As human beings, we fail to see things directly. We imagine and fantasize things to be something their not. It’s important to recognize the failure, so we learn our lesson for next time. By experiencing this failure first hand, we know the consequences and let downs, of not seeing directly.
Walker Percy uses the terms “dialectical movement”, “symbolic complex”, and the “it” to support his idea of language. Percy’s interest in language recognizes the use of symbolic language to which plays a larger role in our consciousness (Percy 566).
Throughout this paper I’m going to explain; give examples and ideas that support Percy’s idea. To start out with, Percy uses the term dialectical movement. Almost every teenage girl can relate to this, whether it’s from personal experience or from watching a film.
When a girl looks at a prom dress for the first time, she instantly thinks of the fairy tale endings in movies. She imagines herself dressed beautifully, taking pictures with all of her friends, and she fantasizes about dancing with the love of her life. All the planning for this special night, sounds like the perfect evening, and for what? To be a let down, for it was not the visual in her head.
Maybe her friends were all late to pictures or her date ditched her at the dance? This is an example of what Walker Percy described as dialectical movement. Something similar to dialectical movement, to which Percy also describes, is symbolic complex.
Percy describes symbolic complex, “the thing is no longer the thing as it confronted by the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated- by picture postcard, geography textbook, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon.
If it does not conform to what was seen on the postcard, then we are not able to see it directly and are only conscious of the disparity between what is and what is supposed to be” (Percy 566). For example, parents might believe colleges are full of students throwing wild parties and getting drunk every night. To which might be true but when parents and their child visit a college, they do not experience the wild parties.
Therefore, they are not able to see what the college is like directly. These people get the sugarcoated version of the college and what is was supposed to be. Another example of symbolic complex from the passage is, “A student who has the desire to get at a dogfish or a Shakespeare sonnet may have the greatest difficulty in salvaging the creature itself from the educational package in which it is presented.
The great difficulty is that he is not aware that there is a difficulty; surely, he thinks, in such a fine classroom with such a fine textbook, the sonnet must come across” (Percy 573). The package is what is described as symbolic complex.
The package is what people see as a whole, they do not break it down for what it really is. This also happens when people are trying to manage their time. It is not uncommon for the everyday college student to be overwhelmed about the three finals they have to study for and five papers they have to write due in a week. They immediately freak out and stress out. This is an example of symbolic complex.
This student only sees the finals and paper as a whole instead of breaking everything down step by step. Symbolic complex is seeing something as a whole and not experiencing it. Symbolic complex is seeing and believing something to be great and beautiful, but in all reality it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
A person’s perception on a specific event is very much associated with dialectical movement. Anything will have influence on their perception too. For example, watching movies or even observing everyday situations in public. The way people perceive things will later affect their reaction subconsciously.
Symbolic complex is often described with this example, receiving a postcard from a tropical dream vacation spot. The water in the picture is as blue as the sky and the sand is as while as snow.
This paradise is something anyone has only dreamed of visiting. For some reason you decide to take a vacation there. As you arrive to the beach, the sand is extremely rocky and the water is not as blue as the photographs.
You suddenly feel a sense of disappointment and anger. This is symbolic complex at its finest. Another element in Percy’s idea of language is what he calls the “it”. For example, planning a trip to The Great Wall of China. While someone plans a trip they want to make it special so they follow every brochure because they want the traditional Great Wall experience with their own “it”.
Walker Percy describes the “it” as, “authentic elements which are unspoiled, not only meaning a place that is physically intact, it means also that it is not encrusted by renown and by the familiar, that it has not been discovered by others” (Percy 569). While at The Great Wall of China, the people vacationing realize that the wall is just a wall and that every person to ever visit experienced the same thing.
While disappointed they find a passage in the wall. These people decide to go on an adventure and enter the passage. Just through the passage they find Chinese people in their traditional attire, speaking and eating Chinese. Instantly they are in awe and observe these people in their native setting. This is the “it”. This is the cultural and unique experience everyone longs for while on vacation.
When my family and I go on vacation, I almost always try to find my own “it”. When we went to Mexico we did all of the tourist things; visiting beaches, zip lining, and swimming with dolphins. Aside from the typical tourist attractions, my family and I stayed with a Mexican for a night. Not only did we get to stay in a Mexican home but the family cooked authentic Mexican food, played Mexican music, and shared stories and their traditions.
My family and I felt like we experienced something that most people never get to. We were able to see how the people of Mexico live first hand. My family and I felt like we discovered something most people do not, we experienced the “it”. Walker Percy’s interest in language recognizes the use of symbolic language to which plays a larger role in our consciousness.
Percy uses the terms, dialectical movement, symbolic complex, and the “it” to support his idea of language, as I explained throughout this paper. Whether you’re prom dress shopping or on vacation there is always a bigger picture. As Percy has explained, find the simplicity and authenticity that is found but has been lost. Find what has been lost.
Do not set yourself or anyone else up for failure, break the whole idea into many pieces that make a beautiful picture, and find your own unique something. Be realistic and see things directly, that way you’re never disappointed. I believe Walker Percy wants people to learn from their mistakes and see the simple things in life for what they really are, beautiful.
Percy, Walker. “The Loss of The Creature.” “ Walker Percy.” Ways of Reading an Anthology for Writers.5th. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Boston, Massachusetts. Bedford/St. Martins 1999. 564-580. Print.