Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetic Interpretation III

A third brief installment of our analysis of "The Door":

His boss on the other hand patently unfazed
For they all knew it was a mistake
And he'd one day return to join them.

The prisoner, having found freedom, reconnects not only with his love interest but also with his employer (how he does the latter is not specified - by telephone perhaps?) In contradistinction to the confused reaction of the girl, the boss is "patently unfazed". What exactly does it mean to be patently unfazed?

I would suggest the following explanation: The boss shows no sign of surprise or bewilderment in his welcome to the former inmate who was his former employee. But he is "patently unfazed" by the prisoner's reappearance. "Patently" is typically associated with "false", as in the common phrase "patently false", and immediately reminds us of that expression. In other words, the boss projects an air of being unfazed, but it is more about being politically correct and cordial than an indication of his true thoughts, which may be slightly suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the inmate's "early release".

In the verse "for they all knew it was a mistake and he'd one day return to join them" we hear echoes of free indirect style again. We can imagine the boss making just such a statement of confidence in his former employee. "They all knew it was a mistake" is somewhat ambiguous, probably purposely so; either the conviction of the criminal was itself a mistake and the prisoner was innocent, so his eventual acquittal was anticipated, or the crime was committed by mistake, so leniency in sentencing was to be expected.

So he rested
Satisfaction bathing him like the cool massage
Of a million sprinkler kisses
Consoling victims of summer sun's piracy.

The metaphor of the spray of a sprinkler being like a massage of millions of wet kisses conjures up images of relief from the heat on a brutal summer afternoon. "Consoling victims of summer sun's piracy" - the summer sun is a pirate and we are victims in the sense that the sun's heat robs us of our hydration and energy, leaving us worn down and exhausted. A spray of cool water consoles us on that the loss by refreshing us once again.

Alas, he should have realized
That the coveted award of solace
Was not to be so easily conferred;
For then the nauseating ebb and flow
Of a shrill familiar battle cry descended
Desecrating his moment with self-righteous blasphemy;

What is the escaped convict's greatest fear? What would disrupt his newfound sense of comfort most jarringly? Of course, the police arriving in hot pursuit!

The "nauseating ebb and flow" of the siren, the "shrill familiar battle cry" - which is familiar because, as a prisoner, he no doubt heard it before when he was apprehended the first time, and also because everyone recognizes that sound when they hear it - "descends upon him"; usually a battle cry is described as ascending, but here it is descending because the police are swooping down to capture him, so to speak.

His moment of freedom was a holy, sanctified entity to him, which the police officers have now come to desecrate by recapturing him. They have the official law on their side and are thus "self-righteous" in their view of him as a deviant, but relative to the perspective of the escapee their act is one of "blasphemy".

Cheap gyrating lights of a hellish disco invading paradise
Suffocated him with their insistence.

Along the lines of the interpretation we've been advancing, we can now see that the gyrating lights are those of the police cars. From the standpoint of the escaped prisoner they are products of a hell that have arrived to ruin his paradise. In his mind they are similar to the cheap artificial lights used in a disco (a symbol of superficiality) which pale by comparison to the genuine beauty he finds in his current idyllic state. The lights on the police car are also red, which is alluded to in the "hellish" metaphor.

The escapee is "suffocated" by the sights and sounds of approaching police - in other words, he inward sense of satisfaction is destroyed as he is overwhelmed by the external conditions that are literally closing in on him like hands around the throat of one being suffocated. He is compelled to respond for the sake of survival, like a person who is literally suffocated and thereby forced to do whatever necessary to breathe freely. Allusion to the experience of suffocation elicits an almost visceral reaction from the reader, as the prospect of drowning of suffocating is very frightening and would be avoided by us at nearly any cost (think waterboarding).

So he runs....

To be continued next week.

Shabbat Shalom!


moonlight1021 said...

Rabbi Maroof, Thank you for the beautiful explanation to the poem. Looking forward to hear more. Shabbat Shalom.

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