The Incredible Shrinking Man in P The Incredible Shrinking Man exclusively focuses on the physical metamorphosis of the protagonist who is submitted to a sudden, corporeal diminishment, and then on his rebirth at a higher state of consciousness: after dying to his old self, he struggles to survive, overcoming obstacles and trials as he is confined in the cellar of his own house.
For, as Maria Tatar points out, the idea of personal mutation emerges logically from a genre that draws ceaselessly on magic. As a result, fairy tales both produce excitement and revelation, either to the reader or the listener.
Hence the powerful, long lasting and maturational effects they can have on us. Characters, in the realm of the story, transform themselves and so does the reader and the listener. It retraces, in fact, a symbolically initiatory pathway, showing how the alchemy of fictions, notably two decades of a life in words and images, often le a small, ordinary, post-World War II suburban New Jersey boy, to be metamorphosed into an aspiring writer.
A subject in progress, Paul Auster, like a fairy-tale hero, progressively discovers, through the lens of fictions, what it means to become human. Therefore, before being able to fabricate fictions, one invents them to reassure oneself.
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Yet the unfortunate Carey is not the enchanted prince of a fairy tale yearning for deliverance from his animal state but rather an average man, the victim of the curse of modernity who, after being exposed to a dense, all enveloping mist while on a cruise with his wife, Louise, awakens one day and finds himself transformed, losing weight and growing shorter. Besides, the sequence reenacts, if only metaphorically, the first and the last stage of human existence.
This is why the typical Austerian fiction epitomizes William H. Later, his fictional characters, Quinn, M. Fogg, Anna Blume and Willy G. Fogg progressively witness their inheritances dwindle to zero. In other words, they undergo a physical metamorphosis, followed by a radical transformation of the mind.
Thus he experiences, feels and revives the joys and sorrows typical of his childhood.
They trigger off the propensity for grown-ups to abandon themselves to daydreaming and to be as imaginative as the child they used to be. In other words, the enchanted world of fairy tales, imbued with a magical atmosphere and fraught with metamorphosis, may enchant us by bringing shrinking childhood memories and nostalgia for the same period.
The same could be applied to The Incredible Shrinking Manthis fairy tale-like movie which explores a terrifying bodily mutation and which thus displays the same properties as the genre. Thus it foreshadows, since the protagonist himself tells his story, a happy end. However, this switching of identities entails a change of status for the protagonist.
At the heart of The Shrinking Manas in most fairy tales, is therefore the representation of the world, both externally and internally, for metamorphosis, in spite of its impressive visual effect, is inextricably linked to identity, but the process, unlike to the pathway from youth to maturation that this man variant of myths shows, only develops here to ultimately destroy the subject. Indeed, according to the French ethnologist and folklorist van Gennep, rites of passage —a term coined in his work Les Rites de passage —which are to be found in ceremonies of initiation story the transition from one stage of social life to another.
Although they slightly differ in detail, they are not only common in all cultures but they all follow the same and threefold scheme, that of separation, transition and incorporation. Similarly, Eliade, throughout his writings, fervently worked at unearthing, preserving and founding new meanings in the rites of our ancestors. Equally ificant is the fact that initiatory patterns have survived in the form of themes or motives in artistic creations, and that modern man can be still affected by initiatory scenarii or messages.
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The scene thus marks the onset of the event when an outer drama triggers inner suffering. Hence, Quinn, Blue, Effing, M. At the end of the episode, Barber, in this womb-like cave, becomes Effing, a man shrinking with a totally new being and conception of the world.
As for In the Country of Last Thingsthe book is in itself an image of regression: everything, food, language, pencils, candles, the s of the blue notebook, even Woburn House itself, come, in fineto vanish. All the more so as becoming invisible stands for one of the most spectacular metamorphoses in fairy tales, for the hero possesses the power to see what cannot be seen. From that point on, it is impossible not to translate the ordeals and adventure of its protagonist into initiatory terms.
This amounts to saying that initiatory scenarios—even camouflaged, as they are in fairy tales—are the expression of a psychodrama that answers a deep need in the human being. Every man wants to experience story perilous situations, to confront exceptional ordeals, to make his way into the otherworld—and he experiences all this on the level of his imaginative life by hearing or reading fairy tales, or on the level on his dream life by dreaming.
Rites and Symbols Rituals being disused, myths came, in fact, to transform themselves into literary motifs, symbols man themes.
What has been ly said of literature also applies to cinema and comics. Each man is our own worst enemy. Auster might as well have been influenced by this ancient form of literature, as he often willingly admits in interviews 4and inspired by The Incredible Shrinking Man whose plot takes up the scenario of the tale.
This tendency suggests that man in contemporary society is still nourished by his unconscious which has remained religious or still acts, in some way, religiously, whether they want it or not, and thus clings to theology and mythologies. Obviously, the womb-like place, permeated by intense solitude, in which Carey is symbolically buried belongs to the same family of images. To reenact the cosmogonic myth boils down, for a man in a traditional society, to an eruption of the sacred into the daily story, and equally to benefit from the divine—pure, perfect, intact—energy of the creators of the shrinking.
Man, when the film character ventures forth in the underworld, he becomes simultaneously stronger and more confident as he proves worthy of overcoming one obstacle after another, and ultimately emerges victorious.
While M. Fogg acquires his true identity by returning to the womb of mother Shrinking, he also turns Effing into a mentor who initiates him to the pictorial and the visual and the reading of the Self, of the Other and the World. Likewise Walt Rawley, in Timbuktuunder the supervision of the rather sadistic but benevolent Master Yehudi, embarks on a story of personal training which takes the form of a series of rituals and on a voyage of self-discovery.
Man in all, Auster depicts initiation in multiple ways in his fictional universe, whether the characters retreat into rooms in order to transform themselves into writers or artists or whether they endure rites of passage as they decide, after the loss of their beloved, to wander in the world or to be initiated by spiritual guides and mentors. If he indubitably derives his inspiration from ancient forms of literature and from the initially religious experience of initiation, he nevertheless adapts his fictions to fit the complexity of American society so as to be able to re-enchant the world and to overcome urban predicaments.
And like Scheherazade who is aware that the end of the story ifies the end of her life, the creator and his characters find in writing an antidote to death, for they forestall nothing but the moment of being silent. Auster, Paul. The Art of Hunger. Essays, Prefaces, Interviews. Sun and Moon Press, The Invention of Solitude. Faber and Faber, The Locked Room.
Report from the Interior.
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Henry Holt and Company, Applewhite, Ashton. Conversations with Paul Austeredited by James Hutchisson.
University Press of Mississippi,pp. Barone, Dennis, editor.
Movies / tv
University of Pennsylvania Press, Barthes, Roland. La chambre claire. Note sur la photographie. Bruckner, Pascal. University of Pennsylvania Press,pp. Cochoy, Nathalie et Sophie Vallas.
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Transatlanticano. Compagnon, Antoine. Duperray, Annie. Paul Auster. Belin, Eliade, Mircea. Translated by Willard R. Spring Publications, Myth and Reality. Harper,