“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
Reflection #1/Chapters 1–6
As if the title isn’t alluring enough, I was hooked on John Berendt’s witty storytelling abilities from page one. His ability to convey both the flamboyant and subdued lifestyles of the people of historic Savannah genuinely amazes me. Many times while reading extensive novels, whether fiction or nonfiction, I have fallen into the trap of forgetting minor details or characters from the book as I read. This problem constantly plagues readers and makes any meaningful analysis of the text virtually impossible. However, this is not the case with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In this colorful work, I am able to recall specific, even minor characters, as well as their quirks, quickly and easily. Berendt includes such vivid and imaginative descriptions of his people, places and things that it makes forgetting the details actually difficult.
One such example is the two joggers Berendt would often encounter in Forsyth Park. The way the author describes both of the seemingly minor characters in the book leaves me feeling as if I had actually met them in person. The author also sums up the social standards for biracial relations in Savannah in only one and a half pages. I simply love this element of the author’s writing…that he makes every character, whether they have a full chapter or one paragraph dedicated to them, memorable.
Although I am only six chapters into this novel, one of the characters I find most intriguing is Luther Driggers. He has a certain air of mystery about him. While his mousy looking appearance may be deceiving, Luther is described in the book as a modern day Eli Whitney, a true intellectual genius and inventor. I found Driggers’ extreme curiosity for innovation, whether through his captive flies or glowing goldfish, enlightening. His interactions with other characters also shed light on his character and personality. Ruth serves up his “usual” breakfast plate at Clary’s Drugstore, Serena Dawes has certainly taken a liking to him, and finally, the author, himself, is just as curious as I am about the rumors surrounding Luther and a certain vial of poison. I am excited to learn more about his background and hopefully watch his character develop throughout the novel.
While reading, I remember wedging a small piece of paper on a page containing the following quote, “All they know about life is what goes on inside their jar. They haven’t been exposed to pesticides or pollution, so they haven’t’ developed immunities or evolved in any way. They stay the same, generation after generation. If we released them into the outside world, they’d die. I think something like that happens after seven generations in Savannah. Savannah gets to be the only place you can live. We’re like bugs in a jar” (p. 73). The character’s description of Savannah society is honest, blunt and thoughtful all at the same time. Honestly, I cannot get enough of this character; his quirks, his irrational tendencies, and all the strange rumors and mysteries surrounding him. I find him utterly fascinating. While it is still early in the novel, I find Berendt’s ability to portray a realistic character with wildly surprising flaws not only impressive, but a trait other authors could utilize to improve their own writing.