Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is Desiderio Supposed to Be Angela Carter?

As I was looking over The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman again, for another class, I noticed something very peculiar that I didn't think about before. Desiderio says, "Well, I walked the heels out of my silk socks and the soles off my patent leather pumps and I fell down to sleep and rose to walk again until this filthy scarecrow in ragged evening dress, his matted hair falling over his shoulders and his gaunt jaw sprouting unkempt beard, his lapel still stuck through with a blackened rose of stiffened blood—until I saw before me, one moonlit dawn, the smoking ruins of a familiar city" (Carter 221). This quote is on the very last page, and it happens after Desiderio has destroyed the desire machines.


In the quote, we see the result of the desire machines in the destruction of the city—the destruction cannot be erased just because the machines are now inoperable (the damage is done)—but it is interesting that, after the machines are gone, we see the real/true form of the scarecrow. This appearance is something that can change, because it is just an appearance; nothing has been done to affect it (no damage), at least we can assume. The scarecrow is now wearing an evening dress and sports a beard (meaning it is no longer just a skull; it has substance, skin). Moreover, the real shocker is that Desiderio mentions "his" "patent leather pumps" and "silky socks" (panty hose?). Thus, is he, in reality, a woman? Is "he" really a projection of Angela Carter herself? If so, how/why does Desiderio become a man when the machine gets switched on (Is this even important? Can/should we answer it?), and does anyone else's gender change after the machine powers on? We know for certain that Albertina's gender and form/shape changes throughout the book, so it seems possible. Am I seeing something that isn't there? We could probably argue that the comments about silk socks and pumps only suggest some kind of weakness or tiredness, that Desiderio is like a spoiled (rich) kid with nice things who happens to be tired (and is thus complaining, like Wilhemina in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). What do you think?

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