On “The Design”
Story of / with anatomy
— The prose, as always the case with CM, is brash and exponential. You feel like no-one edited it.
— The unknowns: why the narrator suddenly moved to Glasgow — something that can be known but won’t — narrator won’t give it away, in any of the opportunities he has in telling the story. In fact his friendship with William is built upon that; on the fact that William never asked him any questions about what happened in Durham and why he (Gerald, our narrator) was now in Glasgow.
And why William never inquired into the identity of the cadaver:
“The cadavers we used were assiduously anonymized, but let us not be naive: with sufficient money, time, and energy, William could have uncovered the identity of his. But he could not think how to protect himself if he pursued that route. He decided, with a gladness that bewildered him, that he would not seek to learn the name of the man on whose remains he worked.” (365)
He is curious, but not to the level of finding out about the design through the identity of the person. I am not sure if this is because he is irrelevant, or that his identity is unknowable. Is there a hint at him working with his hands in 1930s makes him an unregistered, sans paper for Glasgow? Or is it good enough of an explanation that he needed to protect himself — well, maybe. Because after all it is he who stole it from the medical school. — Did we need an explanation of why he wasn’t pursuing the dead man? Is it CM, who is keen on resolutions, who wanted to give us a sense of reason; of meaning?
Could what he’s doing be considered a horror? He chopped up the cadaver; put it in dirt, carried it with him to a shady apartment he found, boiled it to see if there is more “of the design” on the bones of the dead man.
Sea — maritime museum — does it have any subtle reference to Lovecraft? To Cthulhu?
— He cannot make sense of any of the carvings. And so he speculates: an experiment he says; that man’s skeleton was used to “loosen up the wrist”. “Before the artist turns to the real project. Which will be who knows what? Not this man, and perhaps not man at all.” (369-379).
We get these from her speculative dialogue with the little girl.
The design itself will tell you the story; or not. Not its context — in this case the dead man’s identity; his background, where he’s coming from, where he’s been before… All of those are irrelevant if the design itself is what you are interested in. The design keeps opening up. It is on the design — the curvatures, the “penmanship”, the themes, and etc. that William keeps speculating about. Not the man himself.
And then the third unknown is whether his bones carry the design. He starts to believe that this man can not be the only one bearing these curvatures; there have to be others. And by others he does not only mean humans — a blue whale perhaps. And add to that himself as well. But he says to the little girl, he cannot stand knowing or not. He cannot bear the consequences of either.
But as readers we learn about this at the very end.
Only two things remain a mystery: what happened to Gerald; whats the deal with Durham; and who did the design?