[ilds] Rg Justine 1.7 -- the rings

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Tue Apr 24 13:21:59 PDT 2007

Well, I can think of one instance when rings carried a heavy charge for 
Durrell, and that may very well have some bearing here, but I will not 
get into that.  More generally I think of the folklore of rings and how 
they can restrain the freedom of the spirit -- in some societies it is 
thought that rings should be removed from the dead to permit the soul 
to escape the body.  Conversely rings are used as amulets to prevent 
evil from entering the body.  In other words a ring is a kind of 
gateway, a means of controlling great forces.  Durrell refers to the 
'custom of this island' without telling us what island, but certainly 
it is the custom on the island of Karpathos to remove rings from the 
dead to allow their souls to escape.  I am also reminded of the custom 
throughout the Balkans of immuring a living person in a major 
construction like a bridge.  For example there is the story about that 
beautiful seventeenth century bridge at Arta in western Greece; its 
construction had long been thwarted by the vagaries of the river until 
a bird revealed to the master builder that his wife would have to be 
immured in the foundations supporting its central span.  This the 
builder did, and the arches were joined -- and the bridge stands there 
to this day.  Never mind that the builder committed suicide.  There is 
on this island, where Darley is living strangely with this child, a 
child who helps him bury the rings, a sense of trying to come to terms 
with great matters of the past in order to start again.


On Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at 08:52  pm, william godshalk wrote:

> In fact I am rather surprised that nothing was made in the reading 
> group of burying the rings (1.7).  My impression is that Durrell on 
> his island, strangely with this child, is introducing us to various 
> documents/things that have profound meaning for him.  He may not care 
> whether or not you 'get it'; indeed he would probably prefer that you 
> do not get it.  But he believes that these things carry a charge and 
> that even without being understood they can carry a charge for the 
> reader.
> So, Michael, let's discuss the burying of the rings. The narrator 
> notes that these rings were purchased by Cohen for Melissa. The serial 
> reader knows of "Melissa's death" (1.5.). The narrator writes, 
> "according to the custom of this island," burying the rings under the 
> hearth-stone "will ensure good luck to the inmates of the house (1.7).
> But what part of this ceremony will bring good fortune? The simple 
> burying of the rings? I.e. any rings will do on this island. The fact 
> that Melissa is dead? (Seems wrong.) The fact that the purchaser of 
> the rings is dead? (Not likely?) The fact that the narrator ends up 
> with the rings -- as he ended up with the three-volume diary and the 
> folio recounting Nessim's madness (1.5.)?
> Or, Michael, is it as you suggest: the point is that this is 
> indeterminate? And the mystery carries the charge.
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