's Lily Daw who is also compared to a jaybird. Father Smith o The

         Thanatos Syndrome is described employing the same image; he is "crazy as
         a jaybird" (212). During his conversation with Will Barrett, Father

        Weatherbee cranes up his neck like "a Philippine bird" (SC 358-59).

                  The nature of Sharon Kincaid, Binx's ladylove, is conveyed through

                                            that Sharon and other Anglo-Saxon
         the imagery of birds. Binx mainta~ns

         lovelies are commoner than "sparrows", and like sparrows "they are at

         home in the streets, in the parks, on doorsteps" ( M 65). He continues that

         Sharon is beautiful, brave, and "chipper as a sparrow" ( M 130). She is

         again likened to "a little partridge" ( M 106) while she is at work with Binx.

         Lancelot also imparts an insight into his boyhood character using the image

         of the sparrow. He was "more a sparrow. Plain but tough" unlike Lily, his

         mother, who was Like "a little dove" ( L 212).

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                Ktty is couched in the image of birds to highlight her grotesquerie.

       During her chat with Barrett, Kitty discloses the fad that she has n o

      boyfriends: she leads a quiescent life with Rita, her sister-in-law. She remarks

      that she is clinging to the nest like "a big old cuckoo" (LG 159). Kitty

      narrates the fascinating account of the hikuli rite, a custom of the Huichol

       Indians in which the women are absolved from their sins by tying knots in a

      palm-leaf string, one knot for each lover. Then they throw the string into

       'Grandfather Fire'. On Barrett's request to tie a knot for him also Kitty asks

       'what' craning her neck and "searching the horizon like a sea b i r d (LG 100).

                Dr. Gamow, Barrett's psychiatrist, appears rather grotesque by being

       compared to a bird. After a prolonged treatment of five years, feeling n o

       amelioration. Barrett determines to break off his analysis. At the end of their

       discussion, they shake hands pleasantly. Employing the metaphor o the

       bird, it is said that Barrett casts an eye over "the dusty humming-bird" which

       has been "buzzing away at the same trumpet vine for five years." The little

       bird seems "dejected" (LG39).

                Ross Alexander in                The Second Corning delineates his own
       grotesquerie through the metaphor of the duck. Standing up in the midst o a
       party, he announced that he would go outside and "shoot a duck" (155)and
       went out and comm~ttedsuicide. When he goes out, others may take his
       words in a literal sense: but the situation turns grotesque as he commits
       suicide. The image o the duck gives an insight into his attitude towards life;

       he does not attach any significance to it. While talking to Barrett, Jack Curl,
       the chaplain at St. Mark's, feels that Barrett is "a queer duck"; rich and
       powerful, "but queer. Sly" ISC138).

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                  After the discussion on the hikuli rite of the Huichol Indians, Barrett

         expresses his wish to many Kitty. Meanwhile the dander from Kitty's old

        blankets began to bother his nose. On trying to blow his nose, Barrett realizes

        that the mucous membranes have swelled against each other like "violet

         eiderdowns" (LG 1 0 1 ) the soft feathers of a large sea duck from northern

         countries. This grotesque comparison evokes the dual feelings of the

         ludicrous and the fearsome.

                  Outside St. Mark's Convalescent Home, Mr. Eberhart has been

         watering small pine trees. He walks in an awkward way. He is pictured using

         the simile of a heron: "Standing with one leg crooked and with his long-

         billed cap fitting tightly on his head," he looks like "a heron" (SC349). Eva

         in Toni Morrison's Sula presents a similar picture with her crutches.

         Balancing her weight between the crutches, she swoops on through the

         rooms "swinging and swooping like a giant heron" (46). Gretlund and

         Westarp observe about the lovemaking of Lancelot and Margot:

                        Birds and beasts are associated in various ways with human sexual

                        behavior. Lance and Margot take acutely decadent delight in the

                        old pigeonn~eras setting for their first coupling, accompanied by

                        the falnt, soft cooing o the birds in the loft above them and, after

                        the rain. a joyous chorus of frogs outside. (149)

                   Grotesque art does not distinguish between animate and inanimate

         things. Percy's novels abound in numerous examples of human beings

         compared to non-living things. Binx fails to absorb many ideas and ideals

         that his father's family held dear. In their opinion, the world makes sense not

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          with God but without Him and only a scoundrel can lead a good life. Binx

          expresses his reaction to this using an inanimate image. He declares that h e

          cannot make head or tail of it. The best thing that he is capable o doing is to

          "lie rigid as a stick under the cot, locked in a death grip with everydayness"

          (M 146).Binx repeats the same image to describe his posture when he fell
          down in a ditch: "For minutes at a stretch I Lie rigid as a stick and breathe the

          black exhalation of the swamp"              (M145).
                   Though Binx's affectionate uncle and aunt live in a gracious house in

          the Garden District, he stays away from them. Whenever he tries to live

          there, Binx becomes furious and develops strong opinions on numerous

          subjects and writes letters to editors. It is followed by a depression in which

          he lies rigid as 'a stick' for hours staring at the ceiling. Binx's alienation from

          his own dear ones as well as from good environments gets reflected in this

          odd behaviour.

                   In The Lasf Genfleman,while going through Sutter's casebook Barrett

          gets the impression that he is Kim's 'someone'. He makes a phone call to

          ktty mentioning the loss of her cheque which was given to him. After the call

          his foreboding returns and he lies on the bed "stiff as a poker" (338).The

          image discloses Barrett's odd condition. The avid perusal o Sutter's

          casebook makes a great impact on Barrett; it Loosens "his synapses, like a

          bar turning slowly in his brain" (LG296).

                   Love in the Ruins presents the bizarre scene o Father Smith's

          communication failure during the Holy Mass. Because of his illness he is

          hospitalized and there he lies on the bed "stiff as a board, hands cloven to

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                                      right nor left" (184).In The Last Gentleman
         his side, eyes looking ne~ther

         Barrett, after his Odyssean journey in search of Jamie, meets the hospitalized

         Jamie at Santa Fe. After a while Jamie begins to sweat and collapses and

         when the engineer gets up to leave, Jamie's hand detains him softly.

                                   what he wants, there is no reply except "the hand
         Although Barrett asks h ~ m

         moving over the covers. as tentative as a Ouija"' (LG 349).

                   Percy brings the image of the ship to the harbour o his grotesque

         world. Harold Graebner who saved Binx's life during the war had invited

         him to the baptism ceremony o his baby; but Binx could not attend it.

         He discloses the reason using the simile of the ship: "The trouble is there

         is no place to come to rest. We stand off the peninsula like ships

         becalmed-unable              to move" ( M 210). This image aptly brings out

         Binx's dislocation as he has no feeling of being at home in his own house.

         Having no bosom friends to confide in, his feeling o 'everydayness' deepens

         as days elapse.

                   On Kate's visit to Binx's half-brother, Lonnie Smith, who has been

         suffering excruciating pain from hepatitis, Kate tells Binx about Smith's

         condition: the poor little boy is hideously thin and yellow like "one o those

         wrecks lying on a flatcar at Dachau" ( M 238). During his fourth visit to

         Jamie, Barrett gets a small amnesic fit at Washington Height. Then h e sits

         under a billboard of Johnnie Walker whose legs were driven by a motor.

          Incidentally, Ktty also reaches there and while they are talking Johnnie

         Walker's legs creak like "ship's rigging" (LG 65). In her encounter with

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
        Barrett, Kitty expresses her regret about missing many occasions to make

        love, saying that they passed each other like "ships in a fog" (SC 143).

                  "Among the most persistent motifs o the grotesque," Kayser says,

        "we find human bodies reduced to puppets, marionettes, and automata, and

        their faces frozen into masks" (183).On Barrett's decision to embark on a

        search for Jamie. ktty becomes desperate, as she is dubious about Barrett's

        return. Then Barrett sees himself and ffitty being reflected as "doll-like

        figures" in the "fine glint of appraisal in Rita's eye" (LG267).According to

        Jack Curl, Kitty is "a doll" (SC 130);what he means is she is indolent and


                  Once Barrett mistook k t a for Kitty, and was bewildered when h e

        recognized the mistake. It was like watching "a picture toy turned one

         degree: the black lines come and the picture changes" (LG 88). When

        Sharon was a high school girl in North Carolina, with her sleepy eyes she

        looked like "snapshots of Ava Gardner" ( M93).

                  Allison's hoisting of Barrett with the aid of pulleys and rope conveys

        the impression that Barrett is an inanimate object. At that time Allison is like

         "a child bedding down a big doll" (SC 285), Barrett in his unconscious state

         being the big doll. The Second Coming presents an arena where there arises

         a scuffle at St. Mark's Convalescent Home between Mr. Arnold and            Mr. Ryan
        while they are watching television. Though Mr. Arnold has been sitting on his

         bed, he stymies Mr. Ryan"s view of the programme. In the fistfight that

         ensues, Mr. Arnold seizes Ryan's crutch with his good hand and kicks

         Mr. Ryan with his good leg. Mr. Ryan flies through the air like "a doll" and

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           falls on top o him (SC 318). The image enables the novelist to create

           grotesquerie through exaggeration too.

                    Father Rinaldo Smith. during his hallucination about Germany,

           "perched on a stool like a wax doll atop a hundred-foot tower, not stirring for

           a day and a half" ( TS 234). The image of the doll imparts a better picture of

           the priest's grotesque condition.

                    Binx has a peculiar nature; whenever he gets into conversation with

           people. he is overwhelmed by the feeling that evetyone is dead and

           consequently the sole thing to be done is to quit the place by making an

           excuse. At such times it seems that the conversation is spoken by

           "automatons who have no choice in what they say" (M100).Human beings

           reduced to automatons become grotesque.

                     Objects of day-to-day use find their way to Percy's grotesque world as

           they are often compared to the characters.                                Binx's father acquires a

           grotesque mien in The Moviegoer. His father's mind was like "a steel trap"

           ( M 56) and his nervous system was like "a high-powered radio" (M 154).
           The radio image again occurs in The Second Coming. At Dr. Duk's

           insistence on a refresher course o treatment for Allison, she resists the

           suggestion with her voice !sounding like "a radio with a bad volume control"

           (SC103).The image is su~ggestive Allison's abnormal condition.

                    Percy employs the cloth image to depict the physiognomy o his

           characters. During the onslaught of depression, Binx's father used to sit at

           the breakfast table looking at the food "white as a sheet" ( M 152). In The

           Second Con7ing Mr. Arnold's face is portrayed in terms o a curtain:

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           the "curtain of his face had not yet shut down" (319); side o his face
                                                                one     f

           was "shut down. Eyelid, cheek, lip fell like a curtain" (155). this image

           the readers get an idea about his physical oddity; he is half-blind.

                    Binx also makes use of the curtain image while he speaks about his

           religious belief. His unbelief was ~nvinciblefrom the beginning unlike in the

           case o some other people who are pious as children but later become

           skeptical. He admits his ignorance of God and avows that even if God

           himself had appeared to him, it would have made n o difference. He reveals

           that the moment he hears the word God "a curtain comes down" in his head

           (M145). is expressive of his alienation from God and o his gloom.
                 It                                              f

                    In the company of the movie people, Lancelot felt himself as a

           dehumanized entity in Margot's vision. He remarks that he had become part

           o the furniture o Belle Isle to Margot, like "the console with the petticoat
            f               f

           mirror" ( L 165). Buddy Brown in Love in the Ruins is lent a tinge o
                           Dr.                                                 f

           oddity by comparing his jaw muscles to "a fan" spread up "under the

           healthy skin" (196).

                     Barrett's uncle. Fann~n, portrayed as odd; while walking up and

           down the back porch, his face is "narrow and dark as a piece o slab bark"

           (LG 324). The same image gets repeated in The Second Coming; Louis
           Peckham is a discontent golf pro, English teacher, and poet whose face is

           "narrow and dark as a piece of slab b a r k (149).

                     The readers get an insight into Percy's preference for certain foods

           from the images he has drawn from them; they invest his characters with

           oddity. In The Moviegoer,while Binx is at his mother's house with Sharon,

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
       he makes an analogy between Sharon and Linda, his girlfriends. Sharon is

       natural with children. whereas Linda is nervous and she looks over their

       heads with her face "gone heavy as a pudding" (138). Binx reprises the

       same image in the description of Kate's physical appearance. In his opinion,

       Kate is not a lovely queen. He remarks that when Kate gets her hair waved

       and puts on an evening gown, "she looks frumpy; the face in the picture is

       plain as a pudding" (M24). Duk, Allison's doctor, in The Second Coming

       has "a pudding face" (87).

                 Marion Peabody, Barrett's wife, was bed-ridden due to jaundice; on

       her deathbed she turned "yellow as butter"(SC 158). Though butter is a

       delicious food item, its comparison to jaundiced Marion produces the twin

       feelings of disgust and of the comic on the readers.

                 In Lancelot the eponymous protagonist ponders over his initial love

       towards Margot in terms of food. He states that she was like "a feast. She

       was a feast. I wanted to eat her. I ate her" (171). Lancelot was very fond of

       Margot and there was a true union with her in love. In the absence of

       Margot, Lancelot feels very uneasy and he expresses his feelings in a

       rnordant way: "Her not being here was like oxygen not being here"

       (L 123), it is really difficult for him to live without Margot.
                 Barrett in The Last Gentleman continues his journey after the incident

       at Confederate Monument and he feels a torturing pain at the back of his

       head and almost faints. Sittirig on a picnic bench, he feels his skull which has

        "a sticky lump the slze of a hamburger" (281). The reference to the

       hamburger creates an unsettling feeling or grotesque effect on the readers.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                    Barrett's doctor is given a streak o oddity by describing him in terms

           of a boat. Following his fall into Allison's greenhouse, Barrett expresses his

           desire to meet Dr. Battle. Consonant with his wish Allison runs an errand

           for him. On meeting Dr. Battle he approaches Allison in an odd way;

           "Sluggishly, like a boat righting itself in a heavy sea" (SC 249). She informs

           him that though Barrett is injured, he is able to walk and the message shall

           be kept in confidence. The doctor is surprised and for a second, his eyes go

           cold and flash like "a beacon" (SC 249).

                     'Stone' becomes an image for Percy to bring out the grotesque

           nature o his characters. The Second Comjngpresents the scene of Barrett's

           verbal spanking with the driver during his journey to Georgia swamp. The

           passengers watch the scene 'stone faced.' In The Moviegoer, the readers

           witness the arrival o both Binx and Kate at Chicago. They go to the

           Stevens to register for rooms and there they meet Sidney who fastens a

           plastic name card to Binx's lapel; he hustles Binx off upstairs to a ballroom,

           leaving Kate somewhat "stony-faced" ( M 204). Kate fails to understand

           the situation.

                     "The fusion o organic and mechanical elements" creates the

           grotesque (Kayser 183).In Love in the RuinsTom More's ladylove, Lola's

           "membranes are clear as Light, the body fluids like jeweler's oil under a

           watch crystal." She is a "lovely inorganic girl" (LR 92). The Second
            Corning presents a scene of Allison with a policeman. In her attempt to

           locate Aunt Sally's place on the map, she seeks the help of the policeman

           who has been standing in the corner of the street. His forefinger begins to

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
       trace the trails on the map: his fingernail is "as large and convex as a watch

       crystal" (41).As they sit together looking over the map she feels his breath

       coming out "whistling and strong as a bellows" (SC 41).

                 Some other images of objects occur in Percy's novels magnifying the

        oddness of his characters. During his stay at St. Mark's Convalescent

       Home, Barrett had to take a lot of drugs and as a consequence he had the

       smell of pesticide in his nostrils: "he smelled like a house sprayed for

       termites" (SC 306).

                 Percy exploits not only fauna to device his grotesque world but flora

        also. The images of trees, leaves. flowers, and fruits are juxtaposed with

        human beings to weave out a grotesque world. Cut adrift from Dr. Gamow

        and psychoanalysis, Barrett in                     The Last Genfleman resumes his
        solitary odyssey with his Teblar telescope. He is given a tint o oddity

        clothing him in the image of a solid tree. His arm is "like a young oak" (39).

       At St. Mark's Convalescent Home, two orderlies were essaying at getting an

        old woman onto a hospltal stretcher. The woman was sitting on the edge of

        the bed and crying. Though she was not larger than a child, her ankles

        "clad in men's socks, were as thick as small trees" (SC 347).

                 Barrett. who is always in search of signs, takes the Jews as a sign of

        God's presence in the world. The Jews are invested with a grotesque vein

        using metaphors related to trees; they are a clue to the mystery, "a telltale

        twig, a blazed sapling irr an otherwise riotous senseless jungle" (SC 190).

        Kayser in his work The Grotesque in Art and Literature observes:

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                        The plant world, too, furnishes numerous motifs, and not only

                        for the ornamental grotesques. The inextricable tangle of the

                        jungle with its ominous vitality, in which nature itself seems to

                        have erased the difference between plants and animals, is so

                        grotesque that no exaggeration is needed. (183)

                  In Percy's Love m the Ruins 'vine' becomes a motif. Tom More

        remarks. "In recent months the vines have begun to sprout in earnest" (9).

        At different times he repeats the same image: "the vines had begun to

         sprout" (88): "Rank vines sprout in the path" (142); "The vines are

         sprouting here in earnest" (151):"the vines are encroaching" (174). By

         making repeated use of the 'vine' image, Percy hints at the moral

         degradation of modern man. Materialism intrudes into every walk o life,

         destroying people's moral calibre.

                  Ruth D. Weston c:omments that confining houses and their tangled

         gardens "reflect the troubled minds of protagonists in American Gothic

         romances: Henry James's The Turn of the Screy Poe's The Fa// of the

         House of Usher: and, of course, Hawthorne's The House of the Seven

         Gables [. . .]" (53).Tom More compares a green line wavering in midair

         above the pavement to "the hanging gardens of Babylon" (LR23). He

         observes that weeds sprout in the fairways. "Blackberries flourish in the

         rough. Rain shelters are green leafy caves" (246).

                   Leaf, too, becomes a motif in Percy's novels generating a strange

         effect. Binx exhibits his dread at a stormy night using the simile of a leaf.

         The telephone rings at a tenlpestuous night and he finds himself "in the

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
            middle of the floor shaking like a leaf" ( M 110). While Binx and Kate are

            travelling in the train, St. Louisan, Kate is shaking like "a leaf" on the

            rumination about her inability to become 'anyone' (M 190).

                      On Lonnie's returning home after a ride in the company o Binx,

            he persuades Binx to beat him like 'Akim'. After the beating, Lonnie's hand

            curls "like a burning leaf" ( M 165).While Lancelot was committing adultery

            with Raine, they were watching each other as in a contest. He observes,

             "She lost. When I found it out, the secret, she closed her eyes and curled

             around me like a burning leaf" ( L 236).

                      Another blackout followed Barrett's spectacular fall into Allison's

             greenhouse. Then he "shook like a leaf" (SC 255). The shaking leaf is

             expressive of the trepidation of the characters, whereas the 'burning leaf' of

             their imminent death.

                      Flowers diffuse their fragrance and beauty even in Percy's grotesque

             world. Appropriating the image of a flower, Binx relates his jerky journey in

             the train. St. Lousian: his head was nodding like " a daffodil" and it fell a

             good three inches toward the St. Louisan before it jerked itself up (M 190).

                      Percy's fecund imagination generates fruits in his grotesque world.

             Criticizing the credos of the members of 'This I Believe' programme, Binx

             affirms that though they take the pledge o believing in the 'uniqueness' o
                                                       f                               f

             the individual, in practice, they are devoid of such a quality and are in fad

             "alike as peas in a pod" (M 109). The same image is reiterated in The

             Second Coming while Ewell McBee draws a comparison between himself

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          and Barrett. Their difference occurs only in the matter o finance. So he tells

          Barrett, "Me and you are alike as two peas in a p o d (SC 178).

                   During Barrett's study of law in deference to his father's wish, h e

          contracted hay fever and his nose swelled up like "a big white grape and

          turned violet inside" (LG 15).While talking to Barrett, Jack Curl's muscular

          jaw swelled like "a pear under the temples just as his lower body swelled

          like a pear in the jump suit" (SC 123). Marion Peabody who was suffering

          from jaundice was "yellow as a g o u r d (SC 124).

                   Not only fruits, but vegetables also become a part o Percy's

          grotesque world. Mr. Arnold in The Second Coming is presented as a

          physical grotesque with the help of a simile. Though he had a stroke, he

          manages with a walker. While he is in the room, one of his fierce eyes gazes

          around the room under "a small bald head white as an onion" (155).

          Coming out of Lost Cove cave. Barrett finds himself exhausted and

          nauseated and feels that he is going to fall down. Therefore, he lets his

          body go like "a sack of potatoes" (SC 224).

                   Percy's grotesque world breaks the confines of land and extends

          even to sea animals, especially tish. Barrett becomes lustful while h e is

          swimming in the pool with Muzh, Forney Aiken's daughter. She resists his

          attempts to have sexual encounter with her. When he stands slack in the

          water she makes "forays in the water around him, flexing like a porpoise"

          (LG 129).
                   Once, while Barrett was lying on his bed at Y.M.C.A, one o his legs

          "defied gravity and rose slowly of itself" and his knee began to "leap like

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
        a fish" (LG86).Lancelot is crestfallen at the discovery of Margot's infidelity,

       though he does not acknowledge it. He laments that he might have been

        content in his unhappiness if he had not met her, like "one of those cave

       fish that don't have eyes and don't miss the sun" ( L167).

                 Binx imparts an insight into Walter's grotesquerie. Walter, Kate's

       fiance, has gray "sharklike skin and lidded eyes" ( M 3 3 ) . During their boat

        ride Binx and Sharon awaits an empty boat where they can relax a n d enjoy

        themselves. However. shattering their hopes, they get a boat where they are

        "packed in like sardines" ( M 128).

                 The      grotesque        world      offers     opportunities       for   inversion   of

        dehumanization too; objects in nature are invested with human capacities

        and feelings, as in the case of 'pathetic fallacy' in poetry. On the night of the

        destruction of Belle Isle there was a hurricane. The fierce storm was like "a

        man who can't get his breath" (LG 209). Belle Isle looks like an isle, and

        farther away "gas burnoffs flared in the night as if giant hunters still stalked

        the old swamp" (L 56). Just as the tempest in fing Lear is a reflection of

        the tempest of the king's mind, the hurricane in Lancelot is expressive of

        Lancelot's turbulent mind.

                  The Second Coming, which offers some instances of personification,

        describes a scene where Barrett and Slocum are conversing in a pleasant

        office of lawyers: the big window imparts them a view o the mountain with

        its "skewed face and one eye out of place." After a while they both gaze at

        the mountain that has the appearance of a man; with its bare trees it looks

        like "a moonfaced man with a stubble" (SC 333). During the golf course

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
        Barrett looks up at "the round one-eyed mountain" which seems to gaze

        back "with an ironical expression" (SC 6).

                 Binx comments on the weather during the first thunderstorm o the

        year employing personification; the windy clouds look like "pedestrians in

        old prints" ( M 18). In The Second Coming, Barrett recollects going back

        home after his wife's funeral. On reaching Theobald Street, a much familiar

       place, he notices that it has a different look: "an air of suspension, o pause

        and hiatus, like the policeman at the cemetery who stood still in front o the

        stopped traffic'' (219).

                 During his journey to the Georgia swamp, Barrett's eyes catch sight

        of "a notch where in the darkness of the pine and spruce there grew a

        single gold poplar which caught the sun like a yellow-haired girl coming out

        of a dark forest" (SC 297). In The Last Gentleman, after paying a visit to

        Val Vaught, Barrett continues his journey to Santa Fe through hills and

        cliffs. On the way, he sees dead trees "shrouded in kudzu vines reared up

        like old women" (291).On I-eachingSanta Fe, Barrett sits under a cistern. It

        is a desolate place with a menacing silence. The sky is clear and about forty

        miles way at Albuquerque "a mountain" rears up like "your hand in front of

        your face" (LG 341).

                 Even inanimate objects pulsate with life in Percy's grotesque

        world. The elder Barrett always carries a German pistol or Luger with him

        with which he intends to take his life. During Barrett's debate on God with

        Jack Curl, the Luger "ttirusi into his thigh like a t h u m b (SC 137); it is

        suggestive of his unbridled passion for committing suicide.

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                   Kayser suggests that the "characteristic motifs of the grotesque

        also include all the tools which unfold a dangerous life of their own"

         (Kayser 183).On reaching Kitty's house, Barrett notices a painting in which

        a man who had been hurled from a motorcycle lay in a ditch. He had

        apparently sustained internal injur~es,for "blood spurted from his mouth

        like a stream from a garden hose" (LG 99). The man in the painting gives

         an insight into Barrett's condition; he is suffering from both physical and

         mental injuries. Motorcycle is a grotesque tool and the comparisons of

         blood to a stream and of the mouth to a garden hose create grotesque


                   The readers come across the image of the 'knife' in Percy's Lancelot;

         it enhances the grotesquerie of his characters. In Lancelot, it is the bowie

         knife that puts an end to Jacoby's life. Even the name 'Lancelot' becomes a

        trope; it can be interpreted as the man who made his horrible 'lot' with

         'lance' or knife.

                   In almost all the novels, Percy makes use of the images of grotesque

         tools. In The Last Gentleman Sutter always carries a pistol with him. In

         Love in the Ruins the situation is not different; Tom More's carbine lies

         across his lap in the opening of the novel itself. Barrett in The Second

         Comingis thinking frequently whether 'to be or not to be' with his German

         Luger. Barrett's father ended his life with his Greener. Pistol, the grotesque

         tool, is an index to the suicidal tendency of the characters.

                   Grotesque artists have a predilection for squalid, antique and

         spoliated things and places. Percy creates such settings in his novels. In The

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           Moviegoerthe little pagoda o aluminum and glass at Elysian Fields, though

           pretty on the outside, is "evil-smelling within" (228).When youthful Barrett

           gets down from the bus in the South, there is a shower of rain and he takes

           refuge in the nearby pagoda "which was empty but for scraps o ancient

           newspapers" (LG 118). The pagoda represents Vaught family whom he

           seeks. They are devoid of any worthy values that Barrett aspires to

           commandeer: Mr. Vaught                 IS   in pursuit of material affluence, Dr. Sutter

           Vaught of lewdness, and Val of unethical Christianity.

                    New Jersey presents a squalid state; the flats are 'ruinous' and the

           rivers there foam with "detergents and chemical wastes" (LG 120). The

           "gloomy cattail swamp" smells like "a crankcase" from which arise "singing

           clouds o mosquitoes." A steady stream of Fruehauf tractor-trailers rumbles

           past, "each with a no-rider sign on the windshield (LG 122). The sordid

           setting is symptomatic of the socio-cultural crumbling of modern civilization.

           During Binx's boat ride through the backwaters of Mississippi Sound, in the

           company of Sharon, the!] land near the fort, 'a historic site.' There a

           decrepit brick silo of the Civil War is littered with ten summers o Kodak

           boxes and ticket stubs and bottle caps: "The debris o summers past piles

           up like archeological strata" (M129).

                    Allison's greenhouse also presents ruinous condition. Making an

           exploration of the ruins of the house, she comes across three great-

           blackened chimneys "with mounds o brick and rubble, grown over by

           creeper, between" (SC 81). Though she searches for tin or glass to cover

           the hole, there are no such th~ngs, but only "brickbats, vines and

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           chipmunks." She also sees an iron stove, two books, and a "grimy transom-

           size window" which were covered by creepers (SC 82).

                    Love in the Ruins,as the title suggests, is a peep into ruins in various

           realms. Decay and disintegration have become the hallmark of nature,

           motels, roads, society, and religion. The novel opens with the picture of

           Tom More sitting against a young pine tree which has a tumor. Tom says,

           "These are bad Tlmes. Principalities and Powers are everywhere victorious.

           Wickedness flourishes in high places" (LR 5).Consequently, the inner lanes

           o the interstate are in disrepair though the tar strips are broken. Howard

           Johnson's motel also mirrors signs of dereliction:

                          [Tlhere is something wrong with the motel. The roof tiles are

                          broken. The swimming pool is an opaque jade green, a bad

                          color for pools. [. . .] the diving board [. .             .I   is broken and

                          slanted into the water. Two cars are parked in the near lot, a

                          rusty Cadillac and an Impala convertible with vines sprouting

                          through its rotting top.

                                The cars and the shopping center were burnt out during

                          Christmas riot five years ago. The motel, though not burned, was

                          abandoned [. . .]. (LR 8-9)

                    Even St. Michael's church, representing the Catholic Church, is not

           an exception to this deteriorated state. The church had a large parish but

           now the church is empty and abandoned. The stained glass is broken out

           and the church is inhabited by Cliff swallows. In The Moviegoer, Aunt

           Emily remarks. "True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
        stinks t o high heaven" (223).Love also witnesses a ruinous condition. Tom

         More exults in erotic love and his love towards God sinks into atrophy

         making him a bad Catholic.

                  Percy employs the image of cemetery t o throw some light on modern

        culture, which is strange. In The Moviegoer, while travelling with Kate, Binx

        observes the cemeteries at Metaire. He says that "with their rows o white

        vaults, some two-and three-storied and forming flats and tenements," they

         appear from a distance like "a city" (185).Here Percy hints at the modern

         man's tendency of making even the world of the dead an attractive world.

         Modern man does not make any distinction between his life and death. The

         cemetery stands for the desperate dead life of modern man, steeped in

         material prosperity, neglecting moral and spiritual values. Jesus says that

         He has come t o give life to man, but abandoning Him, man chooses death,

         a grotesque act.

                  In the old Gothic, the haunted castle was an image, a n 'objective
         correlative' of the psyche, as Irving Malin puts it. In Percy's novels the

         readers never come across such castles or bizarre rooms a s in Truman

         Capote's Other Voices Other Rooms. Nevertheless, it is a pathetic sight that

         none o the Percy protagonists stay at his own home. Binx Bolling comes to

         stay in Gentilly, away from his home, in an apartment in the basement of

                          house. Similarly, young Barrett, leaving his home in the
         Mrs. Schexna~dre's

         South, lives in a cell in the YMCA, in New York, three floors below

         street level. Tom More of Love in the Ruins has his house in the Paradise

         Estate, but he spends much of his time in the ruined Howard

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
           Johnson's motel. Lancelot was leading his life in the Belle Isle, but his

           criminal acts land him in prison, a Center for Aberrant Behavior.                     In   The

           Second Coming, the elder Barrett leaves his cosy house and spends two

           weeks in a cave and the rest of the time in Allison's greenhouse. Allison has

           left her home and is leading a solitary Life in the greenhouse. Thus all these

           characters live a homeless lite; they are leading a narcissistic life away from

           the warmth o other human beings. This homelessness evinces their

           alienation and grotesquerie.

                     'Sickness' is a pervading image in all of Percy's novels. All the major

           characters sufter from ph!jsical or psychical illness: Binx is a victim of

            'everydayness'. "A special. feature o everydayness is loss of visibility"

            (Luschei 23). It is a condition o being lost in oblivion. A person who is in the

           grip of 'everydayness' fails to recognize the novelties in day-to-day life. For

           him life is a flow o the same incidents and situations. He is incapable of

           finding any meaning in life. Consequently, joy and happiness have become

            alien things to him. 'Everydayness' is the initial stage o despair. Usually it is

            the healthy and affluent peopie who become vidims of 'everydayness' as

            they hardly come across the hard realities o life. Kate also exhibits her

            problem of 'everydayness' when she declares that accidents make her happy.

                     Younger Will Barretl is prone to amnesia, d4a vu, temporal

            dislocation, and jerking o knee and all these problems make him

            an alienated and grotesque figure. Tom More is an alcoholic with

            "depressions and elations and morning terrors"                    (LR11).
                                                                                    Alcoholism itself is

            an aberrant behaviour leading to many bizarre actions. Elder Barrett is

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
          haunted by memories of his dead father and has deafness in one ear;

          Allison is a schizophrenic patient and Lancelot a demented man. The

          sickness is symptomatic of the moral and spiritual degradation and

          depravity o modern rnan who attaches much significance to fortune and

          power. It has also an autobiographical touch because of the fad that Percy

          was a sick man most o his life.

                   Death is another recurrent image of Percy. The Moviegoer opens

          with the announcement o the death of Binx's older brother, Scott. Binx is

          always led by the impression that every person is dead. The novel winds up

          with the deaths of two people: Lonnie and Uncle Jules. The Last

          Gentleman also closes with death, the death of Jamie Vaught. Love in the

          Ruins presents two deaths--death of Tom More's daughter, Samantha, and

          of his wife, Doris, who had run away with a heathen English man. Lancelot

          witnesses many deaths, the natural death of Lancelot's first wife, Lucy, and

          many violent deaths with Lancelot's hands.

                    The Secorid Coming portrays the death of Marion Peabody, Barrett's
          wife, and of Barrett's father. The death motif points to the fad that death is
          the end o man's life in th~s
                   f                 world for which he should prepare from the
          very beginning o his life. That is why Percy makes people of different ages
          die in his novels. Caroline Spurgeon adduces her opinion about writers:
                         If a poet, then, continually draws upon certain classes of things,
                          certa~nqualities in things and certain aspeds o life, for his
                          illustrations, we are justified, I suggest, in arguing that those

                          qualities and those aspects specially interested him and appealed
                          to h~m.(44)

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam
                     The figure o Percy, which emerges out of these myriad images, is

            that of a white man who was sick most o his life. He was a doctor who had

            abandoned his profession, and a patient who had taken a lot o medicine.

            He finds sleep as the best means t o get rid o exhaustion. He takes delight

            in hunting and is fond of dogs, cats and birds. He has a special liking for

            food items such as pudding and fish. As an artist he takes utmost care in

            portraying the face, neck, hands, and legs o his characters, and is a lover

            of nature. He has a sense of humour, but is not loquacious, and avoids the

            company of others to a certain extent. He has a keen interest in language.

            He is a quester of soul or of God and has staunch belief in the Sacraments

            of the Catholic Church, though he never spares an opportunity to criticize

            the follies and foibles of the Church.

                     This little excursion into the images of Percy's novels unfolds his

            idiosyncrasies. likes and dislikes and his power of meticulous description.

            He conveys them through auditory, tactile (touch), olfadory (smell), visual,

            gustatory (taste) as well as kinesthetic (sensations of movement) images.

            His images perform different functions: they reveal the nature or condition

            of the characters and serve as a decorative pattern a s in the original

            grotesque. The grotesque images conjure up unusual pictures, which are

            vivid and piercing simultaneously, generating a shock on the readers. S u e

            Mitchell Crowley is of the view that "Percy, like 0' Connor, sees nature as a

            'sacramental kind of existence,' a quality of vision h e owes to Gerard

            Manley Hopkins's 'inscape'             "   (239).

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam

          1.        Brontosaurus is the former name for apatosaurus, a huge semi-

                    aquatic dinosaur of the Jurassic period that had massive limbs, a

                    small head, a long neck and a whip-like tail, and is thought to have

                    been herbivorous (ChambersDictionary).

          2.        Ouija is a board uiith letters of the alphabet printed round the edge,

                    used at SEANCES with a glass, pointer or other object to spell out

                    messages supposed to be from the dead (ChambersDictionary).

Prepared by BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam

Shared By: