Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ghosts and Atheists

Jamie's atheism is as confused as Hamlet's.  Both these guys see ghosts but don't believe they'll become one. Both find out one way or another real soon.

Jamie's irritating infantilism of the raging alcoholic is familiar to anyone who's dallied with Twelve Step groups or has done a stint in rehab, or to anyone who's worked their way inch by inch to the purging confession that often (but not always) marks a turning point in psychotherapy.

The grandiosity of the alcoholic--the alcoholic especially, but applicable to the  rage-aholic, and drug addict, and over-eater, et. al.--creates an unweildy personality best summed up by a therapist I knew as "King Baby," whom it's best to love but not pamper. That's Jamie, who loves to blame his own foul behavior on "John Barleycorn," saying, "I'm drunk.  Not responsible" (cf., "you don't understand, I have good reason to be angry," insists the anger-alcoholic to his exasperated therapy group.) Jamie mostly earns his redemption in Josie's lap, but Josie earns hers even more.  The woman fearlessly faces her own distorted self-image in Jamie's misogyny and defeats it.  I know that Jamie's confession and Josie's comforting of him make it look as is she submits but that's not how it reads to me deep down.  There are some canny inversions at work in O'Neill, as there are in Shakespeare.

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