Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Post-Structuralist Analysis of The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman
Though I am still struggling, to some extent, with the intricacies of post-structuralist analysis, there is no denying that The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman possesses elements which tear down the preordained boundaries of society and open up an endless world of possibility. The seemingly diabolical works of Dr. Hoffman systematically replace elements of control (time, reason, etc.) with the whim of desire. Such destruction of concepts considered to be universally paramount mirrors what Hall talked about in his section on post-structuralist analysis. He says "post-structuralism calls into question all [structuralist] assumptions of comprehension and comprehensiveness, suggesting that conclusions are always fragile and subvertible" (Hall, 161). The main struggle in the novel is between the Minister, who embraces reason and a coherent system of naming and recognition for things in the world, and Dr. Hoffman, who wishes to dispel any notion of definitiveness in regards to worldly things. In a sense, it is a struggle between structuralism and post-structuralism (represented respectively by the Minister and Dr. Hoffman). This struggle becomes evident in the specific changes that occur not only to the creatures and landscape, but to the very nature of objects which hold certain connotations within society. One such example is the description of the roses at the Mayor's mansion. Roses are typically recognized as signifiers of love and, to some degree, lust. They are a typical Valentine's Day gift in that they are socially considered to be symbolic of passionate love. The roses Desiderio finds do not match this description. The roses at the Mayor's mansion spread their thorny vines all along the side of the mansion and throughout the other foliage, creating what Desiderio describes as an "orgiastic jungle of all kinds of roses" (Carter, 51). This is but one example of how desire is warped and twisted by Hoffman's machines. The roses, a long standing symbol of desire, become horridly pungent and dangerous. By manifesting the very essence of human desire, Hoffman subverts the human perception of the quotidian and replaces it with "phantoms" which destroy any conception of control or universal applicability in regards to definition and recognition.