“These aren’t the uniform strands of Arras, but they’re composed of the same material. They’re loosely connected and flexible. Their vibrancy shivers across my damaged fingertips, the threads more alive than any I felt in Arras. There the weave pricked dully at my touch after hands were scarred…But these threads aren’t neatly woven into a pattern and they are full of unexpected life?” (7)
Adelice reacts to the stark difference between the strands of Earth and those of Arras. She experiences this very soon after arriving on Earth, and already begins to feel a livelier atmosphere. She is confused and is unable to control the strands, and they reveal themselves to be powerful in enough to bring an aeroship down from the sky when Adelice pulls on the wrong one.
“The scents of the metro mingle, perfuming it with the aromas of sewage, baking bread, rotting fruit, and the sweat of its bustling inhabitants. It is pleasant one moment and stomach-turning the next” (20)
As Adelice, Erik, and Jost enter the Icebox, they see the vibrant culture in stark contrast to that which they experienced on Arras. The fluctuation between the pleasant and rancid smells also indicates the radical extremes of the Icebox and Earth more broadly: there are the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, and the followers and the leaders.
“The stone is cold, sending shivers rippling through me, but I don’t care. His hands twist and grab my wrists, pinning them up over my head as his lips trace the hollow under my jaw” (121)
The explicit and specific prose in the scene in which Jost and Adelice make love indicates how much they want to be with one another. However, a problem arises as soon as they are about to climax: Jost always hesitates and stops, relaying his belief that his priorities are different from those of Adelice.
“One of the actors clutches his side, where a thin crimson ribbon pours from his ribs. His performance is haunting. Even from where I’m sitting, I see the pain reflected in his eyes. Ophelia goes mad, casting flowers, and I weep for her” (149)
Kincaid’s play is as horrifying as it is realistic. Adelice comes to realize that Kincaid is attempting to bring back the past, at the cost of altering and inflicting pain upon his volunteer actors. It speaks to Kincaid’s destructive tendencies and quasi-psychopathic behavior.
Altered Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Altered is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.