Reading in the Dark

Intertextuality of 'Reading in the Dark' and 'Oedipus Rex' College

Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark features a variety of references to Oedipus Rex in its plot and characterizations. Several critics have discussed these similarities in psychoanalytic interpretations of the novel, but the Oedipus parallels serve a more pragmatic purpose aligned with the Aristotelian narrative structure of Greek tragedy. These parallels also indicate how the troubles of a family are a microcosm for the troubles of their nation.

In “Oedipus in Derry: Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark,” Daniel Ross discusses the parallels between Reading in the Dark and Oedipus Rex. The most blatant parallel he mentions is between the characters of these texts. Ross compares Crazy Joe Johnson to Tiresias and the narrator’s mother to Jocasta; correctly pointing out that both Tiresias and Crazy Joe Johnson show how “seeing and hearing too much” (Ross 37) lead to insanity, if not the perception of insanity. Like the blind prophet of Oedipus, Crazy Joe is described as “twirling [a] walking stick.” (Deane 81) Although Crazy Joe isn’t blind, the walking stick conveys similar imagery. Moreover, Joe’s face is described “like a mask,” and he speaks with Shakespearean references. These performative characteristics evoke parallels to...

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