Millennium Post

The meek shall inherit

The meek shall inherit
Blanche Dubois says in A Streetcar Named Desire – ‘Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.’ Ironically that very statement takes a turn at New York and settles on Theodore Decker’s shoulders like debris after the bomb blast in the Metropolitan Museum.

Theodore Decker (Theo) has nothing going right for him. On his way to a disciplinary hearing at school with his mother he loses her at the blast in the museum. At 13, Theo is left hurt, confused, thoroughly lost with a valuable painting and a ring in his possession. This meek inherits, but he’s not blessed.

Theo has no inkling about the value of the painting he possesses; the one he runs with like a life-line. What he does know is that it is worth the world to him. It becomes his anchor in beauty, strength and perfection – the space filled earlier by his mother. The comfort bubble that popped – ‘It’s just that she loved you so much, I always felt like kind of a interloper with you guys. Stranger-in-my-own-house kind of thing. You two were so close...there wasn’t much room for three...’ as Theo’s father describes it.
The rest of Theo’s life passes in a haze. A haze of being incapable of fitting in, making friends, losing them somewhere along the way, drugs and the eternal ache of not feeling adequately loved and wanted. Never at least the way his mother did. His life becomes an extended dependence on the kindness of strangers – Hobie, Boris, the Barbours.

Theo becomes what can be described best as a Jay Gatsby dumbed down by a drug haze and a Jay Gatsby who believes that he doesn’t entirely deserve to be loved. His incapacity to deal with the person he is, smart, caring and totally worth the time and emotions people invest in him; is because of this lodestone called grief that he wears around his neck. ‘Sometimes in the night, I woke up wailing. The worst thing about the explosion was how I carried it in my body – the heat, the bone-jar and slam of it. In my dreams, there was always a light way out and a dark way out. I had to go the dark way...’

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a story of salvation, or an attempt to salvation and like all journeys taken to repair oneself - this journey takes time. But by the end of it - Theo is still carrying that albatross around his neck. ‘A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts...we don’t get to choose the people we are...what if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted?’ rues Theo.

The Goldfinch is one of the most painfully beautiful books I have read in a long while. The ache is delicious because it is not yours, the very moment you find something that you can identify with in Theo’s narrative – the book becomes your tome and perhaps as Frou Frou had eloquently crooned – ‘There’s beauty in a breakdown’.

Even when Theo’s story drags its drugged out body to a point where his ‘troubles’ have been soothed, he  still fails to function. The grief sustains him, the absence leaves him floundering drunk in pool of water. His green light doesn’t kill him, it would have been a favour had it done so.  Keep your patience, this book takes a long while to get over, especially in your head.
Jhinuk Sen

Jhinuk Sen

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