Drowning in Black Rainbow
In Black Rainbow, the reader is presented with multiple occurrences of physical pain. It is shown through torture in one part of the book, through the rough nature of a rugby game in another, and so on, with repetition of physical pain coming from the outside world. The reader is not often presented with self-inflicted physical pain. Early on in the book, the protagonist suffers from a recurring nightmare of drowning after his wife leaves him. He is filled with water, “up to [his] knees, then belly button, chest, as heavy as mercury” (Wendt 24). He feels the heaviness of the water drowning him but is helpless to save himself as he watches this happen to his body. This helplessness can be paralleled to his condition with regard to getting his wife back. She has left and he does not know where her or his children are. The reader can sympathize with this basic metaphor. The physical pain he experiences is something not unique to this novel, but it is unique that it turns out he is inflicting the pain upon himself.
As the protagonist is drowning, he watches his body “a transparent plastic replica – swallowing water, filling [himself] from toes upwards” (Wendt 24). The protagonist is an empty vessel who not only willingly fills himself, but fills himself to the brink of death. The metaphor of helplessness that was previously established has taken on a new meaning. Wendt is very clearly showing that this helplessness the protagonist is experiencing is wrought by his own hand. The implications of this metaphor for the rest of the novel are intriguing. If the reader accepts that the helpless state the protagonist finds himself in with regard to not knowing the location of his wife and children is his own fault, then what else should the reader be willing to accept? Should the reader than believe that the protagonist alone is responsible for the actions he must take as dictated by the Tribunal? Through his metaphor of helplessness and drowning, Wendt encourages the reader to think of personal responsibility v. the responsibility of the state or Tribunal to its citizens.