Am I A Fruit Bowl?

Why is this fruit bowl always here? He stopped and held it by the rims.

It’s always here and it never

Has any fruit in it. Been here all my life never had fruit in it yet. Doesn’t

That bother you? How do we even

Know it’s a fruit bowl? She regarded him through smoke. How do you think it feels

Growing up in a house full

Of empty fruit bowls?” –Carson pg 68

The image of the fruit bowl in this passage is particularly interesting to me as a symbol of the self. I think of a fruit bowl as a vessel for a collection of fruits, usually a variety of different ones put together in one large bowl. The idea of taking bits of different fruits and putting them together reminds me of the intersection of varying identities; in the case of Geryon, I would say it could refer to his queer identity, racial ambiguity, presentation as a red, winged ‘monster,’ and the influence of his traumatic childhood on his identity and perception of his self. I think including things like his traumatic past alongside his more physical identifiers creates a more rounded (like a bowl??) image of who he is. Also, I remember Georgis stating that “it is likely that because his body is strangely marked on the outside, that his inner universal queer wings are throbbing with that much more pain” (pg. 165). This highlights the way different aspects of an individual’s identity relate to each other, and how certain social identities can make others more complicated– here, I am thinking in particular about oppressed/otherwise marginalized groups (LGBTQ+ community, racial/ethnic groups, etc) and how the combination of such identities (ex: Geryon as a “gay racially hybrid young man,” Georgis pg 165) can exacerbate the oppression or isolation felt as a result. 

Speaking of isolation, and this sort of societal exclusion, the image of the fruit bowl as empty in the passage above is relevant and representative of Geryon’s feelings of loneliness and misunderstanding. Geryon feels caged and “other” as a result of his identities marking him as different, and lacks consistent healthy relationships in his life (i.e. his somewhat detached mother, abusive relationship with his brother, and complicated relationship with Heracles). While I think these empty, lonely feelings can be obviously symbolized by the emptiness of the fruit bowl, I also think the fruit bowl can be imagined as empty in the way that it has this potential to be filled. I think the potential to be filled could easily become a sexual metaphor, but I was thinking of it in the context of defining the “self,” that this potential refers to a future opportunity to be understood (by others and in self reflection). The potential for Geryon’s life to be filled with more healthy relationships with others, alongside a more complete understanding of his own identity/desires/place in the world. 

I think the fruit bowl as an image of the self gives us the space to explore the role of queerness in this text. Particularly the lines “Been here all my life never had fruit in it yet. Doesn’t / that bother you? How do we even / know it’s a fruit bowl?” (Carson pg 68) lead me to wonder about the types of assumptions we make about people based on the way they look or present themselves. This could be in terms of gender presentation or queer-coding, but also about the types of labels someone uses (especially outside of the cis/binary/heteronormative expectations of society). I wonder how these lines might reflect Geryon’s thoughts about his own identity, particularly as a queer person; I am reminded of my own experiences with reflecting on my queer identity as someone who identifies as bisexual but has only had relationships with opposite sex partners in the past. The idea of using labels without “experience” can be a way of “other”-ing, even within the queer community. I think the question of “how do we even / know it’s a fruit bowl?” reflects this question of who am I, how do I identify myself, and how do I know? Georgis would supplement these thoughts with the line “taking account of the self is never a straightforward process” (pg 165).  I wonder if the question “how do we even / know it’s a fruit bowl?” is even relevant, if we are focusing on self-identification. How much does it matter whether others know it is a fruit bowl, so long as the fruit bowl knows that it is and is comfortable with its identity as a fruit bowl, regardless of whether it has ever held fruit before? Or if the fruit bowl only looks like a fruit bowl “should,” but doesn’t identify that way?

3 thoughts on “Am I A Fruit Bowl?”

  1. I find your response extremely intriguing because you caught onto something that I wouldn’t have looked twice at by myself. Despite my lack of noticing, I completely agree with what you have brought to the table. I think that the fruit bowl metaphor does speak strongly and strategically to Geryon’s own identity and perception of self. Especially because his identity might not be something that is obvious and standing out- like the empty fruit bowl that no one but Geryon pays attention to- and it is something that requires a deeper insight. I also want to touch on the question you posed: “How much does it matter whether others know it is a fruit bowl, so long as the fruit bowl knows that it is and is comfortable with its identity as a fruit bowl, regardless of whether it has ever held fruit before?” I think that it matters in the sense that society wants people to fit in perfect little boxes of unrealistic expectations, yet it shouldn’t really matter because it is our own selves that need to be comfortable with our identity. I wish that it didn’t matter to others how we identify ourselves, but at any glance of “otherness”, there are questions raised, even if they are not relevant to the person that asked the question in the first place.

  2. “How do we even / know it’s a fruit bowl?” Yes, yes, yes. I had not paid much attention to this stanza originally, simply noting the empty fruit bowl and moving on, but your comparison of the empty fruit bowl to idenity feels so accurate its painful. With identity, and certainly in my own experience, identity is so hard to figure out when you are told that what you are experiencing is one thing, even if it is another. If Geryon was told his whole life that the color red was yellow by everyone, then how would he figure out that he was actually red? If the empty bowl on the table is simply a soup bowl but is always called a fruit bowl, how much longer would it take to figure that out? These few lines about a fruit bowl speak to Geryon’s inner discovery of himself as he begins to question the things he has been told are true.

  3. I think this analysis gets at a really important idea about the capacity of an object (or anything, really), and how that capacity affects our perception. Perhaps the fruit bowl will sit on the counter for the rest of Geryon’s life without ever having fruit sit in it, but it’s still a bowl that *could* hold fruit. It’s a “Fruit Bowl” for the arbitrary reason someone decided to call it that, but the knowledge that it is arbitrary should be entirely freeing. Reading this reminded me of how Audre Lorde describes the functions that words have for her. Words have the ability to do so many things, even if they never achieve all of their possible uses. A fruit bowl can be content because even if it never has a single grape sitting in the bottom of it, the possibility exists and no one can take that away. I think Geryon’s perspective on the fruit bowl says more about his fear of rejection and loss that comes from being “othered” than anything else. The capacity for greatness will always come with the vulnerability of loss.

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