Egocentricity and Sexual Relationships in The Chaneysville Incident Essay

Egocentricity and Sexual Relationships in The Chaneysville Incident Essay

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Egocentricity and Sexual Relationships in The Chaneysville Incident


The Pennsylvania Turnpike's enormous and various extensions branch between the Philadelphia, the place of John's most advanced assimilation, and the land of his origin, where in the darkness of Jack Crawley's hut he is closest to his identity as a black man. Likewise, even as a young boy learning the ways of his race, he is the latest branch of a family chronology that continues to thin ethnically, a branch with an impossibly distant origin buried in darkness. But the movement that carries John away from The Hill, away from Jack's hut and away from his own identity, is no more a source of his tormented ambivalence than the family history that fathered him. As the warring influences engage him, so too does the persistent love of Judith, a white woman with Southern ancestry upon whom the reconciliation of his identity conflict relies. However, John repels her for most of the novel and withdraws further into the isolation of his obsession.

John's attitude toward Judith underscores his ambivalence, and at times seems baffling. However, the clashing egos of men and women and the awkwardness of their attempted union are not alien to literature or to life in general, and are repeated in a Narcissistic archetype. During his maddening quest for truth, John attacks the influences that push him further from himself, shedding the alterations of time to understand his identity, which extends far beyond his birth. His energies and emotions are literally self-directed, internalizing to a frigid Narcissism, which is inevitably doomed. The fragmentation of his identity is beyond assembling, and similar to the self-directed libido that proves fatal for both Narcissus and...


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...h as is rationally possible. Though the novel's end is ambiguous and disturbing, it appears as though John has relinquished his Narcissism completely, indeed sacrificing a degree of his primordial identity, but gaining the more important aim of self-preservation, as he burns the no-longer-necessary clues. Although it is ambiguous, the hypothesis that John is about to kill himself is illogical. He doubtless undergoes a suicide of a different nature, killing his Narcissus and continuing to live with a rested conscious, directing his energy toward the future.

Work Cited and Consulted

Bradley, David. The Chaneysville Incident (1981) Rpt. New York: HR, Perennial Library Edition, 1990.

Pavlic, Edward. "Syndetic Redemption: Above-Underground Emergence in David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident." African American Review (Summer 1996), 30(2):166-167, 169, 181n10.

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