Sunday, July 18, 2010

The 'timid courage' of Malik and Dorn in ILLUMINATUS!

As I noted in an earlier post, the two protagonists in ILLUMINATUS! are Hagbard Celine and Simon Moon. They are the characters who serve as stand-ins for the authors, delivering lectures to the other characters (and the reader) about politics and other topics.

It seems to me one of the keys to the structure of ILLUMINATUS! is found in "Death and Absence in James Joyce," part two of a series of our essays on Joyce found in Wilson's COINCIDANCE. Much of the essay is on the theme of "timid courage" in Joyce's works. Writing about Leopold Bloom in ULYSSES, Wilson says, "Joyce announced that he did not believe in heroes, and Blood is no hero: just an ordinary decent man."

Don't George Dorn and Joe Malik in ILLUMINATUS! fit that description? They are ordinary people, trying to figure out what's going on. They show courage in being willing to have their preconceptions challenged, but they aren't superhuman heroes. And because every teacher (or shaman) needs an audience, their role in ILLUMINATUS! is to serve as the audience for Hagbard or Moon’s teachings.