Monday Craft Tips: Using details to portray jealousy

Shaul, the main point-of-view character in David Grosmann’s “Frenzy”, is a respectable academic, who is widely admired and gives interviews on television about such things as budget cuts to science education (17). Behind his calm exterior however, lies a stew of jealousy and torment.

For Shaul believes that his wife visits her lover every day, and his imagination becomes so overheated that he imagines himself not only in his wife’s point of view, but also in that of her lover’s:

She slowly walks down the hallway, wondering how to convince him to let it go today, unaware of the effect of her slow walk, which seems deliberately feline to him, twisting the tendons of his passion until it hurts…Here you are, he says, unable to hide his happiness, his face actually opening up and shining, and she still does not move as she inhales the scene, absorbing and carefully distributing it to every cell in her body, provision that must last her for a long time, for another whole day of hunger and thirst. (9)

The power of this writing lies in its surprising details: We are told that her walk twists the tendons of his passion until it hurts. We are told that she inhales the scene and that it is provision that must last another whole day of hunger and thirst (emphasis added). His passion is compared to a painful injury. Hers is compared to food. Shaul’s emotional state is indirectly conveyed by the way in which his imagination blurs his boundaries so much that not only can he RachelImenuinhabit his wife’s point of view, but that of the lover. How does he manage to do that? It turns out that he has actually met the man:

Shaul and Elisheva are in the kitchen of their old house on Rachel Imenu Street, chopping vegetables for a salad, as they do every evening, chatting about how the day went and what will happen tomorrow and who paid what and who will take Tom to the dentist, when all of a sudden the door swings open to reveal a man Shaul has never seen before. He walks straight into the kitchen and says, with a heavy Russian accent, that he can’t take it anymore. (96)

Now that we have spent 96 pages inside Shaul’s fevered imagination, it’s no surprise that he should place the worst possible construction on the situation:

Out of embarrassment or weakness, the man leans against the fridge, but it seems to Shaul as if he has already taken this stance before, with this same fridge, as if he’s used to standing there like that, among all the notes and the phone numbers and the pizza magnets. Shaul is amazed to think of how many times he himself has touched that same fridge without suspecting that perhaps an hour or two earlier, in his absence, another man had touched it for a minute…(98)

With this small detail, the juxtaposition of the uninvited male leaning against a fridge, positioning himself amidst the ordinary paraphernalia of Shaul’s kitchen, Shaul perceives it to be habitual. He tortures himself by comparing his leaning against the fridge to the uninvited male’s, as if he is his wife comparing the two men.

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