Submission No. 28

Another bunny drawing by Joan Linder. This one showing a family in a car.

The first thing that grabs me is that the man who is driving does not have bunny ears.

He has mutton chops. Long hair. A widow’s peak. Thick rectangular glasses. But no ears.

He is staring straight ahead, straight at the road and at the viewer. I notice, in quick succession, the sharp angles of his glasses, the clean cut of his hair, the vaguely Chinese character quality of the design on his T-shirt. I take in the distinct turn to the angle of the seatbelt strap at the point that it meets his shoulder; it reminds me of an illustration from a science textbook showing the principle of refraction, a stick in air / in water.

So is this driver a member of the family? I doubt it.

Behind the him: a mother and two children — all three with bunny ears. Directly behind the driver sits a young boy, who looks to be 7, 8, 9, 10. He stares straight at the viewer. His bunny ears flop over at the top, and one of his eyes droops downward as if he was deformed at birth — or maybe it is the result of an attempted face reconstruction after an accident?

Other than ears and eyes, however, this young boy is all rigidity — even, we suspect, intransigence.

His lips are pursed. His elbows are flexed out at either side. He may be bored, or irritated, or plotting something, but in any case he is stoic about it.

*

Finally, we come to the mother and infant, both with bunny ears. The mother has presumably climbed back to the center of the back seat. Her purpose is as familiar as it is unambiguous: to breastfeed her infant.

She wears a dark, sleeveless blouse with a low neck. This allows her to breastfeed easily. Since we do not see her eyes (they are blocked by the baby’s left ear), she strikes me as having the quality of an automaton, someone working effectively to achieve an end that is entirely impersonal. Behind her, a glimpse of the wheels of a baby stroller, popping up from the trunk, adds to the impression of this mother’s high functionality, her clear sense of purpose.

She is, no doubt about it, dedicated to taking care of the needs of her infant.

Other props: a bottle in the cup holder of the center console; a baby bag on the floor, presumably filled with wipes and diapers. These props fill out this picture even more.

*

This drawing, which I like as I have all the bunny drawings submitted so far, brings out the way that a baby commands the resources of a family. His is the only face we see showing expression. He (she?) appears to take delight in the breast milk he drinks, his eyebrows sloping down in contentment (well one, see in profile). This car is like an aquarium, into which we are gazing and seeing the human species carrying on its natural methods of survival. Resources are directed, naturally, towards the most vulnerable. Everything else is subordinated. Take note of this, class. You will be tested on this.

Hints of culture, of entertainment, of pleasure are there to be found, however, when we search for them. The fabric on the infant’s car seat has a graphic design (black triangles on a light background) which is entirely superfluous to function. The driver’s calligraphic T-short, already mentioned, represents another concession to play and pleasure, or at least to other people’s experiences of it (clothes being usually worn for performance more than comfort). And the mother’s blouse has a kind of sleekness to it — contrasting with her baggy pants.

What, then, is the boundary between pleasure and play, on the one hand, and functionality and the impersonal application of effort, on the other?

Surely, we divert resources to children for something more than utility? We do take pleasure in it… But do we take pleasure in it even when we are fulfilling repetitive, mindless duties such as feeding, wiping, burping? Do we take pleasure in it when we are compelled to carry out these duties in cramped spaces at inconvenient times?

In providing an answer to this question, this drawing gives me a jolt of insight: Yes. The line between pleasure and utility is ambiguous. Sometimes the most impersonal tasks, done with faces barren of affect, accomplished without a thought as to why, add up to life’s greatest pleasures. Perhaps, like the figures in this drawing, we should stop expecting and seeking melodrama in our lives, as a stand in for happiness. Happiness, like so many things, is sometimes wonderful when experienced quietly.

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About Tom Clyde

The best place to learn about me is to read my riffs. What could be more revealing? Cheeky, maybe, but true enough.

One comment

  1. Diana

    Everyone in this drawing has a gentle half-smile of domestic contentment. Also, I would like to direct you to Elissa Schappell’s story about the pleasures of breastfeeding, “Here Is Comfort, Take It” in her story collection “Use Me.” http://www.amazon.com/Use-Me-Fiction-Elissa-Schappell/dp/B000C4T23K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353457707&sr=1-1&keywords=use+me+schappell

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