Part One, Chapter 9


Van plays with the idea of the Fortunate Fall in this chapter as in others to come. The mulberry soap, with its fruit color, like the “woman-sized strawberry that you embrace with him” [437] in Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, is a playful replay of the Fall. But just as Bosch’s triptych reenacts the Fall in comic fashion but also includes a vista of Hell on the panel to the right, this chapter contains its own (very quiet) hellish overtones. A few weeks hence eight-year-old Lucette will stand in the bathtub “with the mulberry soap between her legs” and proclaim “I’m Van” (144). Shortly afterwards, Ada will force her to confess that when she and Van tied her up to run away and make love in the larches, Lucette had managed to untie herself and watch them: “‘Good Lord,’ said Van, ‘that explains the angle of the soap!’” (152) Lucette’s fall from innocence, like Van’s falling into knowledge of Ada’s secret parts, has its wonderfully comic side, but in time will lead to a tragic consequence in her Unfortunate Fall into the Atlantic.

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