Frozen Fire: Identity and its Connection to Grief by APLiteratureHP

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Wednesday, 13th June, 2012


In the novel Frozen Fires only connection to her missing brother Josh, her source of grief. Though the boy is infamous, his identity remains a mystery throughout the novel, as does his own personal grief. This lack of identity strengthens the claims, since the need for specifics is non-existent, and the legitimacy of these claims rests on the supposed victims. Friends and distant family of these victims create a lynch mob brought together by grief, and aim to bring justice to the boy all while Dusty attempts to find Josh and not get dragged into the grief induced hatred. Through identity, Tim Bowler exemplifies human grief and the extremes it can reach when the cause of their grief cannot be specifically identified.


On a midnight phone call, Dusty first meets the boy, originally assuming it would be her father calling, one of many identities the boy is confused for. Through a half-drunk conversation with the boy, Dusty learns this boy knows something about Josh and vows to find him so she may learn where Josh ran away to- Josh’s disappearance caused anguish among her family, resulting in her mother walking out, and her father becoming a jobless clutter of misery. The boy, after prodding, falsely admits his name is Josh, startling Dusty and drawing her deeper into the mystery of the boy. Later in the conversation the boy claims that he has “got lots of names” (Bowler 7) which only intensifies the lack of identity of the boy.


Through multiple meetings and conversations, Dusty becomes increasingly obsessed with the boy, tying him and Josh together in a desperate attempt to find Josh where “Something told her that he [the boy] was the key to the mystery of Josh” (136). Dusty’s grief over Josh’s disappearance becomes her driving force for protecting the boy from the lynch mob and the police, ignoring the danger from both the mob and the boy. The boy’s lack of identity and knowledge of Josh turn Dusty’s grief into an unhealthy fascination for the boy in for whom Dusty disregards her safety and essentially the safety of her family in order to unearth Josh and find his location.


The boy himself contains his own grief, shown through his attempted suicide and his statements of, “’I said I’m dying. I didn’t say I wanted to live” (2). The boy’s grief is continued through a conversation with Dusty in which he says:


‘I don’t know anything.’ The boy’s voice felt like breath upon a window. ‘Who I am or what I am. I don’t know if I’m alive or dead. I only know that I am.’
‘And what do you want?’
‘To cease.’
‘To cease what?’
‘Cease to be.’ (200).


This grief stems from who he is, or isn’t. There are times when he walks in the snow and leaves footprints thirty feet away from the last, and times when he escapes from locked rooms, cars, or even jail, showing an ethereal existence. The boy’s identity is at times nonexistent, yet there are times as well when he becomes others through his words. The boy speaks Josh’s last words of “’I’m sorry little Dusty. Good-bye, little Dusty’” (303) as well as the common words of Jonah, Dusty’s neighbor’s deceased brother, “Give ‘em hell, kid. Never say die’” (143) both phrases that were never shared with others. At times, the boy takes on identities of those most grieved over in specific phrases said and thus “’might have been anyone. Or no one at all’” (39). Through grief, the boy becomes others, speaking the words of those most grieved over, or becoming the identity that helps people, such as Silas or Dusty, get over the loss of loved ones.


The lynch mob itself is a group comprised of grief stricken people, each with their own reason for wanting the boy brought to justice. The most prominent of the mob is Jethro Haynes, the step-father of Angelica, one of the girls allegedly raped. Angelica, only seeing the light hair of her attacker, becomes convinced that it was the boy who raped her, making him the scapegoat while Haynes’s grief over Angelica’s rape turns into anger, and the anger becomes aimed at the boy. The boy’s lack of identity becomes the reason he is accused of rape, and becomes the reason he is hated by so many. When speaking to Dusty, Haynes mentions Dusty’s protection of the boy, and the rest of the mob’s hatred towards the boy:
‘Then let’s talk about your folly,’ said the man. ‘Because you’re a bit crazy in the head too.’ He leaned closer. ‘Now listen. This is personal. Someone I care about has been badly hurt. And the person who hurt her is the person you seem to want to protect. O for me, it’s very simple. I need to find that boy.’
The man’s eyes hardened.
‘And I need to find him before those other people get him. They’ve got their own grievances and that in itself should make you question why what you’re doing keeping quiet. But I can’t be thinking of them.’ The man paused. ‘Or you. I must have the boy first- before anyone else. And I won’t let you or anyone else stop me doing that.’ (270).
Haynes, through his words, proves how grief can turn into anger, and thus into an obsession, one unhealthy like Dusty’s, which Haynes also questions. The grief of Haynes stems from Angelica’s accusation of the boy through vague pictures in her mind tying to vague descriptions of the boy. Angelica’s grief causes Haynes’s grief, which only adds to the grief of the boy while all of this grief is caused by the boy’s lack of identity.


Tim Bowler’s novel Frozen Fire demonstrates the relationship between grief and identity, in this case lack of identity. The boy in the novel, owning no identity, and sometimes taking on the identity of others in speech patterns, becomes the center of grief in the novel. Though the boy himself does not cause any of the grief, he becomes a scapegoat for the grief of others, resulting in him being either hated or obsessed over in the search to be freed from personal pain.