Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A struggle to the death

Baxter’s behavior parallels that of a suicide bomber. He believes “he has no future and is therefore free of consequence” (217). Thus, he has nothing to lose in harming Henry and his family because of the dark future that awaits him. Baxter reaches a point where he is willing to put his future and his life on the line to pursue Henry, the man who stripped him of the little dignity he possessed. When Baxter attacks Henry’s family, he does so without contemplating the retribution of his actions because he believes that no possible punishment could be worse than the slow, grueling but inevitable death he will face as a result of his debilitating disease.

Henry takes an interest in Baxter not because he feels sympathetic towards Baxter’s situation or because he likes him as an individual but rather because Baxter is a fascinating, difficult case. Henry desires to add Baxter to his collection of medical conquests, viewing him as something and not someone. When Henry completes Baxter’s surgery, he records Baxter’s information in his notebook adding Baxter to his collection of patients and confirming his victory in their mutual struggle for control that began in the streets of London.

After Baxter’ surgery, Henry is restored to his high pedestal where he returns to observing the world through microscopes and scalpels. He no longer feels helpless because the surgery reminded him that he can “exercise authority and shape events” (288). In the outside world, Baxter may have appeared threatening. However, submerged in a medical universe where Henry is “king, he’s vast, accommodating, immune,” Baxter was merely a lost, confused soul who Henry saved in order to reaffirm his power in the one place he can still move mountains.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

Good post, Ruthie. I don't have a lot of special knowledge about suicide bombers, but I think a key difference between Baxter and a suicide bomber is that many suicide bombers commit their final act in the expectation of a very bright future--in another world. Baxter doesn't seem to have the same kind of religious belief that would lead him to expect an eternal reward for a violent act--unless relief from the pain and suffering of a horrible disease can be considered eternal...

You bring up a good parallel here between different kinds of terrorism, though. We have become accustomed to thinking of terrorism as something pretty big--bombs and hijackings and assassinations, etc.--but there are a lot of other ways of inflicting terror. Baxter terrorizes Henry and his family in vengeance for affronted pride.

Should we differentiate between 'types' of terrorism?