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Filtering by Tag: Moby Dick

Blind in Depths: The Delusions of Carmela Soprano

Jayne English

altar-cross-16611 I thought therapy was going to clear up the fucking freak show in his head.”      —Carmela Soprano

In The Sopranos, Tony Soprano and his wife, Carmela, spar over differences, but they’re largely united in their delusions about Tony’s line of work. Tony believes he is a “soldier” carrying out orders—sordid, illegal, it doesn’t matter—for the good of the mob Family. And he does. Not always unflinchingly, but unfailingly.

Carmela’s delusions center on the home front. She convinces herself that her place is at Tony’s side. Usually Tony’s business rarely troubles the waters of Carmela and their children’s lives (Meadow and A.J.). But when mafia blood seeps under the door, Carmela is reminded of the high stakes she gambles to ignore. She sometimes wrestles about staying with Tony, but in spite of the dubious origins of the guns and piles of money hidden in the ceiling tiles; despite increasing number of Family disappearances, she stays.

In fact, for a while she is church sanctioned to remain in the marriage. When Carmela seeks the counsel of the well-meaning family priest, he encourages her to help Tony be a better person.

Carmela overlooks Tony’s philandering, telling herself the women mean nothing to him. But when one calls their home looking for Tony and A.J. answers the phone, Carmela is incensed. Only as it crosses her threshold does she feel the threat of Tony’s infidelity.

This breaching of her walled fortress spikes internal turmoil, and she seeks out a therapist. He catches on quickly to the delicate way she frames her husband’s work, and knows instantly what it says about her.

Carmela: His crimes … they are … organized crime. Dr. Krakower: The mafia. Carmela: (Gasps) Oh Jesus. Oh, so what. So what. He betrays me, every week with these whores. Dr. Krakower: Probably the least of his misdeeds.

Carmela becomes defensive when the therapist labels her an accomplice to her husband’s crimes, telling him, “All I do is make sure he’s got clean clothes in his closet and dinner on his table.”

Her love of money competes with her love of family. She doesn’t see how being an accomplice to Tony has created blindness in her children. Meadow becomes a high salaried attorney defending white collar criminals. Tony seems set to help A.J. reach his dream of opening his own nightclub, which could easily be the next mob front like Bada Bing.

Carmela’s denial is haunting. Haunting like the crosses that are all around her, on her necklace, on the walls of her home, in the church she frequents. They are everywhere as in Flannery O’Connor’s “Christ haunted South,” where Jesus is invoked but not followed.

She has moments of spiritual clarity, like when Christopher nearly dies and she intercedes for him and her family. “Tonight I ask you take my sins and the sins of my family into your merciful heart. We have chosen this life in full awareness of the consequences of our sins.” But her vision clouds again, and later she asks Tony to put extra pressure on the building inspector so she can move forward on her spec house, knowing full well what that type of pressure implies.

Carmela whitewashes Tony’s career because of what she gains from it. In his poem “Moby Dick,” Dan Beachy-Quick writes:

You beat your head against the jagged rocks. Blind in depths so dark light itself is blind, You knock your head against the rocks to see And scratch the god-itch from your thoughts.

We can hope Tony’s gestures of forgiveness and compassion at the end of the show signal a new direction for the Sopranos. But if they don’t, the last scene, when they gather at their favorite restaurant, is chilling if it marks only the perpetuating of a mafia family status quo.

The Same Boat

Tom Sturch

the-long-leg In Florida we embark on summer's long, liturgical Ordinary Time as a voyage on the strands and foils of a variegated sameness–sun-buoyed air that yields ninety by noon, storms by five and somber evening skies. Part clockwork, part kaleidoscope, we navigate the elements laced around the odd hurricane and accrete the heartbeat of a six/eight seaborne shanty. After twenty-five years its rhythms return like a friend who reminds you of your best self. You sail, you smell the salt, you chart by stars and passing islands. Even down below, out of the sun, you feel your feet. But in this story, Ordinary Time is still three days away.

“I want to go to a movie,”I said to my wife. “The Tom Cruise flick. Edge of something.” The residual emotion from an argument with my son had short-circuited my recall.

“Tomorrow,”she said.

“It opens tonight,”I said as I walked away, at once glad she either did not hear or restrained from engaging. The demand to see a movie was a self-prescribed distraction after the phone tilt about a car repair, a car that seems irreparable and the onset of guilt. An instance overblown into raging crisis by the expectations of a father for a son who is so much like him. We go and it helps. Cruise is infected with alien DNA that allows his days to recur postmortem. He dies a thousand deaths and with each new life remembers better where the beast is hidden. It saves the world. That was Friday. Saturday morning I reviewed a script for Sunday about Pentecost wind and fire and three thousand births and I went adrift on something that felt like Melville:

“…for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.1

Ordinary Time is winsome and resists particular answers. It blows out of the west and is the flash of the morning sun. It is the fump and skush of oars in a dead calm and the groan of rigging tacking into a gale. It is form, via negativa, by elements both unsubstantial and powerful. It is the strange exhale of letting high ceremony unfurl into open life. You need room to take it in. By Monday I texted an apology about love that is too often too loud. His answer returned like the wind in my sail. “I am grateful for every day,”he said.

1 Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick

(Painting by Edward Hopper)