Weed, Secrecy, and Self-deception


Hi Jesters! I’ll continue using Lectio Divina to read IJ this week and will follow the questions laid out by our guide of guides Emily Hoffman. I will try to keep this week’s theme of “insecurity” in mind as I think through this passage on page 114:


“Hal usually gets secretly high so regularly these days this year that if by dinnertime he hasn’t gotten high yet that day his mouth begins to fill with spit — some rebound effect from B. Hope’s desiccating action — and his eyes start to water as if he’s just yawned. The smokeless tobacco started almost as an excuse to spit, sometimes. Hal’s struck by the fact that he really for the most part believes what he’s said about loneliness and the structured need for a we here; and this, together with the Ingersoll-repulsion and spit-flood, makes him uncomfortable again, brooding uncomfortably for a moment on why he gets off on the secrecy of getting high in secret more than on the getting high itself, possibly. Hal always gets the feeling that there’s some clue to it on the tip of his tongue, some mute and inaccessible part of the cortex, and then he always feels vaguely sick, scanning for it.” (114)


1)   What is happening in the text?


At the start of this chapter, Hal is hanging out with his little buddies in one of the Viewing Rooms where they are watching Stan Smith hit perfect forehands and backhands in a video on loop. Hal has muted the video as Kent Blott, Peter Beak, Idris Arslanian, and Evan Ingersoll talk about their shared suffering and complaining in the locker rooms after drills, to which Hal says that the end-of-day whining and rebellious sentiment is all part of the work, and that the suffering is what unites them because nothing brings people together like a common enemy. In the passage above, the narrator tells us that Hal has started chewing tobacco as an excuse for spitting, which is Hal’s body’s response after not smoking weed at his regular time. The narrator also tells us that Hal likes the secrecy of getting high in secret more than the high itself.


2)   What is happening on an allegorical level?


Focusing on insecurity, this passage makes me think of the many ways Hal and other characters gather habits (built on previous habits) to retain a sense of oneself as an individual, and to have some sort of identity outside of ETA.


Hal’s secret with himself i.e. getting high isn’t simply a rebellion against being shaped by the academy — as Hal’s pointed out before, this would be part of the process.

Hal likes the secrecy more than the high itself, and I think this speaks to his desire to want something is solely his — a part of him that is untouched by the tennis academy’s influence on him.


I think that this desire to retain individuality resonates with Marathe’s discussion on the necessity of choice. It resonates for me because I see both Hal’s secrecy and Marathe’s emphasis on choice as assertions of agency and control, in opposition to finding oneself carried by the flow of political and/or social forces and shaped by this as a result.


The character of Lyle could symbolize this acknowledgement of the interdependent relationship between individuality and the external forces at play.


3)   What does this remind me of from my own life?


This passage reminds me of why I continue to write. I think that when I write it is impossible to lie to myself. The process of writing always seems to negate itself, especially if I begin with an intention. In writing, I feel a strong sense of individuality that is usually overcome by the truth of the writing process itself, leading me to acknowledge the “outside,” in a sense.


4)   What action does this call me to do?


Hal’s secrets with himself, and the habits he accrues to cover for previous habits calls me to acknowledge the various self-deceptions I might be avoiding or in which I might be entangled.


6 thoughts on “Weed, Secrecy, and Self-deception”

  1. What do you make of Hal’s apparent addiction to having control over his secrecy about getting high, as compensation for having no control over his addiction to actually getting high? A lot of the characters exhibit similar behavior by avoiding problems they feel like they can’t control by creating, or perhaps simply finding, an ancillary aspect of it that they can, which of course does nothing to address the problem itself, but keeps their insecurity from feeling like paralysis.


    1. I think this is a really great point. I think a lot of this stems from Hal’s relationship with Avril. She’s so afraid of her sons hiding anything from her, and although she (paradoxically) tries to hide that fear from them, it clearly seeps into her relationships with each of her sons. Whether he’s conscious of it or not, I think Hal’s secrecy about Bob Hope is a rebellion against his mother. She probably wouldn’t be too upset about him experimenting with drugs (we read this week that she’s fine with him drinking alcohol occasionally,) but the secrecy is what she really despises. Therefore, it’s the most important aspect to Hal.


      1. Yes, and it’s usually the opposite of what the parents intended. Avril has a terrible fear of secrecy, which she tries to keep secret, which in turn teaches Hal to value secrecy. It makes me think a lot about how perceptive children are and how little control parents have over what they pass on to their kids.


    1. Right back atcha! 🙂 I love the directive to use introspective contemplation to find meaning in IJ, and the writing and sharing of it is great!


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