Frozen Fire: Identity and its Connection to Grief

[(Dated 6/6/2012) Through this essay, S.C. will examine the symbol of identity and how that symbol relates to the grief of the characters in Tim Bowler’s novel Frozen Fire.]

In the novel Frozen Fire, Tim Bowler uses the identity, or lack of identity, of ‘the boy’ to illustrate how different individuals deal with grief or hardships. ‘The boy’ in the novel has no specific name or identity, and through vague descriptions, becomes a scapegoat for multiple rapes and kidnappings of teenage girls. Dusty, the protagonist, also connects to the boy, but instead of through a crime, the boy becomes Dusty’s only connection to her missing brother Josh, her source of grief. Though the boy is infamous, his identity remains a mystery throughout the novel, as does his own personal grief. This lack of identity strengthens the claims, since the need for specifics is nonexistent, and the legitimacy of these claims rests on the supposed victims. Friends and distant family of these victims create a lynch mob brought together by grief, and aim to bring justice to the boy all while Dusty attempts to find Josh and not get dragged into the grief induced hatred. Through identity, Tim Bowler exemplifies human grief and the extremes it can reach when the cause of their grief cannot be specifically identified.

On a midnight phone call, Dusty first meets the boy, originally assuming it would be her father calling, one of many identities the boy is confused for. Through a half-drunk conversation with the boy, Dusty learns this boy knows something about Josh and vows to find him so she may learn where Josh ran away to- Josh’s disappearance caused anguish among her family, resulting in her mother walking out, and her father becoming a jobless clutter of misery. The boy, after prodding, falsely admits his name is Josh, startling Dusty and drawing her deeper into the mystery of the boy. Later in the conversation the boy claims that he has “got lots of names” (Bowler 7) which only intensifies the lack of identity of the boy.

Through multiple meetings and conversations, Dusty becomes increasingly obsessed with the boy, tying him and Josh together in a desperate attempt to find Josh where “Something told her that he [the boy] was the key to the mystery of Josh” (136). Dusty’s grief over Josh’s disappearance becomes her driving force for protecting the boy from the lynch mob and the police, ignoring the danger from both the mob and the boy. The boy’s lack of identity and knowledge of Josh turn Dusty’s grief into an unhealthy fascination for the boy in for whom Dusty disregards her safety and essentially the safety of her family in order to unearth Josh and find his location.

The boy himself contains his own grief, shown through his attempted suicide and his statements of, “’I said I’m dying. I didn’t say I wanted to live” (2). The boy’s grief is continued through a conversation with Dusty in which he says:
‘I don’t know anything.’ The boy’s voice felt like breath upon a window. ‘Who I am or what I am. I don’t know if I’m alive or dead. I only know that I am.’
‘And what do you want?’
‘To cease.’
‘To cease what?’
‘Cease to be.’ (200).
This grief stems from who he is, or isn’t. There are times when he walks in the snow and leaves footprints thirty feet away from the last, and times when he escapes from locked rooms, cars, or even jail, showing an ethereal existence. The boy’s identity is at times nonexistent, yet there are times as well when he becomes others through his words. The boy speaks Josh’s last words of “’I’m sorry little Dusty. Good-bye, little Dusty’” (303) as well as the common words of Jonah, Dusty’s neighbor’s deceased brother, “Give ‘em hell, kid. Never say die’” (143) both phrases that were never shared with others. At times, the boy takes on identities of those most grieved over in specific phrases said and thus “’might have been anyone. Or no one at all’” (39). Through grief, the boy becomes others, speaking the words of those most grieved over, or becoming the identity that helps people, such as Silas or Dusty, get over the loss of loved ones.

The lynch mob itself is a group comprised of grief stricken people, each with their own reason for wanting the boy brought to justice. The most prominent of the mob is Jethro Haynes, the step-father of Angelica, one of the girls allegedly raped. Angelica, only seeing the light hair of her attacker, becomes convinced that it was the boy who raped her, making him the scapegoat while Haynes’s grief over Angelica’s rape turns into anger, and the anger becomes aimed at the boy. The boy’s lack of identity becomes the reason he is accused of rape, and becomes the reason he is hated by so many. When speaking to Dusty, Haynes mentions Dusty’s protection of the boy, and the rest of the mob’s hatred towards the boy:
‘Then let’s talk about your folly,’ said the man. ‘Because you’re a bit crazy in the head too.’ He leaned closer. ‘Now listen. This is personal. Someone I care about has been badly hurt. And the person who hurt her is the person you seem to want to protect. O for me, it’s very simple. I need to find that boy.’
The man’s eyes hardened.
‘And I need to find him before those other people get him. They’ve got their own grievances and that in itself should make you question why what you’re doing keeping quiet. But I can’t be thinking of them.’ The man paused. ‘Or you. I must have the boy first- before anyone else. And I won’t let you or anyone else stop me doing that.’ (270).
Haynes, through his words, proves how grief can turn into anger, and thus into an obsession, one unhealthy like Dusty’s, which Haynes also questions. The grief of Haynes stems from Angelica’s accusation of the boy through vague pictures in her mind tying to vague descriptions of the boy. Angelica’s grief causes Haynes’s grief, which only adds to the grief of the boy while all of this grief is caused by the boy’s lack of identity.

Tim Bowler’s novel Frozen Fire demonstrates the relationship between grief and identity, in this case lack of identity. The boy in the novel, owning no identity, and sometimes taking on the identity of others in speech patterns, becomes the center of grief in the novel. Though the boy himself does not cause any of the grief, he becomes a scapegoat for the grief of others, resulting in him being either hated or obsessed over in the search to be freed from personal pain.
[S.C. 2012]





Storm Catchers: Mythological Allusions and the Human Emotion

[(Dated 6/6/2012) Through this essay, S.C. will examine the mythological allusion to the Furies and the relevance to the lives and emotions of the characters in Tim Bowler’s novel Storm Catchers.]

In the novel Storm Catchers, Tim Bowler uses a mythological allusion to the Three Furies to emphasize the emotions the characters are dealing with as well as the circumstances they are forced to confront in their lives. A group of three islands, named The Furies, stands as an important setting in the novel, but also brings the Three Furies allusion into the novel. The role of Three Furies from Greek Mythology was to punish those who committed great sin such as adultery or murder, though as time passed, they persecuted people for less vicious crimes. The most important crime the Furies took vengeance for was a crime committed inside the family, just as what happened in Fin’s family. The allusion to the Three Furies brings in the idea of vengeance for sin, but also the idea of being driven mad for such sin, affecting the life of whoever is afflicted.

The Three Furies retaliated for the sins of patricide, matricide, and the breaking of an oath. In the novel, Fin’s father committed the sin of adultery, falling into the category of the breaking of an oath. For over fourteen years, Fin’s father hid the fact that he had an adulterous relationship with one of his employees, Lindy Prescott, later claiming that “’The affair only lasted a few weeks. We both knew it wasn’t going anywhere’” (Bowler 174). Nine months later, Fin’s father discovered that Lindy had given birth to a girl, saying:
“’…Lindy had had a little girl… I called Lindy, It was the first time we’d spoken together since she’s left the store. She said she’d had a daughter. She was called Imogen. I asked if the girl was mine. She said yes.’” (175).
Despite the birth of an illegitimate child, the first genuine punishment came when a drunk by the name of Kelman brought photographs proving the affair. Kelman blackmailed Fin’s father and for months, Fin’s father gave Kelman money to keep the photographs out of public view and from the view of his family. Then the accident occurred in which Imogen fell from a cliff and died in an attempt to run from Fin’s father; now, not only was Fin’s father an adulterer, but he assisted in the murder of a young girl: his daughter. Kelman continued, acting as one of the Three Fates, slowly driving Fin’s father mad. A larger sum was given to Kelman, and this time, he disappeared for ten years. Just as Fin’s father began to believe that Kelman was gone, he returned, bringing back the pain, madness and torment of his adultery and abetted filicide. The allusion of the Three Furies embodied in Kelman forces Fin’s father to cope with his sins as they eat him away from the inside.

Imogen Prescott’s older brother, Ricky, is the second embodiment of the Three Fates in the novel, acting as a more vicious driving force in the life of Fin’s father. Ricky, after discovering the truth encircling Imogen’s death, vows to take revenge by killing Ella, the legitimate daughter of Fin’s father, and then eventually kill Fin’s father. Ella explains this, saying:
“’He [Ricky] wanted to make you suffer… It was never about the money. He just asked for that so he could spin everything out and make you squirm. He was always going to throw it away. He told me…. He thought it was his fault his sister died. When he found out it wasn’t, all he wanted was revenge. He said he always intended to kill me… He said I had to die. It was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. He wanted you to live. He wanted you to feel the same guilt he’s felt. He was going to send you an anonymous note telling you where my body was and saying it was your fault that I died. Then he was going to come back ten years from now and kill you, too.’” (181- 183).
Ricky planned to kill Ella and make Fin’s father live with the guilt that it was his fault Ella had died, further pushing him into a pit of madness. Through Ricky’s detailed planning of the torment of Fin’s father, the truth that Ricky served as one of the Three Fates in the novel is further solidified.

The last of the three fates in the novel is one that Fin’s father never sees, but instead, Sam, Fin’s brother sees throughout the novel. This third fate is the ghost of Imogen Prescott, who appears to Sam as an untouchable apparition of shining light, always teasing Sam. Imogen’s ghost, though indirectly impacting Fin’s father, directly impacts Ricky through Sam’s repetition of Imogen’s words of “’You’ve got to catch the storm before it catches you’” (98). This phrase, only known to Imogen, deepens the madness that Ricky was already falling into. Ricky, though his only crime was kidnapping, was chosen as the prey for the Three Fates as he planned the murder of Ella. Yet as he was about to kill Ella, he said “’He was sorry, he couldn’t do it, and he put the gun in his mouth’” (183) and attempted suicide, though was stopped by Ella before the bullet would kill him. The madness of the Three Fates drove Ricky to kidnapping, then to attempted suicide.

The mythological allusion of Three Fates in the novel Storm Catchers, illustrates how the vengeance and madness of the Three Fates affects the lives and emotions of the characters in the novel. The Three Fates of jealousy, vengeance, and unrest each make an appearance in the novel in the form of Kelman, Ricky, and the ghost of Imogen, each driving a different character into a different level of madness as well as impacting the lives of all involved, be it directly or indirectly, in the sin.
[S.C. 2012]