Post Orwellian Publications -02

Post Orwellian Publications -02

Character Studies Continued

Felix Gunther

Human thoughts are particles of energy that stimulate an artist to paint the Mona Lisa, a composer to write the opera Madame Butterfly, or a medical researcher to discover a vaccine to combat polio. Then again thoughts can drive an individual to commit suicide, fire automatic weapons randomly into a classroom of schoolchildren, or pilot planes to collide with the World Trade Center in New York. Thoughts act as angels spurring us toward loftier goals, or as demons dragging us down into a spiral of despair.

In The Dead Enjoy Eating, Too, thoughts drive the character Felix Gunther toward the lowest levels of despair as described in Dante’s Inferno. He lives simultaneously in the past and in the present. The future does not concern him. His concern is more transcendental. Is his mother in Hell, or in Heaven? He is the product of an abusive childhood. He witnesses his father battering his mother and is sometimes beaten himself. His mother justifies her beatings to Felix by saying that she is sometimes a ‘naughty wife’. But life becomes too much for her to bear. She commits suicide by jumping off Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California.

Felix, transfixed by her fall from the bridge, topples into the deeper, more forbidding corridors of his mind. His descent is exacerbated by the sexual abuse a Catholic priest forces him to submit to.
“Now, lad, you must go to sleep.” Father Joe unraveled Felix’s arms and pushed him back on the bed. He pulled the covers over the boy and kissed him on the lips.
This time Felix thought he felt Father Joe’s tongue push ever so slightly past the lips. A peculiar sensation rose up from his stomach. Love. “Oh, God, how he loved Father Joe.”

Father Joe explores Felix’s body with probing hands until one evening he brings Felix to a climax. The act causes Felix to slip into a spiral free fall into psychopathy — a condition that manifests itself in his mind as a battle with Satan for the possession of his mother’s soul.


Cecil Pickwick

The third character in Eric Haas’s novel represents a human being who is plagued by the everyday variety of neuroses.

Cecil Pickwick is an immature, sexually inadequate young man who teaches at a language school in Yokohama. As an eight-year boy, he suffered from rheumatic fever which made him bedridden until he recovered. His mother (his father died in an auto accident) and his sister, ten years older, nurse him during his recovery. His sister teaches him to overcome pain and fear through a series of breathing exercises.
At the University of Oregon, he meets Kathy, a beautiful woman who reminds Cecil of Ernest Hemingway’s second wife Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway is Cecil’s literary hero, but Kathy expresses a strong dislike of Hemingway. “You know what his style reminds me of? A football jock parading around campus while scratching his crotch.” Cecil is infatuated with Katy, but she has a boyfriend who, as she explains, “when making love to me, makes every pore in my body scream.” Cecil has never gone beyond the kissing phase in his relationship with a woman. After an inept episode of lovemaking with Kathy during which he ejaculated prematurely, he feels inadequate.
One day years later in Yokohama, he meets Mei Ling, a college student at Ferris Women’s College working part-time at Terrell’s Bar. She asks him to help her with the writing of her graduation thesis. The request offers Cecil an ideal opportunity: To act as her mentor with the possibility of turning his sexual fantasies into a reality. In reality, she is the one with experience. To survive in her life, she’s had to endure unequal relationships with men. Her relationship with men has given her the education Cecil lacked. Then comes the night when the experienced Mei Ling becomes the mentor. She helps him overcome his sexual ineptitude. On the morning after, he feels his life is moving forward and upward. However, the irrational act by Felix Gunther threatens to put an abrupt, violent end to his future plans.


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