Everybody’s Hungry: Food and Control in “Play the Monster Blind”

We are launching a second miniseries. Over the next few weeks we will be joined by students from Nathalie Cooke’s Canadian Literary Fare course (ENG 441, department of English, McGill) as they too are studying food scenes in Canadian literature this term.

 

Text by Carla Dean.

Food and familial power dynamics form the center of “Play the Monster Blind” by Lynn Coady; throughout the story, the struggles of various characters for power in their relationships are reflected by their eating and drinking habits. Characters who successfully control their food intake have power in the family unit; those who are controlled by food are disempowered.

John is a more powerful version of his father; he has overcome an eating disorder (4), whereas his father is incapable of controlling his drinking habits. An example of this dynamic is the restaurant incident, where the father causes a scene over “a good dry chip” (15). John, however, uses “‘[a] little thing out there called PR,’” (13) which really means a controlled approach, to much better effect. John’s interpersonal skills earn him far more social currency than his father’s drunken antics.

Bethany similarly mirrors Ann, whose lack of agency is clearly linked to her eating habits. Bethany is a self-described “big eater most of the time” (11) and earns the father’s approval because of her appetite (10), whereas Ann is a “meal-obsessed” recovering anorexic (11). Ann associates her stagnant, disappointing life circumstances with food; she throws up shellfish after a nightmare in which she “‘[is] just doing all the things [she’s] been doing all along’” (15). Ann’s blow to Bethany at the end of the novel, which turns her new ally against her, only happens because of excessive drinking—and Bethany, who does not lose control, tastes power (25).

 

Works Cited

Coady, Lynn. “Play the Monster Blind.” Play the Monster Blind: Stories. Toronto: Doubleday, 2000. 1-25. Print.

Kulesza, Michal. Movie Night. Digital image. Stock.tookapic.com. JPEG file. February 7th, 2016. <https://stock.tookapic.com/photos/21005&gt;.

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