Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line

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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.  



Jessica Orlowski said:

Thank you for this entry, Josie. This was really, really good. I'd like to talk about the mail lady some more. As a mail lady, she delivers some form of news to everyone. She does not discriminate. Also, the news is different most of the time (unless during a plague, I suspect, when there would be a mass mailing sent out lol). Additionally, the fact that she appears just as much of a woman as she appears to be man almost reminds me of a God-figure in a way. Or, because she is a woman underneath man's clothes, Williams could be eluding to the fact that death is secretly weak underneath the strong facade.

Melissa Schwenk said:

I don’t really know if Corvus was trying not to feel comfortable in the mail lady’s house, so much as she probably didn’t want to make herself a burden to her. At one point, “the woman is then forced to say, ‘I could give you something cold to drink. I could even make you a sandwich, I suppose, though normally I don’t eat lunch’” (246) making it seem as if preparing any type of food or drink would be a burden to her. Plus, the mail woman may have been something like a friend to Corvus or some type of guide, but she came off a little creepy and weird. Then again maybe that was the intentional feeling that the reader was supposed to get about the mail lady.

Josie Rush said:

Melissa- Well, the fact that making a sandwhich may be a burden for the mail lady, is actually all the more reason for Corvus to try not to feel comfortable with her. But at that point, it's sort of splitting hairs.
Jess- Thanks, and I agree--This section is something that could've been discussed for a very long time. When Williams mentioned that the mail lady looked every bit the man, but was a woman, I also assumed some sort of God-allusion, but for a less intellectual reason than you. God is perceived to be male by many people, (He's grammatically gendered male in the Bible), and I thought maybe this was a little shot Williams was taking at that, or, it could've possibly just been referring to a more maternal side of God.

Brooke Kuehn said:

Perhaps we are not taken inside Corvus's head after the fire because she is dying so to speak. Eventually she ends up living in a nursing home. I hope i am not stereotyping here but i know all the people i have visited in nursing homes were never quite there. I mean it was always difficult to understand what they were thinking, what was going on in their heads. Maybe the fact that Corvus symbolizes the elderly (i anaylzed this in my blog) prevents us from having the luxury of knowing what she is thinking.

This is really interesting and in-depth, Josie! I could not wrap my head around that section at all. The mail lady certainly seems like a grim reaper of sorts, after reading your blog. In one of Brooke's blogs, I suggested that Corvus' trip to Green Palms was actually symbolic of Corvus reaching the afterlife, which is, I think, the way you interpreted this section. It only makes sense that she would be accompanied by someone, since that is a theme throughout historical culture. For example, the three Fates, as I mentioned in my blog, were symbols of death all the way back in Ancient Greece. Why wouldn't Corvus have someone to accompany her, especially since we know how much Williams refers to Latin and Classical ideas.

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