TPAOL Question #10 - Abraham & Isaac

by James Meek

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Unread postby Linda Lee » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:28 am

Parlez wrote:
First of all, I think you're onto something, Red Shoes. Samarin was too clever to not know how his words would affect his listeners. So the Bible story, which is about the rewards of being trusting, was sure to plant seeds of trust in Anna's heart. Sam was probably already hatching the plan with Aloysha and the train at that point, the :censored:


I think you're both right, Sam admits as much to Balashov on p.360, before he asks to be castrated. He also talks about his victim in this section ( on p. 362) and gives me the impression that said victim didn't know he was part of the food supply. Sam mentions the victim is "clever" which goes along with your thoughts on him providing conversation and critical thinking skills.
Your posts reminded me of this section.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:41 am

Parlez wrote: On the topic of eating people, I am amazed by the whole concept of deliberately taking another human being along on a journey with the intention of eating him! It apparently was common enough in Russia to give it its own term: lyudoyedstvo. I can't imagine that the victim was aware of his role in the scheme, no matter how altrusitic or stupid he might be. Who would willingly sign up for that?? No, I think the healthy human meatball was duped from the start, and one can only guess at the cunning repartee of the consumer as he kept his prey in the dark. In fact, the two would probably start out on their journey united in their quest for survival, in a spirit of mutual assistance and companionship. Clearly, for the cannibal, having a talking, thinking companion along would be much more better than taking, say, a dumb ox. A non-human creature would require tending and tethering and would provide absolutely no conversation, let alone any critical thinking skills. So the cannibal gets the best of both worlds in the end.
Forgive me for saying this but, IMO, there's an undeniable logic to this, as grisly and unspeakably awful as it is. :notworthy:


It's chilling, absolutely chilling! :freaked: Incomprehensible, really. And I guess it was common enough for some of the first words the narrator speaks in Dr. Zhivago (which I finally watched tonight) are about how many children of that time in history had eaten human flesh. :-O
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Unread postby suec » Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:47 am

I'll answer the second question first. I think they are the same. It's just that the cannon fodder is on a larger scale, and Samarin's attitude, of sacrificing others for his own ends, is symbolic of what happens in times of war.

Samarin, like Matula and Balashov had delusions of a paradise on earth in which the end justified the means. If Matula saw himself as a king, Balashov as a prophet, Samarin saw himself as a messiah.


d_b, I like that point. Very interesting.

On Pg. 257:

‘Wait,’ said Samarin, raising his hands a little. He didn’t gesture much. ‘Of course I was afraid of the Mohican. I did long to believe that we’d become too close for him to use me in that way, and the more close it seemed to me we were, the more terrifying my imagining the moment when he would turn on me. But out there on the river, when we ran and the whole of nature was trying to kill us with cold, and even before, in the camp, where he was protecting me and fattening me up, the comfort I drew from thinking of him as a father was greater than the horror I felt at the thought of him as my butcher. Don’t you think it would have been the same for Isaac? Abraham’s son?’ There was a new edge to Samarin’s voice, as if, now, he was trying to persuade her of something, although she couldn’t think what it might be. ’Isaac knew his father was going to kill him, yet he trusted him, and believed him, and loved him to the last.’

What do you think Samarin is really saying here?

It is hard to tell with him; he lies so much but I also think he uses the truth as a tool with equal facility. But strikes me about this passage is its possibility as a metaphor for Samarin's personality. He is talking about his alter ego here. It kind of reminds me of Secret Window, where Shooter tells Mort he does the things for him that Mort himself can't face doing. I read a comment in a review where the reviewer stated that the characters only partially inhabit their identities. That is true for Samarin. In order to cope with what he does, he has created an alternative identity and he projects his crimes onto him. He knows this of course - he isn't like Mort. He has found the Mohican a useful support and has been willing to sacrifice part of himself to achieve his ends. But perhaps too much of him is being eaten up by the Mohican.
I don't suppose that is really what he thinks he is telling Anna. But deep down, I think it is true nonetheless. And why he is able to connect with the victim's perspective.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:26 pm

suec wrote: I'll answer the second question first. I think they are the same. It's just that the cannon fodder is on a larger scale, and Samarin's attitude, of sacrificing others for his own ends, is symbolic of what happens in times of war.


Agreed. But I've never been hot on the idea of war. :-/

suec wrote:It is hard to tell with him; he lies so much but I also think he uses the truth as a tool with equal facility. But strikes me about this passage is its possibility as a metaphor for Samarin's personality. He is talking about his alter ego here. It kind of reminds me of Secret Window, where Shooter tells Mort he does the things for him that Mort himself can't face doing. I read a comment in a review where the reviewer stated that the characters only partially inhabit their identities. That is true for Samarin. In order to cope with what he does, he has created an alternative identity and he projects his crimes onto him. He knows this of course - he isn't like Mort. He has found the Mohican a useful support and has been willing to sacrifice part of himself to achieve his ends. But perhaps too much of him is being eaten up by the Mohican.
I don't suppose that is really what he thinks he is telling Anna. But deep down, I think it is true nonetheless. And why he is able to connect with the victim's perspective.


This is an interesting idea, and one I had not thought of :-O (like a lot of ideas expressed during this discussion, which is what is so great about it :thumbsup:). I tend to think of him being so cold and calculating that it never occurred to me that he would need a coping mechanism. But I guess we see a little humanity in him in that he attempted to rescue Katya and that he brought Alyosha back. So it's not beyond the realm of imagination.
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Unread postby gemini » Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:30 pm

dharma_bum wrote:
Lady Jill wrote:Amagine making up that whole story about the Mohican! Mohicans are native American indians. so I see where it came out of his amagination. Then again, his trek back from the White Gardens may have left his mind dangling in shreds, so it WAS easy to make up the Mohican.

Certain clans of the Mohawks believed eating their captives as a sacrificial offering to the god of war would make them invincible in battle. I think this was a very deliberate invention for Samarin.

Lady Jill wrote:My question here is there a God of peace?

I think Samarin saw himself as a god of war.

As usual you ladies have me rethinking things again. The part about Samarin inventing the Mohawk as his alter ego. I just saw one of my favorite movies on television last night, "The Last of the Mohicans". The Indian villian and the heros were "gods of war", all fighting with hatchets, knives as well as guns, making the combat much closer, more personal, and fierce. At one point the Mohawk villian cuts the heart out of his most hated enemy.
It does seem that Meek may have memories of that film, he put in Samarin.
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Unread postby Red Shoes » Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:04 pm

Perhaps Samarin really does see himself as the victim - of the government, the people in control, the people who don't share his vision. Perhaps he feels in some way that he (and his fellow revolutionaries) are being "eaten alive" by the powers that be - their ideals mocked, their plans thwarted, their "paradise" slipping further and further away.

So perhaps he's not so much *lying* about being a victim, but stretching the truth and stretching the idea of a metaphorical victimhood into a physical one.
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Re: TPAOL Question #10 - Abraham & Isaac

Unread postby Depputante » Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:04 am

As promised...RE: Receiving comfort from a captor you know is going to kill you. And loving him anyways....


Liz wrote:On Pg. 257:

‘Wait,’ said Samarin, raising his hands a little. He didn’t gesture much. ‘Of course I was afraid of the Mohican. I did long to believe that we’d become too close for him to use me in that way, and the more close it seemed to me we were, the more terrifying my imagining the moment when he would turn on me. But out there on the river, when we ran and the whole of nature was trying to kill us with cold, and even before, in the camp, where he was protecting me and fattening me up, the comfort I drew from thinking of him as a father was greater than the horror I felt at the thought of him as my butcher. Don’t you think it would have been the same for Isaac? Abraham’s son?’ There was a new edge to Samarin’s voice, as if, now, he was trying to persuade her of something, although she couldn’t think what it might be. ’Isaac knew his father was going to kill him, yet he trusted him, and believed him, and loved him to the last.’

What do you think Samarin is really saying here?



SCAN: People Magazine, Feb.12, 2007, P.93 (start on the first indent, with the question "How is it that a victim like Bezuette could come to identify with the man he says sexually abused and tortured him?)
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c120/Dinojp/Other%20stuff/Hornbeck-1.jpg
Then p.94....
"...that they haven't shown up, it becomes part of your beleif," says Francis. "They think, 'Here I am, I"m able to have a meal, I get to go out.' And that prevents them from thinking clearly about what's in their best interest." In time, small gifts and freedoms can further bond a victim to his captor. ... "A child may think, "THis guy can't be all bad,' and they get a sense of gratitude,' says Francis.
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Unread postby dharma_bum » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:24 am

“Family is everything, it’s your foundation, it’s the only unconditional love you’ll ever know.” A familiar quote?

Thought a bit more about the Abraham-Issac passage. Gangs, cults and, yes, captors do try to “brainwash” the convert into believing that they are their true family. Katya believed that she would be honored by the revolution, even though Samarin tells her she will be used. Could Samarin, the orphan, be saying that our desire for unconditional love is so strong, that it will overpower our common sense every time?
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Unread postby ThirdArm » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:36 am

The Akidah (the Hebrew word for this passsage and it literally means 'the binding of Isaac') focuses more on Abraham than Isaac. It's a test of Abraham's faith, not Isaac's. And accordingly, there's nothing mentioned about Isaac's faith and trust in his father. He evens asks Abraham a bit nervously, I think, about where the sacrifice is.

Once again, here is an example of Samarin's manipulation and distortion for his own purposes.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:55 pm

ThirdArm wrote:The Akidah (the Hebrew word for this passsage and it literally means 'the binding of Isaac') focuses more on Abraham than Isaac. It's a test of Abraham's faith, not Isaac's. And accordingly, there's nothing mentioned about Isaac's faith and trust in his father. He evens asks Abraham a bit nervously, I think, about where the sacrifice is.

Once again, here is an example of Samarin's manipulation and distortion for his own purposes.


Exactly.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:33 pm

Agreed. Although, when Samarin described in such detail everything the young victim felt and thought and had been through I wondered if Sam hadn't really experienced that side of the coin at some point. He certainly made it seem 'real' on a level I'm not sure you could acheive with just lies. (?)
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:03 pm

It was very real. He almost had me convinced as I was reading his tale. But I imagine a psychopath could come up with such lies and be convincing about it. Was it you who said he was a good actor? I think so.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:21 pm

That would be me! :wave:
And I guess being able to draw you in like that is a testiment to an actor's ability to convince the audience of his or her authenticity, yes?
I remember reading a thread on the Zone about someplace in the South of France where there's a chateau of some deluxe resort Johnny stayed at and he signed the guest register...in the space for 'occupation' he wrote: "LIAR"
I wonder if he was reading TPAOL at the time?!?
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Unread postby suec » Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:24 pm

I've been wondering about his desire to persuade Anna. There is a moment when he is questioning her about the castrates and she tells herself that at least he doesn't know she is married to one; otherwise, it would be too cruel. And of course, he does. Is this just sadism? Or is he just practising the tools of his trade, as it were, (in this case, his acting ability), on her? It kind of reminds me of the opening chapter, when while he is waiting for Katya, he runs his hand through some stinging nettles till they hurt, I think because of the Catechism, where it states that the revolutionary must prepare himself for pain.
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Re: TPAOL Question #10 - Abraham & Isaac

Unread postby Depputante » Sat Feb 17, 2007 5:03 pm

Depputante wrote:As promised...RE: Receiving comfort from a captor you know is going to kill you. And loving him anyways....


Liz wrote:On Pg. 257:

‘Wait,’ said Samarin, raising his hands a little. He didn’t gesture much. ‘Of course I was afraid of the Mohican. I did long to believe that we’d become too close for him to use me in that way, and the more close it seemed to me we were, the more terrifying my imagining the moment when he would turn on me. But out there on the river, when we ran and the whole of nature was trying to kill us with cold, and even before, in the camp, where he was protecting me and fattening me up, the comfort I drew from thinking of him as a father was greater than the horror I felt at the thought of him as my butcher. Don’t you think it would have been the same for Isaac? Abraham’s son?’ There was a new edge to Samarin’s voice, as if, now, he was trying to persuade her of something, although she couldn’t think what it might be. ’Isaac knew his father was going to kill him, yet he trusted him, and believed him, and loved him to the last.’

What do you think Samarin is really saying here?



SCAN: People Magazine, Feb.12, 2007, P.93 (start on the first indent, with the question "How is it that a victim like Bezuette could come to identify with the man he says sexually abused and tortured him?)
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c120/Dinojp/Other%20stuff/Hornbeck-1.jpg
Then p.94....
"...that they haven't shown up, it becomes part of your beleif," says Francis. "They think, 'Here I am, I"m able to have a meal, I get to go out.' And that prevents them from thinking clearly about what's in their best interest." In time, small gifts and freedoms can further bond a victim to his captor. ... "A child may think, "THis guy can't be all bad,' and they get a sense of gratitude,' says Francis.


THis bit fits in nicely here too.
P.210 Quote:
“There was terror, the thought of waking up to find him with one hand gripping my chin and the other pulling a blade across my throat, and at the same time, there was love, a son’s love for a father who shows the way, who can lead him out of a place of death towards the world of the living.”
“The scariest enemy is from within. Allowing yourself to be limited and conform to what you're expected to conform to.”~JD


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