The Lacuna

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by eashipman
Last updated 4 years ago

Discipline:
Language Arts
Subject:
Book Reports
Grade:
11

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The Lacuna

"An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery. Every day, more fragments of the past roll around heavily in the chambers of an empty brain, shedding bits of color, a sentence or a fragrance, something that changes and then disappears" (Kingsolver 258).

Harrison leaves his mother soon after, and finds a job mixing plaster for Diego Rivera, but later leaves to live with his father. His father sends him to a boarding school, where Harrison is easily bored. The next journal, we find, was burned, leaving no knowledge of what happened at Harrison at the school with a fellow student named “Bull’s Eyes”, but clues later on signify that the two might have had a relationship. After Harrison graduates, he moves back to Mexico, and becomes a typist, secretary, cook, and spy for the Rivera household. He forms a close friendship with Frida Kahlo, Diego’s wife. They later give refuge to Lev Trotsky, who was a communist leader exiled by Stalin. During this time, Harrison starts a draft of his first book, which is a fiction about Aztec times. When Trotsky brings his wife, Natalia, and his secretary, Van, to the Rivera household, tension brews. Diego and Natalia have an affair, while Harrison falls in love with Van, although the former is unaware of his affections. When Trotsky is assassinated, Harrison, driven with guilt at the death of his friend, flees to America to begin a new life. Frieda gives him a painting to bring across the border as an excuse to return there.

"The most important part of a story is the piece of it you don't know" (Kingsolver 494).

"Every day it seems possible to walk to the door. This time, step out. But the sidewalk leads to a bridge across a precipice ... the red-bellied spider pulls itself into a hole in the plank. Every hole could have something like that inside" (Kingsolver 326).

"What we end up calling history is a kind of knife, slicing down through time. A few people are hard enough to bend its edge. But most won't even stand close to the blade. I'm one of those. We don't bend anything" (Kingsolver 360).

"The purpose of art is to elevate the spirit, or pay a surgeon's bill. Or both, really. It can help a person remember or forget" (Kingsolver 488).

"His life was a marvel, whether he knew that or didn't ... He was so afraid of living, yet live he did. That's a monument. He wrote about those who came before, giving flesh to their cares. He was driven to it" (Kingsolver 507).

"What you don't know can't hurt you, they say. Yet it can. So much hangs upon it" (Kingsolver 505).

The Lacuna

He settles in Asheville, North Carolina, and works on his book, becoming a reclusive bachelor. He publishes his first book, then hires Violet Brown, who is later revealed to have burned the missing diary, as his secretary when all of the letters from admirers become too much for him. Harrison earns nationwide acclaim for his book, titled “Vassals of Majesty”. When he publishes his second book, “Pilgrims of Chapultepec”, the symbolism of the question of the atomic bomb causes the House of Anti-American Activities to become suspicious of him. He thinks that remaining aloof and silent will protect him, but the press paints him as an anti-American, and the people gradually turn on him. He wants Violet to burn his diaries, but she is revealed to have hidden them away, not believing that he should erase his entire life. He and Violet take a research trip to Merida, which the newspapers then insinuate that they are together. Harrison’s on-and-off-again lover, Tommy Cuddy, leaves him when he is further investigated by the F.B.I. Everyone thinks that he is a communist, and the public wants him arrested. On a visit to Isla Pixol with Violet, Harrison accidentally drowns while swimming. Violet, grieving and faithful, returns to Asheville. Later, she receives a letter from Frieda, hinting that Harrison merely faked his death. Relieved, Violet puts the diaries in a safety deposit box, and gives the bank instructions to not open it until fifty years has passed, and all the parties involved are dead.

The Lacuna is about the life story of a 12 year old, half-Mexican, half-American boy named Harrison William Shepherd, through the years 1929 to 1951. The book is written as a series of journals documenting Harrison’s life and thoughts, as well as newspaper clippings, letters, and “editor’s notes”. A year before the start of the novel, Harrison’s mother left his father in Washington D.C. and brought him to live with her new boyfriend in Isla Pixol, in Mexico. Harrison and his mother are initially terrified of what they think are demons howling in the trees, but turn out to be howler monkeys, leading Salome, the mother, to buy Harrison a journal to write about them so that something of them will remain after they have died. While they are at Isla Pixol, Salome sulks about her life, and Harrison befriends the cook, who teaches him how to cook. Harrison reads everything he can get his hands on, but prefers old American books that his father gave him. The cook gives Harrison a diving mask, and Harrison takes up diving, and learns how to hold his breath. He finds a lacuna, a tunnel leading into darkness, and makes it his mission to discover where it goes. For weeks, he tries to figure out the pattern of the tides, and he eventually makes it through the tunnel, to find that it is a cenote, where Aztecs left sacrifices to their gods. Salome eventually leaves her lover for another, bringing Harrison along with her to Mexico City, where they live in a small, shabby apartment.


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