In class, we were given openings of novels that we hadn’t read before and were given the task of analysing the texts to try to get a grasp on what the novel was about. These are some of my notes on the very beginning of the opening chapter of Complicity written by Iain Banks.
To read the opening chapter of Complicity written by Iain Banks, click on this link which will take you to the Amazon website which allows you to ‘Click to look inside’ the book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complicity-Iain-Banks/dp/034913913X
This opening is written in second person which creates a accusing tone towards the character especially when it is revealed that he has broken into someone else’s home and tied up their maid.
The reader can tell he has broken into someone else’s home from “you’ve been here in the darkness…You only moved once” because this conveys that he has breached his comfort zone. He is in an unknown place which is evident from there being no sense of comfort in his lack of movement. Other than being in a place unknown to him, this quote can also be interpreted as him not being comfortable with what he’s doing; he knows this is wrong and he feels uncomfortable about that. From this, we can perhaps deduct that he is being forced into doing something that he is reluctant to do but it may be that he is in a desperate situation and this job can help him. The title of the book “Complicity” can support this assumption because the man is being an accomplice in a crime.
“you went back through…to check on the maid” depicts his integral caring along with compassionate nature because the word “back” suggests that this is the second time he has checked on the maid. It could be that he is only doing this to do his job well but it may be that his humane feelings cause him to want to show consideration to the maid – to do this job as kindly as possible. Moreover, he “patted her shoulder as reassuringly as you could” which also shows that he is trying to make the best of a situation that is out of his hand which implies that he is either an optimistic person or he cares that the maid doesn’t think of him as a cold-hearted person.
The assumption that he is in a place unknown to him is once again confirmed by the “sharp smell in the air and you thought of cats though you know he doesn’t have cats”. He is trying to adjust to his surroundings by picking up on the sights and smells around him and then he states himself that he is in another man’s home who doesn’t have cats. Furthermore, “you thought of cats” sketches for us a brief outline of his background or upbringing because the smell of cats brings to mind images of stray cats found in rundown areas. He is familiar with the smell which makes the reader think that perhaps he is a man who lives in a poor and shabby area and is in dire need of money and therefore, is doing this job.
His “moment of disgust, and then a little guilt” indicates to the reader that he has normal mental health because he isn’t being too compassionate (some criminals may get sickeningly overexcited at the sight of the maid’s condition) which can be understood through his instinctive reaction, “disgust”. His brief moment of disgust at the sight tells us that he isn’t used to seeing such horrific things and that his emotions have not become numb to such things which would be expected of a criminal. This maintains the reader’s belief that this is the man’s first time at doing something like this and he clearly doesn’t feel comfortable about it.
When he “tested the tape securing her to the little kitchen chair”, it suggested either his loyalty towards his boss in fulfilling the task properly – it may be that his boss had seen him in distress and offered this job as a way out – or it displays a sense of fear that if he does this job incorrectly or anything goes contrary to plan, then he may suffer the consequences or be deprived of what he has been promised for doing this job.