Henry Walker, the self-made Negro magician or rather the “self-made freak” can simply present his life through the analysis of his signature card trick – the use of the Three of Hearts. Each of these hearts represents one of the women who played significant roles in his life. These women were his mother, his sister Hannah, and his assistant and lover, Marianne la Fleur. Henry’s mother The mother of Henry Walker best represents the primary source of tragedy in the story.
It can be noted that the setting of the story best emphasizes its tragic theme only when the plot reaches a recollection of Henry’s youth, where the young boy loses his mother. In one way or another, Henry’s mother symbolized familial care and love which should be nurturing, supportive, and developmental – something which the “magician” was deprived of at a very young age. Technically, the lack of a mother equated to the lack of family, the conflict which Henry tries so hard to resolve all throughout the story.
To a certain sense, the mother – or rather the lack of having a mother best depicts Henry Walker as a “lost soul in perpetual mourning over his departed family”. She is the first of Henry’s losses and probably the most dreadful of all. However, unlike other losses, the loss of Henry’s mother is probably the only real event in the story which is not masked by any illusion or schizophrenic dilemma. It was clear that his mother died from a disease before his ninth birthday and from there, his life has gone towards the worst as he is left in the arms of his lying father.
To a certain sense, much of Henry’s doomed destiny can be blamed on the fact that he had lost his mother. With a mother, perhaps Henry might have had a more “real” life and he might have not lived under pretentious and perplexing situations fostered by his imagination and his father’s false encouragements. The role of the mother was to create a “real” reality, upholding a family that is essential for the foundation and formation of emotionally, socially, and psychologically healthy individuals. The lack of fulfillment for this motherly role in Henry Walker’s life shows why almost everything went wrong.
It can also be noted that whenever the lack of motherly care is tackled in the story, Henry is almost always merely seen as a little young boy – helpless and innocent, not an egomaniac who is forging stories and lies for his own benefit. With his mother, Henry becomes a victim of life’s cruelty, a once pure soul who has been corrupted because of the lack of love. As such, apart from setting what was supposed to be real and right in the magician’s life, the mother was supposed to maintain Henry’s chasteness.
Through his mother, Henry is blameless and naive: “You have to know what’s true to lie and Henry didn’t. He didn’t know the difference. ” What’s more is that the early loss of a mother therefore established a series of losses for Henry. As noted in the book, for Henry, life is “One losing battle after another… Winning doesn’t even exist, really, not as something you can hold on to; it’s just something that happens between losses. ” Henry’s sister, Hanna If Henry’s mother – or rather the lack of her – was the ultimate source of tragedy in the magician’s life, his sister Hannah was the reverse.
Although the boy also lost her sister when he was nearing eleven, the loss of her sister gave his life meaning – although an illusionary one. As shown in the story, because Henry Walker believed that his sister was stolen by the Devil – Mr. Sebastian, he had devoted his life into looking for her. That search gave her a source of life and a direction which he cannot simply find. In this sense, Hannah symbolized a crusade for both vengeance and righteousness for the magician. Hannah’s loss shows the different side of the magician – one who is no longer lured by innocence and youthfulness.
Instead, through the vanishing of his sister, Henry becomes a miracle worker, someone that has power and will to defeat the devil. This determination and motivation originating from the loss of his loved one and from his guilt showed a singular Henry, a surprising persona that cannot be expected from a feeble man that the “Negro” magician posed himself to be. As claimed by Adam Sobsey, “When late in the book he (Henry Walker) declares that he’s spent his entire life looking for his lost sister and her kidnapper, it’s almost a surprise: He’s scarcely shown that kind of will or anima.
He is, in the words of one character, ‘like a puddle in the sun: every day he became smaller and smaller. ’” Hannah symbolized the fight against evil for Henry. As noted by the Daniel Wallace, the author, in one of his interviews: “The stories that Henry has embraced, generated by his father, that only the Devil could have engineered the taking away of Henry’s sister. So, Henry had to believe in that evil in order to set himself up as a force of good in the world. ” This was symbolically emphasized in the story as Hannah was often referred to have angelic qualities.
As such, the loss of Hannah – which Henry though was his fault – made Henry’s life a struggle between good and evil and that somehow presented a sense of order into the complexities of the real scenarios that the magician was involved in. However, Hannah was also a source of Henry’s tortuous frustrations for he never can really rescue her from the “Devil” and Henry will never win against evil. This was emphasized by Henry in the novel: “Evil always wins… Eventually evil wins. We fight it because it’s the right thing to do, but in the end we’ll always lose.
Always. Because to be good- truly good- there are rules, we have rules inside of us, rules we have to follow to be that way, to stay good. And evil can do anything it wants to. It’s not a fair fight. ” Wallace, the author, also notes that Henry will always fail at his goal to defeat the Devil because “The fact is that evil doesn’t exist. There isn’t this Manichean struggle between the two. ” Marianne La Fleur, the unattainable Marianne La Fleur, the stage assistant, was the centerpiece in Henry Walker baffling life.
In the novel, Henry brings her back to life in one of his shows. This stunt proves to be a success in Henry’s career. This somehow symbolizes Henry’s one good shot back at life; however, the trick fails to receive much awe as its eeriness does not impress the popular audience. In his attempt to love and to be loved, Henry also fails to no avail. Yet, Marianne serves a very defining role in Henry’s life. In a sense, she was the magician’s hope to life and love which remains unattainable, despite their similarities in “freakishness”.
If Henry was presented as a man who had a devastatingly depressing life, his assistant – whom he loved – mirrored the same degree of oddity that he posed: “Marianne La Fleur was not ugly, though; she was something worse. She was scary. Or no – haunted. She was a haunted woman about whom, when you looked at her, you would wonder, What happened to her? . . . She was odd, and everything she did was odd. . . . Ask her a question, and there was always an uncomfortable pause before she replied. Even the simplest question, ‘How are you? ’ One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three.
Fine, she said. One, one thousand. ‘How are you? ’” As described in the novel, Marianne was someone whose characteristics dwell between the living and dead. She was as troubled as the magician and that was probably why he became attracted to her. Through Marianne, Henry defines his fondness of the odd and the haunted. By being attracted to his weird stage assistant who is described as “a creature ever fluttering on the border between Life and Death”, the magician embraces the divergence from normalcy and tries to embrace the life of a “freak”.
This tendency to be fond of what’s strange and unnatural gave him what he was always looking for: the love of a family. The freakishness was what defined the people who were in the circus – the people whom, as based on their narratives and recollections of Henry – loved and cared for the magician in the way that his family failed to do so. In the narratives of Rudy the Strongman, Jenny the Ossified Girl and JJ the Barker, the life of Henry was delivered not only to deliberately emphasize the horrors of the magician’s life.
Rather, through their narrations, Henry was given more than pity. The circus denizens sympathized with their friend and even honored him by saying that “In the end, Henry was a man with two stories: one story was about revenge, and the other was about love. ” In Henry’s life, Marianne was both his mother’s and his sister’s substitute. Through her, the author was able to emphasize an important theme that he tried to present in the story: “It’s about getting (a) family, losing (a) family. All of the stories presented are about family.
Henry loses one family, but in the end he gets another since the circus becomes a family in itself, where the freaks are able to live a normal life with each other and love each other as real people, where their similarities are more important than their differences. ” Marianne was the supposed fulfillment to Henry’s final vision which is to gain “that final ideal of community and family and being a part of the world. ” References: Sobsey, Adam (2007). Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician: The new novel from Chapel Hill’s Daniel Wallace. Published 25 Jul 2007 (Retrieved April 6, 2009 from http://www.
indyweek. com/gyrobase/Content? oid=oid%3A157570) Turner, Daniel Cross (2009). The Magical Work of Fiction: An Interview with Daniel Wallace. Published March 2009 (Retrieved April 6, 2009 from http://www. storysouth. com/2009/03/interview-with-daniel-wallace. html) ____________ (2007). Bigger Fish Swim in Wallace’s Latest. Published 19 August 2007 in the Mobile Register (Retrieved April 6, 2009 from http://www. weirdplots. com/2007/08/that-old-multicolored-magic. html) Wallace, Daniel (2007). Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician. Doubleday. 257 pp.
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