Jackson I. Cope
Bio: Jackson I. Cope is an academic researcher. The author has co-authored 1 publication(s).
01 Oct 1987-American Literature
TL;DR: In this article, the leper moves in a crazy helix because the narrator moves us in a ''precise, governed\" pattern, regulating our own velocity as to schedule his [the leper's] arrival at our starting point.
Abstract: \"At first,\" once upon no time, \"in an instant half-real half-remembered, the leper is at rest; then he begins his approach.\"1 But no: \"he has always been beginning, always approaching.\" The landscape is mythic, perhaps allegorical: the \"sun at its zenith .... dazzling white this figure crossing the molten red flats, his outline blurred by the savage glare\" (179). A medieval Totentanz \"He merely dances on, arms and legs outflung, . . . scratching his helix across the desert floor, . . . his steaming white helix on the burnt red plane. His robe seems not so much a robe as a . . . winding sheet! Death!\" (180). But, no, the echo is complicated and crossed by the incursions of other echoes which are also to be denied priority. The leper moves in a crazy helix because the narrator, \"we,\" moves us in a \"precise, governed\" pattern \"so regulating our own velocity as to schedule his [the leper's] arrival ... at our starting point\" (180). It is a game, hunt in which the leper is only an object on the geometrical psyche of the hunted nar rator. But as the physical distance closes (\"Down the last arc segment we glide, closing it now .... he is close enough now for us to see his eager smile\"  ) the narrator's cool voice becomes less objectively distanced, nervously observant of detail which he tries to dismiss: \"tattered ends of his white flesh confusing themselves with ... his fluttering robe, flake off in a scaly dust .... translucent layers of dead scaly material, here and there hardened into shiny nodules, here and there disturbed by deep cavities. In the beds of these cavities: a dark sub stance, resembling blood not so much as ... as: excrement. Well, simple illusion, blood mixed with pus and baked in the sun, that's what it is\" (181). And then the voice becomes hysterical, the voice of Faustus and Everyman: \"But now? oh my god!?as a mere few paces separate us, our point of origin?and end!?just visible before us, the brute reality slams through the barriers of our senses: the encounter is now imminent!\" (181). \"The leper, tongue dangling . . . whole wretched body oozing a kind of milky sweat, hurls himself into our arms, smother ing us, pitching us to the red clay, his sticky cold flesh fastening to us, me, his black tongue licking my face\" (182). One recalls the folk terror, the frequent legends of curse from the leper's kiss. And yet, the narrator seems to seek his destiny even after he has recognized its inevitability and its horror: \"Our hands, my hands, appear before us . . . extended now for the embrace\" (181); \"I lie helpless under the sickening weight of his perishing flesh. Then, in the same instant, it is over. Purged of all revulsions ... we lay him gently on the red