Animals for Everyone

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I really like the format that The Quick and the Dead is set up in. The thrilling questions that pull the reader in at the beginning to start thinking about death, and then Joy Williams launches the story off with such an offbeat character like Alice that just grabs the reader's attention. Williams seems to be using a lot of reoccurring themes throughout the story or little connector stories that string all the characters along.

One of the biggest things that continue to show up in the book has to do with animals. There appears to be a link between animals and people. There are two references to fish that Ginger represents. Annabel says at one point that, "There was something about a fish restaurant" (Williams 29) referring to something related to her mother's death. Later, Ginger comes back as a ghost and starts explaining to her husband about a man who liked to fish for fun who would just cut the both sides of a fish and then watch it just sit in the water. Then one day a fish didn't die right away and seemed to stare at the fisherman. The fisherman didn't fish again after that (41).

Alice seems to have her own issues with animals. She has a certain dislike for cats. The idea manifests itself during the party where she talks to the piano player remarking, "cats are accustomed to making their own decisions and implementing them out of their owner's sight" (73). There is some type of connection here with why she hates cats. Perhaps it has something to do with her own odd behaviors.

Ray's animal is obviously the monkey that is stuck in his head. There is a deep connection to this monkey since the monkey was used for experiments to make him better after his stroke. In a way, Ray probably feels he owes the monkey for his life, and therefore is unable to get rid of him because of the guilt.

Another very obvious example of an animal representing or at least pertaining to another person in the story is the dog, Tommy, for Corvus. The reader sees Tommy as kind of Corvus's last resort for holding everything together after the death of her parents. She remarks at some point in the story about maybe getting rid of Tommy, but can't find it in herself to do so at least right then. So when she finds the dog dead, she decides that that was really the only thing worth keeping all of the memories of her parents for. Once she loses that one thread, she decides to burn everything that ever reminds her of her parents. How successful that is will be determined hopefully through the rest of the book.

So what is the importance of all the animal references? Well, the first part of the book before even chapter one begins states, "Don't use reason without imagination here. A hare is the determinative sign defining the concept of being" (3), which leads me to believe that the animals have some higher importance to the end result of the story. If this is true, I'm not sure yet. However, there seem to be multiple references to animals and deep connections with the central characters in the story.

4 Comments

Josie Rush said:

Great insight here, Melissa. Could the undying fish in Ginger's story symbolize Ginger's inability to die (or at least to leave her husband alone).
I thought it was interesting that Alice hates cats. They're independent, like Alice, so you'd think she'd really admire them. I'm hesitant to guess what this connection means, because it's so early in the book, but I can't wait to find out.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Josie – You’re might be right about the fish representing her inability to die. However, I’m not completely sure since the person Ginger was talking to was a fellow mystical spirit or ghost or something, too. So maybe it does represent that, but then maybe not. I’d say more on the animals, but I don’t want to give anything away in the later chapters that even I’m not aware of yet, but have a vague inkling about because of something Jess and I were discussing today.

Melissa, I agree with you! Your first paragraph is much like what I said. And I agree. I found myself, in the beginning of the book (ill admit it on here but never in person) that I was getting into trying to figure out what "stupid" thing Alice was going to do next, or not even necessarily Alice, but anyone in the book. I wanted to know what would happen and I didnt like that haha. But yes I totally agree with you.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Shellie - I think one of the most compelling elements of the whole book is what the characters are thinking and the reader's intrigue of what could possibly happen next. There is absolutely no way to predict what the characters are going to say, think, or even do next. That's not something you usually see in a story, which is probably why I really like it so much. It's very original.

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