Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue Water Djinn by Téa Obreht

Blue Water Djinn

There is a sense of pervading isolation in this story starting with the main character a young boy named Jack. Little Jack is left alone at a hotel in an Arabic country . He is placed in a context of a foreign country, immersed within a foreign culture amid a hotel with foreigners from different countries all as displaced and separate as he is but perhaps more so because he is the only child. He lives in the hotel alone with little supervision from adults which enables him to slip in and out at night and witness the drowning of one of characters labeled the Frenchman. Unable to make sense of this adult drama he keeps this secret to himself as he watches everyone search for the disappeared man whose clothes have washed up on the shore. The secret further separates him from those around him and weighs heavily on him.

The Frenchman like Jack is also isolated by being in a foreign country, but also being set apart from everyone by his substantial weight. When they find his clothes washed ashore they laugh at the size as they lay it on the sand, he is considered more of a joke then a person. The Frenchman does not have a real identity or a name and is instead referred to solely by humorous references to his portly size and his nationality.

The Frenchman’s drawings of things caught in the fisherman’s net is a symbol of creatures pulled out their habitat similar to the plight of the main characters: the boy and the Frenchman. It also speaks of the creatures final separation from earth, death. The Frenchman is aware of what they symbolize as the author describes him “There was something cowed and lonely in the Frenchman’s face when he looked at the things that came out of the water.” Then later again he is confronted by a turtle which has been hurt and pulled out of its habitat which it struggles with great effort to return to as it takes eight men to hold it in place. Again the Frenchman is aware of the turtles isolation as the author describes the scene through Jacks eyes. The Frenchman clearly wanted to touch the turtle, but the struggle on the beach made that impossible. The phrases bespeak of isolation of being ripped from the familiar but also the isolation found in death when the Frenchman questions the hotel employees about the crack on it’s back. He experiences a sense of lonely association with this suffering animal but even here he cannot touch it or connect with it because of the situation.

In the last scene the child is again alone on the beach at night looking through the port hole of sunken boat for the Djinn that the hotel employees have told him reside there which is off limits to all guests because of the dangers it represents. He is able to access the boat because of the low tide and we wonder if the tide will come in seperating Jack from the living like the Frenchman.

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