Infuso-what?

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Daisy: "Isn't water a remarkable element?  It's exempt from getting wet.  It's as exempt from getting wet as God is exempt from the power of love."

Alice: "I've heard that.  The first half anyway, somewhere."

Daisy: "I wouldn't be surprised.  Thoughts are infusorial."

                    Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead (Page 169)

I originally intended to analyze the repetition of Daisy's sentiment about water, since Sherwin says the same thing earlier in the novel.  However, the meaning was once again above me, so I decided to analyze the reason Daisy calls thoughts "infusorial."  At first, I thought infusorial was just a word I had never heard before because it was from some sort of sophisticated vocabulary.  However, the reason I had never heard it, is that it typically doesn't apply to anything other than protozoa.

According to Dictionary.com, infusoria is "any of various microscopic organisms found in infusions of decaying organic matter," with infusorial a word describing something related to the infusorians.  What, then, does that imply about thoughts if they are infusorial?  Are thoughts "found in infusions of decaying organic material?"  The part about decaying organic material would somehow fit in with the theme of the rest of the book, so I'm sure it has to make sense somehow.  

Another possibility is that Williams used the wrong word, but that seems unlikely to me.  Since I don't understand a lot of what happens in this book, I can't say the following with absolute confidence: I still feel like Williams was extremely precise in what her characters says.  I don't think she would use the incorrect word unless she intended the character to say the incorrect word for some higher purpose.  Yet again, I'm thinking this is just another metaphor I can't understand.  Thoughts?

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4 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Yeah, I also doubt that Williams messed up with her word-choice. I think a lot of what her characters say doesn't make sense on a superficial level. You can read this book two ways: you can just assume these characters are talking nonsense the entire time and enjoy the abusrdity that is Williams' narrative style, or you can search for the meaning of each phrase and puzzle everything out.
I guess Williams could've just been referring to the fact that our thoughts, like everything else about us, are decaying. Some people like to think that while physical aspects are ephemeral, intellect is etneral, but here Williams is saying, no, once you die, your thoughts are just as dead as your body.
I know this was more of a general interpretation, but Williams also leaves me at a loss much of the time.

Brooke Kuehn said:

I agree with Josie's interpretation. It seems as though Daisy is saying thoughts are always dying. Perhaps it could also have something to do with memory. As we age, our memories weaken. So maybe our thoughts decay along with it. I mean if our memories are dissapearing how would we remember our thoughts? But i also find it weird that Daisy says it not surprising that Alice had heard the first half of what she said. If thoughts are dying, why wouldn't it be surprising that ALice had heard the first part of the thought? OR maybe she means it is not surprising that Alice never heard the seccond part of the thought. That would make more sense.Anyway, like Josie said, we could analyze piece by piece, but Williams always leaves us hanging.

Josie Rush said:

Brooke, good point about the incongruous nature of the statement. Why isn't Nurse Daisy surprised? That really doesn't fit in with my original interpretation. Maybe this was a comment about the possibility of reincarnation? As though, through the death of a thought, it is reborn to others?
Is that reaching too far, maybe?
Is there such a thing as reaching too far in this book?

Nice feedback! Josie, I agree with you about Williams expressing the idea that thoughts die, unlike the somewhat customary belief that they last forever. This didn't click in my head at first, but now that you've said it, it makes perfect sense. And Brooke, you're right, Daisy's last statement in that quote only makes sense if you look at it to mean she's not surprised Alice has only heard the first part.

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Karyssa Blair on Infuso-what?: Nice feedback! Josie, I agree
Josie Rush on Infuso-what?: Brooke, good point about the i
Brooke Kuehn on Infuso-what?: I agree with Josie's interpret
Josie Rush on Infuso-what?: Yeah, I also doubt that Willia