Is Xanther the one who needs saving?

Xanther’s connection to the natural world is so amazingly strong, especially when compared to the other characters in her chapters. Even Anwar asserts that “Xanther’s natural alliances to the natural world are no mystery” (735). She feels a particular connection to small, minuscule creatures that most people would not notice or give much care to.

On an occasion that Anwar remembers, Xanther names a spider Adelaide and attempts to pet this tiny black insect. Most people would either kill the spider or somehow get it outside and away from themselves but Xanther affectionately names it and touches it. She is invested in a well-being of a spider which, most likely, would not return the affection.

In a memory of Xanther’s, she finds an injured hummingbird and cups it in her hand moments before it has a seizure and dies. The connection of this small object having a seizure to Xanther is uncanny. Although she could not save this hummingbird as she would have liked, the fact that she was even able to find it, she somehow hears this creature, and give it some care before it died highlights her extraordinary connection with nature.

The most significant moment of nature and Xanther is her connection with the kitten. She is not only able to find the kitten from a great distance away, with an incomprehensible and almost superhuman ability, but she is able to revive the kitten from [near] death as well. While she searches for the kitten in the storm she gets cut up to the point where she is bleeding and her clothes are ripped. However, when she is checked out, all of her injuries are minor if even there at all. Has nature protected her during this mission to find the kitten?

Perhaps these vulnerable animals make Xanther feel strong and able to carry on because she has the possible power of saving these animals or, at least, the power to make things better for them. Normally she is the small creature who everyone thinks needs saving so her feelings toward these animals may be because she projects herself onto these creatures.

Xanther sees the significance of a life no matter how small or different. She claims that the kitten makes her feel as if the world is answerable, which is something amazing since the Xanther the reader has seen is always overwhelmed by a flood of questions. Her sense of connected tranquility with animals, a relationship which we do not see between her and the rest of society, portrays Xanther almost like a greater being with otherwordly, almost magical, powers and understandings. No one else seems to have this amazing capacity to comprehend the natural world.

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One response to “Is Xanther the one who needs saving?”

  1. rdorenbu says :

    This is an interesting observation, and I would have to agree. Xanther’s fundamental connection to the small, often inconsequential aspects of life/nature/etc. comes to define her character as one that stands apart from the rest. Yet, in taking this claim a step further, I think that it is not only the most tiny often overlooked aspects of nature with which Xanther becomes so fascinated but with those very things in life that have no clear, definable ending or purpose. Xanther’s condition is one in which she is indubitably more concerned with the endless number of questions that can arise on a “rainy day” than with any one of their answers. And from this idea our own questions as the reader arise: Why do we take such interest in a story that begins with rain, with gloom, and why do we find such comfort in in the tale of Xanther – the oddly shaped and medically unstable protagonist? She and [more importantly] we as the reader seem to learn more from these thousand unanswered, confounding questions than from any clear-cut answer.

    These questions foster a sense of persistent unknowingness [as the reader possesses throughout much of the novel] which creates an initial discomfort but eventually causes us to cling to those “familiar” things, those unending questions, that continually puzzle us. In turn, we are able to find some sort of solace, sort sort of beauty, then within the text – understanding that perhaps what is to be cherished most within the novel is the fact that nothing can be universally shared. Everything applies and affects each reader in a different way; thus, the only common ground we find we share is the unstable ground on which each individual reading is based. And in the midst of this inverted mechanism through which we find comfort, we, like Xanther, can only stand in the rain to save the snail (another example on pg 125 to add to yours above), “affectionately” name the black insects, and save the strays in the distance because we realize we [along with everything else in the world] are all on equal footing. We crave the “familiar” so much so that we “so freely (too freely?) will grant loyalty and respect to anyone (any creature!)” (125).

    Yet, even with this mode of finding meaning and creating the familiar for ourselves, Danielewski is clever enough to make us constantly rethink our own action along with Xanther’s. He subtly poses the question as to whether or not we become so enveloped in escaping the vast puzzlement of our own unanswered questions that we may “too freely?” move from one installment to the next, not taking the time to amply acknowledge and reflect on what we have done and ask ourselves if we really should have done it. And with the serial form that keeps feeding us material, we are forced in the assumed direction of the narrative without ever knowing in what direction we face at any single, isolated point in time.

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