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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 43 / 50





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fractured his fourteen ribs, a terrible fall altogether" (261). Furriskey also takes a turn as author, with many of the same results. Lamont, on hearing the return of Orlick, "handled what promised to be an awkward situation with coolness and cunning" (263-4), quickly composing a sentence that succeeds in hiding their theft of Orlick’s narrative:

And the short of it is this, he said, that the Pooka worked more magic till himself and Trellis found themselves again in the air in their own bodies just as they had been a quarter of an hour before that, none the worse for their trying ordeals. (264)

While in the washroom, Orlick realizes an impressive plot for his narrative to follow; his friends will become characters and be celebrated for their personal attributes. Orlick realizes the opportunity for compensation for his friends after their supposedly unfair treatment by Trellis. Orlick attempts to give them the benefits of luckier literary characters, such as fine minds and stature in a narrative, rather than the familiar blue-collar positions of ranch-hand or tram conductor. Shanahan, for example, is noted as being an "eminent philosopher, wit and raconteur" (268). Furriskey is given to spouting out scientific facts within Orlick’s narrative, such as the specific gravity of different substances and remedies for ailments such as bleeding noses, besides an explanation (including diagrams) of how one can read his or her own gas meter. Trellis is eventually brought to trial within Orlick’s narrative, and "J. Furriskey, T. Lamont, P. Shanahan, S. Andrews, S. Willard, Mr. Sweeney, J. Casey, R. Kiersay, M. Tracy, Mr. Lamphall, F. MacCool, Supt. Clohessy" (281) act as both a panel of judges and a jury. One notes that this list is not composed solely of literary characters, but even includes William Tracy, Trellis’ deceased contemporary. Tracy is back from the dead to oversee plagiarism accusations against Trellis involving his own work.

This trial scene carries on for quite some time; it seems that once Orlick’s audience has been rather flatteringly introduced into the narrative, Orlick is allowed to carry on in whatever manner he pleases. Orlick has had to learn how to please his audience in order to write his own narrative. One might also argue that Orlick is rid of his critics because he temporarily controls them as their despotic author; regardless of this possibility, Orlick keeps them satisfied with their involvement in the narrative in order to escape their interruptions of his work.

In this fourth narrative plane, several complex structural events occur simultaneously. Orlick essentially trades narrative levels, or positions, with Trellis; when Orlick begins his narrative, Trellis is dropped to a lower level and their intended roles are reversed. This is just the beginning of a great deal of movement between layers by several characters from Trellis’ manuscript. The characters discover, with Orlick’s help, a method of moving through the lower narrative levels; while they cannot move upwards as Finn and Sweeney do inside At Swim-Two- Birds, they can create their own lower-order fictitious worlds in which they decide their own reality. Trellis, by siring Orlick, has essentially destroyed the arrangement between authors and literary characters. Orlick’s new technique is certain to spread throughout this fictional world like wildfire. Orlick acts as a catalyst for a sort of evolution of fiction writing because of his half- caste status, and the extinction of fiction writing as Trellis’ world understands it is imminent; a revolution of the literary proletariat is just beginning.


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