I Dance And I Sing And I’m a Monkey in a Long Line of Kings I’m just a boat on the ocean I’m just a ship lost at sea
The Revolt of the Lower Orders Some might argue the novel ends anti-climactically, and it does, in a sense. We must abide with the truth that any victory clawed out by the lower orders will be partial at best, and will come at considerable cost. Findley is a realist. He understands that it may take a thousand years, maybe more, to get to Lucy’s dreamed of promised land, and that progress will be incremental. ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞ Besides, the Lower Orders are compelled (in a way Noah is not) to preserve life rather than take it, though Lucy suggests that perhaps violence is the only way to get there. They do not have the luxury of Noah’s indifference or cruelty, and while the upper deck has severed ties with the lower deck, the lower deck remains tied by indissoluble family bonds: mothers and sons; brothers; sisters. Husband and wife.
I will follow you into the dark: Losses Emma falls silent and will not eat The Lady soon starves to death The demons are thrown overboard Crowe The silver kitten Lucy’s powers Mottyl’s whispers Hannah’s child Additionally, it is troubling in Book 4 to see Lucy take on the qualities of those she despises; perhaps this suggests that to do battle with corruption is to risk becoming corrupted oneself- to become what you despise. Perhaps the greatest loss.
Gains Emma and Crowe are saviours the communal search for the silver kitten Mrs. Noyes finds her voice The restoration of light The Revolt of the Lower Orders Hannah and Noah are locked in the chapel
Japeth In the final book, Noah still speaks the rhetoric of sacrifice, miracles and redemption at whatever cost. Noah senses his world is under attack. In this world, Japeth becomes essential. It is Japeth who throws the demons overboard, and who smashes the lanterns, and who takes all the candles, and decrees to the lower orders, “you will live in perpetual darkness until we come to land.” It is also Japeth who will suffer Lucy’s curse, getting no rest from the bites and scratches he has suffered; additionally, he will smell like the deaths of those he has killed. While his first branding was a mark of his victimhood, this second blight is wholly of his own making; the price he will pay for his violence and blind adherence to his father’s ways.
Shem Shem is another recognizable type. Though less violent than Japeth, he too is essential to Noah’s plans. He resembles Chaucer’s monk, a member of a privileged order not because he believes in its teachings but because it offers relative ease and comfort, plenty to eat, and little labour. He is layered in fat and going bald. It is he who comes to the lower decks demanding the best food. Like one of Swift’s landlords, with his clean robes and manicured fingers, he claims the profits of someone else’s labours.
Shem “At the end of these labours, spotless and gleaming and starched, he would squeeze his bulk into the softest chair he could find and stare into the spaces around him, dreaming of hot summer afternoons on the hillside and listening, in vain, for the sound of twenty, thirty, a hundred scythes and the songs of as many peasants. But neither these nor the smell of new-mown hay could be conjured. his memory of them faded beyond recall beneath the overlay of his flesh.” Unlike Mrs. Noyes and her people, Shem cannot remember the past.
Noah Noah seems to lose his memory, too, when he does not recognize his family after the first attempted revolt. He believes them to be “another boarding party”, even after being told otherwise. He remembers Yaweh, though, and is constantly searching for signs of his old friend. This sets him to dreaming again of sacrifices. to Noah, worship is inseparable from blood. Of course, at least part of his sacrificial fervour stems from his desire to eat well. Another offering of lambs.... As we have come to know so well, religion is merely a pretext for Nah to gain what he wants and silence any questioners.
Hannah and the Birth of Feminism Hannah loses, too. Hannah’s feminism does little to advance the cause of the other women on the ark, but feminism, like the civil rights movements, have helped to clear spaces in which other marginalized groups might articulate their opposition to the status quo: gay rights, animal rights, environmental rights, the rights of the unborn, the rights of the elderly, the rights of the physically and mentally disadvantaged, the rights of indigenous and immigrant peoples. “By god, she wrote; if women had written stories, they would have written of men more wickednesse than all the sex of Adam may redress.” (Chaucer; the Wife of Bath)
Questioning Truth You can probably find all of these issues in Not Wanted. Certainly, the novel shows enough of them to show us that enforcing the ways of one group on all others in the name of a single Truth or a single God, constructed to fill the needs of that one group, is ethically suspect. Who says it’s the truth? and to whom? In what time and place?
The Silver Kitten “His brain went up against the wall it could not pass - which is the tomb of Yaweh.” It is small wonder, then, that after Yaweh’s long silence and the revolt of the lower orders that he is keen to seize on any sign of Yaweh that he can. The silver kitten is such a sign. Noah proclaims it a miracle, and lays it out on his altar. The kitten- number 6- is killed by Abraham, its own father, in a perversion of the story of Abraham and Isaac. In that story, Abraham is provided a ram and his son is spared through the intervention of God. In this world, there is no God, and no help for the silver kitten.
Two Babies Noah interprets the presence of the silver kitten to Yaweh (A miracle! A true and absolute miracle!) and is overcome by a wave of fanaticism. Noah interprets Hannah’s needs during labour, too. He denies her any help, feeling she does not need it. She is locked in the chapel alone, separated from her sisters on the ark by her own pride, Noah’s need for secrecy, and the cage of faith she has built for herself. She knows that she alone must bear responsibility for the child (“the child’s deformity was her responsibility alone”).
Pushing and Praying She pushed. Noah prayed. Equally fervent in their desires, the pushing and the praying ultimately brought success. and when Hannah saw her child, she screamed- though not because it was dead. It’s death had been long known to her...But nothing had prepared her for the shock of seeing what she had carried all those months-nothing, for the horror of what it was in which she had invested all her ambition and all her secret love. “as he cut the umbilical cord with the altar knife, he said: “I feared it. Though in every prayer I uttered, I begged it would not be so- that you, like all the others, would not be contaminated by this curse.” “Let us pray”, said Noah. “But Hannah would not pray.”
Noah and Yaweh In Book Four, Noah comes to realize that Yaweh is dead, which leads to one last sacrifice: the burning of Yaweh himself. “Very well. If that was where He had gone- that os where he would stay. Bearded; old, and ruby eyed. Gold skinned and black robed. Smelling of crumbled incense. Sounding of bells and prayers. Leaving his friends to rot-alone.” “He walked to the nearest icon- an icon that showed Yaweh wide eyed and angry. Noah took him to the altar and he pushed aside the silver kitten and he laid the icon in its place. Then he drew out more incense and lighted it and threw Chinese powder onto the icon and he set it on fire and he began to ring the bell. “ “Then he went outside to tell the people what Yaweh had said.”
A trained dove and a paper rainbow The sacrifice does not suggest Yaweh’s extinction (as with the Unicorn); rather it suggests that Noah has usurped Yaweh’s power and function. From this moment, he will speak his own edicts and construct his own interpretations of things. He will continue to use Yaweh, however, as a means of controlling the people, who still, on some level want to believe, despite everything. How else to explain the reaction to Noah’s deceit with the dove? They know the dove is from the cage, yet they choose to say nothing, as if to do so would be a step too far. To renounce Yaweh would mean the end of Noah’s patriarchal authority, which would be a welcome thing, but he is also their father. Or perhaps the thought of an empty sky, of Yaweh dead, is too much to bear.
Baaaaaaaa After Lucy brings the bees on deck (maternal image? female empowerment?), Mrs. Noyes brings the sheep up top, hoping to lift everyone’s spirits with a song. They had such beautiful voices. But they refuse her, shun her. They make her “other.” The sheep would never sing again. and why would they? The sheep exclude Ms. Noyes because she is not one of them. Why should the sheep sing for those who have stolen their children and slaughtered them with milk still in their mouths? What is this pretence of unity. (This is the part that gets me every year....................
Praying for Rain “Mrs. Noyes scanned the sky. Not one cloud. She prayed. But not to the absent god. Never, never again to the absent god, but to the absent clouds, she prayed. And to the empty sky. She prayed for rain.”
Why rain? We see a new religion here, significantly to the rain. This prayer links Mrs. Noyes, and Mottyl, and all the women of the ark not to the flood, but to fertility. Not death, but life. Consider the significance of this final prayer. What does it mean? Does it speak of hope or fear? Both? We see here a last denunciation of the old God, set against a tapestry of her own fears for the future. What will happen when they find land? More experiments? More cats to blind? More apes to throw overboard?
An Old Woman and Her Cat “Watch with me, Motty- you blind and me with eyes, beneath the moon. We’re here, dear. No matter what- we’re here. And- damn it all- I guess we’re here to stay.” Noah wants to find land, wants more cats to blind, for everything to start all over again. “No!” she said. There is something in this simple bond that defies all the Noahs of the world and all their murderous folly. There is strength here, resolve, resilience, compassion, and an understanding that we have to look out for each other. Mrs. Noyes is a alternative image of permanence, contrasting Yaweh; she is timeless. She and her cat have been here for 721 years, and are still here, suggesting an earth-born yet powerful faith.
Square One Had to find some higher ground, Had some fear to get around You can't say what you don't know Later on won't work no more Last time through I hid my tracks So well, I could not get back Yeah my way was hard to find, Can't sell yourself a piece of mind Square one, my slate is clear Rest your head on me my dear It took a world of trouble Took a world of tears It took a long time to get back here
Square One It's a dark victory, You won and you also lost Told us you were satisfied But it never came across Square one, my slate is clear Rest your head on me my dear It took a world of trouble, Took a world of tears It took a long time to get back here
Final Remarks The truth is, there are only fictions. This construction or way of viewing versus that construction, or that construction. And some fictions are preferable to others: for these people, in this place, at this time, Lucy’s, and Emma’s, and Mrs.Noyes’ fictions are preferable to Noah’s, aren’t they? The novel’s rhetoric encourages us to accept their rhetoric. The novel also reminds us that Genesis is a fiction- but then so is the novel.
As pretty as a paper whale... Like Noah’s rainbow, Not Wanted on the Voyage is made of paper, too. So what, or whom, do we want on the voyage? That is the central question. All acts, all world views, all constructions inevitably exclude something and someone, because not everything can be equally valued at once, and we seem to be able to define ourselves only by our differences to them. But we can choose ways that are less exclusionary than others, less violent, less anthropocentric, less misogynistic, less fascist.
And in the end.......... Because maybe that is what it’s all about. Maybe there is only us, our own small ark slowly spinning in a godless sky. Maybe the world will be what we make of it. No second chances. No divine figure to intercede and set us straight again. Only us.