Who Is the Real Robot?

While at Celeste’s, Meursault eats dinner with a small woman. She is very direct, precise, and quick. This intrigues Meursault enough to follow her after dinner to see what she does next. This woman is described as a “robotlike” (43) by Meursault. This woman seems like a foil to Meursault because she does everything with direction: “Ordered her whole meal all at once… While she was waiting for her first course, she opened her bag, took out a slip of paper and a pencil, added up the bill in advance, then took the exact amount, plus tip, out of a vest pocket and set it down on the table in front of her” (43). From the moment she sits down she does everything with purpose. This is clearly the opposite of Meursault, who through the story aimlessly lets life happen to him as he does things like turn down promotions and marry a woman he is not in love with.  

Calling her the robot woman seems odd as Meursault could be described as a robot himself. He seems to feel no emotion and just does exactly what he is told to do. I think this woman could be an example of why some critiques of existentialism and Meursault are hypocritical. As some say that it is dark and assumes life has no meaning. The character of the robot woman shows how a person that is the exact opposite of an existentialist, one that has great belief in the systems that humans have created, could be just as bad. As while Meursault seems not to decide anything for himself she does not either, as she is trapped in a routine determined by systems outside of her control. Meursault and the robot woman show how opposite extremes in world view could result in similar people.

Manley Pointer is a Very Smart Kim

The fake bible salesman who goes by Manley Pointer in Good Country People shows a lot of similarities to Kim, Brian’s stalker ex-girlfriend, in  A Conversation About Bread. To begin, Pointer is a little bit of a stalker himself. He has gathered information about the Hopewell family somehow. He even tells Mrs. Hopewell “you’re a good woman. Friends have told me” (4). Like Kim, Manley seems to have been stalking this family to learn information about them to manipulate Hulga. This is seen when he talks about having a heart condition and only a few years to live. He only lies about this because it gives him something in common with Hulga, who is in that exact situation. Another more important similarity is the fact that they were only interested in Brian and Hulga because of their disabilities. This is seen when at the end Manley reveals himself and mentions “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way” (9). This shows that like Kim, Manley is interested in people with disabilities only because of their disabilities. Even worse, he connects the objects that they need to help them function by stealing from them. So while Kim was a stalker, Manley is a stalker and a thief.

What this all shows about Manely and Kim is that their characters are not able to mutually recognize other people. They both push the power dynamic of ABLE/disabled because they do not see those different from them as equals. As a result of seeing Hulga and Brian as less than them they do awful things like stalking and theft of things that they need. These two characters serve as examples of what not to do. If Kim and Manely had the ability to mutually recognize others these stories would be very different.

Did Jeff’s Actions Actually Change Anything?

In the end of the story Jeff gets his escape by killing himself because he believes it is the only way to save Rachel. He then is freed and he floats up out of Spiderhead. At first glance this seems like a selfless act to make sure another human does not die. What will happen to the prisoners after this? It seems likely that this act had almost no effect on the people imprisoned in Spiderhead. Nobody will get in trouble for Jeff’s death as when Heather dies nobody cares and they move on to the next person. Jeff was only even there because he had the best descriptions so they will just bring in Rogan or Keith and get one slightly less descriptive observer. In a short time Jeff will be replaced as it is clear that many people want to become part of the experiment instead of staying in prison.

Overall, this intense ending will likely mean nothing for the rest of the people in the story. As the only person Jeff even knows is Abnesti, who does not care about Jeff at all and only uses their “friendship” to guilt Jeff into doing things he does not want to. This is shown when he says “Am I a monster… Do I remember birthdays around here? When a certain individual got athlete’s foot on his groin on Sunday, did a certain other individual drive over to Rexall and pick up the cream, paying for it with his own personal money?” (68). He only reminds him of what he has done for his when he wants Jeff to let him give Darkenfloxx to Heather. Abnesti also makes it obvious that he does not see these people as human as he uses their crimes as reason to experiment on them and let them die. This is shown when he uses someone’s confidential case file to convince Jeff that it is okay to give her Darkenfloxx. So, while it was significant to Jeff that he took his own life in an act of mutual recognition to save Rachel and did help him escape from this awful scenario. This will not end up helping the other people forced to be in this experiment. In fact Jeff might have taken away their only hope at someone who could try to do something to get them out of there as he showed he was willing to go to great lengths to make sure people were not treated this way.