ATD Question #15 ~ Hellfrick

by John Fante

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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ATD Question #15 ~ Hellfrick

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:49 am

Pg 110-112 What does Arturo's neighbor Hellfrick represent? What did you think of the incident with the calf?
Last edited by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas on Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:29 pm

You mean Hellfrick? Hackmuth is the literary guy. I thought it was confusing, too, that their names were so similar.
I think Hellfrick represented to Arturo that he wasn't living in the best of company but that he certainly wasn't the lowest of the low. Arturo fell for some of Hellfrick's schemes--stealing the milk, getting the calf--but never felt good about it, never hatched the schemes himself. Hellfrick wasn't real good about paying back money he borrowed; Arturo regularly shared his money. Hellfrick indulged in his alcoholism and didn't seem too concerned about reforming; Arturo had goals.
Arturo has come a long way from his animal torturing days in the first book. He is truly sick and unforgiving about Hellfrick's murder of the calf. He was an accomplice but didn't quite grasp the full import of what Hellfrick was doing until it was too late.
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:03 pm

Sorry Betty Sue, I look at Arturo with a bit harsher brush than you.
I considered skipping this one because it hits too close to home for me. I am an animal rights advocate and could hardly read that part through, knowing what the outcome would be. Arturo says they reached the farm and Hellfrick was out of the car before he realized what he was going to do, but how many options are there to get a steak for free? I'ts either kill it or steal it from a store so Arturo has to own up to part of the blame. His only redemption was feeling bad about it.
I do think that his name being Hellfrick was intentional by Fante as he is a bad influence on Arturo. Arturo should have taken a closer look because if he didn't change his ways, he could be looking at the future.
I usually come down hard on Arturo and then after you all discuss things, I lighten up on him because of how he was raised. Thinking back on "Bandini", his cruelty to animals started him out on the wrong foot with me.
Right now I just finished "1933 was a bad year" and Dominic, ( I think is Arturo and Fante) has really taken a new low for me with his self centered cruelty to his family. I am having a hard time feeling that this same young man has totally out grown these personality flaws.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:22 pm

We're really not too far apart, DITHOT. I couldn't figure any way Arturo could misunderstand what Hellfrick was after either. It just seemed that he was truly sickened and horrified...a step up from his childhood feelings. It seemed like he hadn't thought through what was inevitably coming. And I couldn't read the slaughter either. I know I didn't read through it now, and I think I kinda glossed over it the first time. :yikes:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:55 pm

:banghead: It would certainly help if I put up the right name!!! :rolleyes: Thank you for catching that, Betty Sue. Never post and run in the morning! :blush:

I had a very hard time with this passage too so I tried to think of it not as reality, but maybe as symbolism. The only thing I have come up with so far is a symbolism for lust. I haven't thought this all the way through, but basically...Hellfrick gorges himself on meat and then goes to kill the calf. After gorging he has to kill the beast? I don't know, like I said, I haven't thought it all the way through and maybe I'm just trying to make it into something to make it more palatable. :perplexed: :yuck2:
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Unread postby Parlez » Fri Nov 30, 2007 6:27 pm

The whole episode seemed very surreal to me too...like another one of Arturo's fantasies. Even considering those long ago times, when people might have just moved off the farm, I can't imagine such a barbaric act entering the realm of rational choice for either Hellfrick or Arturo. For one thing, it involved so much more effort than, say, stealing a side of beef from the butcher shop. And then there's all the mess.... :yuck:
So I'm wondering if it wasn't symbolic also...having something to do with showing a person's ability to decline from civilized behavior backward, to a primal, desperate, eat-or-be-eaten mindset. (?)
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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:31 pm

I thought of Hellfrick as a kind of "Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" character, at least in part because of that Dickensian name. He served as a warning to Arturo: steal the milk and it will be buttermilk. Say you want a steak when you have no money and you will end up a "murderer." Overcome your conscience and things will not go well for you.

Animal rights, gemini? This short little post could have been completed in half the time it took had I not given priority to the cat who must sit on my arm as I type.

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Unread postby Bix » Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:24 pm

fansmom wrote:I thought of Hellfrick as a kind of "Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" character, at least in part because of that Dickensian name. He served as a warning to Arturo: steal the milk and it will be buttermilk. Say you want a steak when you have no money and you will end up a "murderer." Overcome your conscience and things will not go well for you.

I had this same kind of thought, fansmom. I saw Hellfrick as a "There but for the grace of God go I" kind of figure for Arturo. Arturo could feel good about loaning money to him and then feel superior, until Hellfrick finally came through and paid him back - which then proved that Hellfrick was, after all, an honest and good person. . .so Arturo didn't need to worry so much that he would wind up that way, etc., etc.

But I really don't think that Arturo had the slightest idea what he was in for when he got in the Packard and they went for a drive to find steak. (And I certainly agree about the surreal nature of this episode!) Maybe he thought Hellfrick had discovered a black market source of beef or something - but NOBODY would have expected him to do what he did. I mean, when he takes the tire tool and walks to the barn, yes, you know what he means to do and Arturo should have too. The rest of it just doesn't work for me as reality. A calf big enough to provide a good steak would be too heavy to carry very far and would have been fairly hard to bring down with one blow except for a very fit or expert person. So for us to believe that Hellfrick killed the calf and Arturo assisted in getting it into the hotel room is really asking us to stretch our credibilty, IMO!

I guess it is a good sign that Arturo is sickened by this deed, but I really don't know what the heck this whole thing was supposed to tell us.
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:32 pm

gemini wrote: I do think that his name being Hellfrick was intentional by Fante as he is a bad influence on Arturo.


Good catch, gemini! The name made me think of "heifer", which is a young cow. Does sound a bit contrived.
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:39 pm

Bix wrote:but I really don't know what the heck this whole thing was supposed to tell us.


It just made me feel icky. And I couldn't let myself think about it too much without feeling sick. I also thought it was a little surreal. I can't see it happening--putting it in the back seat, that is.
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Unread postby suec » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:43 am

It is a surrealistic episode, but a lot of the novel is, one way or another. I think this is because the novel is allegorical. Hellfrick is a case in point. I think he is Sloth and Gluttony.

I thought that each of the interactions in the book - I won’t call them relationships – is ultimately abortive and turns to dust. I thought this was symbolised by the buttermilk, where Arturo states he thought they were “like human things”. But I am also beginning to think of them as representing not only the way relationships turn sour, but people do too. It seems to me that the characters often present a little test for Arturo, or a trap, for him to fall into sin. As it happens, Sloth and Gluttony aren't really Arturo's failings, but the gluttony is a variation on the bodily appetites shown in Lust. As for Hellfrick’s other wrong actions, well, I don’t think that Arturo has so very much to feel superior about, although it is good to see him feeling so horrified and disgusted. Both are guilty of being self-absorbed and selfish. Is stealing the milk so much worse than stealing from his mother? Praying to God for half an hour giving thanks for what he has stolen is just great! Is the murder of the calf so very different from lobbing a stone at a cockerel or crucifying a rat? Maybe, though, it does show, as Betty Sue says, that he has come a long way. Having said that, the murder of the calf is described in the most graphic, repulsive way that creates a real sense of pathos, especially with the way that its mother follows after it. Perhaps the calf represents innocence and the wanton destruction of what is good. Also the destruction of new life, and the possibility of regeneration.
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Unread postby Parlez » Sat Dec 01, 2007 10:30 am

Hellfrick took Arturo for a ride allright ~ right down the road to excess! There Arturo witnessed first hand what kind of extremes a person will go to in order to satisfy his lust-hunger. Whether it's for beef or sex or fame, it's all the same. The experience with Hellfrick showed Arturo what happens when a person puts no limits around satisfying his desires. The consequences of that kind of behavior sickened and disgusted him, which means he had some kind of moral code by which he could judge (and limit) his own rampant impulses.
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Dec 01, 2007 1:51 pm

suec wrote: I thought this was symbolised by the buttermilk

Be thinking about this incident, folks, because we will be discussing it tomorrow.

Parlez wrote:The experience with Hellfrick showed Arturo what happens when a person puts no limits around satisfying his desires. The consequences of that kind of behavior sickened and disgusted him, which means he had some kind of moral code by which he could judge (and limit) his own rampant impulses.

And for me I had hope for Arturo after that incident because he was so obviously disturbed by the whole thing.

suec wrote:Having said that, the murder of the calf is described in the most graphic, repulsive way that creates a real sense of pathos, especially with the way that its mother follows after it. Perhaps the calf represents innocence and the wanton destruction of what is good. Also the destruction of new life, and the possibility of regeneration.

This to me shows that he has matured, moralistically speaking--at least at the time of his writing that passage in the book.
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