The End of the Supremacy of Man: A Look at the Inversion of Biblical Imagery
Biblical imagery and allusions are abundant in The Familiar, and I’ve been struggling to integrate this into a more holistic vision of the text (and might get a little speculative and convoluted in the process, but bear with me). We have Luther as a fallen Christ figure, evidenced by the bullet hole through his palm and when he “show[s] off a whole different kind of cross, then steps forward and walks on water” (608). On the other side of the coin, we have Mefisto whose name alone sets off red flags. Mefisto, significantly, seems to be the (only?) link connecting Anwar’s narrative to Cas’s if we can make the leap that he is, in fact, Sorcerer. I anticipate (and I believe I saw a post from someone else on here exploring similar ideas) that Mefisto will likely somehow integrate Anwar’s AI code with the orb, giving birth to what are displayed to us as narcons. This could explain their ability to perceive almost all attributes of their subjects in much the same way Cas is able to observe the past through her Orb, as well as their distinctive personalities thanks to the AI.
Were this to be the case, I feel we would also be presented with a very poignant image of the devil (Mefisto[feles]) with an apple in hand (the Orb as the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), perhaps setting up a sort of parallel to the Genesis tale. I also picked up on a few other potentially Biblical hints surrounding the Orb; when Cas receives news of her conspirators via Parcel Thoughts, nine names are listed with strong mythological and religious connotations (646). Yet as we also know, nine never really equals nine. If we add Cas (Wizard), Deakin (Merlin), and Mefisto (Sorcerer?) to the list, we get 12 names; the twelve apostles of the Orb? Perhaps even Mefisto as a Judas character?
I’m not so quick to write Mefisto off as a villain though. Rather, I think Danielewski is more likely crafting an inversion of the Biblical tale, which could also help account for Luther as a malicious Jesus figure and the failure of Astair’s thesis, “Hope’s Nest: On the Necessity of God.” Moreover, in a lecture given by Danielewski called Parable No. 9 which seems to be largely interwoven with The Familiar (and which I’ve linked and written more on here), he makes the bold assertion that cats are “Christianity’s mortal enemy.” This would place Xanther particularly in opposition to the notion of Biblical morality, but we all know that Xanther is the furthest character from any sort of evil or sin. Instead, I foresee MZD inverting this Derridean dichotomy born of Christian ethics as a means to challenge the assumption of the supremacy of man— to reveal the strife engendered by granting to man the “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” in Genesis 1:26. Xanther’s relationship with all life suggests that she has already transcended this hierarchy of man over animal and is poised to challenge some very foundational aspects of the Western world.
I’d love some more thoughts on how the other narratives could be better integrated into this theory, particularly Luther and Jingjing.