The ending of Clay’s Ark has really stuck with me and I find myself still trying to find meaning in it. In particular, I have been thinking a lot about a character that I know many others in class are also thinking about: Blake. After all, he is the reason why the novel ends in the way it does. I have come to the conclusion that I do not like Blake (although I was very sad to see him die). We talked in class about Blake’s “God Complex.” Avery wrote a post about it and Sunita wrote one as well. I myself have also been trying to “figure” Blake out and come to terms with the decisions he makes throughout the novel.
Last week, during one of our class discussions, my group touched upon an interesting point about Blake. Sabrina C. brought up that Blake does not want to treat people from the “cesspools.” It is a subtle fact, but is very important and telling about Blake’s character. We find this out when he has a dream about his late wife, Jorah, and reflects on their past. Blake reveals that Jorah was a teacher who wanted to fight “diseases of a society that seemed too shortsighted and indifferent to survive” (Butler, 588). Blake then labels “human rights, the elderly, the ecology, corporate government, the vast rich-poor gap, and the shrinking middle class” as “old-fashioned, long-lost causes” (Butler, 588). Blake reveals that he only treats people from the “sewer” because his wife wants him to and he does not want to lose her. Blake makes it clear that her “idealism” is due to her roots — she and her family had “worked themselves out of one of the worse cesspools in the southland. They had nurtured Jorah’s social conscience too long to let it fall victim to a white man who had never suffered a day in his life and who thought social causes were passé” (Butler, 588).
Reading about Blake’s past really bothered me. It bothers me that he views these important issues as “passé.” It bothers me that Blake stereotypes these people into one group. It bothers me that Blake only treats them to please his wife. After all, aren’t doctors supposed to help anyone who needs help? Not just those that are rich or white or privileged?
In my last post, I wrote: “To me, Eli and his family act more human than the car family does.” While I still believe that the car people are hardly in touch with their humanity, I do not believe that these people are worthless and a lost cause like Blake does. His complacency frustrates me. His selfishness frustrates me. While it is understandable that he wants to protect his children, I find it sad that Blake is so unwilling to help people less fortunate and privileged than himself. If Blake does not believe that “there was anything he could to do keep the country, the world from flushing itself down the toilet,” then why did he become a doctor? (Butler, 588). Why has he resigned not just himself but his children to live in such a terrible world? Wouldn’t he want to live in a world he doesn’t have to shield his daughters from?
At the end of the scene, Blake reveals that a thirteen year old boy shot and kills Jorah (Butler, 588). This must have only reinforced all the beliefs he previously held about these people he views so different from himself. It seems that Blake blames these people for the circumstances that they are in and thus does not see the point in helping them. Jorah views it much differently. She dies trying to fix the world she knows her children would have to grow up in. Even more than that, she tries to help children that are not her own, but that she knows are not any less important. She does not blame them for how they act or how they are, but tries to help them overcome the circumstances they are born into. Blake thinks the world is doomed but it is his reluctance to help those less fortunate than himself that really dooms the world.
I think that this insight into Blake’s character explains a lot about why he acts the way he does when Meda tells him that he is infected with the disease. Blake flees not to try and save the world from the disease from spreading, but to save himself and his children from becoming like Eli and Meda and their family. While I can understand Blake having trouble coming to terms with the disease, especially from people who just kidnapped him, I find it very telling that others who are infected by Eli and Meda and their family never escape to get help. Zeriam kills himself because he knows that there is no other solution. Blake, on the other hand, escapes with his children even though he is warned repeatedly that they will cause the disease to spread, choosing to not believe what he is told.
I find it fascinating that Blake does not truly believe what the disease is capable of until he actually infects someone himself. When he infects the trucker, he says in disbelief, “I did it. Oh Jesus, I did it” (Butler, 618). I am angry that Blake let his selfishness and naivety get in the way of believing Eli and his family. Blake escapes to try and save himself and his family, but ironically only causes their destruction; Rane ends up dead and Keira is doomed to live in a world in which the disease has spread. In a novel where consent is such an important topic, I am left with this very uncomfortable question: How is it fair that the decisions and actions of just one person is able to have such a dramatic change on the entire world?