On p2, as Eric and Jen birth their marginalia relationship, Jen believes she has discovered the identity of Eric – Thomas Lyle Chadwick, PSU ID#3946608. By p5, however, Jen has investigated Chadwick further and discovered he is an undergrad in geology, which doesn’t line up with Eric’s story. Jen confronts Eric over this, and once Eric admits he allowed Jen to believe he was Chadwick, Jen gets upset and tells Eric to go to p10 for her response to this atrocity. And it is there that we find Jen’s response – a carefully drawn square with the thick borders in the upper left-hand corner. Eric struggles to understand her response, and we readers, like Eric, are left without a definitive answer.
What you will find here is also not a definitive answer, but a list of observations about the conversation leading up to and about this square that seem to carry a few common themes: nothing and three.
- On the page where Jen “discovers” that Eric is Thomas Chadwick (p2), the page is blank. There is no print from the book. Just to the right of that, we are introduced to “S” – a man with no identity.
- After Jen confronts Eric, she stops writing in the book for awhile. On p5 Eric says, It’s really disappointing to pick up the book and find nothing from you.
- Jen tell’s Eric about the square on p5 by saying, Dear Mr. Not Chadwick, see p10 for my response.
- Next to Jen’s square, after Eric first finds it, he writes, That’s your response?? Um, there’s nothing there.
- When Jen finally does respond to Eric, she asks Aren’t you a student? Eric responds with I was. I got “expunged” in January. To be expunged is to be made nothing – erased completely from existence.
- V.M. Straka’s third book is entitled The Square. It is first mentioned in Ship of Theseus on p70, where the main character Franzl is described by FXC in Fn1 as a man with no possessions. The last word in the text on p70 is nonetheless.
- Eric’s pencilled marginalia refers to The Square on p75 and below that, bottom left, Jen says about a code she is trying to track that I’m getting nowhere with this.
Three (admittedly, this applies more to Straka’s book The Square than specifically to Jen’s drawing)
- The Square is the third book in V.M. Straka’s bibliography of nineteen works.
- On p75, when Eric mentions in pencil that a line has been taken verbatim from The Square, we are first introduced to the Zapadi Three.
- The only footnote on p75 discusses three possible products manufactured at the factory where Vaclav Straka worked.
- Eric highlights a section on p88 that these details were drawn from the square (a pun on a drawing of a square?) Within that section a clock strikes three separate hours: twelve, one, and two. The next hour, implied, is of course, three.
- Again on p88, Pfeifer challenges the police with three men are missing! Probably dead! Why don’t you do your jobs and investigate? These three sentences are italicized in the book.
- Again on p88, we are reminded that three men are walking along (Pfeifer, Ostrero, and S).
- Again on p88, Jen underlines three words in a row for emphasis: I don’t need.
- On p95, Eric notes in pencil that a scene in Ship of Theseus mirrors one in The Square. He also notes three pages from The Square and writes Three different views of the same gesture.
- Again on p95, Jen underlines three words in a row for emphasis: special collections archive.
- Again on p95, S spots Sola. S notes she is square-shouldered and while struggling to believe she could possibly be here thinks to himself Concidence be damned.
- The entire scene that concerns the protest over The Zapadi Three takes place itself in a square (see p86) and closely mimics the central event in Straka’s book The Square over what happened in Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4, 1886.
What do you see when it comes to these, or even other, themes surrounding Jen’s blue square? If you need some ideas, here is another blog post about how truth may be connected to Jen’s blue square. Share your thoughts in the comments below.