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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Post-Structuralist Reading of Angela Carter's-"The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman"

The binaries established in Angela Carter The infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman seem to be obvious and somewhat stable. However, I believe that on page 25 Desiderio’s statements place him in the middle of the binary: desire vs. reason. I believe that The Minister of Determination serves as the character best representing reason, as is signified by his “predetermined net” approach that Desiderio identifies on page 25. Dr. Hoffman then best represents desire because of his deployment of desire machines. However, Desiderio deconstructs the binary when he states “I felt as if I was watching a film in which the Minister was the hero and the unseen Doctor certainly the villain; but it was an endless film and I found it boring for none of the characters engaged my sympathy.” (pg. 25)Here Desiderio prevents the reader from the immediately identifying the Minister as a hero and the Doctor as the villain by identifying the opposition exists as if it were the plot of a movie, and by giving each side of the binary an equal lack of sympathy. Desiderio’s next line also supports his placement in the middle of both reason and desire when he states “none of the characters engaged my sympathy, even if I admired them, and all the situations appeared the false engineering of an inefficient phantasist.”(pg. 25) Here Desiderio shows he is a capable of both reason and desire by analyzing the relationship of the Doctor and the Minister in both ways; as if he admired them, representing desire, and from a reasonable standpoint, as if it was all just engineered. Thus, Desiderio appears firmly conflicted by both desire and reason, and infers the Minister should not be immediately seen as the hero. Until the end of the novel, the binary created by the Doctor representing desire and the Minister representing reason is presented with equal value because of Desiderio’s ability to reason and desire that places equal significance on both sides.

1 comment:

  1. Right, I sort of agree, I think. It's like the binary is set up and then immediately and nonchalantly dismissed as something artificial and unconvincing and boring by Desiderio, this being seemingly apparent when he (i.e., Desiderio) refers to the system as "the false engineering of an inefficient phantasist" (it's sort of interesting right here, on page 25, to think about Desiderio's statement as Angela Carter's own confession that what she's doing isn't so cut-and-dry and black-and-white and absolute as it might ostensibly seem; it's like she's admitting that the binary she creates is arbitrary and more or less meaningless). It's cool, you know, because we have Reason on one side of the binary being represented by the Minister of Determination, the words "minister" and "determination" connoting arbitrariness and authority, and then on the other side we have Desire being represented by Doctor Hoffmans's machines, the machines connoting invention and creation and production -- so both sides of the binary suggest the imposition of something (i.e., the imposition of order or disorder), both sides of the binary suggest pretense.