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Affliction Essay, Research Paper

The character Wade Whitehouse from the book Affliction by Russell Banks is very complex. To properly analyze his character one must take into account all aspects of his personality. We must search and break down any information we may find about, the character?s background information, describe his personality, determine if any changes have occurred to his character during the novel, how he has affected fellow characters and finally the thematic significance that the author wishes to bring to the reader?s attention through his character.

Firstly we must look at the major factors that influence the character; background information surrounding the environmental factors of the town, the family relations and early life experiences that have dramatically affected the character. The town of Lawford is a rural community in New Hampshire having no natural resources for economic viability. Due to this poor flow of money the town lacks simple services and recreational facilities and therefore does not attract many tourists. Those who do visit the town are either merely city comers using their fathers cottage as a weekend getaway, or deer hunters profiting from the abundant wild life. The only successful local man is Gordon LaRiviere who owns a well drilling company and who employs Wade and many other men of this town. Affliction is set in a winter scenery and throughout the book the weather is gloomy ? the sky clear as black glass?(6), ?Winter approaches?arriving with such ferocity and stunning relentlessness of purpose that you could give yourself over to it completely and at once? and is a reflection of the attitudes possessed by the characters.

Secondly we must discuss Wade?s family background. His father is a severe alcoholic who regularly abused each family member. Once under the spell of the alcohol he becomes extremely violent and cannot control his anger. His mother although very loving could not protect the children for she herself feared her abusive husband. On many

occasion she had also suffered the trauma of abuse and tried to avoid any confrontation at any cost. Wade had four siblings, two older brothers Elbourne and Charlie, who were both killed during the Vietnam War (specifically the Tet offensive). Wade also had one younger brother Rolfe, who left town for collegial studies, and a younger sister, Lena, who departed shortly after she realized she was pregnant.

Elbourne and Charlie running to Vietnam, where they died, Lena to marriage with the Wonder Bread truck driver and obesity and charismatic Christianity and five squabbling children of her own, and I, Rolfe, whom the others regarded as the successful one, to the state university (96).

Thirdly as a young child he had to watch Elbourn and Charlie being beaten by his drunken father. Until the age of ten he thought himself invincible sean as his father had not laid a hand on him but this false self- image was cruelly brought to an end. As he obeyed his mother instead of his father, Mr. Whitehouse became inraged and attacked his son, savagely beating him ?slapping him again and again, harder each time, although each time the boy felt it less, felt only the lava-like flow of heat that each blow left behind? (102).

Wade has an extremely distinct and complicated personality that at times can be hard to fathom. As we familiarize ourselves better with this character we can easily distinguish certain traits and connect them with past life experiences. The most obvious

trait is a lack of self-esteem which leads to an overabundant abuse of alcohol. His failed marriage to Lillian, the limited visitations allowed with his daughter and his monotonous

job all lead him to believe that he is less of a man. Wade did not express his feelings openly instead kept them locked up inside which added to all the hardship already present in his life, ? Wade lived almost wholly out there on his skin, with no interior space for him to retreat to, even in a crisis or at a time of emotional stress or conflict? ( 215). All these aspects contributed to his abuse of alcohol which in turn led to his violence. Wade was a violent and destructive drunk that gravily harmed other citizens,

he had a reputation around town as a man who was dangerous when he was drunk, a reputation Jack knew the man deserved. He had seen Wade clock a few guys himself, and he had heard stories about him that went all the way back to when Wade was in high school (77).

One can also see that Wade is a very impatient person. He does not like to undertake a task in which he is not specialized. As mentioned earlier he is employed by Gordon LaRiviere, Wade is in charge of mostly manual labour. During the off seasons Mr. LaRiviere offers Wade some office work that needs attending to. Although Wade does not quit easily he gets very impatient after some time and eventually gives up. He does not try to ask for help but struggles there to no end until he can no longer tolerate his frustration. ?Jack liked office work, whereas Wade felt worse than peculiar, he felt downright terrified?, ?———-? (90) Wade can also be seen as somewhat stubborn. Near the middle of the novel, one of Mr. LaRiviere?s friends, Mr. Twomblay, arrives in town

and is taken hunting by Jack Hewitt (another local man employed by LaRiviere). While hunting Mr. Twomblay accidentally shoots himself in the chest and dies in the woods.

Although Jack was nowhere near Mr. Twomblay at the time and no proof could be offered otherwise, Wade was convinced that Jack was responsible for the businessma?s death. His obsession with this case drives him mad and results in the death of Jack Hewitt, ?For Wade, there was no connection, because he seemed to want badly to believe that his ?best friend? had shot Evan Twombley- accidentally, of course- and was hiding the fact, which, he insisted, was what worrie him.?(131)

Wade?s character does not so much as change but develops. At the onset of the novel the readers can already identify certain violent traits that the character already possesses. As mentioned earlier his violent drunkenness. As the novel progresses his violent streak only worsens, until he has become so vicious that he murders his own father and his ?best friend? Jack. Aside from the obvious implications offered by the author, we can predict that a drastic and dangerous incident will occur at the hands of this man. The readers attention is focused on his every move and therefore we can easily see how his condition deteriorates throughout the novel. His violence begins with simple tavern brawls, it then progresses to physical abuse of his wife, and culminates with the murder of two people.

Ever since his daughter Jill was of a very young age he always had a great influence on her. Although not much is said of their relationship before Wade and Lillian got devorced one can assume that Wade and Jill were very close. Since the seperation, Jill has had to live without a father figure until Lillian remarried. Although Wade was replaced by a step-father this does not replace the void existent in Jill?s life. No man, can ever replace the love that a true father gives. Near the end of the novel, Wade hits Jill while she was histerically trying to protect Margie. ?her nose was bleeding, he had caught her across the mouth and nose; she stood behind me and wailed? (337). This event will remain in her memories forever. She will always remember how she was betrayed by one of the people she cared about the most in the world. Jills reaction was simply that of a childs, she wanted to go home, ? when I glanced over at her, she had her eyes closed, and she said in a calm voice that surprised me, ?I want to go home. Will you take me home??? (338).


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