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Fact or Fiction/Carnal Knowledge

Essay By: Don George
Literary fiction


For a class called 'Isn't it ironic?'


Submitted:Dec 27, 2012    Reads: 119    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


I believe that T.C. Boyle's story, "Carnal Knowledge" provides a good example for examining the relationships commonly portrayed in fiction vs. those which occur actually, in our everyday lives. It is my opinion that more often than not many facets contained in general fiction stories are shared commonly in our personal stories as well. Often, as is the case, the authors are drawing directly from their own and others perspectives to give the basis of their stories grounding in reality, otherwise known as keeping the stories realistic. Likewise, to lend credence to artistic license, the author has all the freedom she/he desires to employ, in order to create unceasing moments of interest and possibility exploration for entertainment appeal in their stories.

In this regard, one of the common features found throughout all life, fiction or otherwise, is contrast. Contrast is everywhere, as it facilitates the reading of situations/events like night and day, material in photographs/art and even the words you read here employ the most contrasting elements of all; black and white. Likewise, there is great contrast between the main characters, Elena and Jim in T.C. Boyles, "Carnal Knowledge;" exhibiting a fundamentally common occurrence in our interactions with each other as we naturally form relationships tending towards filling in our weak/lacking areas by recognizing in others the skills needed to address and eventually overcome these weak/lacking areas in ourselves. This relationship is like when a straight person fills in for every loony person in life. Even if only just to help bring out the two stereotypes in relief (contrast). With the theory that opposites attract, comes what seems like a perfect match for Jim (at the time). No doctor could have ordered a better prescription for him; Elena, with her passion/enthusiasm and good looks and Jim being alone and bored with his job. In their meeting each other, I see the classic example of the greatest well towards the greatest need, and vice versa. Elena can express all her passion and anger towards the cause for cruelty to animals with Jim and possibly gain another recruit for the cause, while Jim, on the other hand, found a cure for his boring and lonely life in Elena's enthusiasm and charity/defense for animals.

This leads me to wonder, what are the odds of such a meeting taking place, right there and then? Well, we know that there were no odds to calculate this circumstance, because as far as we know, it never actually occurred in real life. The point that I wish to emphasize however, is that occurrences of this nature do take place, all the time, around the globe; probably more often than we tend to realize. The phrase; "Life imitates art" springs to mind, because it is a reversal of the better known (more practical) axiom, "Art imitates life". After learning what had happened to Elena's dog, because of the shoe company, we may feel he has every right to pee on a man, in order to get some retribution but as the situation unfolds, Jim is grateful to the dog for initiating a meeting with its owner, Elena. This is a kind of reverse irony, as when expected or fitting actions take place in an event but the opposite effect occurs; unbeknownst to Alf.

Later, Jim hears about rabbit's eyes being tested for mascara by injecting chemicals as Elena goes into a two hour rant about how other animals were/are being used in similar fashions. Then she apologizes for going off on animal cruelty for so long, with the excuse that" it's rare to find somebody on your own wavelength. The question about eating at that time was anything but being on the same wavelength as Elena, but neither of them seems to notice. ."She says, every day is Auschwitz for the animals" and Jim asks her about going for something to eat with him. The irony here is that although they have totally different things on their minds, the unspoken one is a sexual attraction.

Jim, for his part, has taken the wavelength comment as a compliment and feels even better about his self and the circumstances. They make love, capping the events together, in a fashion.

The next day, Jim finds himself marching up and down the sidewalk holding a placard for hours. A sense of purpose, like Jim hadn't known before was starting to take over in him.

He had a cause and he had Elena; only love could account for this, he thought to himself. Now, Thanksgiving is approaching and Elena wants to meet with an old friend while liberating some turkeys. Jim may need some forgiving (deflation)for his overwhelming new luck, before he goes over-board. As if right on time, Rolfe enters the picture and Jim can tell that Elena likes him because of the way that they kiss and embrace each other.

One aspect of irony, that I have discovered, is that it has no limits; unless otherwise prescribed. It seems able and willing to fulfill as much as we can handle at one time. The way these two complement each other can be thought of as an innate opposition, which is more than carefully balanced between forces; there are no gaps (waste), anywhere they meet. Although seemingly opposing forces, there is no antagonism between the two; more like two sides of a single coin. Ironically even, one is essential to the other. Without life, there is no death, without freedom there is no responsibility, etc… Good sound advice can be hard to find but with opposites attracting, the likelihood or odds of finding it increases, in my estimation.

The answers we desire may be closer at hand than previously realized. My belief in reasons for such similarity between actual events and fictional ones leads me to consider the role that gender plays in each. Among we the people, gender plays a vitally crucial and significant role as all of our patterns for teaching and learning instill a negotiable amount of behavior modification which we pass on inherently from generation to generation, age to age, and even eon to eon. Also, there must be a certain amount of practicality; as follows the inner workings of our dealings with surrounding people and circumstances. Primarily dictating the balancing act between needs and wants may be this very practicality. Imagine if there were some organizing principle which helps point reasonable directions to each individual concerned. Perhaps this direction could be manifested from the all knowing source of light and life. Beyond our vision or comprehension, may be a vastness which is incalculable.

While at Rolfe's place, Jim becomes mad when Elena announces that humans are the plague on Earth. After all Jim had been through, with getting chased and stranded amid some fifty thousand scattered, smashed and aimlessly running turkeys, he disagrees with her point. Little does he know that it's not over yet, as a semi- truck from somewhere, smashed and shattered turkeys, everywhere?





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