Tom is not. Edgar makes him up. Tom is nothing but a name for a part of his playacting. And yet he has as much body as any other character, speaks more of a past, and owns to more fears, more desires, more places, more dread. He is not allowed to disappear, even when his makers would disown him. Perhaps Tom never quite makes it to the status of a life. Or perhaps he touches the possibility of life more than any other character, precisely because its achievement is in doubt. No other character is so predicted as Poor Tom, subject to so graduated an arrival. Tom shudders with the difficulty of being: the uncanny weirdness and contingency of life. Perhaps Tom incarnates a shuttered life, upon which the blinds might at any moment be drawn. Or a life in recessive, fractal mirrors, one image opening onto another. We cannot be sure which, if any, have substance. Or a life in scenes: one that appears on the stage, and then leaves; that returns, and once more disappears. Where does it go to when it goes? Where does it come from? Who can possibly say—but Tom exists in this cleft, is discovered at it. Tom thus incarnates the incompossible—the things exiled beyond visible community and recorded history; the possibilities that are deemed not possible, or that have been forgotten, or whose time has not yet come: the buried world, the drowned world, the prevented world; the lives unlived.


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