We fall, we bleed, we walk, and we talk. Throughout a human’s life, he will do all of these things and many more, and subconsciously not acknowledge the use and functionality of ones body. The story of a young boy whom sprained his neck is a perfect example of how we are taught to not focus merely on our body parts, but the cause and effects of actions. As the young boy played soccer outside on the yard with his older brother, he kept missing pitch after pitch of the baseball. His brother told him to keep one eye on the ball at all times, so the boy kept his eyes on the ball, as instructed, as the ball flew by his head, his neck turned very sharply. The young boy flung to the floor in agony, screaming and yelling about the pain. The pain was the first thing the boy and his brother addressed, the first thing the doctors addressed. Then, immediately after the pain was addressed, they wondered the cause of the injury, and the events leading up to it. No body stopped to ask me why I thought I should have turned my neck, instead of just using my eyes. The functionality of the body was thought to get me from point a to point b. In Shelley Jackson’s, My Body: A Wunderkammer, she explores the relationships that go beyond the functionality of the body. Since, My Body: A Wunderkammer has no clear beginning or end, each anecdote may seem disconnected, when in fact, the anecdotes are connected through the notion that out body parts are there for more than a physical function.
To focus in on the “eye” section, which is the initial hyperlink I clicked shows a much closer example of how the eyes were viewed as much more than vehicles of sight. Jackson retells the story of the “summer mornings” she’d wait in bed waiting for breakfast to be called “conducting lazy experiments with [her] eyes”, comparing the “different views” she could see by simply closing one eye and then another. When a child, or even an adult thinks about their eyes, they usually simply think eyes are just for sight. Jackson assumes that the eyes can do more than receive the images that we see. She conducts “experiments with [her] eyes” that allow her to view her eyes through a different lenses, one that is not merely physical, but also metaphoric. In her anecdote about eyes, she expresses that she is “haunted by the feeling that the world is insufficiently real,” and through her eyes she starts to gain perspective into the realities of the world. Jackson’s commentary on how the eyes go beyond being “still and flat and bright like a picture” to moving, and “jostling” more like a movie or TV show. These vivid images allows the reader to acknowledge that to Jackson, the eyes are a segment of our imagination, allowing people and animals to take in more than may be present in reality.
After examining the text behind the eyes, the smooth and sly transitions between anecdotes allows for an even clearer understanding how the body parts are not only connected, but tell a story that physical functions alone may hold. The author so smoothly transitions into the nose, by using the physical function of sight to say she “could see [her] nose” and was surprised that it was “permanently” in her eyesight. This sly transition into another anecdote of another body part is not only embedded throughout the rest of the eye anecdote, but is accompanied by a hyperlink to another part of the text. Instantly the reader is not accompanied to another section of Jackson’s mind and reflection of the human body. Once transitioned into the next anecdote, Jackson is able to recount how her nose is not just a “blemish” that is “right in the center of the face,” but also a way for Jackson to express her need for attention. It should be no surprise that the eyes and the nose were hyperlinked together because with ones eyes, a person can be noticed, but with Jackson’s nose, she can recount a time were she stood out and was noticed by a group of people. Jackson “learned to blow [her] nose with a loud, sonorous honk” which is something that helped her connect with her father and her past, going beyond the previous conceived notions that the nose only has physical functions. From there, Jackson transitions though a hyperlinked “Kleenex” to the feet anecdote. Almost instantly the mood of the piece is changed when the dark background of the nose (that was full of more twisted thoughts), is changed into the white color background of the feet anecdote. Through the change in color, Jackson seems to transform from an attention seeking child, to a child curious, and fascinated in becoming the best she can be. Jackson’s feet are not for mobility in this section but rather a metaphoric tool for perseverance and humility. The beginning of the section related to her feet mention how she would trek across her “neighbor’s gravel driveway, mincing and wincing” in hopes that she would soon become more tough and able to walk over anything. This insight into the mind of Jackson depicts her mindset that our bodies are not only connected because of physical uses, but also hyperlinked in the real world to represent the many different facets of our personalities.
Jackson continues to go beyond physical uses of her body to explore her evolution as a person, especially in the breast anecdote. Jackson ignores the physical functions of the breasts in this section, instead focusing on her “first” memories of breasts, and follows her understanding of this anatomical feature of her body as she becomes more and more familiar with this part of herself. In this anecdote, the reader learns that Jackson was not always so sure of herself as it comes across in other passages of the hyperlinked text. She uses verbs like “learned” and “hated” to describe the process of what appears to be puberty. This could be commentary on the difficult stage of puberty in an adolescents life, and a glimpse into Jackson’s mind as it went through the stages. Since this was the concluding section for the path chosen, it really summed up My Body: A Wunderkammer into three different stages: birth, adolescence, and adulthood. It is interesting that Jackson only focuses on the areas she knows, and does not venture into the aftermaths of the body in death.
The body is not only around for its physical uses, but it also like the memory chip for a computer; each body part holds different stories beneath its surfaces, and allows for a person to go through life with the knowledge that there memories will forever be etched in their bones. Jackson understood this, and saw the body more as a physical means, and through her text, she was able to depict the body in a meaningful, metaphoric, and personified way. The next time you happen to be in front of a mirror, perhaps it would be beneficial to assess the stories behind each of your body parts.
Jackson, Shelley. “My Body —a Wunderkammer.” My Body — a Wunderkammer. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.