The Ginger Man is based on the fable of the Gingerbread Man who escapes all of his pursuers only to be eaten by a fox that he foolishly trusts. Sebastian Dangerfield intends to suffer no such fate. He is not so much pursuing life as fleeing death; he is unwilling to commit himself irrevocably to anyone or anything for fear of being devoured. He lovingly recalls past experiences because of their distance from ever-approaching death.
Sebastian’s antisocial behavior reflects his association of conventional standards of conduct with a living death. His sins are excusable to him since they are signs of living, of the fight against death: “I never know when they’re going to get me . . . when I risk getting my arse caught on a spike, get chased and beaten up, I’ve got to do the best I can. . . . I’m not a bad person.” His life will continue to be one fresh start after another because without such beginnings “I’ll die with a case of death.” Sebastian is so obsessed by death that he even worries about what will happen afterward, about the possibility of becoming a medical-school cadaver. His preferred aftermath is a type of limited immortality on his own terms: “I want to decompose in a barrel of porter and have it served in all the pubs in Dublin. I wonder would they know it was me?”
Sebastian sees death as “an obstacle to overcome till the good ripe years of lust, gluttony and sloth.” Death has to be battled during...
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