The Casual Vacancy The Casual Vacancy question

Is Fats a Christ figure?
Tiffany Toombs Tiffany Mar 15, 2013 11:54AM
Ontario High School Student 9
14 March 2013
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: This paper contains spoilers about The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.*

Stuart “Fats” Wall, Not Your Ordinary Christ Figure

Due to its excessive vulgarity and nauseating themes, The Casual Vacancy has earned a reputation as being all dismal bark and no literary bite, so to speak. Most readers peruse it once, and give up on it, claiming that the tragedy of the novel outweighs its literary value. However, upon examination, the reader discovers that beneath the sickening descriptions and disheartening events is a plethora of literary merit. As an example of The Casual Vacancy’s literary value, I refer you to Stuart “Fats” Wall. Fats is not a pleasant character. In fact, as most would agree, he is a self-absorbed, cruel scoundrel, hated by Pagfordians and readers alike. From his harsh torment of Sukhvinder to his insensitive treatment of Krystal, the reader begins to despise Fats. However, upon examination, another aspect of Fats is revealed: his role as a Christ figure. A Christ figure in literature is typically a character that shares several characteristics with Jesus Christ. The character may suffer as Christ did or have a resurrection (Foster 119). These traits can be literal or metaphorical, emotional or physical. A Christ figure also may have a set of beliefs that they may spread to the population, alongside his or her trusted disciples (Foster 119). Fats, even though he lacks the humility and kindness of Christ, still meets the qualifications of a literary Christ figure. Fats, although initially haughty and boorish, is revealed as a non-traditional Christ figure through his experiences in the novel and eventual self-redemption.
Rowling first utilizes diction and Fats’ characteristics to establish a superficial connection between Christ and Fats. If we examine the diction that Rowling uses when describing Fats, we can clearly see the religious connotations.
“He wanted to journey through the dark labyrinths and wrestle with the strangeness that lurked within; he wanted to crack open piety and expose hypocrisy; he wanted to break taboos and squeeze wisdom from their bloody hearts; he wanted to achieve a state of amoral grace, and be baptized backwards into ignorance and simplicity.” (Rowling 67)

Words like “grace”, “piety”, and “baptism” hold religious connotations, especially with the life of Christ. Christ was to bring grace and piety to a rather unruly and sinful world. He was also baptized in the Jordan River. Words like purity and innocence are also associated with Christ, and “what Fats wanted to recover was a kind of innocence…a kind of purity” (Rowling 67). The words Rowling picked were specific and are meant to relate Fats and Christ. This superficial connection is used to begin the association of Fats with religion, and ultimately Jesus Christ. Fats’ characteristics play an important role in identifying him as a Christ figure. As the reader progresses through the novel, it is revealed that, “Fats was scared of things that pierced flesh, of needles and blades,” (Rowling 68). This trait serves to juxtapose Fats as Christ, as Christ’s flesh was pierced by nails and by spears. For what other purpose would Rowling include this fact (mentioned only once in the novel) other than to allude to Christ's own experience? We can see that Rowling uses Fats’ fear and Christ’s story to again construct a superficial connection between the two for the reader.
Fats, like Christ also had a unique set of beliefs and had disciples (well, disciple). Fats believed in a concept of his own creation he called “authenticity”. He believed that “…the glorious thing, was to be who you really were, even if that person was cruel and dangerous, particularly if cruel and dangerous. There was a courage in not disguising the animal you happened to be.” (65) Authenticity, to Fats was a kind of honesty. This was his supreme set of beliefs, and he judged all others by this. He preached his gospel on, "...the Facebook page that [he] curated with a care he devoted to almost nothing else," (Rowling 66). Fats also had a disciple; his best friend, Andrew Price. Andrew was devoted to Fats and, “…the admiration in their relationship flowed mostly from [him] to Fats,” (Rowling 64). Andrew, like Christ’s disciples, would accompany Fats around everywhere, hanging on every word he said. These characteristics continue to provide evidence that Fats is a Christ figure. In addition to his traits, Fats possessed knowledge of his eventual resurrection.
Fats, like Jesus, knew that his resurrection would require violence and great suffering on his part. Fats “suspected that the state of authenticity he sought would include violence; or, at least, would not preclude violence,” (Rowling 67). The gruesome end to Robbie and Krystal signal the beginning of Fats’ suffering, and eventual resurrection. His pain extends not only to his own mental and emotional torture, but, “…the knowledge that he had been jointly responsible for the drowning of a three-year-old, made abuse of Stuart both a duty and a pleasure,” (Rowling 404). Fats suffered in silence, and willingly bore the whips of the community as they lash out against him. Yet, not only does he take responsibility for his own sins, but he takes up this cross for the sins of Andrew, Simon, Shirley, and Suhkvinder. This is the crucial moment where we see that Fats is sacrificing himself for others.
The reason why Fats' sacrifice is so crucial is because the most defining trait of a Christ figure is an extraordinary sacrifice for the greater good. Fats took the blame for all the posts by The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother, sacrificing himself for the sins of all those who posted. The fact that he took the blame for Sukhvinder was especially startling, considering that he cruelly taunted her throughout entire novel. She even remarked on his change of heart, saying, “It had been such a strange thing for Fats to do, to take the blame for her post too; [she] thought of it almost as an apology.” (Rowling 416) Clearly, Fats is not the same Fats that he was. He has assumed the role as a Christ figure, bringing redemption to those who sinned, doing so without protest and without a desire for admiration. His is a willing sacrifice, as he makes the choice to take on the burden of others. He could have revealed the truth and pointed fingers, but he shoulders the blame. Now, not only does this sacrifice have to be for the greater good of others, it usually involves the death of the character. Fats does not literally perish, and instead “dies” in another sense. His reputation has been ruined, and he is publically humiliated daily in the form of cruel taunts. In essence, an aspect of his life has been killed off, and a part of him dies with it. After the deaths of Krystal and Robbie, Fats metaphorically “perishes” and places himself into a stone grave, the Cubbyhole, much like Christ and his tomb. Andrew went looking for Fats in the Cubby Hole, however, he does not find Fats in the “tomb”. Instead, he, “…[hears] something move at the back of the hole,” and then “…an unrecognizable voice.” (393) The story of Christ’s resurrection tells us that people go to his tomb after he has been buried, only to find it empty. Parallel to Christ’s resurrection, Andrew goes to the Cubby Hole to search for Fats, but does not find him. He encounters a new person, one he does not recognize. This similarity to Christ’s resurrection cannot be coincidental. Christ’s story and Fats’ now align, and Fats has been resurrected as a new person. He now lacks all the things that defined him; cruelty, sarcasm, selfishness. He rises anew, but still is exposed to the unjust words of man.
Fats dramatic change from selfish and cruel teenager to Christ figure is astounding. Rowling utilizes his thoughts and characteristics to reveal the connection between him and Christ. His own experiences and action follow the story of Christ’s resurrection: suffering, willing sacrifice, and resurrection. Although he does not wholly adhere to the traditional paradigm, Fats is a literary Christ figure. This proves that beneath the layers of seemingly excessive misery in The Casual Vacancy, there is a plethora of easy to overlook literary brilliance. Take a second look at the novel. I think you’ll find that there is a lot more to it than you may have originally thought. Heck, you may even find that you want to read it again.
Works Cited
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. New York: Harper, 2003. Print.
Rowling, J. K. The Casual Vacancy. New York: Little, Brown and, 2012. Print.

very interesting. Would never have thot of Fats in that way.

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