The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: Section II
Section two focused on relationships, Affenlight and Owen’s, Schwartz and Henry’s, and Schwartz and Pella’s.
Affenlight, as discussed in my first reflection, has a crush on Owen. Unlike in the first section, however, Affenlight is becoming more accepting of his feelings as Harbach illustrates multiple times. On page 120,when he goes to visit Owen at the hospital Affenlight thinks “He [Owen] looked beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, in the way that a shattered dynastic vase might be beautiful, the ivory pieces unearthed and glued so the delicate plum filigree once again retraced its original circling paths after a lapse of centuries” (120). Through the repetition of the word “beautiful”, the knowledge that dynastic vases are nice and generally expensive, and the word “delicate” it is obvious that Affenlight thinks rather highly of Owen, as though he is a precious item that cannot be anything besides beautiful, despite being broken. When Affenlight goes to visit Owen he took a book to continue his reading visits but when he gets there, Owen’s mother is present. The work Affenlight had chosen was one by Whitman and he deeply regretted his decision once he saw Owen’s guest. He began to think that “He should have brought Tocqueville. Or William James. Or Plato…” (167) Harbach’s usage of the short sentence, the two sentence fragments, and the “Or” starter, he effectively shows Affenlight’s thought process, one filled with worry and regret. Who knew so much could go wrong with choosing a book to read to someone? While Affenlight worried, Owen joked saying that he did not like Whitman because “Whitman appeals to the newly gay. He’s like a gateway drug” (169). At that point, I was pretty sure Owen knew Affenlight had a crush on him but I was not positive. Anyway, due to his kind visit to see Owen, Affenlight, Owen, Pella, and Owen’s mother, Genevieve have dinner together and things get weird. Genevieve pulls Pella aside to ask her if Affenlight is gay (due to his book choice) and Pella says no and from there, Genevieve begins to flirt. Affenlight slightly flirts back, possibly unknowing it, and by the end of the night, Genevieve thinks he may like her. But she’s wrong. Because Owen and Affenlight kissed. Now I’m super sure Owen knows.
When it comes to Schwartz and Henry, there is a lot of distance forming between the two. Schwartz finally decided to tell Henry about not being accepted to any law schools after hiding it for so long and Henry was genuinely pained for him. Schwartz regretted telling him before the game because Henry made numerous mistakes that he beat himself up over. Henry is starting to think negatively about the game of baseball while Schwartz is still trying to push him forward and the negativity is outweighing everything else. Schwartz and Henry’s relationship was based on their love for baseball and with that love vanishing on Henry’s end, the friendship seems to be failing as well. I hope their friendship can outlast Henry’s baseball issue but I don’t have much faith that it will.
The last relationship is a new and unexpected one, Pella and Schwartz.There are various differences between Schwartz and her husband, David and Harbach constantly makes note of them. Pella noticed that Schwartz was “willing to act so unreservedly glum in her presence…”(140) and she felt so relieved because “David never did that — David’s eyes were always right on her, probing, admiring, assessing, enjoying” (140). Pella relished in even the smallest differences between the two like the fact that “She could feel the softness of [Schwartz’] beard — denser, softer than David’s”(146) which was kind of a weird detail at first. The most important variation between the two was that she slept when she was with Schwartz, something she could not do in a room with David even though they were married. She simply craved sleep for years but just couldn’t. The differences revealed that Pella is not only a rather observant person but also that her marriage was toxic and also that Schwartz is the complete opposite of David which might be exactly what she needs to become herself again. Schwartz and Pella are not at all alike so it will be interesting to see if their relationship thrives or if it crashes. It may crash because Schwartz, even though falling for Pella, is still more worried about Henry thinking that “Pella could wait. His live could wait. That was all he had to know.” That mindset is definitely going to hurt him in the long run.
I also noticed that whenever the book is in baseball setting, the author refers to Mike Schwartz as “Schwartz” but when he is with Pella, he is referred to as “Mike”. The character does have two separate personalities depending on who he is surrounded by, one that is much rougher and guardian-like when he is with the baseball team and more open and vulnerable when he is with Pella.
Word Count: 828