Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 49, 50

49.0 In the basement apartment, Dr. Kronski prepares to give Stasia a physical examination, but his assumption that this is all some set-up for sexual mischief is apparent. Mona’s concern, for the sexually predatory nature of Kronski’s words, is justified when Stasia cries “Rape!” from behind closed doors.

49.1 hermaphrodite
Before Stasia’s examination, Dr. Kronski (9.2) rather rudely jokes that he may discover that she’s a hermaphrodite. See 17.2 for Miller’s previous description of Stasia being both male and female.

49.2 rudimentary tail
Along with the statement above, Kronski jokes that he may detect basic evidence of the existence of a tail on Stasia. As with any human, he would find her tailbone (coccyx), perhaps even an elongated one, which some evolutionists believe is a vestigial organ: a useless remnant of our biological past. Kronski is not being scientific, of course; his exaggeration is a dehumanizing insult, implying that Stasia is a freak of nature, probably meant as a judgment of her sexual orientation or nature. One can’t be sure of this reflects the opinions of Kronski (Emil Conason) or are simply those of Miller, embedded in Kronski’s characterization.

49.3 examination
The whole point of this physical exam was due to a challenge initiated from Stasia in 48.6, for Kronski to “explore [her] anatomy” (instead of her submitting to a psychological exam). I don’t quite understand her motivation, so I don’t really get the surprise and offense that propels the psychodrama of this whole scene. Are the women (and Henry) playing childish games with Kronski (i.e. is he being baited and misled), or is Kronski a straight-up rapist? (p.50)

49.4 “if were a fancy house”
I have only one edition of Nexus (Grove Press, 1987) from which to compare Kronski’s line “You’d be better off if were a fancy house.” My knowledge of technical grammar rules is not perfect, but it seems to me that there’s a typo here: it should be, I think, this were a fancy house.” This is Kronski’s sneering response to Mona’s criticism that he’s acting as if he were in a bordel, and not a doctor’s office. A fancy house is just another term for brothel or whore-house; according to Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, it was used from the late 19th-century to the 1930s. By saying that Mona would be “better off,” Kronski is calling her a whore, although he states that Stasia is even more suited to the role.

49.5 long room
As Kronski continues his examination from behind closed doors, Mona nervously paces in the apartment with Henry. I mention this here merely to help construct the dimensions of their Henry Street apartment (see note 9.15). As a basement apartment, it would be long, as it would extend the length of the house above them.

50.0 Henry and Mona catch Kronski in the act of trying to forcefully mount Stasia. Defending himself against criticism that he’s a bastard and sadist, Kronski threatens that, if he were mean, he would have them all locked up in a mental asylum for this farce of moral turpitude. Embarrassed, Stasia snaps at Mona, whom she feels is treating her like a child.

50.1 landlady
The landlady at Henry Street is first mentioned here on page 50, although she will re-appear on several pages of Nexus: 173, 182, 186, 191, 195, 223-225, 274, and 305. Her name is Mrs. Skolsky (p.195), and she will be examined later for the more significant references. Here, Henry is simply worried that the commotion of Mona and Stasia screaming at Kronski will prompt the appearance of the landlady with a clever.

50.2 “too normal”
Kronski doesn’t understand why he is being verbally and physically assaulted by Mona and Stasia for his apparent sexual assault. He doesn’t understand "the fuss," stating that her exam proved her to be “normal.” In fact, he admits, he was “excited” by the fact that she was “too normal.” This phrase is up for interpretation, but my guess is that he thought he was being used to test for her heterosexual tendencies and found, he believed (we don’t know what happened behind those doors) that those sexual impulses for men were more than normal, they were actively enthusiastic. Explaining his excitement, Kronski shouts, “What’s wrong with that?” Again, Stasia either encouraged him behind closed doors, or he is rationalizing his sexual assault with a false, deluded “she was asking for it” defense. We’ll see, with Stasia’s bizarre reaction to follow on page 51, how it’s quite possible that she presented Kronski with a schizophrenic scenario.

50.3 “I chimed in”
Henry comes to Kronski’s defense by agreeing, “Yeah, what’s wrong with that?” I’m not sure what to make of Henry’s reaction. Either Henry is playing his part in this somewhat surreal psychodrama (as is Stasia, apparently), or else, presented with an apparent rape-in-progress, is indifferent because he’s in agreement with the “she was asking for it”-type, jerk mentality. Again, page 51 will seriously put sympathy for Stasia into question, as she may just be playing games (or maybe she's crazy). It’s worth noting as well that Kronksi tells Henry that, by doing this, he was doing him “a good turn,” implying that his actions were motivated by a request for a favour from Henry.

50.4 belfry
This is, of course, a reference to the “bats in the belfry” metaphor for insanity: the top part of a church steeple (head) is occupied by bats (disprution). “It’s her belfry that needs looking into,” says Kronski regarding Stasia. He offers to look into her belfry, but is not sure what it would prove.

50.5 moral turpitude
Kronski then threatens to have all three of them locked up in an instant, for moral turpitude. This American legal concept is still being used to deny foreign travel or immigration entrance to the U.S., described as “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals,” such as behaviour deemed to involve “inherent baseness or vileness, shameful wickedness, depravity….” Kronski claims they wouldn’t have a “leg to stand on” in defense, but states that his lack of meanness and their friendship prevents him from taking this course of action.

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