Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line
In every discussion I've had about this book, every blog I've read, people have been able to give a supported judgment on most characters. Sure, we've always wanted to learn more, we've always had to qualify our comments with "but I haven't read the whole thing yet", and we've always had differing opinions, but there has always been something textual to support an opinion about each character...except Corvus.
Yeah, we've got the raven/constellation thing down. OK, we know she's in this odd emotional purgatory and doesn't really say much of anything that doesn't pertain to death. And, yes, she seems oddly normal compared to the other characters in this circus of a book. But we haven't really been inside her head since she burnt down her house. We've warily explored the insanity that is Alice, we've dug through the superficiality that appeared to be Annabel, we've drifted through the deranged rendezvous of Carter, for crying out loud, we've even been with Emily as she searched for John Crimmins' missing member. All the while wondering what's up with Corvus.
Finally in chapter 37, Williams clues us in. Along with the shifting perspective that takes us into Corvus's dream is the shifting tense. "Corvus is dreaming she's on the island where they'd lived one year" (245). Now Corvus is actively present, as she hasn't been either in tense or in character for the entire novel.
"This is the day she goes off with the mail lady on her rounds, a woman who looks every inch the man, with her khaki uniform, her black glasses, her black watch strap, her jeep. To accompany her is an honor, that's the thinking; she goes everywhere, knows everyone" (246).
This is the description of the state that Corvus has been in this entire novel. The mail lady could symbolize, not death precisely, but the force that escorts one to death. "She's neither happy nor unhappy" (246) may show the indifference that this force shows, taking lives indiscriminately. Later on in her dream, Corvus declines the drink offered to her by the mail lady. This shows her reluctance to be comfortable where she's at, she doesn't want refreshment; she wants to become her grief (remember, she envied Tommy for this ability earlier in the book), not seek relief from it.
I assume that the mail lady's mother symbolizes Life, since life comes before death, and this lady is the go-between. When Corvus decides that the mother in the backroom has no meaning at all anymore, this conveys the idea that once we die, our lives cease to be significant. When the mail lady wants to take a picture with Corvus, but must put the camera behind the line, "at just the right distance, [so] there won't be parts of us missing," and Corvus observes that the line is very faint, this symbolizes that the line between living and dying is not distinctive, which is why it was so easy for Corvus to wander from the territory of the living.