Annotated Asterios Polyp, Pt. 4

The next chapter opens up with heavy, Kurosawa-like rain, as Asterios walks away from his still-smoldering apartment. We’re back in the year 2000. I don’t have very much to say about this chapter except, as others have noted, it depicts his descent into the underworld. There are multiple parallels from greek myth at work here. The most famous is probably Orpheus’s trip to the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice. But there’s a Homeric origin, too: Odysseus visits the blind prophet Tiresias and converses with his mother’s spirit. This will all be replayed more explicitly much later in the book.

Luckily for us, the similarity is not so pat the first time–its uncanny and unsettling. On his way to the subway, Asterios encounters a man in a cardboard box, talking to his dog. We’re introduced to him through a backwards speech balloon, which appears to contain gibberish. But soon the man clearly utters, “and then they’re complaining that nobody read their minds before they were born.”

Immediately a dotted outline figure joins Asterios at this point, standing in for his brother. Nobody had read Asterios’ mind before he was born, he’s thinking. The combination of the ghostly outline and the dotted lines reminds me of the Family Circus. Billy’s trips around town produced a trademark dotted line in that strip. The Family Circus also made a character out of denial. “Not Me!” was a ghost who ran around committing mischief, for which the kids were blamed. Ignazio is Asterios’ “Not Me,” since our protagonist believes that Ignazio’s life would have turned out much differently than his own.

As Asterios slides under the turnstile and heads for the train car, music wafts through the pages. The singer is ridiculous, his lyric making no sense, but Asterios continues to pick out dualistic imagery from it. As a bird flys by, Asterios only sees a bird icon (conveyed in a thought balloon). Once again his mind is ruled by strict divisions and idealized abstractions.  After leaving his shadow behind and passing a vomiting woman (who would fit in Ren & Stimpy’s world perfectly), Asterios hightails it outta there.


2 Responses to “Annotated Asterios Polyp, Pt. 4”

  1. 1 Stephen Frug September 14, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Hmmm, just noticed these are all from a month ago. I hope you’re planning to continue the series!

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