Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 807
Snow White wrestles with cognitive incongruence as she craves physical intimacy but also worries about her social reputation. She experiences episodic bouts of mental illness manifested by these conflicting emotions and repressed behaviors. During one such episode, she secretly scribes a four-page poem and speaks only the words from Chinese fortunes in an attempt to reconcile herself. She displays further cognitive incongruence with naïve innocence as she seeks a prince and a romantic happily ever after, yet, she lives in a perverse menagerie with characters who serve to appease her lust and distract her urges with abstract art and words she has not heard before.
These seven characters are “dwarfed” by Snow White, who equates all seven of them to only two whole men. Moreover, she does not consider them as men in the conjugal sense, even though they stimulate her in the shower and accompany her to bed at night as she dons black vinyl lingerie in the privacy of her boudoir. For the most part, the men respect and try to protect Snow White. They work and earn a sizable income cleaning buildings, making plastic buffalo humps, and tending vats of Chinese baby food (a recipe and legacy handed down by their father, of whom little is known). They worry about Snow White as they venture out in the red-light district to satisfy their own lust in a psychedelic sea of women. One of them feels twinges of guilt but justifies their behavior as betrayal not to Snow White but to the shower.
Bill is the leader of the seven, a strong personality who grows tired of and even sickened by Snow White’s behavior. Her long black hair, which she hangs out the window to dry, triggers in Bill some repressed memories of childhood trauma involving scoutmasters who had threatened him. The scouts had told him the story of a black horse who would devour him in his sleep for disobeying their directives. (They had told Bill to use mud to clean the camp cookware.) Bill later confronts these tormentors in the streets of the United States with a six-pack of beer and is arrested for disrupting the peace. Bill’s emotionally reactive behavior is justified by the court because of his youth; he is acquitted of the misdemeanor charge. However, he is subsequently convicted on the felonious charge of “vatricide” because he had neglected to tend the fires under the vats at the baby-food factory during his public outburst, causing the vats to die out.
Paul is supposedly a displaced prince of a fallen Eastern European monarchy and a friend of Snow White’s family. Snow White travels to the United States to be with Paul, out of desire to end her life as a “horsewife” but also to remain linked with noble blood. Paul fancies himself an artist; however, he persists in the re-creation of a single hard-edged image that both he and Snow White agree seems to become increasingly more soft or weak each time. Paul admires Snow White but resists acting on his attraction for unknown reasons; he even tries to overcome his urges for her by joining a monastery, only to resort to voyeurism when he returns.
Jane Villiers de l’Isle-Adams is a lifelong friend and confidant of Snow White. Jane longs for the days when she had been considered the fairest of women and had been lusted after by men. As she ages she becomes bitter toward men and sets on a mission of randomly threatening them: She covertly replaces various phallic objects (for example, a Hermes rocket) with a predetermined number of increasingly irritating letters. Jane’s only consolation in aging is her hold on Hogo de Bergerac, with whom she is engaged in a somewhat sadistic and masochistic sexual relationship. Hogo, a pedophile, had stolen Jane’s childhood innocence; Jane’s mother had forbidden her daughter from going to Hogo’s home alone.
Hogo betrays his queen as he begins to fall in love with Snow White, who admits to being attracted to him. With his dark nature and large Prussian stature, she thinks she could freely submit to her wildest sexual fantasies. She ultimately rejects him, though, because he is not from the nobility. Jane becomes aware of Hogo’s rejection of her in favor of Snow White, so Jane sets out to kill Snow White with poisoned vodka. Paul intercepts the drink meant for Snow White, and dies after drinking it. With Paul dead and Jane no longer his queen, Hogo moves in with Snow White, who is mourning the loss of her ideal dream (of being married to pure blood) by maintaining Paul’s grave with flowers.
Bill’s best friend, Dan, takes over and assumes the leadership role in the Chinese baby-food factory. Bill had been executed for his failures.
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