In the book Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Dunn displays the character Arty as narcissistic, power hungry carnival freak. Arty's power allows him to accumulate a large amount of respect over impressionable people, which later builds into his Arturan cult. Arty's power, which is used purely in a selfish way, ultimately brings the downfall of him and his carnival empire. In an extreme opposite, Dunn portrays the character Chick as a child with almost limitless, telekinetic powers who is kindhearted and a faithful servant to his family. Arty wields his power, in a narcissistic, ill-hearted manner, over helpless weak minds, while Chick uses his power in selflessness and in a pure heart for the good of his family.
Just as many cults today Arty receives his power from the weak, hopeless outcasts of society and those that are curious of what his Arturan cult stands for. Arty's first source of power was Alma Witherspoon who had no family or friends. Alma, heartbroken from a relationship that could not be, desired to be unique like Arty. In addition, Arty decide to remove her limbs, one by one, until she appeared without limbs, as he was. In doing so, Arty began one of his most valuable sources of power, the Arturan cult. Arty's gained publicity from the news took the publicity of his cult to a higher level and strengthened his power tremendously.
For instance: "An hour after the first broadcast of a breathless on the-spot reporter describing bandaged stumps in a wheelchair, the newspaper people started popping up. After a few months reporters drove out to meet us on the road.(Dunn188) In addition, as soon as the first reporters began to spread the news of Arty's cult, each news company wanted to know more about him and his ideals. In return for sharing the Arturan beliefs, Arty gained extreme publicity and his power grew in leadership Gonzalez 2 over many Arturans. Lastly, Norval Sanderson, a well respected journalist, strengthened Arty's power over people through his opinion.
For instance Norval finds himself questioning his own beliefs of the Arturan cult: He is enormously self-centered, proud, vain, disdainful of all who lack the good fortune to be him. This is so evident and so oddly convincing (one finds oneself thinking/agreeing that, yes, Arty is a special person and can't be judged by normal criteria) and that when he turns his interest on an individual (on me) the object (me) suddenly feels elevated to his level.(Dunn190) In addition, not only is Norval Sanderson a respected journalist, he "had covered wars, treaties, executions, and inaugurations for two decades", but "he was sharp and lacked awe for anything".
Being a respected journalist, Norval Sanderson did not fit into the category of an outcast, that was usual for the Arturan cult, but fit into that of a normal well-rounded society. Because of Norval Sanderson's conversion to Arturism and his position in society Arty was able reach people that, like Norval Sanderson, had previously discarded his ideals for madness. Arty's source of power were not only the outcasts of society, but those he could entice to question their beliefs. Chick receives his power from his families needs and the use they have of his telekinetic power.
At chicks birth, because of his outward appearance as "a norm", Al and Lil had no desire to keep him as their son until they saw the tremendous inner power that he had. For instance, Al said: "Your mama and I decided to keep the baby. Each of us, he said, each of us was special and unique and this baby looked like a norm but had something special too. He could move things with his mind.(Dunn71) Gonzalez 3 Both Al and Lil had come to the conclusion that Chick was not valuable enough to keep, until he conveyed his power for the first time.
In addition, the power that he was able to display from his brain, was the main factor that allowed him to stay with his true family. Chick's power over Olly existed because of Olly's uses for it. For example, when Olly needed Chick to successfully have Arty's baby without Arty every being a part of the conception: "Chicky, listen. Remember how you used to pick pockets? Well, you know the sperm in Arty's balls?" i had his attention at least. "Could you move that sperm-the wiggly littler things-could you move them into me and get 'em into the egg thing in me so I could have a Baby like Iphy?"(Dunn297) In addition, Chick's respect and power that he acquired over Olly was acquired through his capability to perform the task of impregnating Olly with Arty's baby, for which in return she respected Chick with her love. Lastly, Chick had the most power over Arty.
Arty's cult could not have been efficiently built without the handy work and skill of Chick's medical power, which were first used in Alma Witherspoon's conversion surgery: "There is no shock. There is no danger of infection. Young Fortunato's techniques eliminate that entirely." Shortly after surgery Dr. Phyllis remarked "Did you look at that chart I gave you? The healing rate on that spiral fracture was triple thtae normal expectancy for a patient that age… Arturo? Without Chick's telekinetic gift, Arty would have not been able to remove people limbs at the rapid pace,that they had presently been removed at and therefore would not have been able to build his cult at the extremely fast rate that it was built in.
In Gonzalez 4 addition, although Arty may have seemed to have an extreme amount of power of Chick's gift, it was Arty's reliance on Chick's gift that gave Chick the upper hand. With Chick's magnificent telekinetic powers, he was able to bring his family to depend on him, and ultimately gained power over them. Arty wields his power over his family by taking advantage of Al, Olly and Chick. As Arty began to gain status as "breadwinner" of the family Al was forced to hand Arty the power over the Binewski Fabulon. In context: Papa had taken to antacid tablets for his stomach. He carried half consumed rolls in every pocket and chew them constantly. He was happy, though.
The work rush let him forget that he wasn't the boss anymore.(Dunn188) As Arty's Arturan cult began to grow and Arty began to become the focal point of the show Al became less involved in making decisions for the carnival and slowly let it slip into Arty's hands. By giving Arty full power over the carnival Al was giving Arty the right to power over the family, which was Arty's main focus of control. Olly's unconsequential love for Arty gives him full power over Olly even until her death. For example, Olly loved Arty with such vigor that she used his sperm to have her child Miranda.
In addition, when Miranda tail, being a symbol of Arty and her specialness, was threatened, the previously kindhearted Olly was driven to murder Ms. Lick who was, in her mind, a threat to Miranda, all to preserve her last symbol of Arty. Lastly, Chick who is vital to Arty's cult allows Arty to take power over his gift. For example, Arty uses Chick to quickly remove limbs of those who enter the Arturan Cult, in return of only Arty's acceptance. In addition, Arty's power over chick, who is physically the most powerful of the family, gives him chick's power.
Being the heartless person he is, Arty Gonzalez 5 uses his own family's natural love for him, to extend his power. Although Chick was certainly the most powerful of his family, he ultimately used his power for good. Although Chick was able to feel the dead meat begging for life he did not refuse to feed the cats, when his father asked it of him. For instance: Al told Chick to feed the cats and Chick, as usual, bit his tongue, turned pale, and nodded without saying anything. His face rumpled lightly in worry. "I like the cats. It's the meat. I don't like moving it."(Dunn107)
This signifies that, Chick sacrifices his own comfort to help his father, when he could have easily said "no" and used his power against his father. Lastly, and most importantly Chick sacrificed his own life to destroy Arty and the carnival for the evil that had become of them. In reference to Chick in the murder/suicide of the twins, brought on by Arty's ill doing: "Arty he said, and I heard him through the wheezing music from the Mad Mouse as he stood, clenching his fists in the midway, stretching his neck with his eyes closed. and far down the line Arty's tent, full of Arty and his crippples, blew upward, incinerating. Arty and Al and Chick and the twins-gone dustward as the coal rid themselves of that terrible heat. In destroying Arty, Chick had brought to justice the death of the twins, and the many peoples lives Arty had destroyed.
Yet we know that Chick did this in purity, because he, not only sacrificed himself but left Olly alive, who was the only pure sibling, in his eyes, worthy of life. Chick ultimately used his power for the good of the family. In Geek Love, Dunn gives two brothers, the characters Arty and Chick, power that the other members of the family do not have. Arty a manipulative, self-centered freak Gonzalez 6 uses his power towards taking control of his family and their carnival. While Chick, the norm, although a type of outcast from his family, uses his power for ultimately the good of his family. Arty, in his self-centered attitude, uses his power to gain more power over people that are weak, while Chick, in a self-sacrificial attitude uses his power for the good, to benefit his family and, in the end, destroy evil.