France, Algeria, and Salamano’s Dog

Throughout The Stranger, there is an obvious divide between the Europeans and the Arabs, and it is often hostile, as would be expected considering the context of the story, where Algeria is a colony of France. While reading the story, I felt like Salamano and his dog could be an allegory for this relationship between an imperious France and a subjugated Algeria. I gathered this idea through the various interactions between Salamano and his dog, one of which was where Salamano noted that before the dog got sick, “‘His coat was the best thing about him.’” Meursault goes on to narrate that “Every night and every morning after the dog had gotten that skin disease, Salamano rubbed him with ointment. But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was old age” (45). The fact that the dog was initially healthy with a nice coat, but through living with Salamano had its “hair fall out” and became “covered with brown sores and scabs” (26), which Salamano falsely attributes to old age, indicates that Salamano’s abuse is the true cause of the dog’s condition. It is mentioned that the dog has the skin disease mange, but the unhealthy, abusive environment it is subject to is what gave rise to its poor condition, which Salamano unsuccessfully attempts to alleviate with ointment. A comparison can be drawn between this situation and that of France and Algeria, where France brought Algeria under its control, causing great damage to the colony due to excessive violence and exploitation of its land. France then did not take responsibility for the scabs and sores it caused Algeria just as Salamano blamed his dog’s scabs and sores on old age, and France pretended to have a positive impact on its colony through introducing its culture, as did Salamano when administering his dog ointment. Another section where the dog and Salamano seemed to be symbols for Algeria and France was when Meursault was describing Salamano’s walks with his dog: “the dog pulling the man along until old Salamano stumbles. Then he beats the dog and swears at it. The dog cowers and trails behind. Then it’s the old man who pulls the dog. Once the dog has forgotten, it starts dragging its master along again” (27). Here, the dog has the natural inclination to break free from Salamano, however, whenever it attempts to do so, Salamano pulls it back under his domination, punishing it for trying to achieve liberty just as France did to Algeria when it showed resistance to being a colony. In these and other examples, the dynamic between Salamano and his dog seems as though it could be a symbol for that of France and Algeria in the time period of The Stranger.

Darkenfloxx™=Darkened Flocks?

In the concluding paragraphs of Escape from Spiderhead, there is recurring imagery of birds, and I found it significant and interesting. It begins while Jeff is dying, and the birds “were manifesting as the earth’s bright-colored nerve endings, the sun’s descent urging them into activity, filling them individually with life nectar, the life nectar then being passed into the world, out of each beak, in the form of that bird’s distinctive song, which was, in turn, an accident of beak shape, throat shape, breast configuration, brain chemistry: some birds blessed in voice, others cursed; some squawking, others rapturous,” (80). As the birds release their “life nectar” into the world, Jeff chooses to die, and, “From across the woods, as if by common accord, birds left their trees and darted upward. I joined them, flew among them, they did not recognize me as something apart from them, and I was happy, so happy, because for the first time in years, and forevermore, I had not killed, and never would,” (81).

Towards the beginning of this extended imagery, the birds were described as delivering their “life nectar” through “bright-colored nerve endings” into the world. This implies that every bird is an integral part of the world that makes it what it is, because each releases a bright, nectar-filled nerve from its beak, producing a unique, distinct mark on the world visible to all. This is the case for Jeff, and one of the greatest impacts he made on the world, or one of the primary components of his nectar was that he had murdered someone. This was viewed by others as one of his defining characteristics, and as a result, due to shame and regret and not wanting to fortify this image by being complicit in Rachel’s murder, he wanted to dissociate himself from his nectar, or his life as a whole. Consequently, he chose to die, and from there, joined the flock of darkened, lifeless birds who had released the entirety of their nectar into the world and having none left to supply, flew away from earth, and with it, their mark on it. This was his cause for great happiness at the end of the story, because he realized that he would no longer be associated with, nor would he be able to fuel his murderous nectar that he abandoned on earth. Jeff opted for death via Darkenfloxx™, meaning he chose to become part of the flocks of darkened birds that no longer reside on earth. This is my interpretation of the potential source of the name Darkenfloxx™.