Monday, November 17, 2008


Not Wanted on the Voyage is the perfect example of Polti’s first dramatic situation: supplication: when the ones in power should not be in power. Noah and Yahweh are undoubtedly representative of just that. They are bland, isolated, and crazy. It struck me as intriguing that this concept of supplication exists in fiction and history, and transcends the ages. Why does this happen? What is it about being in power that would drive people to such bizarre, and identical behaviors? Dr. Anthony Storr, a 20th century psychiatrist, provides a most intriguing response to this question. He states that the disintegration of the personality is inevitable when an individual is isolated. The personality can only function in a situation where comparison, mature dependence and authentic relationships exist. Accepting that as true, Noah and Yahweh are text-book illustrations of the isolated personality.
In his book, The Integrity of the Personality, Dr. Storr asserts:
" a relative concept. We can enumerate the various traits of personality which a man exhibits. We can say that he is decided, or gentle, or rapacious; that he is unfeeling, or stupid, or judicious; but out epithets have no meaning in isolation, just as black has no meaning without white. If by personality we mean a ‘distinctive personal character’ we are obliged to recognize that we can only conceive of such an entity in terms of contrasting it with other distinctive personal characters. I believe the same to be true of the total entity of the personality... The more isolated a man is, the less he is an independent personality, and the less does he exhibit those qualities which distinguish one man from another."
Dr. Storr goes on to list the repercussions of "a loss of personal identity". Among them are "the repetitive sameness of paranoid delusions...." and "the inability to make any contact". And what situation is more likely to isolate an individual than that of power? Consider how much time alone Caligula, Stalin, Yahweh and Noah spent. Consider how easily they lost sight of who they were and what they were, and how delusional, detached, and depraved they became. In Not Wanted on the Voyage, Yahweh has lost the ability to make contact, and Noah has succumb to the repetitive delusion of constantly being under attack.
Yahweh cannot hold interest, or truly engage in conversation when we meet Him in the book. He has been alone too long:
"‘Only Rabbi Akiva emerged intact from that journey beneath the trees. Only he, who knew not to reach out with his hands; who knew not to dwell upon the word; who knew not to fall upon the ground and eat-only he– only he...’ Yahweh’s voice trailed off into silence"
There are numerous other occasions during which Yahweh betrays not only His inability to socialize but also His lack of any actual personality. The reader can only really say that He seems old and senile after meeting this character. Yahweh is not someone who ought to be in power, and He is a schizotypal personality.
Noah suffers from paranoid delusions concerning being attacked by pirates. He was initially a self-righteous egomaniac, but now reveals no personal qualities of any kind.
""It’s a man," he said, quieter now.
"Yes, yes," said Hannah– taking his elbow to guide him– leading him towards the Castle. "It probably is a man. You’re right."
"Another boarding party"
"Yes. Yes."
"But we won again– didn’t we."
"Yes. We won. Again. Now you must go to bed.""
Noah and Yahweh function both as tragic characters but also important life lessons. Their schizophrenia is contrasted with Lucifer and Mrs. Noyes’ sanity to convey the ultimate importance of friendship, support and love. Isolation is (rightfully) portrayed as the fast-lane to madness; blandness; delusions; loneliness. Not Wanted on the Voyage functions as a moral story in this sense, leaving us treasuring our relationships with each other as the most precious of all things.

1 comment:

Nancy Stotts Jones said...

Why does the idea of supplication surprise you?
Hobbes clarified the true nature of humanity a long time ago. Nietzsche developed the argument in Joyful Wisdom and Beyond Good and Evil, but perhaps he's wrong: his argument is predicated on the belief that God died in the 19th century, thus giving sway to the Will to Power [and all the depravity that entails]. But what if Findley is right? What if God died way back when? Then the will to power has been the dominant behavioural model SINCE then, though we didn't believe it. Terrifying.
How fascinating that survival becomes the obligation of the pragmatic [Lucifer] and the compassionate [Mrs. Noyes].
Are Noah and Yahweh tragic, or are they morally diseased? The Rabbi's behaviour seems to suggest the latter [the clerics bow to the authority no matter how bizarre].