Monday, April 18, 2011

Man vs. Nature

"At First I thought the landslide must have been the Doctor's work. . . I stumbled away over the rough fields, vanquished again, now beyond tears (120)." Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman
The scene described in this quote takes place directly after a landslide has destroyed the town Desiderio was visiting with the Peepshow Operator and the sideshow. Desiderio was absent for the spectacle because he had just been raped by the Acrobats of Desire, so he was saved from the carnage and now has time to survey the scene. At first he thinks it must have been Doctor Hoffman, but it would not have been strategically sound because he would have destroyed his "greatest weapon": the peepshow. So what has occurred was simply a random act of Nature. This scene is notable not only in that it seemingly leaves Desiderio without shelter or a method for finding Doctor Hoffman, but in the binary that is created between nature and man. Throughout the whole book, Doctor Hoffman is using his machines to control reality, transforming everyday objects into one more sinister and monstrous than normal and creating entirely new things that haunt the people of Desiderio's besieged home city. By changing the properties of everyday objects, Hoffman is basically attempting to control Nature. Science itself, Hoffman's route to his attempted control, is an endeavor by human beings to understand nature and the world around them, but Hoffman takes it a step further. However, in this scene, we see that Nature is supreme, as Desiderio comments, "The landslide could only be a simple assertion of the dominance of nature herself (120)." The distinction is also made that Nature is chaos, so therefore the Doctor must be order. Although his methods seem to be chaotic, he is using them for a specific reason: the free desire from restraint. The opposition of the Doctor, or man, and Nature is interesting, because it lends meaning and transforms the way one thinks of the Doctors mission and his methods for achieving his goal.

1 comment:

  1. Yet we also see that Desire is chaotic, and if Doctor Hoffman needs to control nature, then it's important to note that Desire must subvert the forces of reason, and also the reason of nature's laws. Who is to say that the laws of gravity and intertia would function in Doctor Hoffman's world? And I think it's interesting that the etymology of the word nature suggests that the rational world is "natural," and possibly thus the ideal situation. Could this have implications for why Desiderio kills Doctor Hoffman and Albertina, ultimately siding with Reason? Does nature itself revolt against the peep-show, covering it in a landslide? Does Desiderio follow a "natural" impulse and decide to kill Albertina/Hoffman? I think these are important questions to consider.