No Fixed Address

No Fixed Address

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     No Fixed Address

     In Aritha Van Herk’s “No Fixed Address”, one key symbol surfaces many times. The main character’s name is Arachne, which means spider, and sets the reader up to understand the central symbol in the novel—the spider web. The reader sees several other instances of webs showing up throughout the novel. Arachne’s dependence on the road and her random driving is another form of web in “No Fixed Address”. To tie in Arachne’s driving with webs, we see Thomas’s maps as webs of sorts. The most important web that Arachne is seen to weave is that perverbial web of lies—a person can never escape from that web. In the end, Arachne is indeed caught in her own web, and in the end, she is caught in it.
     Arachne, in mythological terms, is the master weaver; the women who pitted herself against a god and lost, thus being turned into a spider. Arachne Mantea is much the same. She is constantly putting herself into categories that she doesn’t belong in. Much of her life, Arachne was certain that she was adopted. Her family seems to be poor, but Arachne could not fit herself into that social class. When she finally meets a family that is of a rich class, she realizes whole-heartedly that she doesn’t belong to that class either. Arachne seems to belong nowhere, almost as if she belongs to that race in the heavenlies—this is her first and most fatal lie. When Arachne ceases to belong to any particular group, she becomes capable of anything. Cheating, stealing, and killing are no longer beneath her. If she doesn’t belong where she is anyway, Arachne doesn’t need to remember her past; she doesn’t need to cope with the things that have happened to her. Thus, Arachne forms lies of denial concerning her past and present actions. She represses the memories of a painful youth, while believing that her whoring around will never catch up with her. She begins to live a lie, and one that eventually gets her. Other aspects of her life mirror the level of lie that she is living. The manner in which she drives shows us more than any other.
     When Arachne is merely lying to herself, we see her driving in a relatively small area, and very predictably so. She drives a bus, and in doing so, Arachne has a defined route.

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Her path never deviates much, and her web is very small and manageable. When Arachne brings another person into her world of lies, however, the web becomes much more complex. Shortly after she meets Thomas, they seem to fall in love—if that what you can call it. At this point, Arachnes lies begin to affect another human being. At this point, she drops her old job in favor of a new bus driving position in a far away land. This works out for her for a while, but soon her lies expand and she is forced to weave a larger web. Arachne cheats on Thomas constantly, and by not telling him, commits lies. Arachne then takes on a traveling sales position, one in which her route was rarely the same two consecutive years. She begins to weave her way across the countryside, selling underwear to all who would buy. In her journeys, Arachne has even more opportunity to pick up the occasional “road jockey”, and thus increases her web of lies with Thomas. When her lie concerning the old man she lays catches up with her, she is forced to expand her wanderings further yet. She drives with no goal for days, and ends up becoming a thief and a murderer in the process. Once she has these new lies to conceal within herself, Arachne strikes a path out into the wilderness, desperately attempting to escape her own web and thus making it larger still. If Arachne’s driving represents the web as a crucial symbol in the novel, then Thomas must have an important role indeed.
     Thomas is a mapmaker. Symbolically, it seems that he would have been the one to give direction to Arachne’s travels. But Thomas does not have that effect in the end. Instead, he seems to have no impact on her whatsoever. It seems that Thomas’s strengths were the very things that Arachne needed to escape her web. Thomas recorded his travels on beautiful maps. He was aware of where he was and was at one with his past. Thomas kept track of where he had been, wrote down the things he saw, whereas Arachne erased the things she had done and the places she had been. A spider must have a perfect memory of every strand it strings if it wishes not to become entangled in the web, and Arachne, the spider woman, did not have a memory. All of the traps she set were, in the end, for herself. Soon before Arachne strikes out into the wilderness, we see her eating a dish of Fugu. As most sushi dishes it was arranged in a very complicated pattern…a spider in its web. As she devours the fish, she is thrown back into her past. All of the things she repressed came back again, and she still didn’t know how to cope with them. Thus, the trap was sprung, and Arachne soon came to devour herself. In the end, she is falling off into nowhere, still inclined to weave her web. To Arachne it was instinct, much as it is to the spider. She wove webs to cover her past, and ended up suffocating.
     The idea of webs is obviously a key point in “No Fixed Address”. Arachne is no typical spider, however, because she catches and devours herself. Knowing the liguistic connection between lies and webs is important, as is the mythological reference. Arachne weaves many different kinds of webs, and all of them are directly related ot her web of lies.
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