A Mirror Has Two Faces: Connecting WithA Mirror Has Two Faces: Connecting With Our Animal Nature In A Mirror Has Two Faces: Connecting with Our Animal Nature in James Dickey's novel Deliverance I remember watching nature shows on television and seeing natural predation. There on the screen lions stalk, chase, kill, and eat their prey. A true vision of animal nature. Humans are also animals, therefore, possessing animal nature. This animal nature can be witnessed every fall as thousands of hunters across the United States forge into the woods to stalk, kill, and eat their prey. Most hunters even display the heads of their prey in their living rooms as a testament to their animal nature.
Ed Gentry also touches his animal nature in James Dickey's novel Deliverance. One weekend, Ed along with three friends, Bobby, Lewis, and Drew decides to canoe down the Cahulawassee river not knowing what trials laid ahead. Drew is killed, Bobby sodomized, Lewis disabled, and Ed severely wounded. Ed stalks and kills a man in order to survive; and through Ed's need to survive in the wilderness, he touches the animal nature within him. Ed goes through life aimlessly.
Eventhough he has a wife, a boy, and his own business, Ed has no direction, no purpose. Life is boring. Ed's only break from normal life is the occasional excursions that he takes with his good friend Lewis. The first inclination of what Ed needs to be complete is while laying out a photo shoot for a Kitt'n Britches ad. As Ed surveys the model, he looks into her eye and spots an imperfection in it: There was a peculiar spot, a kind of tan slice, in her left eye, and it hit me with, I knew right away, strong powers; it was not only re callable, but would come back of itself… .
and the sight of that went through me, a deep and complex male thrill, as if something had touched me in the prostate. (21-22) Was this part of Ed's animal nature showing through? The animal instinct to reproduce. Ed, Lewis, Drew, and Bobby leave for the river. Lewis and Ed in one car, and Bobby and Drew in another. As Lewis and Ed are driving, Ed presents his theory on life– the theory of "sliding' (41): I'll tell you. Sliding is living antifriction.
Or, no, sliding is living by antifriction. It is finding a modest thing you can do, and then greasing that thing. On both sides. It is grooving with comfort. (41) This is how Ed lived, without any connection to the animal nature within him.
The second day on the river, the wilderness revealed its powerful nature. Bobby was sodomized by two mountain men, Lewis had his leg severely broken, and Drew was supposedly killed by a mountain man. Ed was the only one left to help the helpless to civilization. Ed knew that he had to kill the remaining mountain man to insure that the mountain man didn't kill the rest of them. "Kill or be killed.' As Ed ascended the cliff to the top of the gorge,' [He] looked for a slice of gold like the model's in the river: some kind of freckle, something lovable, in the huge serpent-shape of light (176).' When Ed reaches the top of the gorge, he carefully plans how to kill the mountain man like an animal stalking its prey and waiting for the right moment to pounce. He then climbs a tree and waits for his prey to come into view.
Spotting the mountain man, Ed lines up his prey: for he was shut within a frame within a frame, all of my making: the peep sight and the alleyway of needles, and I knew that I had him… and [then] I saw his face– saw that he had a face– for the first time. The whole careful structure of my shot began to come apart, and I struggled in my muscles and guts and heart to hold it together. (191) Eventhough Ed has truly connected with his animal nature by hunting his prey and within a few seconds of making the kill, his human side still shines through complicating his judgment. At the moment when Ed is then threatened further by the mountain man seeing him in the tree; the animal nature within him releases the arrow. When Ed shoots the mountain man, he center shoots him, therefore, the mountain man doesn't die immediately.
To ensure that the mountain man is dead, Ed tracks the mountain man, "I got down on my hands and knees to try to find a direction for the blood… . and when I couldn't see it I could feel it, and, in some cases, smell it (196-197).' As Ed tracks the mountain man further into the woods, he becomes more like an animal searching for its wounded prey, "I was thinking like a driven creature… I went to all fours with my head down like a dog and the knife between my teeth… smelling for blood like an animal again… (195-199) ' Finally Ed finds the man but is not sure that he is the one. The one that tried to force sodomy on him and killed Drew. Ed descends the cliff and condemns the body of the mountain man to a fate at the bottom of the river. Then Ed climbs in the canoe along with Bobby and Lewis and proceeds down the river to Aintry. As Ed and Bobby float down the river in the canoe, Ed sees Drew's body washed up on rocks at the edge of the river.
Ed recovers Drew's body and condemns it to the same fate as the mountain man's body. Nearing the town of Aintry, Ed makes up a story to explain Drew's death, Lewis's broken leg, and his injuries as well. The sheriff believes the story; and Bobby, Lewis, and Ed return to their lives in Atlanta. Although Ed returns to his life in Atlanta, things have changed: The river and everything I remembered about it became a possession to me, a personal, private possession, as nothing else in my life ever had… . It pleases me in some curious way that the river does not exist, and that I have it.
In me it still is, and will be until I die… The river underlies, in one way or another, everything I do. It is always finding a way to serve me, from my archery to some of my recent ads and to the new collages I have… full of sinuous forms threading among the headlines of war and student strikes… . Thad and I are getting along much better than before. The studio is still boring, but not as boring as it was. (275-276) Ed has returned to the life he once lived, but with a different outlook a more appreciative, outlook on life. Ed doesn't have the same fascination for wild things as he once did because he found his wildness, his animal nature, "I still loved the way she looked, but her gold halved eye had lost its fascination.
Its place was in the night river, in the land of impossibility (277).' Ed is now complete with his two halves, human nature and animal nature, he is now whole. Dickey, James. Deliverance. New York: Delta, 1994.