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That One, Soft Spot

MadamPresident's picture




“Everyone’s got a Hole. Ain’t nobody ever lived who don’t got a Hole in them somewheres. When I say Hole you know what I’m talking about, dontcha? Soft spot, sweet spot, opening, blind spot, Itch, Gap, call it what you want but I call it a Hole.” (Parks p.30-31) The word that I will like to draw upon from this quote is the term, somewhere. Billy Beede says that everyone has a hole in them somewhere, but what if it’s not just a matter of somewhere, but someone.  Everyone is this novel has a hole in them somewhere, but for Dill Smiles his hole was someone.

 Willa Mae Beede was his soft spot, his sweet spot, his opening, his blind spot, his itch, his gap, his hole. On pages 86- 87 of Parks’ novel, Dill describes Willa Mae as he saw her for the first time. “And there came Willa Mae Beede. No not, Willa Mae Beede yet, just a good looking woman walking down the road…The way she was walking was something else, but what was following behind her was something else.  It was a brand- new 1946 Bel Air. Two boys were pushing it. The woman looked like she was going to walk all day. The boys looked like so long as she kept walking they’d keep pushing. I was ready to push her car straight up into the air, all the way to the moon. “I’ll take it from here, boys,” I said. And that was pretty much how we started.” This is the moment that Willa Mae became Dill’s Hole.

As I read through the novel I had trouble finding what Dill’s Hole was. The other characters throughout the story had Hole’s that were obvious. For example, Billy Beede had a Hole in her head; she longs to find her own identity that separates her from her mother. Laz Jackson has a Hole in his heart. “I am looking for a wife. I am looking for Billy Beede’s hand in marriage. (parks p.254) Some characters had more than one Hole that was apparent like Roosevelt “teddy” Beede, who has a hole in his head and wants the voice of God to call on him so that he can go back to preaching, and he also has a hole in his pocket that longs to be filled with money so that he can get June a leg and maybe build himself another church. Homer also had two holes present; a hole in his pants that desired to have sexual relations not only with Billy, but also Birdie at the gas station on the way to Lajunta, and a hole in his pocket which motivated his passion to travel with the Beedes in search of the treasure. Every character has a hole(s) that was apparent, but Dill does not share the same qualities.

Page 31 describes a hole as a lack and a craving for something, and this is when I realized that Dill’s Hole was Willa Mae. Dill in more than a few ways lacked parts of Willa Mae. Most of all he lacked the will to have Willa Mae the way that he wanted, which was all to himself. Originally it was supposed to be just, Dill and Willa Mae. “It was Christmas and she’d been living with me for three whole months. I wanted to show off the gal I was planning to marry.” (parks p.204) But this is not the way the story went, eventually it became Willa Mae Beede, Willa Mae’s Lover, Dill Smiles, and Willa’s Bastard Child1. Dill desired to be with Willa to the point of enduring self-torture. “…I told Willa she could do whatever she wanted with him, but she was going to have to do it in my house and in my bed and I weren’t sleeping on no floor. So they would do it right there while I read the newspaper. I didn’t like it but at least I could keep an eye on her.” (parks p.191) This reiterates the fact that all Dill wanted was Willa Mae, and this included Willa Mae’s baggage. “To keep her I let Willa Mae do whatever she wanted but what kind of life is that? It weren’t so bad. She respected me. (Parks p.241)

Through everything that Dill has been through with Willa Mae Beede, I am not sure what hurt her the most; Willa Mae telling everyone that she wasn’t a man.,Willa Mae beede sleeping around and getting pregnant twice, Willa Mae leaving for days with no clear signs of when she would return home, or Willa Mae dying as Dill watched. “Willa Mae was in Room 33. There was blood in the bed. She was under the covers, so just glancing at her from the door, you couldn’t tell she was bleeding. That’s how come she bled for so long.” (Parks 227) For the first time Dill could not get Willa Me beede out of a bad situation. Dill could not be the hero. That day Dill lost his hole, but really he began to lose her before that, he will just never admit it.

Throughout this novel Dill is portrayed as a hard, and lucky man, but the truth is, Dill is full of sorrow, and has the worst luck of all. After all, how is a man supposed to live once he has lost his Hole? After Dill gets drunk with his mother and falls to sleep, and through his his thoughts he tell us, “I am a man, but an old man, and Willa Mae, six feet underneath the top of the ground, unfolds her hands from where I laid them cross her chest and, with a smile, takes me in her arms.” (Parks p.244) “I miss her. Willa Mae. Much as I hated her.” (Parks p.114)

Dill Smiles had the biggest Hole of them all, and still does. When Willa Mae died, so did a piece of Dill Smiles. Dill Smiles’ Hole will be empty eternally, because unlike the rest of the characters, Dill’s Hole is something that can never be replaced.



Work Cited

1 “Me and her was like husband and wife, almost. When Billy was born, it was me, Dill Smiles, who took care of Willa Mae and her bastard child both.” (Parks 2004. P.37)

Park, Suzan- Lori. “Getting Mother’s Body.” Random House Edition. Print. 2004



Anne Dalke's picture

Madame President--
You’re doing something very interesting here: turning the “somewheres” of a “Hole” into a specific “someone,” making it clear that, when we fall in love, each of us becomes vulnerable to losing that love…and showing, with lots of good textual evidence, that this is exactly what happens to Dill.

Your prediction that Dill’s “Hole will be empty eternally” isn’t based on evidence, though (is it?). The last we hear directly from Dill, he reports (as you say) that “Willa Mae…takes me in her arms.” That may suggest that the hole has been filled, that Dill is now whole. In the next chapter, Billy reports that Dill gets up and starts digging; a few chapters later, she describes Dill as acting out his realization that he’d been hoarding a fake diamond…and then announces that his “hog farm is going pretty good.” I’m not sure that these are excepts add up to an illustration of “eternal emptiness”?

Except for that final, unsubstantiated claim, this is a tightly argued paper; I don’t see it calling out for anything else to complete it. So what will/can would you like to do for the revision due next Friday? This week you worked through a question you had, to a satisfactory answer; how can you build on that now to develop a more complicated idea? Dill’s “somewhere” is a “someone”; his hole is in his heart. So…what? What are the implications of this reading?

It puts me in mind of June Jordan’s sequence of reflections, in “Report from the Bahamas, 1982,” that
* we are parties to a transaction designed to set us against each other; that

* the usual race and class concepts of connection, or gender assumptions of unity, do not apply very well; that

* partnership in misery does not necessarily provide for partnership for change; that

* It is… what we can do for each other that will determine the connection; and that

*I must make the connection real between me and these strangers everywhere….

Is a hole a site for connection? Does Parks think so? Does Dill? Does Billy? Do you?

Looking forward to seeing where you can go with this,