Coming Through Slaughter

Essay by luc3College, Undergraduate May 2004

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Coming Through Slaughter written by Michael Ondaatje tells of Buddy Bolden's descent into his own hell. Ondaatje's novel is full of art and beauty and tells the story of a musician, who was unsurpassed in his time whose work influenced the music of several later generations. It is a story of an artist who struggled to transcend life's miseries and who suffered with despair, madness, loneliness, and the viciousness of life. The novel centers on Buddy Bolden, a New Orleans cornet player, and early jazz genius, who dropped out of sight for two years and then made a triumphant though short-lived return, before dying in an asylum. In Coming Through Slaughter, Buddy Bolden struggled to live between a public and a private and to deal with the tensions between instinct and consciousness. Bolden's emotions are best seen in his music, which is a distinct form of the blues that expresses the struggles that constantly surrounded him.

Bolden is the alienated and isolated artist unable to live within the structures of order and control. The constant demands that audiences makes on him drives Bolden into insanity. These are the demands that had caused a transformation in Bolden's character. If only he had known the harm in these demands, he would have been able to protect himself. Instead, it destroyed his life and career.

Russell 2

All of Buddy's audiences are selfish, and all have their own needs from Buddy. Each plays a role in Buddy's life, making it seem like he is the most important person in their lives. While all have their own interest in mind. For Webb, a long time friend, Bolden does not exist as a private person with private needs, but only as a public person. Webb was the only person who searched for...