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Falling From Grace

I had started a derogatory scan for Biblical internal contradictions -- I was seeking the book of Genesis, chapter four, for the classic example -- when something tapped the back of my mind on its shoulder (I never professed to understand internal anatomy) and reminded it of a comparison an ex-girlfriend of mine made.  It was simple and innocuous at the time; we had seen Edward Scissorhands in theaters for probably the second time as a couple, and she remarked that her mother didn't understand the fascination when self-same mother had wept during Camelot.

I don't know whether the source of her mother's anguish was the metaphorical tie with the Kennedy Administration or if it was what we had assumed.  I am sure she knew her mother well enough to correctly attribute the tear-jerking aspects of Camelot with the same aspect of Edward Scissorhands that gutted us even through repeated viewings.

The tie between Camelot and Edward Scissorhands, and between those and that other work of fiction, is the fall from grace.  Before Genesis 4:14, when Cain fears for his life at the hands of "others in the world" yet we have heard of none save his parents, there is in the story of creation a segment set in the Garden of Eden.  In this earthly paradise, Adam and the fruit of his rib are told they must not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

We all know what comes next:  She eats some anyway, and tells Adam "Hey this is pretty good, you should try it".  I paraphrase, and I apologize if I have just tossed out a Biblical spoiler, but simply put the First Couple disobey their creator and are cast out of Eden.  Their disobedience leads to falling from grace, yet preceding the banishment is the real tragedy.  Adam and Eve have lost their innocence.

From Camelot, the First Couple is Arthur and Guinevere, king and queen of the kingdom so named.  The Kennedy allegory is that Jack and Jacq as figurative rulers of America are the same as Art and Jenny were the rulers of Camelot.  Rather than the third man causing marital strife and the ultimate dissolution of the country (whose ideals, thankfully, remain), in this case the third man slays the leader to dissuade the fruition of his ideals (which are likewise carried forth).

In the case of Camelot, the Round Table and its adherents were left behind, the idyllic life in which power was wielded justly fell aside.  For the US of A, a certain kind (pretense?) of innocence fell away.  Both countries fell from grace and in both cases their people's world-views were shattered.

Now we come to Edward Scissorhands, the next fall from grace and loss of innocence.  This time there is no assassin, no serpent, no romantic rival and no disobedient woman.  There is only ... I have laid out spoilers for the Bible and for Camelot, and I must now lay out spoilers for Edward Scissorhands to complete my point.

There is only Vincent Price, a lonely old inventor, and his creation, Edward.  Edward has been made of parts that have over time been replaced by carefully contoured human equivalents.  Instead of a man-sized machine he's now nearly a mobile mannequin, and during this transformation he's been tutored in human behavior and language.  The sole remaining piece before he can pass for human is, as you'd expect from the title, his hands.  Where hands have fingers and thumbs, our title character has a collection of different-sized scissors to use as his digits.

The scene that destroyed us every time and, I'm fairly sure, would have the same effect if I watched it today is the inevitable fall from grace, the loss of innocence.  The inventor, who at this point is of advanced age, shows Edward the final pieces.  He has crafted the hands that would allow Edward a normal life -- as normal as a mechanical human could hope for, anyway -- and is showing them to his protege when he suddenly collapses.  Edward cannot do anything but look on.  His scissored appendages are not designed to catch, hold or attempt to resuscitate a person.  He tries to catch the hands that would complete him, but instead cuts them to pieces.

In one blow, which can only be attributed to the natural order, our hero loses his creator/father and his only chance to be accepted normally by anyone else.  He means no harm but is ignorant of the outside world save what he's read or been told, and he cannot be sustained in the only environment he's known without his caretaker.  He loses his innocence -- the hope that he can fit in, the belief that his father's vision will be completed.  He, like Adam and Eve, like Arthur, like Jacqueline Kennedy, is in one moment placed into a world he no longer recognizes and cannot understand.

That's a simple connection.  Whether by temptation (Lancelot, the Fruit of Knowledge) or by happenstance (a bullet, an occlusion), the world and your view of it have both changed.  Something that was good has not only turned bad, it has been irretrievably lost -- hence the fall.

It's only now, about twenty years later, that I can put my finger on why it's so universal and so gut-wrenching.  It's inevitable.  People die, and with them go unrealized dreams.  Senseless tragedies arise and cause people to persevere, to overcome, ultimately to change.  Edward found acceptance despite his scissors, the ideals of the Round Table endured centuries, life can achieve pinnacles of beauty and meaning.

There is good that can come from the fall from grace.  There is also defeat as a possibility.  The best you can do is prepare yourself to get up and go on.  The best you can do is offer a hand and lift someone up after the fall.  The best you can do is spot the stumbling blocks in advance and scout the landscape around them, so you can protect yourself when you do tumble.

It's heart rending because one day it will happen to your children, too, and the best you can do is hope to push out the time when the innocence is lost.  The best you can do is try to prepare them for it without rushing them into it.  The best you can do is keep revisiting your own falls and finding as many positives as there are to cushion the blow when the next person whose life you touch starts the same descent.


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