Natalie's Paper 2 Notepad

Discuss how the world has “gone in such a different direction,” and what this means, how identity (“oddness”) is formed against the background of commodified global existence, how Cayce deals with these things, and what this says about the structure of the novel (say, its “detective” elements) as a whole.

“Gone in such a different direction”

“Or is it, she considers, simply that the world had gone in such a different direction, in the instant of having seen that petal drop, that nothing really is the same now, and that her expectations of the parameters of how life should feel are simply that, expectations, and increasingly out of line the further she gets from that window in the SoHo Grand.” (203)

Sometimes, a single experience in a person’s life can alter how they view other aspects of life itself. In an instant, our perceptions of life can be shattered. In an instant, one moment can alter the world in ways no one anticipates.

In this case, seeing the events of 9/11 has altered Cayce’s perception of the way life should be. The window at the SoHo Grand is kind of the place that holds her expectations in place, and she realizes that as she steps away from it, she’s stepping into change.

“She feels as though something huge has happened, is happening, but she can’t define it. She knows that it’s about meeting Stella, and hearing her story, and her sister’s, but somehow she no longer is able to fit it to her life. Or rather she lives now in that story, her life left somewhere behind, like a room she’s stepped out of. Not far away at all but she is no longer in.” (303)

Cayce feels as though she is no longer living in reality, no longer living in her life, but in someone else’s world. Her life no longer exists the same way it did before.

How identity is formed against the background of commodified global existence

Commodified global existence puts a price on everything and forces society to conform to its demands. Life itself has a price. But how do you form an identity in such a society? You have to understand the world you live in. If you can control your own life and keep others from interfering, you can then begin to form your own identity. Once societal elites begin to make your decisions for you and you become their mannequin, your life has become commodified and your identity lost.

“History erased via the substitution of an identical object.” (203)

If an object can be replaced, it loses its authenticity. The same principle can be applied to people. If you (not necessarily your life) can be replaced by someone else, then the authenticity of your work or skill is compromised. Your unique history erased, ready to be remade by your replacement.

How Cayce deals with these things

Cayce’s unique allergy creates her identity in a world of commodity. No one else possesses her gift; therefore she is not likely to be replaced.

“This stuff is simulacra of simulacra of simulacra of simulacra. A diluted tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had stepped on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, flavoring their ready-to-wear with liberal lashings of polo kit and regimental stripes. But Tommy surely is the null point, the black hole. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.” (18)

I think that Cayce’s allergy is more of a reaction to things that lack authenticity.

What this says about the structure of the novel as a whole

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