One of the most prominent concepts I take away from this piece is the separation between romance, desire, platonic connection, and human empathy. Are these various connections that are defined under the umbrella of “love” independent from each other, or are they melanged in a blend of raw human emotion? In the end, Jeff sacrifices himself for – and cares deeply for Rachael. Not because he loves her romantically or sexually. But because beneath any criminal, beneath any monster there always seems to be an underlying current of love. Those who are most hardened by life are not forced to grapple with and reveal this tenderness until dire circumstances are imposed. Or sometimes they never have the chance at all …
An interesting detail I picked up on was the character of Verlaine. Last year I was rifling through the cabinets in the French classroom, and I took home this book of poetry. Verlaine’s work is synonymous with the beauty and elegance of words. His poems weave words together in a truly artistic way. Saunders’s must’ve intentionally known this when naming one of his characters Verlaine. The most prominent connect I draw is between Verlaine’s (the poet, not the character) poetry and the drug Verbaluce. In Escape from Spiderhead, the drug Verbaluce inflicted by Abnesti and Verlaine (the character, not the poet) causes its recipients to describe experiences in great poetic detail with vivid imagery. When Jeff is induced by Verbaluce his description and perception of a garden meanders from simplistic, mundane, and childlike to one of great detail and literary skill:
“The garden still looked nice. It was like the bushes were so tight-seeming and the sun made everything stand out? It was like any moment you expected some Victorians to wander in with their cups of tea. It was as if the garden had become a sort of embodiment of the domestic dreams forever intrinsic to human consciousness. It was as if I could suddenly discern, in this contemporary vignette, the ancient corollary through which Plato and some of his contemporaries might have strolled; to wit, I was sensing the eternal in the ephemeral” (46).
Jeff continues these poetic descriptions when recalling his experiences with the girl’s he is artificially induced to love and desire. Every time they make love under the influence of Verbaluce, Jeff verbalizes the mental images of places he has never seen in great detail, “… a certain pine packed valley in high white mountains, a chalet-type house in a cul-de-sac, a yard of which was overgrown with wide, stunted Seussian trees” (50). These mental images appear regardless of the girl Jeff is with. This imagery reminds me of the way Verlaine composes his poems.