The protagonists Clara and Aubergine of the The Prospectors by Karen Russell have a mutually beneficial relationship, but to a greater extent, one grounded in necessity. I will be linking this relationship to the archetypal relationship between an innocent maiden and an enabler. The innocent maiden is Clara and Aubergine is the enabler; throughout the story Aubergine entices Clara and pushes her to using her charm at parties. However, that is not to say that Aubergine did not need Clara. Clara and Aubergine needed to combine their strengths to survive on their journey to the west.
Clara’s knowledge of the upper class allowed for her to blend in at social gatherings. Clara had developed a familiarity with the mannerisms of the rich and understood how to act around them. This allowed the duo to sneak into the wealthy’s parties without raising alarm. In addition, Aubergine had selective knowledge on theft, and the skills needed to get away with it. The duo played on each other’s strengths throughout their journey to the west, with Aubergine teaching Clara how to steal and lie, and Clara showing Aubergine how to be a mature, sophisticated, well-mannered woman of the upper class.
Clara’s experience with the upper class allowed for the relationship between her and Aubergine. This experience coupled with Aubergine’s influence allows for the duo to journey across the continental United States. Clara’s family was that of a rich one and they chose to shelter Clara and her sisters causing them to become innocent and easily manipulated. Aubergine pushes Clara often to use her charm on men, this serves as a way to distract and woo men into Aubergine’s prospecting traps. ” We’ll charm them. We’ll drink a little, dance a little. And then, come dawn, we’ll escape down the ountain” (207). Clara’s Family became wealthy by swindling other individuals from the upper crust. Her father; Mr. Finisterre, fabricated a tale about a sea serpent that could be seen from his hotel. “A sea serpent, it was rumored, haunted the coastline beside the hotel, and ninety per cent of our tourism was serpent-driven” (199). Through this fable, the family gains considerable affluence in their community. “Thank you,” Mr. Finisterre whispered to me once, too sozzled to remember my name, “for keeping the secret that there is no secret” (199).
I believe this family background is what subconsciously shaped Clara into someone that would exploit another individual for her own personal needs without much convincing. I believe this is what caused Clara to accept Aubergine for who she was, even though her family background was different. “I made a deal with Clara: she never had to tell me who, but we had to leave Florida” (200). Her Mother also played a considerable role in molding Clara and her sisters into proper women of the upper class. Clara was already familiar with being pushed by another individual before meeting with Aubergine. She’d apprenticed her three beautiful daughters in the Light Arts, the Party Arts. Clara was her eldest. Together, the Finisterre women smoothed arguments and linens. They concocted banter, gab, palaver, patter-every sugary variety of small talk that dissolves into the night” (199). The point of this small talk was to entice individuals staying at the hotel to buy commodities at the hotel.
These teachings from Mrs. Finisterre would be taught down to Aubergine by Clara later during their journey. They would use these teachings combined with Aubergine’s knowledge of theft to further their expedition to the west coast. Romulus and Creon, who were pleased to invite us to gala dinners, and to use us as their gloating mirrors. In exchange for this service, Clara and I helped ourselves to many fine items from their houses” (201). Aubergine’s knowledge of the upper class originally started off as amateur at best before starting work at the Hotel Finisterre. Aubergine’s understanding of theft, knowledge of escape and enabling personality is what her contribution to the relationship was. “We sifted through the closets and the jewelry boxes of our hosts.
Clara tutored me in the social graces, and I taught Clara what to take, and how to get away with it” (200). Aubergine recounts a couple times throughout the story that her father was a gambler whom committed suicide. “My own father had killed himself outside the dog track in the spring of 1931, and I’d been fortunate to find a job as a maid at the Hotel Finisterre” (199). I believe that this is where her knowledge of theft began; through necessity Aubergine had to start stealing to survive. Additionally, this is where I believe her focus on helping others came to fruition.
After her mother’s death after her father’s suicide, Aubergine had to depend on herself until she met Clara. Clara was someone that was being abused by someone in the hotel and was someone that needed help. “Bruises were thickening all over her arms. They were that brilliant pansy-blue, the beautiful color that belies its origins. Automatically, I crossed the roof to her” (199). This focus on helping others in need is a trait of the enabler archetype. Aubergine’s experience with theft also was taught because of her parents death. “I told him about my father’s suicide, my mother’s death” (211).
This knowledge of theft is a part of the reason for their survival throughout the prospecting journey. Aubergine was the instigator of the duo, she had more knowledge of direct swindling. This made up for Clara’s ineptitude of theft. Without this knowledge, they would not have successfully gotten to the west coast. “Clara had a magic satchel that seemed to expand with our greed, and we stole everything it could swallow. Dessert spoons, candlesticks, a poodle’s jeweled collar. We strode out of parties wearing our hostess’s two-toned heels, woozy with adrenaline” (201).
Through their knowledge of the upper class and theft they made it to the west. If either of them did not have the information they do, then they would not have successfully arrived in Oregon. Aubergine and Clara’s mutually beneficial relationship is that of necessity, without either of their individual talents they wouldn’t have made it as far as they have. Furthermore, Aubergine’s influence on Clara increases. Another characteristic of the enabler archetype is that of a dilemma; the enabler continuously hurts the person in distress believing they are helping the individual.
Clara remarks at Aubergine towards the end of the story, “You use me. Every party, you bait the hook, and I dangle. I let them, I am eaten, and what do I get? Some scrap metal? ” (214). This is an instance where the helpless individual identifies the fact that the enabler has gone too far. However, Aubergine’s knowledge of theft and Clara’s experience with the upper class allowed for their survival. Their relationship started when they were working at Clara’s family’s hotel. Aubergine gave Clara her cardigan, this was to hide the bruises on Clara’s body.
Once this happened a friendship formed and eventually Clara had Aubergine accompany her to the debutante ball. “A week later, Clara took me to a debutante ball at a tacky mansion that looked rabid to me, frothy with white marble balconies. She introduced me as “my best friend, Aubergine. ” Thus began our secret life” (200). This secret life was that of theft and drama, the duo would arrive wealthy gatherings and sift through the rooms, closets, and jewelry boxes of the rich. Clara would lie their way in, acting the part of the suave woman of the upper class and Aubergine would sneak away and steal from the rich. Crutched along by Clara’s sturdy charm, I was swung through doors that led to marmoreal courtyards and curtained salons and, in many cases, master bedrooms, where my skin glowed under the warm reefs of artificial lighting” (200).
Furthermore, once Aubergine was more affluent in the ways of the rich the duo worked in a more harmonious sync. Clara would entice men to drink and Aubergine would take him back to his room, once there the men would be too drunk to move and she would take whatever she wished. How many nights had we spent together, listening to tourists speak in tongues, relieved of their senses by Mrs. Finisterre’s rum punch? Most of the boys were already drunkcould smell that” (203). The relationship stemmed past this; Clara and Aubergine would look after each other during their prospecting adventures. Aubergine was the one that took Clara away from whatever was beating her in Florida and Clara eventually saves Aubergine was the collapse of the lodge. “My eyes met Clara’s, as they always do at parties.
She did not have to tell me: Run” (218). Aubergine and Clara’s relationship is that of necessity, without either part of this relationship it would not have worked. They cared for each other and knew that their survival was mutually shared. In conclusion, these two have become intertwined on their journey to the west. The two started off as uneducated women stealing from the rich; later they would become the prospectors that they dreamed of before they started. Along with this the duo is a prime example of the enabler and maiden archetypes.
These archetypes link with the theme of the story; unconsciously using people can be detrimental to any relationship in society and or personal life. Aubergine thought she was helping Clara when she took her away from Florida. Aubergine wonders throughout the story whether or not this was an excellent decision to take Clara. “My apology opened outward, a blossoming horror. I’d used her bruises to justify leaving Florida. I’d used her face to open doors” (214). Aubergine understands that she used Clara; additionally, without Clara’s knowledge of the wealthy and Aubergine’s knowledge of theft they would not have survived.