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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 41 / 50





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fictional character, witnessed in my previous chapter, Trellis must be bound for trouble by this strange turn of events. The shared physical qualities of Trellis and Orlick are fitting, as they are biological relatives. Orlick shares his father’s acne problem, and his physical description. When first emerging from his delivery room, Orlick displays a "stout form," and appears a "stocky young man" (207). In addition to these visible qualities, "an air of slowness and weariness and infinite sleep hung about him like a cloak" (208). While this is likely a remnant of his recent creation/birth, it reminds the reader of Trellis’ incredible capacity for sleep.

Orlick’s skill as a writer is hereditary, according to his fellow characters. It is certainly not planned by Trellis; Orlick is the only character in the Red Swan that Trellis has had no input into his personality or skills, which is all the more surprising considering his parentage. Trellis’ other cast members have been created or hired for specific traits. Orlick is a surprise to everyone, including Trellis. His literary skills are discovered by accident by his friends, and it is Shanahan and Lamont that come up with a plan for revenge on Trellis. Orlick’s task would appear simple to almost anyone, but his genetic disposition for fiction-writing hampers this revenge process. Orlick is caught in a descriptive mode that annoys his fellow conspirators. The narrative begins with a wandering opening paragraph:

Tuesday had come down through Dundrum and Foster Avenue, brine-fresh from sea- travel, a corn-yellow sun-drench that called forth the bees at an incustomary hour to their day of bumbling. Small house-flies performed brightly in the embrasures of the windows, whirling without fear on imaginary trapezes in the lime-light of the sun-slats. (236)

One suspects soon into Orlick’s revenge narrative that Orlick is another example of a bad author. He is perhaps only half as capable as his father is, a man who has already lost control of his narrative to such a degree that his own characters are attempting to torture him to death.

One remembers that the narrator’s manuscript is headed with "Chapter one," and then never broken into subsequent chapters; Orlick’s narrative is headed by the narrator’s italicized introduction: "Extract from Manuscript by O. Trellis. Part One. Chapter One" (236). This narrative is also never broken into further chapters, let alone "parts." There are obviously aspects of the narrator’s style that are visible in Orlick’s work. Orlick has also relocated his father, for purely decorative purposes. Rather than living in the Red Swan, Trellis is now sleeping "in his bed" (237) on Foster avenue; it has already been mentioned that the Red Swan is positioned on "Lower Leeson Street" (34). Orlick describes this residence in even more detail in the second of his three beginnings: "His home was by the banks of the Grand Canal, a magnificent building resembling a palace, with seventeen windows to the front and maybe twice that number to the rear" (244). The Red Swan is never described as a palace, nor is its location noted as canal-side anywhere in the narrator’s description of it. This move is entirely unnecessary, like the flowery descriptions of nature that pervade Orlick’s narrative’s opening.

An entire page of Orlick’s manuscript is devoted to the description of a cleric who breaks into Trellis’ bedroom through the window, but nothing of this visit’s nature is discovered until Trellis and this man chat for a time. Interesting aspects of the cleric’s character appear, if one remembers some very minor points in the novel. First, this cleric is named Moling, the same priest that delivers Sweeney’s death lay in Finn’s narrative. Second, and much more subtle, is the Pooka’s influence on this revenge narrative. The extremely polite and sociable Pooka has had Orlick "to his hut in the fir-wood ... to live there as a P.G. (Paying Guest), for a period not exceeding six months, sowing in his heart throughout that time the seeds of evil, revolt, and non- serviam" (214). The overly-polite conversation concerning sinister acts of torture between


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