Avoiding Grace Like It’s the Plague (or Tuberculous for That Matter)

In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “The Fugitive”, the main character, Marciano, is a man with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculous. The Health Services worker Rosa Hinojosa gives Marciano an ultimatum,” if he did not comply fully — no lapses — Dr. Rosen would get a court order and incarcerate him to be sure he got the full round of treatment” (Boyle).

In reality, the forcing of medication on Marciano is a blessing. If he were to get his way, he would have returned to the little clinic in his mother’s Mexican village to receive treatment and would have, in all probability, died. Graceful Blessings frequently occur in the course of his struggle, and Marciano is either oblivious to their arrival, or he purposefully refutes them. But, no matter how many times the Grace is turned down or is unacknowledged, another chance is shoved in Marciano’s face.

The first instance of Grace revolving around Marciano’s sickness is the original round of treatment. Tuberculosis is a rarely contracted in first world areas (Treisman), and he easily received medical care. The rejection of Grace first occurs when Marciano decides to quit treatment early because he felt better (since he apparently knew more about infectious diseases than a man with a medical degree). By refusing the gift of modern medicine initially, he sends himself into a vicious cycle of avoidance and sickness. The second occasion of Grace is Rosa Hinojosa and Dr. Rosen’s ultimatum. They allow Marciano to remain a free man and still give him the right to make decisions (for the time being) on his own. They also still give him the right to remain among society for the duration of his treatment, but wearing a mask and taking medication come as stipulations. Marciano does stick to the regimen of IV meds and pills but blatantly disobeys the part about always wearing a surgical mask. He first takes the mask off in public when he sits in a bar after leaving the Health Clinic. The second time is while working with Rudy when Rosa Hinojosa witnesses his lack of a mask. He rejects the Grace of freedom by not using the covering, and again by what he does next. After seeing Rosa in his driveway, Marciano sprints off trying to avoid jail time (and, yes, Grace) but is caught by Rosa Hinojosa

and a Health Services “mule” after he doubles over in a coughing fit.

The lack of regard that Marciano exhibits is similar to the men atop the truck in the cartoon (from The New Yorker’s publication of “The Fugitive”) below.

Source: The New Yorker

While he is hurling mutated TB cells into the masses and not rocks, the concept is the same. Both Marciano and the men are causing trouble and potentially pain, to the people around them.

Marciano is given yet another chance (to be cured, not to be a free man. He stripped himself of the privilege) despite repeatedly proving he is undeserving of them. He is forced into the hospital to be treated and incarcerated. On the walk through the hospital buildings, people “made room for them in the corridors, shrinking into the walls as they passed by in their masks” (Boyle). Marciano is selfishly oblivious to the fear he instills in people. He then goes on to, literally and figuratively, spit in the face of Grace and refuses help by running away from the hospital. Even though his coughing fits are becoming longer and more violent, Marciano decides he is better off alone and leaves the Grace standing in a room dazed and potentially infected.

Source: The New Yorker

Running from Grace is a habit for Marciano, he has to flee for fear of facing his disease. Much like the man in the cartoon on the left (Also from The New Yorker’s version of The “Fugitive”),

he has become a zombie. While the cartoon man is a zombie to caffeine provided by coffee, Marciano is a zombie to fleeing the Grace given by others. The cartoon is afraid to discover what a day without caffeine would be like, while The Fugitive is afraid to learn how a day of responsibility feels. All they know are their routines, and anything else terrifies them.

Marciano is faced with Grace one final time. After sneaking back into his house and falling asleep, he wakes up to dogs barking and men banging on his door. He decides to slip out of a window and try his chances at running once again. After making it through a few of his neighbor’s yards, Marciano falls into a coughing spell from which he cannot recover. He lays in the corner of someone’s lawn and is incapable of moving any further. The final instance of Grace comes in an ironic form. He must become sick to the point of immobilization; the only way Marciano will retrieve the treatment needed to cure him (if there is a cure after waiting so long) is by force. The only way he can be forced into treatment is by not having the strength to fight, or even move. The determination to avoid Grace is what ironically leads to Marciano’s treatment; that is if he doesn’t die on the spot…

The story of Marciano repeatedly shows the rejection of Grace. He avoids help at every turn and tries to run away from what is best for him. Doing so proves that Grace is given even when it is not deserved. Even though Marciano completely lacks regard for what’s best, he still receives help and care. He shows a complete remorselessness for his repeated refusal of aid, and help is still offered to him. Grace is defined by Merriam-Webster as “…an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency”. Marciano is shown mercy when, despite his best efforts to avoid it, he is undeserving given treatment. Getting something in return for ingratitude and selfishness is an example of kindness. Getting something in return for ingratitude and selfishness is an illustration of Grace.

Like what you read? Give Wes Kelley a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.