Symbolism Abounds

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"Carter had started thinking of the girls as the Three Fates.  He didn't know why this image should have lingered in his mind, except that he was a classical sort of fellow" (199).
                        Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead

If Williams isn't going to just tell us why Carter thinks of the girls as the Three Fates (which is probably a good thing - how interesting would this book be if she told us everything she didn't?), we're left to wonder why.  Carter saw Annabel as Clotho - The Spinner, Alice as Atropos - The Cutter, and Corvus as Lachesis - The Measurer.  Interestingly, the only one of the Fates who's name he remembers is Atropos, the one who represents Alice in his mind.  Perhaps this thought foreshadows Carter's later request for Alice to kill his already dead wife since Atropos cuts the life of mortals.  The fact that he knows the name of Atropos signifies her later importance in this matter, unlike Clotho (Annabel) and Lachesis (Corvus).

Carter's comparisons foreshadow events not only for Alice, but for Corvus and Annabel as well.  The fact that Carter compares Corvus to the Measurer is especially intriguing, and perhaps answers some questions that I know I had while reading Part 3, such as: what happened to Corvus when she went to Green Palms that last time?  Lachesis, the Measurer and Corvus' counterpart, measures how long a person's life should be.  Maybe this symbolizes Corvus' power to determine her own fate, thereby implying that she chooses when her life should end by going to Green Palms.  I don't know if she literally ended her life when she went there, or if she only did so metaphorically.  Williams wants to keep us guessing.

Annabel's connection to the Clotho the Spinner was the most confusing to me.  When comparing her to Clotho, Carter describes Annabel as "good-hearted, a little unaware of what she was doing" (199).  Since Clotho was the creator of life, the one responsible for birth, Williams implies that life shouldn't even begin.  Clotho means well, but life doesn't always end well.  I'm not sure how this connects to Annabel, so I'm hoping someone will have an opinion on the matter.  Yes, Annabel is the most optimistic and good-hearted of the bunch, as we see in the desert scene with Ray.  However, I don't see the connection between her and the beginner of life.  Anyone else have an idea?

For more information on the Fates, go here.

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5 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Mm. Good question. I think part of the reason Carter said that Annabel reminded him of Clotho, was that of the three fates, she is the least forboding. Also, I looked here http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/clotho.html
and there was something about Clotho being considered the daughter of Night, which attributed to the obscurity and darkness of human life. William connected a lot to ancient times with her latin and mythology references. I think that's all the more impressive when you consider she had to do that through the minds of teenagers a lot of the time and still make it seem realistic.

Kayla Lesko said:

Hmmm... The only reason I can think why Annnabel would be Clotho is that she creates good memories of her mother, Ginger, when Ginger clearly wouldn't be the type of person to have good memories with.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Interesting... Well, could it possibly be that Annabel is the one who is most OPEN to life? Alice's ability to give life is dried up. She's been literally infertile for about 5 (?) years. Corvus is probably able to give life, but is not open to doing so. She measures the consequences of every situation. Annabel, on the other hand, is able and willing to give life. She even says that she wants a lot of children. Perhaps this is a possible meaning attached to the "Fates" reference.

Brooke Kuehn said:

When i read the book, i kept thinking Annabel represented childhood/adolescence, ALice represented middle age, and Corvus represented old age. I know its a stretch but thats what i blogged about. Maybe Annabel is Clotho because she is representative of a child or adolescent, near the begining of life.

Josie Rush said:

Brooke, I don't think there's much possibility for reaching too far in this book.
Jess, I think your idea about Annabel being more open to life is very interesting. Though, I'm gonna go a slightly different route with that interpretation. Annabel is the least bogged down with death/thoughts about death of the three girls. Yes, there are some ritualistic displays of mourning, but how does preparing a dinner for one's dead mother compare to burning down one's own house? There's really no comparison. And, this is purely opinion, I never felt that Annabel was "thoroughly mourning", some of it felt like she was throwing a fit because that's what was expected of her. Anyway, my point is that while Alice is contemplating the state of the world and the unworthiness of humanity, and Corvus is half-dead and half-living, Annabel is dreaming of going to Paris. Alice and Corvus have their paths basically set before them, unlike Annabel, who can still weave her fabric.

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Jessica Orlowski on Symbolism Abounds: Interesting... Well, could it
Kayla Lesko on Symbolism Abounds: Hmmm... The only reason I can
Josie Rush on Symbolism Abounds: Mm. Good question. I think pa