Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
Butterfly Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Butterfly

    I finally got around to reading this yesterday as my sister very kindly sent me her copy. If you're reading, thanks sis!


    [Spoilers herein]


    The first thing that came to mind in connection with the butterfly motif was Nabokov (obviously) - and there's even a 'cedar waxwing' on p. 28 to ensure that MZD can no longer pretend he hasn't read Pale Fire... But then I got to thinking along other lines.

    It's fairly obvious that the story is constructed around/upon instances of cutting up and stitching together, and the term that balances these two operations is the butterfly. The butterfly is double: it intersects and it intervolves, it is both caesura and copula.

    On a formal level: there is the intercutting of voices in the telling of the story, sutured into continuity. Then, the first and last lines balance each other: the first line 'cuts', the last line 'holds'. The story's wordplay relies on two main linguistic operations: the tmetic 'cut' ('insitrusive', 'fortipify', 'consecawence', colilusion'); and the portmanteau blend ('smoothgrooved', 'catchstitch', 'prickstitching'). Cut and stitch. It is surely no coincidence that the orphans' initials suggest 'tmesis' as well as TIMES (tmesis deriving from the Greek meaning to cut).

    Thematically: when the basic motifs of the story (cutting up and stitching together) recur, the butterfly appears as a marker. First it marks the point of cutting (the token Belinda Kite gave to Pravat is the first cause of Chintana's pain) and, simultaneously, of a joining together (it was a love token). Then it is a kind of surgical tape to repair a cut (the surgeon 'Taped on a butterfly for good measure') and a reminder of the pain of betrayal that cuts apart ('And Chintana felt / something within / her part / like a wail. / Butterflying / hope and hold'). This plays off the meanings of the word 'butterfly' against each other, because in the first instance it suggests a surgical operation of joining together (and there is also such a thing as a 'butterfly stitch'); and in the second it suggests a culinary operation of splitting apart (the verb 'butterfly' being used there in the sense of to bisect, to slice apart). Images of cutting are throughout associated with the 'sharp-tongued' Belinda Kite, and images of sewing together with the seamstress Chintana - though not, of course exclusively. In fact the two motifs have a tendency to switch places, to stand for their opposite. After all, Belinda Kite stitched together the butterfly in love and Chintana cuts it up in anger.

    The little allegory of the Storyteller's journey and encounter with the Man With No Arms obviously plays out Chintana's internal conflict and her desire for vengeance (the Storyteller stands for a kind of pure spirit of vengeance detached from reason or motive - the butterfly, the token of Chintana's resentment, having been removed from 'his' memory). Even here instances of coming apart and binding together come in pairs: in the Valley of Salt, there is a removal of self from self and then a fusion with his own shadow; in the Forest there is a sense of sounds fragmenting and then a sense of the simultaneity of sounds; in the Mountain there is a division and reduplication of selves but also a multiplication of his 'own solitude'. Everything takes place in a double movement of drawing apart and fusing together.

    The Storyteller is a proleptic figure, whose lesson is of how violence begets violence and perpetuates itself. The Man With No Arms reminds that wounds inflicted on others are really self-inflicted. He has 'violet [eye]lashes', which recall Chintana's cut, the 'violet line' that marks her thumb. This wound stands for emotional pain and desire for viole[n]t retribution. It is no coincidence that it throbs whenever the Storyteller looks at her, since he manifests this desire for vengeance. The wound is self-inflicted and it prefigures the wound Belinda Kite will suffer - the loss of her hand. Again, the violent impulse of vengeance is both other-directed and self-directed, as if each wound must be inflicted on both parties. Belinda's loss of a hand is significant for another reason, too (and not least because it is unconsciously predicted by Chintana on p. 28), since it is the hand that first stitched the butterfly (and bled on it); Chintana's is the hand that cut the butterfly apart.

    Chintana cuts into this cycle of harm (but does not necessarily break it; she merely holds it back) when she holds together Belinda Kite with that 'tiny stitch' of...? The unspoken word on p. 99 is surely 'forgiveness'. Not 'mercy', because Belinda Kite's affair with Pravat is earlier ironically called an act of mercy? On the other hand, mercy is not an entirely selfless impulse here, since Chintana is holding together herself (her pain) and Belinda in the same movement. So forgiveness is delicately balanced against pain that is still very much alive but 'held'. Retribution and forgiveness, inflicting and suffering, are shown to be two sides of the same token - and at the moment of forgiveness, Chintana symbolically re-members the butterfly, sign of doubleness, which she had previously cut apart

    In short, the whole thing is a parable about the Christian virtue of forgiveness.

    [Edited to add spoiler warning]
    Last edited by Raminagrobis; 03-01-2006, 08:41 AM.

  • #2
    Great post.

    I've been thinking about the butterfly recently as well, specifically about the storyteller's payment for his sword. As I'm sure we all remember, this is the memory which would have outlived him (no book in front of me, so sorry for inexact wording), and it appeared as, of course, a butterfly.
    What struck me was that the book's narrative accounts could be five memories, not five separately conducted interviews exactly, but five separate memories which were, at different times taken, and which would have outlived the five narrators.

    I haven't developed this theory, but idea that has crossed my mind is about the usage of the quotation marks instead of names for the narrators. If the accounts were memories and the visual representation of the memories were butterflies, then why not show them as quotation marks?

    I noticed that if taken apart and rejoined, the " on the title page look like this:

    http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c7...s13/T50YS1.gif

    Sort of like butterfly wings, eh?

    Comment


    • #3
      Note also that the Harvester butterfly appears exactly five times in the story (pp. 29, 32, 74, 75, 92).

      Comment


      • #4
        They look more like hearts to me, mars.

        I have been thinking about the butterfly as well, but I couldn't put it all in a cohesive whole.

        Do you suppose all the stitching has something to do with the larval stage of the butterfly, wrapped up in its cocoon?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by sutrix
          They look more like hearts to me, mars.
          Valentine's day has passed. Stop hitting on me.

          Ok, seriously, i can see the heart thing too - of course that brings up a whole other subject about broken/mending hearts.

          How's this then:
          http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c7...13/T50YS1a.gif
          Last edited by marsjams13; 03-01-2006, 12:40 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Raminagrobis
            there's even a 'cedar waxwing' on p. 28 to ensure that MZD can no longer pretend he hasn't read Pale Fire...
            Well, thank you very much.

            Originally posted by Me in my first post ever
            Nabakov's Pale Fire comes repeatedly to mind, so am gratified to see it on your lists. While MZD's favorite philosophers and assorted post-modernists and deconstructionsists (don't forget James Berlin and Piaget, by the way) are employed to good effect, the influence of their ideas on the *novel* itself would seem to be confined to the Chorus, while the great Vladamir's taut experiment in intertextual horesplay would seem, if I may be so bold, to be a direct influence for the storytelling itself.

            Consider - 1. person of questionable stability discovers text and becomes obsessed with interpreting text 2. Author of said text is scholoarly old man recently deceased--the work in question was his magnum opus. 3. "Commentator" interprets the text in a highly subjective manner. 4. In the finished novel, the "commentator" dominates the presentation of the "story" ostensibly being told, transforming it into a story filtered through his own experience and augmented by his seemingly (but perhaps not) unrelated digressions. 5. I'd go on but I grow tired of my own analysis
            1Exist responded--though kindlily--that "we have it on good authority that MZD did not read Pale Fire before writing of Leaves."

            Yeaahhh...and Jesus never read the Bible.

            Comment


            • #7
              mars, yep. They do look like butterflies now.

              Originally posted by modiFIed
              Yeaahhh...and Jesus never read the Bible.
              I saw The Passion Recut yesterday (the original never made it to India) and... does it tell pretty much what the Bible says? If it does, I'm not surprised that the Bible is such an all-time bestseller. (I don't mean to take this thread off-topic, of course.)

              Comment


              • #8
                Butterflies have two pairs of wings that function as a single pair.
                Quotations marks usually come in a similiar configuration. However, the narrators are only single pairs of quotes (and yet they can still look like butterflies). Throughout the story, we see them joined into two pairs and cut farther into single ' .
                The various accounts seem gathered and ordered chronologically (and logically) when listening to the story, but appear quite messy if you look at the colored quotes, (on first glance at least - i think there is an order to it but haven't yet figured it out) almost as if they had been gathered quickly together and held in place, even as they were coming apart, or if thousands of pieces (of memory, of narration, of the body) were picked up and hastily stitched together.

                <STRIKE>I wonder if maybe the storyteller didn't miss the orphans after all, and that Chintana somehow knows this and knows that she is holding together not only Belinda Kite (and indeed herself) but the five orphans as well.</STRIKE>

                Edit: scratch that. Upon re-reading, The text doesn't support this reading.
                Last edited by marsjams13; 03-06-2006, 10:15 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Some stuff i found out about Harvesters:

                  Tarquinius comes from Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who was the legendary seventh (and last) Etruscan king of Rome, who also has an interesting connection to The Cumaean Sibyl.


                  Feniseca Tarquinius is the only North American butterfly that feeds on other insects as a larva. Feniseca appears to maintain its specific integrity across a very broad range - Nova Scotia down through Florida, across to Texas and up through Manitoba. Feniseca typically feeds on woolly aphids (Aphididae: Pemphiginae) found on such species as Alnus rugosa (speckled alder), and beech (Fagus grandiflora) among others.


                  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
                  <o:p></o:p>
                  Colour

                  Upperside has black spots and orange-brown areas surrounded by black. Underside hindwing is orange-brown to orange-purple with small, faint white circles.

                  <o:p></o:p>


                  <o:p></o:p>
                  (As you can see, all 5 narrative colours are within the colour range of the harvester)


                  <o:p></o:p>
                  This butterfly is normally encountered singly, but can be fairly common in its favoured, wet, shrubby habitats. Itís flight is erratic, often dizzying to watch.
                  <o:p></o:p>
                  <o:p></o:p>

                  It has two flights in the north from May-August; three in the south from February-September.


                  <o:p></o:p>
                  Classification
                  <o:p></o:p>
                  Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
                  Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
                  Superclass Hexapoda (Hexapods)
                  Class Insecta (Insects)
                  Subclass Pterygota (Winged Insects)
                  Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
                  Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies)
                  Family Lycaenidae (Gossamer Winged Butterflies)
                  Subfamily Miletinae (Harvesters)
                  Genus Feniseca
                  Species tarquinius (Harvester)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Also (sorry if this is too obvious) the name 'Harvester' carries connotations that link up with the main themes of the story: reaping what you sow, etc.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Raminagrobis
                      Also (sorry if this is too obvious) the name 'Harvester' carries connotations that link up with the main themes of the story: reaping what you sow, etc.
                      Yeah, obvious but also important to note.

                      I found one source that said Feniseca was an old German word (from Latin) for Harvester, but I didn't see any other evidence for that. Anyone know?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Faeniseca is indeed Latin for a harvester (faenum=hay; seco, -are= to cut).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I read over this 3-3-06 and also wanted to add some thoughts on the butterfly effect in relation to T50YS.
                          "The term butterfly effect is related to the work of Lorenz, who in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noted that "One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever." "--wiki

                          It's not just a film with Aston Kucher. In popular culture, writers use it to refer to time travel. In the movie, Kutcher's character has the ability to change his actions in the past, but the "ending" is always a surprise. (see also:Concepts in Complex Sysytems)

                          Thanks for all the harvester butterfly info-- it was thought provoking.

                          to grobie,
                          though I didn't know you before your hiatus, I'd like to say welcome back. You are a breath of fresh air. I can see why you are so well-liked here.
                          poco

                          later edit: 3-7-06, I reread T50YS today, I noticed a couple other references to butterflies. Chinitana uses a butterfly bandage (it is also a type of stitch used to repair cuts) for her thumb and later on p. 59 butterfly is used as a verb.

                          "...
                          "And Chintana felt
                          something within
                          "her part
                          "like a wail.
                          "Butterflying
                          "hope and hold.
                          "Not neither over the stabbing
                          "pain in her thumb
                          "either,
                          ..."

                          (and also, Mr FS has already noted that farfalle is the pasta of choice...)

                          In my mind, the butterfly has become a symbol for the time element in the book.
                          Last edited by poco locomotive; 03-07-2006, 07:48 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Raminagrobis
                            Chintana cuts into this cycle of harm (but does not necessarily break it; she merely holds it back) when she holds together Belinda Kite with that 'tiny stitch' of...? The unspoken word on p. 99 is surely 'forgiveness'. Not 'mercy', because Belinda Kite's affair with Pravat is earlier ironically called an act of mercy? On the other hand, mercy is not an entirely selfless impulse here, since Chintana is holding together herself (her pain) and Belinda in the same movement. So forgiveness is delicately balanced against pain that is still very much alive but 'held'. Retribution and forgiveness, inflicting and suffering, are shown to be two sides of the same token - and at the moment of forgiveness, Chintana symbolically re-members the butterfly, sign of doubleness, which she had previously cut apart

                            In short, the whole thing is a parable about the Christian virtue of forgiveness.
                            I must admit that upon my first read (and subsequent long, sleepless nights concerning the end of this book), I never once thought that "forgiveness" is what could save.

                            The biggest problem I find with this is that, what if the person who needs to forgive you is...elsewhere? And who would there be to possibly forgive the orphaned children when they havent' done (much) wrong?
                            I see it more as care being the thing that allows a person to be saved from the sword. Obviously, no one cared at all for Belinda Kite. And the hatred Chintana had was unleashed when Belinda Kite provoked her. Though, then, Chintana saw what that hatred had done, so she decided to care for Belinda Kite. And that broke through. What else but chintana's (and perhaps some of Belinda Kite's) care could have saved the children from their certain death?

                            Yeah, I'm late on this, but I only just got the book.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              well the book still exists, so its not too late.

                              also there is so much compression it can almost be dizzying to look at. (the flight of a harvester)

                              I like what you said about care, ezade. The storyteller is there for the orphans; thats all he says after APPEARING in the , shadow first. Belinda cares enough about the orphans to show them not to be afraid, but that is not on their 50th birthday. The storyteller is probably assuming the orphans will always be orphans and that they could grow up to regard anyone who cares for them as temporary, missing, severed from their birthparents.

                              Breath, Gentleness, and Gratitude are counsel from Chintana's twin. and as her other half she 'balances' Chintana for her flight of force.

                              In reading the climax, the children are threatened as marsjams wrote and then crossed out, but that is not percieved by all of the narrators. the story diverges multiple times, even in contradictions ["inside she quietly continued/ to accept the mercy laden/ "merciless agony of what/" only survives as/ "entirely personal, "without/ "witness.....] because they have interpreted it differently. and the combined voices all butterflied apart and then together give the story so much more depth than any one version would.

                              and we must remember that to reduce it to a parable is to deny what MZD is doing, and that is creating a way to talk about it that doesn't need to reduce it to talk about it (you should know that raminagrobis, you're very astute.) is this the new new criticism? (i say yes)

                              i could go on and on about compression and how the villians (in all 3 books) are probably the same idea in different incarnations, but thats not really related to butterflies.....

                              also, our posts all need to be cut and pasted to make the length we require...thats kindof a weird parallel.....

                              and parallels are what its all about. ll because one alone doesn't mean anything, nothing to bounce back off of......the little prince comes to mind, though thought about without the flower and beauty of the stars, and then with....

                              {edited for spelling errors}
                              Last edited by ovanoshio; 07-09-2006, 09:04 AM.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X