Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates Themes
Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates has as its core the universal theme of good versus evil; however in this book, neither good nor evil wins; it is a draw. The central point of the text is that in order for good to exist, evil must exist in tandem. The idea of the co-existence of good and evil in all things answers some of the difficult questions raised in this book: How is it that a holy institution like the Roman Catholic Church can be corrupt? How should one view the modern fascination with the Virgin Mary, when she appears only a few times, in passing, in the Bible? Why would a CIA agent take drugs and lust after his stepsister? Switters sees no conflict in these questions; he sees the good and evil in things simultaneously. Rather than fearing or fighting evil, he embraces the inherent good and bad in all that he does. He finds that "no matter how valid, how vital, one's belief system might be, one undermines that system and ultimately negates it when one gets rigid and dogmatic in one's adherence to it." So the danger is dogmatism, not evil.
This contrast, at least according to Switters, illuminates a related theme, the pursuit of enlightenment. Laughter is a mark of enlightenment— to see the contradictions and find joy in them causes one to be enlightened, or as Switters says, "enlightened and endarkened." Switters discusses the feeling of enlightenment, saying, "you strip the layers away, one by one, until the images grow fainter and fainter and the noise grows quieter and quieter, and bing! you arrive at the core, which is naked emptiness, a kind of exhilarating vacuum . . . each layer is a separate dimension, a new world." Later, Sister Domino Thiry asks Switters whether anything is making him "glad to be alive." He tells her yes, because "I'm in a foreign country, illegally, in a mysterious convent, inappropriately, and in conversation with the blue nude's niece, improbably. What's not to enjoy?" This statement captures the very spirit of enlightenment for Switters.
A third theme Robbins toys with is a question about the nature of innocence, or purity. At the outset, Switters is seen to be lusting for his stepsister. He and Bobby Case find older women less appealing, but Case sees a difference in their reasons. He says, "I chase after jailbait. I'm a midlife adolescent, I can't make commitments, I'm scared of intimacy . . . but with you, Swit, it's something different. I get the feeling you're attracted to ... innocence." Switters's pursuit of innocence does not change as a result of the action in the story, but his definition of it does.
Switters's considerations about beauty help to alter his definition of innocence. Early in the story, Maestra explains "the six qualities that distinguish the human from the subhuman." Those are "humor, imagination,...
(The entire section is 720 words.)