LITERATURE: Jamestown – Description

Sharpe hasn’t really given us a good view of the environment of the story, either by Johnny Rolfe, riding the bus from New York to Virginia, or from Pocahontas, who has given us merely a cornfield and woods.   But when the two meet, we get our first glimpse of the two characters as they have been described by each other.

(…)with a new, tall and willowy guy, dark-haired, the first one of them to be remotely handsome, though he had sallow skin, was bone-thin, and smelled like poop. And something was amiss about his face, as if fear and sadness had long done the work meant for seeing hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.  (Pocahontas, p. 44)

This is a very eloquent, insightful commentary by Pocahontas, blending the empirical with the guesswork of a more psychological and emotional reaction. I was fine with this, after having built my own image during these first forty pages of story.

The girl was spectacularly ugle.  She was short and thing and of an unnaturally reddish hue.  Her face was wide as it was long, with big, thick cheekbones and pockmarked skin.  Her black hair came halfway down her arms in two dense, gobbed-up plaits that looked like a pair of large, dead rodents hung in the sun by their tails from the top of her head to cure their meat.  (…) Her teeth were yellow stubs.  She had a smile that showed more gum than teeth, and the only part of her face less nice to look at than her teeth were her gums, which were soft, pulpy, red, and seemed designed to show us we were making a mistake.  (Johnny p. 48)

Hmmm.  I didn’t picture her that way at all.  And why not?  Where I can now see that Sharpe’s intention is to perhaps parody or at least mimic the real Pocahontas et al, and I am not judging Indian physical traits by the movies, I just would never have considered the heroine here to be "spectacularly ugly."

There are things that just don’t fit in this story, based upon the time placement–which we do not know for sure.  There are Indians, but the English that Pocahontas speaks is pretty current.  There’s the Chrysler building in New York City that collapses and the bus the thirty men use for their travels.  And the most obvious, both young people are using handheld computer units.

Why then, the intolerance on the part of Johnny as to the Indian’s appearance?  Why even his surprise?  It would be interesting again to know what amount of time has passed since this disintegration of the land started, whether it be decades or merely a couple of years, though it does seem that it happened possibly when both were small or even prior to their birth.

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