The Familiar and Through the Arc of the Rainforest

Both Danielewski’s The Familiar and Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest have characters that are compared to Christian figures, Luther and Chico Paco respectively.  Luther is compared to Christ.  He had a bullet go through his palm and walked on water:  “Luther even holds out his arms, holds them out wide, show off a whole different kind of cross, then steps forward and walks on water” (608).  Hopi also holds up his hands towards Luther as if he were praying to him, asking to be spared (605).  However, Luther is not Christ-like in personality or actions, as he is ruthless and violent.  His miracle of walking on water is a sham, it only looks like he is walking on water because the water is shallower than it appears to be (775).  He answers Hopi’s prayers by killing Hopi, despite Hopi’s pleas for forgiveness (775).

Chico Paco is referred to as an angel when the shrine he created cannot be destroyed (51).  However, like Luther’s “miracle” there is a mundane reason for this as well; the garbage Chico Paco collected for the base of the shrine was magnetically attracted by the Matacao (97).  Additionally, Chico Paco becomes a famous radio evangelist and the station becomes increasingly commercialized (130-1).  People referred to Chico Paco as “a new religious leader” despite any attempts on his part to become one (130).  While Chico Paco may be a very good person, he is not perfect and as a human cannot possibly live up to the standards the public place upon him.

Both of these books compare characters to Christian figures and have them fail to live up to the comparisons.  Luther fails through killing Hopi and Chico Paco fails by commercializing his radio station.  While it is impossible to live up to these standards, there are still ways these characters can respond to their fake miracles in a meaningful way.  The Narcons view Luther’s decision about whether or not to spare Hopi as a choice that could change his path and others, but Luther decides to kill Hopi and commits himself to a destructive path (774).  Chico Paco, while commercializing and hence becoming less pure and angelic, uses his radio station to help people.  The station especially helped try to keep people’s morale up during the typhus epidemic (187).  While “miracles” might have scientific explanations and the people they occur to aren’t perfect, people can still decide to make the best out of them and help others.

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