In Stillman’s first conversation with the protagonist the story invokes an idea that language in its prelapsarian state involves words correlating to an object’s function and physical exterior. When Quinn asks Stillman his purpose for collecting broken objects, Stillman replies that he’s “invent[ing] new words that would correspond to the things”. This can be interpreted as Stillman giving the objects new names that would agree to their functions and outward appearances. Through the thought of the objects being renamed in accordance to their very nature, the scene suddenly evokes a sense of wholeness hence supporting an underlying theme of unity. But how does this connotation we receive from the mere thought of renaming an object tie to the theme of unity? Recall that in Stillman’s umbrella analogy he indicates that when we hear the word ‘umbrella’ we think of an object that protects us from the rain. By thinking of the umbrella in terms of Stillman’s description of it, we are drawing an immediate connection between the objects name and its nature. This relationship that we are picturing between the object and its name blurs the boundaries that separate the word ‘umbrella’ and the object it names, subsequently making them seem as one. From this interchangeability we feel from sensing this connection, evokes the connotation of wholeness. Though this connotation we receive lies the underlying theme of unity as this tone that we sense involves the unification of the word and the object it names. However, if the umbrella were to break, it would no longer serve its function as something that would protect one from rain. Hence, would it be appropriate to call the broken object an umbrella? Stillman believes not! Alas, the sight of the broken object does not correlate to our initial impression of the word umbrella. Because we were initially taught to recognize an umbrella, as Stillman describes it to be, as “a kind of stick, with collapsible metal spokes on top that form an armature for a waterproof material which, when opened, will protect you from the rain” calling an umbrella that is broken as an umbrella removes the connotation of wholeness unlike when we draw the connection between the name of the object and the object itself. Without this feeling of wholeness, the name ‘umbrella’ loses the sense that it is a language in its prelapsarian state.
Hi everyone! Wow! :O I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of the year! It’s a miracle we survived! And sorry that this is late! I felt that it would be better that I do it now rather than regretting that I never did later.
In my perspective, I found the story to be delivering a master-slave relationship between the human will and language in its prelapsarian state. I thought that language in that state was in a slave-like position: was submissive to human perception of what the person sees. Through Stillman’s Humpty Dumpty analogy and his insight of before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the story examines how the interchangeability evoked by a word fully embodying an object’s nature and appearance within the compliance language has upon the human will can restore language back to its prelapsarian state. When Stillman noted Humpty Dumpty’s statement “[w]hen I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said… it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less” the statement evokes a sense that words can be submissive to human will. By indicating himself to be responsible for the meaning of words, it suggests an idea that if we were to “become masters of the words we speak” we then have the power to create and alter words into our liking; in other words, we have the capability of forming words that would correspond to our perception of an object’s appearance or function. By suggesting that we are able to form words in accordance to our preference(s), the scene evokes a notion that this power we hold over language can restore language back to its prelapsarian state. In order to further support this notion of our mastery over language, let’s investigate Stillman’s insight of before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. In his analysis, Stillman examines Adam’s task of inventing language in the Garden. In his state of innocence, the words Adam used to describe what he saw wholly embodies the nature of the things before his eyes: his words “had revealed their essences, had literally brought them to life”. By being able to draw out the nature of the things he saw, the language that Adam uses seems convey a sense of subservience to his own perspective. Through this statement, we can infer that the words he uses before the fall directly associates with the way how he views the functions and appearances of the things he names. By initially inventing words in correlation to his own perceptions, we can conclude that Adam’s words before the fall represents language in its prelapsarian state. Subsequently, this association suggests to us that we have absolute power over words we speak: that we are capable of inventing words and changing them to suit our perceptions of what we see. By being able to invent a name that correlates to our perspective of an object’s appearance or function, we are able to force an object and its name to appear compatible, hence invoking a sense of unity. Through this connotation re-stimulated by the interchangeability between an object and its name, the story then suggests that we are able to, in our own power, restore language back to its original state before the fall of mankind.