Act 1 on Reality
John expects reality to conform with his symbol language. A tree in a kid’s yard MUST have a tire swing to be authentic (1927). “A fire BELONGS in a FIREPLACE” (1950). “ A father without a pipe is like a strapping roughneck without a toothpick. That is to say, HE IS A RATHER PISS-POOR EXCUSE FOR A ROUGHNECK IF YOU ASK ME.” (1970)
The meta-textual winking in the comic is a distraction. When John knocks over his Nana’s ashes, John understands his mistake to be a “virtual certainty” (1953) because he views the event to be the actualization of a cinematic trope. That is a character moment. That is how John sees the world.
TANGENTIAL: In the living rooom, John comments that he should “exhaust all possibilities before plunging into a DAD encounter” (1979). This is the attitude of a gamer finishing every quest in the game before facing the final boss. Earlier, John took the time to inform us that pipes are his dad symbol. So when the final boss on LOWAS is in a lair covered in pipes, we can see that John’s very concept of ultimate conflict involves confronting his dad.
This attitude is stated most concisely at the fireplace: “As domestic myth of unaccountable origin holds, a home borrows the spirit of the flame for as long as it makes a guest of it” (1950). For John, there is an essence of flame, an idea of flame, that is eternal. Every fire John has seen is simply an instance of an ideal fire-object burning away in the elsewhere. This is essential Plato’s theory of forms, but in the language of a kid who thinks movies reveal that higher reality.
I’m grappling with what this implies about putting the bunny back in the box. Dave’s gift introduces the word “authenticity” into the story, and putting the bunny back in the box clearly takes on a ritual significance for John. I don’t know what the ritual means though.
The boxes themselves tell part of the story. Jade sends her rabbit in a green box – a dead ringer for the Perfect Generic Object, marking its contents as a fundamental idea, an indivisible unit of reality. Yet Jade’s package contains the most complicated version of the rabbit, augmented through several iterations.
Is the augmented rabbit closer to it’s essential symbolic reality? Does it mean a complex idea becomes basic over time? Not sure, but I’ll keep an eye out.