Vincent’s Struggles

Berlant suggests that Vincent “acts mannerly with his children, Oedipal with his parents, softly masculine with his wife—doing whatever it takes to protect the privilege of drifting without entirely drifting off, or going off the cliff”(221). If we look deeper into this, we see that Vincent uses his different roles, as a husband, son and a father, to navigate through a world where he does not have to get super close to those around him. Vincent is navigating through a world which he is in the constant state of drifting off, but still somehow hanging on. If we look at each of these relationships, we can see how Vincent uses them to gain some sort of footing in a capital stock, be that social or emotional.

Vincent has a very mannerly relationship with his children, like Berlant stated. Every time we see Vincent interact with his children it seems as though he is going through the motions. The scene where Vincent gives his eldest son, Julien the money to buy himself clothing is a good example of this. Vincent feels that in order to be a good father, he needs to provide financially to his children without being present. Vincent is lacking in the emotional capital that helps him form more unifying bonds with his children. Instead, Vincent feels that him “working” and being able to give his children money for clothes, makes him a hands on father. Julien, in this scene, you can tell by his body language is put off by his fathers lack of intimacy. You can tell Julien appreciates the money, but at the same time his face looks very disappointed, as it is apparent that Julien would rather spend time with his father than receive money. One of the very last scenes with Vincent and his children shows the unraveling that Vincent has done in his relationship with not only his children but his whole family. When Vincent returns home from his heated exchange with Jefferey, his children seem to fear him. The children’s weariness towards their father shows how much his absence has created a strange place between himself and his family. Vincent has spent so much time focusing on how to make money and seem as though he is keeping busy that he has lost any emotional connection with his children and his wife.

With his wife Muriel, Vincent portrays the role of the masculine figure. Once Vincent lost his job, it is apparent that he felt as though he lost a certain part of his manhood. In patriarchal societies, it is expected that men go out and earn the money, while the wives stay at home with the children, and when this gets shifted on its head, Vincent has no idea what to do. When Vincent takes Muriel to Geneva to view the “apartment” that he has bought is an example of Vincent using his masculine power over his wife. Vincent knows that he does not have an apartment, but an empty shack that he’s been staying at, playing with Muriel in a deceptive way. The way Vincent wants to impress his children with money and new clothes, Vincent wants his wife to believe that he is the ideal masculine husband, who has the perfect job and has enough money to treat his family to nice things. Vincent is afraid that Muriel wont accept him if he told her that he had lost his job. In his mind, he needs to keep up the image that he is the husband he’s always been, but now with a better, mysterious job.

All of these relationships Vincent is trying to navigate, while trying to keep himself afloat, tie into his emotional capital. Vincent uses these relationships to gain what he feels he needs to get ahead in life. With his ex-school mates and acquaintances, Vincent uses their networks to gain leverage in his UN business. Vincent also uses them to cover for the fact that he actually is not working in a legitimate office. Through these networks Vincent is using them to build up his social capital. Vincent’s relationship with his family allows him to be immersed in emotional capital, but not take full stock in the emotional capital that his family provides for him.

The idea that is brought up by Berlant that Vincent’s behavior with each of his different family members allows him to drift without entirely drifting off plays into the idea that Vincent is not present in his own world. Throughout the film we view Vincent driving alone, writing alone, studying alone, showing how much time Vincent spends in his own quiet abyss. In these private, alone spaces, Vincent checks in with his family every now and then, but this asks the question of how much does his family actually mean to him? Vincent seems to have really high expectations for himself in the business world, but does not seem to have the actual drive to go out and get an actual job that will allow him to feel powerful in the business world. The very end scene where Vincent is offered a job where he is overseeing a group of people, we see a very cold and almost calculated look upon his face. One could read this as Vincent being optimistic for the future, but for me I see Vincent not wanting this job, even though it will bring him the status that he wants to provide for his family. This scene we see another example of Vincent drifting without falling off the cliff. Which begs to ask the question if Vincent will ever be truly satisfied with his life?


Coward in the pale light of April

In chapter IV of Henry James’s novella “The Beast in the Jungle,” Marcher visits Bartram feeling a “sadness sharper than all the greyest hours of autumn” (54). Marcher is aware of Bartram’s fading beauty and health—while also selfishly stressing the fact that her watch for the “beast” is still so important to him. During the visit the two go back and fourth, taking turns dancing around the topic of Marcher’s fate to come, his “beast” waiting to pounce: he asks her has the “beast” appeared already. He is taken aback when Bartram “rose from her chair—a movement she seldom risked herself in these days” in order to punctuate her point: “I’m with you—don’t you see?—still…I haven’t forsaken you” (57). Marcher is disconcerted by her actions, and begins to doubt his fortune, asking her “I haven’t waited but to see the door shut in my face?” (58). She reassures him “The door isn’t shut. The door’s open.” Marcher unwittingly asks, “Then something’s to come?” Bartram patiently opens her answer “It’s never too late” (58). James’s language here attempts to hint at possibilities, but only rather lightly—that is to say, it fails to be obvious or forward. The author’s dialogue between the two hints at a distance between the two—Marcher is confused and looking for guidance, and Bartram is reluctantly presenting herself as an option to Marcher’s sought after illusion—something that Marcher misunderstands.

James uses Bartram’s body language and direction to clue both Marcher and the reader in. After her reply to Marcher’s question, there is a “diminished…distance between them” and James’s narration offers that her “movement might have been for some finer emphasis of what she was at once hesitating and deciding to say” (59). I think that Marcher is aware of his cowardice when he asks these questions to Bartram, that is why they are so deliberately self-deprecating. It seems that Bartram doesn’t state the obvious in order not to wound her confused suitor, but to invite Marcher’s inclinations in hopes that he may see her as an opportunity for love and reach out. Marcher is too timid to reach out and grab his “beast”—instead he is hopelessly talking himself in circles, failing to read Bartram’s subtexts and offer himself a confident translation. It’s as if his character has made such a habit of relying on passivity—in terms of living his life—that he is willing to ignore the clues that beg for him to make a move. He is paralyzed by the presentation of his own fate—talking himself out of whether it is present because he wouldn’t know what to do if it were. Marcher has become so complacent that he is in actual fear of living life more actively. Marcher’s meek, misguided actions in this chapter are proof of his fear of commitment, his fear of love.