Green Fly Inn: An Allusion to the Trinity Test?

This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Rick Wallach 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • 10 Aug 2015 at 7:29 pm #7452

    Glass
    Member

    I suggest the fiery destruction of the Green Fly Inn on pp. 47-48 of The Orchard Keeper might be an allusion to the Trinity Test, the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon conducted by the U.S. Army on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. There is precedent for McCarthy using the Trinity Test in his books as can be seen in the “false dawn” episode at the end of The Crossing when the blinding light from the atomic bomb awakens Billy. But maybe the precedent was first set in TOK.

    The most interesting and tightest parallel between the destruction of the Green Fly Inn and the Trinity Test is the colored glass created at crater and area surrounding Ground Zero of the atomic explosion and the sheet of glass lining the folds of the valley beneath where the Green Fly Inn once precariously sat, created by the intense heat from the fire that destroyed the tavern.

    There it continued to burn, generating such heat that the hoard of glass beneath it ran molten and fused in a single sheet, shaped in ripples and flutings, encysted with crisp and blackened rubble, murrhined with bottlecaps. It is there yet, the last remnant of that landmark, flowing down the sharp fold of the valley like some imponderable archaeological phenomenon.

    Much like the so-called Trinitite created in the desert sands at the Trinity Test:

    Desert sand around the tower had been fused by the intense heat of the blast into a jade colored glass. This atomic glass was given the name Atomsite, but the name was later changed to Trinitite.

    The previous quote I culled from the Trinity Atomic Web Site, while the following excerpt is from Time Magazine, Sept. 17, 1945:

    Seen from the air, the crater itself seems (looks like) a lake of green Jade shaped like a splashy star, and set in a sere disc of burnt vegetation half a mile wide. From close up the lake is a glistening encrustation of blue-green glass 2,400 feet in diameter, formed when the molten soil solidified in air.

    Interesting that McCarthy uses the word encysted to describe that crazy sheet of glass in TOK, and in the Time article, the author uses a very similar word, encrustation. A neat link, perhaps, and certainly noteworthy.

    Yet another intriguing parallel concerns the witnesses or observers of each event.

    At the Green Fly Inn, the onlookers were divided “into two bands, grouped north and south out of harm’s way, their faces lacquered orange as jackolanterns in the intense heat.” (TOK 48)

    The observers at Trinity, grouped in five different bands, also and wisely tried to position themselves out of harm’s way. All were issued welder’s glasses to keep from being blinded and they occupied points north and south of Ground Zero, just like the TOK crowd, but also west and southwest of the blast site, some as many as twenty miles away.

    I think it might bolster the argument for a connection between the Green Fly and Trinity that McCarthy used cardinal directions (north, south) when describing the Green Fly onlookers in light of the fact that all of the literature concerning witnesses to the Trinity blast never seems to fail to mention cardinal directions.

    There are a couple of other neat parallels, such as the description by McCarthy of the Green Fly Inn’s apocalyptic-like blaze as “flames rocketing up into the night with locomotive sounds” (47), summoning visions of an A-bomb’s awful fireball, and perhaps, too, the stilts that helped support the Inn might find an analog with the four legs of the tower from which the atomic bomb, dubbed “the gadget,” was suspended at the Trinity Test. “Legged-ness,” whether it be animal, architecture, or human, is always an interesting and recurring theme in McCarthy.

    That is the gist of my argument for a link between the destruction of the Green Fly Inn and the Trinity Test.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinitite


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    • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by  Glass.
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    10 Aug 2015 at 10:08 pm #7456

    wesmorgan
    Participant

    An interesting observation. There may well be some similarities in language describing the burning of the Green Fly Inn and the Trinity test as you point out. But the Green Fly Inn in The Orchard Keeper burned on the winter equinox in 1936 (p. 47). Trinity was on July 15, 1945. An allusion to the test would be quite an anachronism in The Orchard Keeper while it does not seem to be so in The Crossing (p. 425-426).


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    12 Aug 2015 at 8:59 pm #7460

    Glass
    Member

    Wes, those are good points. Maybe prefiguration would be a better word than allusion. Interesting the date that the inn burned fell on the winter equinox. I suspected there was something significant about the date and did a little Googling to try and figure it out but to no avail. Thanks for filling in the gap.


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    13 Aug 2015 at 10:09 am #7461

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    One unreconstructed poststructuralist’s viewpoint: the problem is that McCarthy wrote the novel in the early 1960s and so he was as well positioned to know the details of the Trinity test, and analogize them in his description of the Inn collapse, as the imaginary denizens of that back porch would have been clueless about such a thing as an atomic bomb test. I don’t think the validity of the analogy, or the metaphor, is compromised by a historical detail that isn’t even directly referenced in the text. Nor, I think, is the imaginative valence of the description, especially its ironic aspect, compromised by the background history of the real Inn. The parallels between the porch collapse and the test and its aftermath are, like the listed ingredients in the spaghetti sauce commercial, “in there.”

    As an analogy of the analogy, I give you the opening lyrics of Bob Dylan’s epic ditty “Senor”:

    Senor, Senor
    Can you tell me where we’re headin’
    Lincoln County or Armageddon….

    Herein the direct reference to the Trinity site test is nested in an old wild western context. The fact that the imaginary setting of the song is at least 76 years prior to the test (Lincoln County, New Mexico was founded in 1869) and borders the Trinity site to the east is completely irrelevant to the indwelling of the metaphor in the text of the song.

    Anyway, here’s to reanimations of the incipient apocalypse! Let’s hear it for poststructuralist readings. Are you ready? One, two, three….“Il n’y a pas dehors du texte!”


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    13 Aug 2015 at 6:46 pm #7462

    Glass
    Member

    Rick, that is an interesting way to look at it. Wish I would have thought to consider that perspective. The Dylan quote helps me see it even more clearly. Many thanks.


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    13 Aug 2015 at 10:39 pm #7463

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    You’re welcome. No charge.


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