Monday, March 9, 2009

Essay on "The Fix" by Percival Everett

In human history, there has no book that has been held in such high regard as the Bible. It tells stories that people live their lives by and strive to embody. Among the many stories though, there has been one in particular that may be the most relatable to the world. The story of Jesus touches many people’s hearts with the aspects of his miracles, sacrifice, death, and resurrection. Countless stories in the world, whether it be told by cinema, voice, or literature have had roots planted in at least the basic premise of Jesus’ tale. Based such things as the characters, point of view of narrator, and plot layout of Percival Everett’s “the Fix”, this story is new age spin on the telling of Jesus’ story.

While reading the story “the Fix,” I noticed many things that stuck out to me as not only great writing, but writing that reminded me of a new-age Bible story and one aspect of plot that showed this was the characters in the story. First of all, the narrator is not the protagonist. Granted, this story is not told from Douglas’ point of view but the narrator is only omniscient of Douglas. This is an odd thing for a book and was used in many books of the New Testament in the Bible. Throughout the stories of the Bible, the narrators tell of following Jesus for whatever reasons with eye witness descriptions of Jesus’ feelings and acts but the readers never get his personal perspective. Coming right out of this, I would like to point out how the author also uses the motivation of all of the characters in the story to parallel the stories of the Bible. Douglas’ character is obviously a parallel to one of Jesus’ disciples since he is motivated to stay with and be loyal to Sherman for reasons even he has trouble understanding at times. He just has faith in the fact that Sherman is a good man and that he isn’t any kind of threat to anyone. This is how many of the disciples found themselves following Jesus as well. Though they witnessed many astonishing miracles at the hands of Jesus that scared some of the smaller characters in the Bible, they stayed with him to learn more about him and show their devotion. All of the other characters in the story (besides Sherman and Douglas) seem to be flat characters who only want Sherman around for his ability to fix things so well. The same can be said in the Bible since, many times, the Bible will in fact just label a character as where they came from or what sickness they have since there is a basic stereotype that people can classify them with when given that information. Their motivation in this story and in the Bible is just to come to Jesus, or Sherman, with some kind of problem that they want him to fix.

The Fix is also able to relate to that of the Bible is the obvious connection that Sherman is Jesus in this story. In the Bible Jesus, like Sherman, just shows up one day and no one knows anything about him. Throughout both of the stories, spectators of the astonishing events question Sherman and Jesus on how he is able to do such things and about things in their past. Yet, in both stories, neither Sherman nor Jesus relinquish too much about themselves. The only things said are the things that leave the person questioning confused and only wondering more. One example of this is when Sherman states, “If you irrigate a desert, you might empty a sea… I am the empty sea.” (143) in regards to how fixing things is a tricky business when Douglas questions why Sherman won’t just fix everything brought to him. A quote like this could be seen as a parable such as one that Jesus would say. For example, there is one parable Jesus tells in which he is represented by a seed and the world is symbolized by a brier of thorns in which the seed of good will be strangled by the thorns as it tries to grow. One can see the great resemblance between the two stories in how Sherman or Jesus try to do something for the world and are destroyed by doing so. Lastly, of course, there is the parallel of their deaths in front of large crowds. This is the only place that, on the surface, their stories differ slightly. In the Bible, Jesus dies on the cross for the world’s sake to save them from their own sins, thusly saving the world. Sherman, on the other hand, steps off the bridge to get away from the mob of people wanting him to fix them. His reasoning would seem much more selfish than Jesus’. Keeping that in mind, it could be said that Sherman still helped the world in that story. When people didn’t know about Sherman, they still managed to live their lives but, once Sherman arrived, everything needed to be fixed and nothing was good enough. By dying that night, Sherman helped the world go back into its original groove in which people had to deal with the world and whatever it gave them.

Another way that this story parallels those of the Bible is the characterization and journey of Douglas, himself. At first he is a simple man who owns a sandwich store and is content with the life he is settling for. In this way, he is like many of the disciples who were just common fishermen who were content until they met Jesus and wanted more from life. As soon as Sherman, or Jesus, is introduced into stories, the narrator’s life always changes in more ways than they could imagine. From this change, as I have said previously, the narrator finds himself following the mysterious man for reasons that are based on their faith. Even when others are saying that there is something dangerous or odd about Sherman, Douglas stands by him and hardly ever second guesses the decision. Towards the end of the story, when Sherman revives the dead woman, Douglas shows the extent of his loyalty by being shocked into fear for only a moment before returning to looking out for Sherman. In this way, Douglas has an epiphany in regards to Sherman that the disciples had with Jesus towards the beginning and middle of the Bible stories. All of them see that this person they have chosen to follow or remain loyal to is someone more powerful and special than any random person. This new way of thinking helps Douglas to try and understand the pressures and pains of Sherman fixing everything that is brought to him. By the end of the story, Douglas understands that Sherman has to die to be able to get out of the trouble he is in and accepts it. The disciples faced a fairly similar situation when Jesus informed him that he would, in fact, die on the cross for their sins. After he is captured and taken, the disciples find it in themselves to let it happen since they know it couldn’t happen any other way.

Another major way I noticed a parallel in the Bible and that of this story was the way in which the tension develops throughout the story by using people gossiping. In the Bible, Jesus goes across the country doing wondrous miracles of curing illness, restoring sight to the blind and even bringing people back from the dead. When he does these fantastic things, it is said that Jesus often told people to not spread the story of what he had done and just to praise God. The people did not listen though and spread the word which eventually helped to lead to his death on the cross. In this story, as well, Sherman makes his way (apparently across the nation) fixing toys, relationships, and people in general. The story mentions Sherman not accepting any sort of payment for his actions, such as on page one hundred and thirty-nine with the man and the razor, and not wanting any sort of news spread. The rising action peaks when Sherman revives the dead woman. Though he pleads for the ambulance driver and Douglas to not tell anyone, the people spread the word. Much like Jesus, the news spreading of what he can do eventually leads to Sherman’s death.

Sherman Olney’s story in “the Fix” by Percival Everett can be seen as a parallel to the story of Jesus Christ in the Bible. The characters, plot, and even events parallel each other in a way that cannot be ignored. Just as Jesus’ story touches many people’s hearts, so too does Sherman’s story of giving to people until he couldn’t bear to give anymore. Such stories will forever be in the world’s society and will always be held in high regard for their greatness.

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