LITERATURE: The Body Artist – Metaphor and Simile

First of all, it has become obvious that all of the clutter of routine detailed in the first chapter does indeed come back, perhaps as a symbol of continuity.  The birds at the feeder, Lauren’s tendency to place herself within the news articles she reads, etc.  So much of the story is dependent upon recalling those details, although whether I am missing their points I don’t know, since even in their reappearance I cannot connect a metaphorical meaning, unless as I say, it is as if things haven’t changed.

One brilliant move DeLillo has taken is in the form of simile.  While the book is loaded with very nice ones, the most skillful one is the description of the strange little man–Mr. Tuttle as Lauren has named him–as a simile in himself:

He moved uneasily in space, indoors or out, as if the air had bends and warps.  She watched him sidle into the house with a slight shuffle.  He feared levitation maybe.  She could not stop watching him.

It was always as if.  He did this or that as if.  She needed a reference elsewhere to get him placed.  (p. 45)

He came into the room then, edgingly, in his self-winding way, as if, as if.  (p. 78)

While Mr. Tuttle is not only odd looking, he speaks in a strange, disjointed and almost inappropriate way that doesn’t directly answer Lauren’s questions to him, but holds her interest by either his repetition of her or her dead husband’s past coversations, or things that she has tried to discuss with him.  It is almost as if he has digested and is regurgitating the important points of her life to consider. 

But when has a character ever been described as acting as if?  The question presents itself of what is he a simile for, what does he represent?  Is DeLillo clearly telling us that Mr. Tuttle is not real?  Yet there was an incident where he seemed all too much so, despite his very oddity.  She had taken him along when she goes to a shopping mall:

But when they got there, she left him strapped in his seatbelt and locked the car while she went to the electronics store and supermarket and shoe outlet.  She bought him a pair of shoes and some socks.  She bought blank tapes for the voice recorder, unavailable in town, and came back to the car with bags of groceries in a gleaming cart and found him sitting in piss and shit.  (p. 64)

One possibility of explanation comes from Mr. Tuttle in one of his more understandable utterings:

"I regain possession of myself through you.  I think like myself now, not like the man I became.  I eat and sleep like myself, bad, which is bad, but it’s like myself when I was myself and not the other man."  (p. 62)

This, Lauren recognizes as something her husband had said shortly after they were married.  So then, is Mr. Tuttle a simile for Rey?  Is his presence in her home there simply a case of him being as if Rey were still alive?  Or perhaps, the phrase, "I eat and sleep like myself, bad, which is bad, but it’s like myself when I was myself and not the other man." could be taken as the fact of Lauren’s returning to herself, single and alone herself, no longer, as often happens, becoming that one half of a couple and thinking as one or compromising and losing one’s own identity within the more dominant personality of one’s partner.

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