Sunday, January 27, 2008

“There’s grandeur in this view of life”

The fact that Henry is unshakably certain that laboratory science will provide a “satisfactory account” of the secret of consciousness and his unwavering faith that such a “journey will be complete” reflects not only his character, but also his steadfast conviction in human advancement (263). Perowne’s resolute trust in the secular world and his rigid adherence to structure, and analytic, almost aloof mindset in his calculation of the world he perceives further supports that this particular view of life is the “only kind of faith” he is capable of fostering (263). Also, the fact that Henry is unable to “feel” what Baxter felt during Daisy’s recitation of Dover Beach also supports the claim that he is not necessarily devoid of emotion, but not able to be compelled by the simple beauty of words; the inability of Henry to understand or even feel the meaning behind the poem illustrates his own personal vantage point concerning life.

Paradoxically, during the operation, when Henry places his finger on Baxter’s cortex, Henry reveals his humanity, which is further illustrated in his “dream of the healing touch” (263). Furthermore, when Henry takes Baxter’s pulse, despite the fact that it is visible on the monitor, the “primal contact” further depicts the seemingly contradictory components of his character (271).

The view that all issues will be resolved, that the human race is perpetually moving forward, and the certainty that all secrets will be revealed constitutes Perowne’s “grandeur is this view of life.” Despite the apparent clash in his detached perception of the world around him and occasional bouts of humanity, almost compassion, Henry’s actions ultimately mirror this absolutist view of life.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

Some reviewers have called Henry a "modern pagan," and I think this fits well with your assessment of him as well as his view of himself as a "materialist." Although his clinical outlook on many things seems to dehumanize him, you're right to point out that he is still capable of the very human act of wonder, especially when it comes to the operating table.